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Valparaiso sports law clinic keeps busy

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While a Sports Law Clinic at an Indiana law school hasn't gone to the Olympics since the 2006 winter games in Torino, Italy, it doesn't mean they haven't been busy.

Part of the reason the school didn't travel to China in 2008 or Canada in 2010 was they've been too busy with other work.

Professor Michael Straubel of Valparaiso University School of Law continues to work with students who represent amateur athletes, and the clinic's students have been compiling and maintaining a database of opinions regarding various sports and agencies.

While most of the cases involving sports agencies aren't precedent setting like they would be in a trial court, they can be used as persuasive evidence on similar cases and can also be studied to determine what the agencies have done in the past and will likely decide going forward.

Straubel said he hopes making the database accessible to the public and those who find themselves involved in the system will "level the playing field between the prosecuting agencies and the athletes," Straubel said via e-mail from an arbitration hearing in Los Angeles.

In cases involving amateur athletes, the defendants don't always have access to legal representation, and the system is set up in such a way that there aren't many options in terms of the kind of defense an athlete can use. For instance, in anti-doping cases, athletes can claim the testing methods were inaccurate or that they were unaware they were exposed to certain ingredients in vitamins or supplements that are otherwise allowable.

However, agencies who bring the charges are also the ones that administer the tests, making the system one sided, Straubel has said.

Among the governing bodies the database includes are The International Federation of Aquatics, The International Association of Athletics Federations, The International Federation of Gymnastics, The International Federation of Rowing Associations, The International Weightlifting Federation, The United States Anti-Doping Association, The World Anti-Doping Association, The Badminton World Federation, The International Canoe Federation, The Court of Arbitration for Sport, and The Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada, according to the clinic's Web site, www.sportslawclinic.com.

Those wishing to search the database can enter their e-mail address and up to five keywords. Straubel added the clinic is hoping to make the database easier to search and more accessible in the future, while keeping up with new decisions as they're published.

For the most part, Straubel said, they have been able to include decisions in the database, however not all the governing bodies publish their opinions, which has presented a challenge for the clinic.

Having the database has also helped the students at the clinic understand various changes in how the agencies react to similar types of cases the students handle for amateur athletes, mostly involving antidoping issues and often referred to the clinic by the U.S. Olympic Commission's ombudsman.

"This year we handled six cases," Straubel said. "One before the Court for the Arbitration of Sport in Switzerland, four with USADA, and one against a U.S. university."

The clinic's students prepare cases including pleadings and briefs, and they also handle the hearings under Straubel's supervision.

When going before USADA, students from the clinic and their professor have also faced an alum of the program: Stephen Starks, who speaks highly of the program's students and their work.

Starks and Straubel happened to be working on the same arbitration in Los Angeles the week of April 5, but neither could give any details at IL deadline.

When Starks was a third-year law student in the sports law clinic, he had argued against the USADA on behalf of an athlete. The impression he left on the USADA legal team in that case ultimately landed him his current job as the organization's legal affairs director, which he has been for a little more than two years.

Of Starks' approximately 15 cases in two years since joining USADA full time, he said he has prosecuted on behalf of his organization against the law clinic at least three of those times. And while a win is rare - the legal clinic boasts the only case where an athlete outright won the case the USADA brought against her - Starks said the clinic is always successful in terms of how they represent clients.

"Maybe not in terms of wins or losses," he said, "but the clinic always offers a solid defense. While the LaTasha Jenkins case was the only one they've won, that's not to say they don't provide high-level legal assistance."

He added that while he isn't aware of any other sports law clinics like it in the country, he can say with certainty that no other law school has had students appear before USADA defending athletes in cases he's handled since he's been there.

While he doesn't personally use the database - all USADA opinions are available on the agency's Web site and he has access to them internally - he said he would refer other sports law attorneys to look at the clinic's database.

From USADA's and the clinic's standpoints, he said everyone wants the students involved to have a fruitful experience. Ultimately he'd like to offer an internship for the students so they can see firsthand what his job entails.

He also likes reconnecting with the clinic even when it's on the other side of a case.

The relationship between Starks and Straubel is "more than civil," he said. "It gives me a sense of pride to see students in the position I was in a few years ago. ... I have to commend the performance of the law students. They're doing an exceptional job, in my view."

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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