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Valparaiso building restored to house Lawyering Skills Center

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Looking at old photographs of a building on a northwestern Indiana campus built in the late 1800s and comparing it with a view of the same building from the school’s website, one would be hard pressed to find any major differences, at least on the outside.

But the inside of Heritage Hall, named for a music professor and one of the oldest buildings on the campus of Valparaiso University, has been redesigned as the law school’s Lawyering Skills Center and will soon welcome the Valparaiso University School of Law Clinical Program back to its old location.

The building will include space for students to learn and participate in pre-trial skills, trial practice, appellate advocacy, dispute resolution, moot court, mock trial, client counseling, negotiation, externships, arbitration, and pro bono work.

heritage hall Heritage Hall at Valparaiso University was one of the oldest buildings on campus until it was torn down, above, in 2009. (Submitted photo)

By the end of September, all construction will be done except for a few minor details. The furniture is due in early October, which is when technology will be installed. By mid-October, the law clinic will have moved back into Heritage Hall and out of the modular offices – a.k.a. doublewide mobile homes – where they’ve been for the last year.

Heritage Hall, built in 1875, has had a number of purposes, including a boarding house, a library, a building for music classes, and other uses over the years.

The building is adjacent to the law school’s current building, Wesemann Hall, built in 1986. When it was built, said Valparaiso University School of Law Associate Dean Curt Cichowski, who has overseen the Heritage Hall project, the law school didn’t include space for a clinic.

“It was an old building on campus and not maintained very well,” he said.

Sandy Tengblad, associate director of Clinical Services, agreed.

“The law clinic has always been in an old building that has seen better days,” she said via e-mail. “Since I started in 1983, we went from Lembke Hall across the lawn to Heritage Hall. Heritage Hall, as it stood when we moved in, was a beautiful building from the outside, with lots of character. When you walked inside, you could tell it had been through stages of renovations. You saw ’60s paneling, mixed with ’80s carpeting, sprinkled with a hodgepodge of furniture confiscated from the basement of the law school.”

The aesthetic issues weren’t the only problems in Heritage Hall.

“In the old building, the paint on the walls was bubbled and peeling. The stairway was narrow and steep. The brick was crumbling. We had bees, ladybugs, bats, and mice,” she said. “The floors had large bumps under the carpet, which were actually supports that helped hold up the building. We had no storage space. The windows leaked. There were retired wires throughout the building, both inside and out. Limited space to hold class. Clients were able to roam the building without any supervision. The only handicap access was to enter through the director’s office.”

The clinical program, which helps clients with criminal, civil, juvenile, domestic violence, tax, sports law, wrongful conviction cases, and mediations, helps about 700 clients every year. It has been in Heritage Hall since 1987, with the exception of the past year.

Heritage Hall The school worked with architects to recreate it to specifications of the historic building, as shown in the mid-1900s. (Submitted photo)

It was the clinic’s annual fundraiser that got the attention of a descendant of two early graduates of the law school. While not a lawyer herself, she wanted to preserve the history of the school, including her relatives’ time there in the early 1900s.

The donor started working with the law school on the project about four years ago. She helped raise a little more than half of the needed $9 million for the restoration project, Cichowski said, and the rest of the funding came from other donors.

During the early phases of the project, when the two main goals were to preserve the historic aspects of the building while adding modern amenities for the school, there was bad news and worse news.

Structural engineers said the building was in bad shape, he said. The restrooms, which were not a part of the original building, had issues, and the building never had grounded power.

“The worst news was that the bricks weren’t structurally sound,” he said. “The engineers joked with us that the roof was the only thing still holding the building together.”

The compromise was a building design “that to the inch was built to the exact specifications of Heritage Hall. The building was disassembled, and we harvested some of the bricks and original timbers,” he said.

The bricks were then reused as part of the new building’s interior, and the old timbers were made into benches and details in building.

After a year of construction, Cichowski said he loved the end result for a number of reasons.

“The law school building was built in 1986, and it looks like it was built 1986. But this building looks like it belongs on a college campus. The only difference was we couldn’t put the third floor back to what it was, but we designed a façade to look like it,” he said.

Curt Cichowski Cichowski

The back of the building is an added wing for a trial skills center, which includes a teaching courtroom and conference rooms. The courtroom will include a jury box, counsel tables, and a bench, as well as “everything that exists in the greatest courtroom in the country,” he said.

“There will be document cameras, the ability to record, the ability to play and stream video, the ability to send video out. … If it technologically exists today, it’s in the courtroom,” he said.

Cameras and televisions will also be available in small client interview rooms so a student can interview a client, and with the client’s permission, the professor can record the interview and observe from another room. The professor can later use the recording to help show the student what she did right or what she would need to work on for future client interviews.

“If you think about it – in a law school it’s common to have classrooms for lecture halls, but all of the skills of being a lawyer – interviewing, intake, negotiations, arbitrations, all the things lawyers do on a daily basis – none of those large spaces support teaching and lawyering well,” he said. “… It doesn’t make sense for lessons about one-on-one interactions to take place in a classroom where the students need to pretend it’s really an office space.”

He added that authenticity in the clinical experience is key because it is “the greatest educational experience for a student. They are working with live clients, and there are usually just 10 students, so it’s like working for a small firm.”

Because it’s the “last remaining vestige of old campus,” he said, the building will also serve as a museum of what the old campus looked like – the original Valparaiso University. Old pictures and maps of the old campus will be among the items on display for visitors.

“I have been in the building several times during different stages of rebuild,” Tengblad said. “When you see the plans, it is just a picture on paper. To see it come to life is amazing. The building still has the same charm it had – only better. It is a modernized building, yet has the look of 100 years ago.

“Now, for the first time,” she added, “we will have a quality building that reflects the high-quality representation that is provided by the law clinic.”•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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