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Profile: michele.lavigne

Before joining the Law School's clinical faculty, Michele LaVigne practiced as a State Public Defender in Madison, Wisconsin. She now teaches criminal law, professional responsibility, and trial advocacy. She is the director of the Remington Center's Public Defender Project, in which law students are placed as interns in public defender offices throughout Wisconsin. Prof. LaVigne is a member of the faculty of the National Criminal Defense College and the Wisconsin Public Defender Trial Skills Academy. She has given presentations to defense attorneys around the country on trial advocacy. In 2010, she received the David Niblack Award from the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for service to the indigent. During most of her tenure at the Law School, Prof. LaVigne has also been involved in research and litigation on the rights of deaf defendants. She co-authored "An Interpreter Isn't Enough: Deafness, Language and Due Process," * 2003 Wis. L. Rev. 843 (with McCay Vernon, Ph.D), which discusses deafness and language acquisition and their combined effects on deaf and severely hard-of-hearing individuals in the criminal justice system. Prof. LaVigne has lectured in a number of states to organizations of the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as to interpreter groups. Based on her advocacy for the deaf community, Prof. LaVigne received the Distinguished Member of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Association the Deaf in 2005 and the Thomas G. Cannon Equal Justice Medal from the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee in 2009. In 1999, Prof. LaVigne developed a mock trial program at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wisconsin. This is a joint undertaking involving WSD, the law school, and the law firm of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. In 2004, the WSD mock trial team competed in the State Bar High School Mock Trial Competition. This was the first time in Wisconsin that a deaf team participated. The WSD team won the regional competition and placed sixth in the state semi-finals. The WSD team continued to participate in the state competition for a number of years. Prof. LaVigne is currently collaborating with Gregory Van Rybroek, JD, PhD, on research and scholarship related to the communicative, behavioral, and legal implications of language impairments among populations frequently found in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Their article "Breakdown in the Language Zone: The Prevalence of Language Impairments among Juvenile and Adult Offenders and Why It Matters"** was published the the Winter 2011 edition of UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy. Their new article looks at the effects of a client's language impairments on the attorney-client relationship. The article "'He got in my face so I shot him': How Defendants' Language Impairments Impair Attorney-Client Relationships," will appear in Volume 17 of the CUNY Law Review (Winter 2014).*** Prof. LaVigne received the Law School's first Clinical Teacher of the Year Award in 2008.

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    On December 28, 2016, NAPD published its Open Letter to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for his prosecution of Orleans Public Defender investigator Taryn Blume. A bedrock principle of our criminal justice system is that every citizen accused by the government of a crime starts with the benefit of the doubt – with a presumption that they are in fact innocent.  That right becomes meaningless if we do not uphold the equally important right of every citizen-accused defense team who fights for her cause; who digs for evidence of her innocence; who exposes the government when it hides that evidence.  The legitimacy of our criminal justice system depends upon defense lawyers and defense investigators doing their jobs, and doing them well, without fear of reprisal from a prosecutor acting more like a bully than the champion of truth and justice he is supposed to be.

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    Last Chance to Register! The NAPD Executive Leadership Institute (ELI-2017) is almost full will will be held from 3:00 pm on April 2 through 11:45 am on April 5, 2017 at the Department of Public Advocacy training facility in Frankfort, KY. You can see more information and registration details HERE