New law professor expert on prosecuting sex trafficking

Wayne State University Law School's newest assistant professor, Blanche B. Cook, brings decades of experience with legal practice to her students and a deep commitment to helping them achieve bright futures.

"Her level of experience in criminal law expands our curriculum even more," said Lance Gable, the law school's associate dean for academic affairs. "We're so enthused to have her here. It's a really great fit for us. She has deep roots in the Detroit community, as well."

For the past 8-1/2 years, Cook been an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville, Tenn., specializing in large-scale drug and sex-trafficking prosecutions.

Being a professor has been a dream of hers since she was a freshman in high school attending the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She earned a bachelor's degree at Vassar College and decided on law school. She earned her law degree at the University of Michigan Law School.

"Now, at Wayne Law, I'm surrounded by people on the brink of their horizon, on the brink of their future and wonderfully optimistic about it," she said.

Among her legal experience, Cook clerked for Judge Damon J. Keith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Keith earned his master of laws degree from Wayne Law in 1956.

"Judge Keith is both a civil rights pioneer and icon," Cook said. "He is one of my most enduring sources of courage, intellectual acumen and inspiration.

"I would like to expose students, particularly those interested in civil rights work, to what he's been able to accomplish by way of his case law. He's been groundbreaking in terms of adjudication in the way he crafts an opinion. We have students devoted to equality, and they really need to be exposed to his cases, to the political climate in which he's been operating and how he's been able to do that. He's a treasure trove of legal genius."

Cook worked as an associate with Miller Canfield in Detroit from 1996 to 2000 and with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago before she joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005. She's elated to be back living and teaching in the Detroit, she said.

"I'm completely won over that this city is experiencing a rebirth."

Cook said she's also elated to be under the leadership of Dean Jocelyn Benson. "She's a titan of hard work, drive, moxy and grounded commitment to equality," Cook said. "Dean Benson embodies the rebirth Detroit is experiencing. She is resilient, forward thinking and a steam train of productivity."

This semester, Cook is teaching Criminal Procedure: Adjudication at Wayne Law. She's excited to be able to bring her experience to help educate new lawyers from all backgrounds to the realities, not just the philosophies, of legal practice.

"I am jubilated that I can pull back from practice to critically reflect on what the justice system looks like," Cook said. "I enjoy sharing that with my students. A lot of them are working. A lot of them don't ride the tide of privilege. They have to be aggressive and gritty in their endeavor. I'm happy to be of service in this environment. I think I'm suited for it. I have a real commitment to doing what I can to assist in the socioeconomic mobility of others."

Her research of late is on specific aspects of sex trafficking and its prosecution. She hopes to help broaden understanding of the whole spectrum not just of victims but of the customers and those who profit from the trade. She writes and lectures frequently on that topic and others, including race and gender discrimination.

"Six and half million people are being trafficked in the world for labor or sex," Cook said. "It's not just something happening in a foreign country. I try to make sure people understand the magnitude of the problem, the different forms it takes and the ways in which we're all complicit."

Published: Mon, Sep 22, 2014