Detroit Mercy Law prof plans to expand clinical programs

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After teaching as a Detroit Mercy Law adjunct professor for more than 13 years, Professor Anne Yantus came on board full time full time in July as the new Director of Clinical Programs and Director of Externships.

"We plan to expand the clinical program in the next year as our incoming dual-degree students those pursuing an American and Canadian law degree at the same time will be required to take a clinic before graduating," she says. "I'm enjoying the process of searching for new clinics and looking for the right fit between the needs of the students and the needs of the community. We're an urban law school and ideally situated to provide legal services to those who cannot afford them in the Detroit area."

Yantus, who was honored as Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year for the 2014-15 academic year, has taught Criminal Sentencing, and SADO Appellate Practice Clinic.

"I studied to become a teacher in college and always loved to teach," she says. "I enjoy communicating information to others and especially like the creative challenge of trying to make the material relevant and entertaining. I look forward to teaching another clinic in the near future."

One of the perks of her new job is getting to know the faculty and staff a little better.

"The dean, Phyllis Crocker, is energetic and committed," she says. "The faculty and staff, including our excellent clinical staff, are dedicated, hardworking and truly interested in the students. There is something unique and special about the student-centered experience at Detroit Mercy Law. Our students are very lucky."

Yantus enjoys the converted firehouse on the corner of Larned and St. Antoine that houses the Detroit Mercy Law clinic, a familiar sight to drivers heading north on I-375.

"I often marvel with colleagues over how lucky we are to work in a building with history, character and up-to-date renovations," she says. "And I thank my lucky stars that I work in downtown Detroit the city has an energy and vibrancy all its own. I will never tire of this city.

"Luckily for me, the law school is situated close to the Detroit River and I can walk a block for a great view of the water and Canada. I do miss the restaurants near the Penobscot Building where I used to work, especially the Green Room salad bar, but I'm hoping to discover some new favorite restaurants in Greektown and the RenCen."

Prior to joining Detroit Mercy Law full-time, Yantus served as Managing Attorney of the Plea and Sentencing Unit of the State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) where she supervised and handled indigent felony appeals.

"I worked for a wonderful boss and mentor, Sheila Robertson Deming, who created a unit at SADO that focused on felony plea and sentencing appeals," she says. "Over time, I came to love the art of sentencing and the intensely human aspect of the sentencing and resentencing proceedings. I'm also comfortable with numbers and that helps."

While she enjoys her new position at the law school, Yantus says she will always miss the people at SADO and also the work she did there.

"The attorneys had a shared commitment to representing prisoners and promoting social justice. I learned from many talented people during my time there," she says. "I enjoyed the hours of research and writing. I will especially miss the meetings with clients and the court appearances. I love to travel and it was exciting to travel all over the state for court appearances and prison visits. I will miss the trips to Houghton/Hancock and the Upper Peninsula. I always felt a sense of peace when crossing the Mackinac Bridge."

Her time at SADO included several interesting cases the one with the greatest impact being People v. McGraw, 484 Mich 120 (2009), for which she received the 2010 Distinguished Brief Award.

"We're still seeing extension of the McGraw rule to other offense variables in the sentencing guidelines," she says. "It's rewarding to see a decision that has changed the way we understand the sentencing guidelines."

The Wayne Law alumna is particularly pleased with the result in People v. Cunningham, 496 Mich 145 (2014).

"No one expected the Michigan Supreme Court to invalidate court costs in the vast majority of criminal cases," she says. "Unfortunately, the 'win' did not last long as the Michigan Legislature stepped in to authorize court costs in all cases going forward."

A case she half hoped would be appealed concerned an Ionia Circuit judge's decision to grant a motion to remove the defendant's name from the Michigan sex offender registry. Yantus argued that the law requiring mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for a juvenile offender violated the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment. The trial judge agreed, both on the due process claim and the cruel and unusual punishment argument.

"While I was pleased the client had his name removed from the sex offender registry, it would have been a more meaningful win had the appellate court said the same thing in a published decision," she says. "I couldn't force the prosecutor to appeal and it was not in the client's best interest but I'm hopeful the issue will be raised in another case and will prevail in a future published opinion."

Yoga and hiking are among Yantus' leisure time pursuits, as well as volunteering at the Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, where she transcribed teachings, works in the Jewel Heart Store, volunteers at the organization's nonprofit booth at Ann Arbor Art Fair, and does other miscellaneous work.

She also enjoys spending time with her close-knit family.

"We see each other regularly and have a family tradition of going for pizza at Loui's, Cloverleaf or Buddy's whenever we have something to celebrate," she says. "My brother, who now lives in Seattle, continues the tradition by visiting Buddy's whenever he's in town. I have my parents to blame for our fascination with Sicilian style pizza as they regularly visited Buddy's when they were dating. I think I can speak for the whole family when I say we have discerning taste in pizza even if we're not Sicilian."

Published: Mon, Oct 31, 2016

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