Law professor honored with Outstanding Lawyer Award

Marla Mitchell-Cichon, WMU-Cooley Law School professor and WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project director, was honored with Ingham County Bar Association’s Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Lawyer Award during the association’s annual awards dinner on Nov. 17. The award recognizes an attorney who has distinguished themself by manifesting exemplary character, integrity, judgment and legal scholarship while adhering to and advancing the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession.

 “Mitchell-Cichon dedicates herself to providing outstanding service to the public, her peers and her students, which has contributed to her exemplary reputation in the community,” said James Robb, WMU-Cooley associate dean for external affairs. “Mitchell-Cichon and WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project faculty and students are dedicated to freeing the wrongfully convicted and to improving the criminal justice system.”

 “I’m honored to be recognized by the Ingham County Bar Association,” said Mitchell-Cichon. “I’m fortunate to be doing work I love, while training law students in best practices. I accept this award on behalf of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, its students and our clients.”

 Mitchell-Cichon led the efforts for the release of WMU-Cooley Innocence Project’s client Donya Davis. Davis was wrongfully convicted of carjacking, armed robbery and rape in 2007. Davis was exonerated in 2014, and is the third client exonerated by the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project. The project is currently working on 15 promising cases and screening approximately 200 cases for factual innocence.

 Mitchell-Cichon has been a strong advocate for criminal justice reform. In December 2015, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation ending the sunset provision on the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law, MCL 770.16. The law, now permanent, helps to ensure that innocent prisoners are identified and released and that the actual perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice.

 “The passion Mitchell-Cichon has for criminal justice reform is also evident in her teaching and advocacy,” said Michael McDaniel, Lansing campus associate dean.  “WMU-Cooley Innocence Project students practice law pursuant to Michigan’s student practice rule and under Mitchell-Cichon’s supervision. Recently, three interns represented a client in the Genesee County Circuit Court. In addition to teaching in the clinic, Mitchell-Cichon has partnered with Associate Dean Christine Church to teach a Wrongful Conviction seminar based on the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer. She is also seeking legislation to compensate the wrongfully convicted. ”

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