Step by step


Professor guides students through criminal procedure

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
In her “Criminal Procedure: Adjudication” class, Wayne Law assistant professor Blanche Cook walks her students through all the significant stages of a criminal prosecution, starting after the investigation — from the prosecutor’s decision whether to seek charges through all pre-trial phases, guilty pleas, trials, sentencing  and post-conviction relief. 

It’s a very familiar terrain for Cook, who spent almost nine years as an assistant attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Nashville, Tenn.

She specialized in large-scale drug and sex-trafficking prosecutions as well as illegal narcotics, money laundering, human trafficking, firearms, bank fraud, and civil rights.
As a federal prosecutor, Cook briefed and/or argued more than 40 federal appeals.    

“I enjoyed the civil rights and sex trafficking contributions, and I enjoyed serving both justice and the community,” she said. “Now, I am leaving a legacy by broadening the intellectual and socio-economic horizons of my students.”   

Cook’s primary areas of expertise are appellate practice, criminal law and procedure, critical race theory, employment discrimination, evidence, federal courts, sex trafficking and trial advocacy.

She also teaches criminal law, sex trafficking and citizenship as well as race and the law.

Meanwhile, Cook is the head of the Keith Center and a member of the Diversity, and Clinical Programs Committees.

As the head of the Keith Center Committee, Cook is actively working on celebrating 50 years of Judge Damon Keith’s service on the federal bench next year.   

A leading national expert on sex-trafficking prosecutions and the commercialization and exploitation of women and girls, her research includes victims’ rights related to evidentiary issues, race-class-gender profiling and sex-trafficking statutes.

Cook currently is working on two articles; one addresses whether persons who obstruct sex trafficking prosecutions should register as sex offenders and the use of citizenship laws to create vulnerability to sex trafficking.   

“Sex trafficking is omnipresent and always has been,” she said. “Detroit is not unique — notice how close we are to a border,” she said. “Ours is a society that craves vulnerable flesh. The popular conscious has to understand the role of gender in the creation of vulnerable populations and how we are all complicit in the exploitation of that enterprise.”   

Cook has taught and lectured at American Baptist College and Vanderbilt University, at the University of Phoenix, Truman College and at The University of the Witswatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she spent a summer as an intern for Lawyers for Human Rights.

A critical race theory legal consultant at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Cook joined Wayne State University Law School in the 2014 fall semester.

She enjoys helping her students reach their potential, many of whom work full- or part-time in addition to their law studies.   

A graduate of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Cook earned her undergraduate degree at Vassar College and, drawn to the law by her desire for social justice, earned her juris doctor from the University of Michigan Law School.

“I enjoyed the chance for socio-economic mobility at U-M — and I loved Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor,” she said.   

After clerking for the Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory K. Scott and Judge Damon J. Keith of the U.S. 6th Court of Appeals, Cook worked at Miller Canfield in Detroit, Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago and as a dispute resolution officer for Amtrak.   

An author and frequent speaker, in March Cook was a panelist for the WSU School of Social Work Diversity Lecture on “Advancing Racial Justice.”

Meanwhile, she presented a talk, "The Racialization of the Justice System" at an event sponsored by The Detroit Women's Forum.

In early April she was a panelist at a Critical Race Theory Conference at Yale Law School.

In the fall, she’s scheduled to deliver a TED?talk.

The Chicago native, whose leisure pursuits include chess, swimming, cycling, tennis, kayaking, telemark skiing and travel, is enjoying life at Wayne Law and in downtown Detroit.

“I love my students, Avalon Bakery and I have my dream job,” Cook said.



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