Winners Announced for Nevada Law Journal’s Writing Competition

Mon, 04/22/2013
Nevada Law Journal Writing Competition Winners
From left: Colleen McCarty, Interim Dean Nancy Rapoport, John Niman, and Dawn Thoman

The Nevada Law Journal (NLJ) has announced the top three winners in the annual Nevada Law Journal Scholarly Writing Competition.

Dawn Thoman took first prize for her article, "Testifying Minors: Pre-Trial Strategies to Help Lawyers Reduce Anxiety in Child Witnesses." John Niman took second for his piece, "Genetic Engineering and the First Amendment." Colleen McCarty took third for her article, "Breaking News: An Examination of Fair Use in the News Reporting Context."

Thoman’s piece, she said, argued that attorneys have a moral and legal obligation to help child witnesses be more comfortable with giving testimony in a major trial.

“If a child testifies, it’s most likely because they are the sole witness to a crime or a breach in law,” she said. “When the child experiences high anxiety, it’s not only tough for the child but it impedes justice.

“If a child can’t testify effectively due to his or her anxiety, then sometimes the child will be told they don’t have to, and then the defendant is offered a plea bargain. The reverse is true too. If a child is the sole witness who can exonerate a defendant, then the defendant could be wrongly convicted if the child doesn’t testify.”

Thoman offers various techniques that lawyers can use to help alleviate anxiety in children before going in front of a courtroom.

She said that Professor Jean Sternlight and her time with the Kids’ Court School at Boyd helped inspire her writing and research.

Niman’s article dealt with the First Amendment clause respecting freedom of religion and how it can relate to some of the more morally gray areas present in genetic engineering.

“It may be possible for a religion to use the First Amendment to gain exemptions from federal regulations restricting human genetic engineering,” he said. “In this way, religious scientists might be able to perform experiments forbidden to (or more difficult for) secular scientists. I use the Mormon Transhumanist Association as an example of the sort of religious scientists that might be able to claim these exemptions.”

He added that he hopes this article will cause those reading it to acknowledge the complexities of the freedom of religion clause.

“This paper was largely an exercise in testing the limits of the First Amendment,” Niman said. “Most people intrinsically think of religious exemptions as either good (if they're religiously inclined themselves) or bad (if they see these exemptions as favoring some people over others.) This topic argues for exemptions to an activity that many religious people might object to, and many people with more secular views might support, and so turns the initial presumptions on their heads.”

McCarty, who is due to graduate this semester, wrote about the Fair Use Doctrine and how the courts should give more leeway for the purpose of public interest. She said she became interested while working on a story for the Channel 8 I-Team.

“This is an issue we deal with all the time. One time, the constable’s office produced a reality TV reel that we did a series of pieces on and the office demanded we remove the video because of copyright,” she said. “The objective was two-fold: To give the attorneys guidelines on how to handle this kind of situation and argue that the courts should take public interest into account more.”

She added that she thinks it’s great that the NLJ’s competition exists because it allows students a chance to get recognition for their work.

“I wasn’t able to do the law review, so I welcomed the chance to have my peers review my writing,” she said. “I was very honored to place in the competition.”

William S. Boyd School of Law students participate in the competition with publication in the journal being the prize.

Jason DeForest, editor-in-chief at the Nevada Law Journal, said that getting published should be something that all Boyd students should try to pursue during their time at law school.

“The scholarly writing competition is a good opportunity to participate,” DeForest said.

DeForest said that judging consisted of a panel of four editors who determined article quality based on a predetermined criteria. From there, the judges discussed other qualities of the writing, such as the structure of the piece, its depth and its relevance on a local or national scale.

“One of the things we try to stress is an article’s usefulness in the legal community and specifically here in Nevada, so a big thing for us is to look for a paper that could be used by the Nevada legal community as well as the legal community as a whole,” DeForest said.