The Official Newsletter of the Federal Bar Association
Chapter for the Districts of Kansas and Western Missouri
Sharing the Spotlight: Welcome
to the first edition of our chapter newsletter
Judge Stephen R. Bough, Chapter President
Here we go:
Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the District of Kansas and Western District of Missouri Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. We are thrilled to provide to our members and friends with quarterly updates on the news of our chapter. You will see a variety of events and educational opportunities that we hope you were able to participate in and enjoy.
Whether it is a civics event led by Whitney Novak, a civil rights CLE organized by Kate Marples Simpson and the law student chapter presidents (we have active chapters at Washburn, UMKC, KU and MU), or a Brown Bag lunch that was facilitated by Dan Hodes or Dustin Slinkard, these fantastic opportunities were led by even better people. Your local chapter of the FBA is proudly providing federal practitioners the chance to learn more about a practice area, to mentor law students and to engage the broader community. While we are busy locally, the national organization is hosting lobby days in DC, providing leadership conferences and keeping FBA members appraised of important developments in the federal legal arena.
We hope you will join us in the future.
Judge Sebelius celebrates retirement
after 16-plus years as magistrate judge
U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Gary Sebelius
U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Gary Sebelius retired on March 25, 2019, after more than 16 years of service to the District of Kansas. The district celebrated Judge Sebelius with a retirement reception in Topeka on March 22.
“Serving as a federal magistrate judge has been the most rewarding time of my legal career,” Judge Sebelius said.
During the reception—attended by more than 200 guests—judges and law clerks praised Judge Sebelius for his calm demeanor and his ability to approach each case with an open mind. Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dale L. Somers said that the two had been parking next to each other for decades—first as attorneys in private practice at the same law firms and then as judges in the Frank Carlson Building. Judge Somers described Judge Sebelius as a person who was determined not to rely on others’ impressions but to reach his own conclusions.
Current and former law clerks remembered Judge Sebelius as a music enthusiast known to crank up the volume while he was working. His law clerks shared stories about Judge Sebelius’ commitment to bringing the same care and consideration to all of his cases, be it a multi-district civil litigation proceeding or a criminal misdemeanor or felony case.
Judge Sebelius took the bench in February 2003, serving for two eight-year terms as a U.S. magistrate judge and a brief period as a recalled U.S. magistrate judge. During that time, Judge Sebelius acted as a referral judge on more than 3,000 civil cases; presided over nine civil trials and 21 criminal misdemeanor or petty-offense trials; conducted nearly 4,000 initial appearances pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5 and held more than 1,000 detention hearings. Apart from routine orders, he issued more than 500 written decisions, including 27 selected for publication in the Federal Rules Decisions or in the Federal Supplement series.
Before taking the bench, Judge Sebelius had a lengthy career in private practice in Topeka. He is best known for representing the Topeka Board of Education throughout the lengthy proceedings in the reopened Brown v. Board of Education case (Brown III). In retirement, Judge Sebelius looks forward to traveling with his wife, former Health and Human Services Secretary and former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. He also looks forward to spending time with his two sons, their wives, and his three grandsons.
Brooke Hesler Ramsey
New magistrate judge brings extensive private practice, clerking experience to District of Kansas
U.S. Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell
The District of Kansas welcomed its newest magistrate judge, Angel D. Mitchell, who took the oath of office on March 25, 2019. Judge Mitchell sits in the Topeka division.
“It is an honor and a privilege to welcome Judge Mitchell to the bench,” said U.S. District Judge Holly L. Teeter, who also sits in the Topeka division. “The combination of her complex civil litigation experience, clerking experience, and life experience makes her an exceptional jurist and a dedicated and conscientious public servant.”
Before taking the bench, Judge Mitchell was a partner at the law firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon. There, her practice was predominantly intellectual property litigation—patent, trademark, and copyright cases, as well as related trade secret and proprietary aspects relating to research and development efforts. She had a national practice with cases in federal district courts throughout the country, representing mainly Fortune 100 clients with a global or national footprint as well as smaller innovators. Her cases generally involved complex technology such as smartwatches, electric power grid technologies, polymer chemistry, digital rights management, environmental control systems, telecommunications, and data compression. They also typically involved high-value products and brands, such as Apple products, The Coca‑Cola Company’s brands, and Tech N9ne’s recording label. Her cases often required coordinating litigation with parallel proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, such as petitions for inter partes review before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. She also handled appellate cases before the Federal Circuit. While at Shook, she served on the firm’s Associates Committee and Search Committee, and she was involved in the firm’s Women’s Management Council.
Judge Mitchell grew up in a small town in Iowa, a farming community. She began her college education at Wichita State University and has lived in Kansas ever since. She put herself through undergraduate school while working in the commercial real estate industry. She became a first-generation college graduate in 1996, when she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Baker University School of Professional & Graduate Studies. She then went on to the University of Kansas School of Law, where she was on the Kansas Law Review, received CALI Awards, the Payne & Jones Award for Appellate Advocacy, and participated in the Judicial Clerkship Clinic. She received her Juris Doctor degree in 2000 and graduated Order of the Coif.
Following graduation, Judge Mitchell initially joined what was at that time Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin, LLP as an associate. She then served as a law clerk to the Honorable James P. O’Hara at the United States District Court for the District of Kansas from 2001-2003 and as a law clerk to the Honorable John W. Lungstrum from 2003-2008. As a law clerk, she gained broad exposure to a wide variety of litigation matters at all stages of litigation, such as class actions and MDL proceedings; criminal trials and proceedings; various types of civil cases such as antitrust, ERISA, employment discrimination, Title IX, civil rights, reinsurance coverage, telecommunications, patent, trademark, pipeline, and various tort and business disputes; § 2255 and habeas petitions; and bankruptcy and social security appeals.
“I feel honored to have been selected as a magistrate judge,” Judge Mitchell said. “And I look forward to the opportunity to serve litigants in the District of Kansas.”
Judge Mitchell succeeds the Honorable K. Gary Sebelius, who retired from the bench.
Brooke Hesler Ramsey
Incoming chapter president has been advocate for Federal Bar Association since law school
Kate Marples Simpson
Kate Marples Simpson is the incoming president of the District of Kansas and Western District of Missouri Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. In February, Kate organized an all-day CLE on civil rights sponsored by the FBA that was held at the Robert J. Dole Courthouse in Kansas City, Kan. In addition to her work for the FBA, Kate practices law at Stevens & Brand, L.L.P. in Lawrence, Kan., where she focuses on civil litigation and appeals, including employment and personal injury litigation. Before embarking into private practice, Kate clerked for the Honorable K. Gary Sebelius in Topeka, Kan., and the Honorable Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kan.
Kate graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law where she was on the Kansas Law Review and served as the inaugural president for the FBA Student Division. When she is not partaking in law-related activities, Kate spends her time with family, cooking and baking, training for marathons and triathlons, teaching spin classes, playing the viola, learning fine woodworking from her father (a local luthier—builder of fine stringed instruments), and working with her bee hives.
UMKC student division president credits FBA, reflects on journey from military to law school
I first met Susan at an FBA event at the Robert J. Dole Courthouse. She is bright, energetic and engaging. It did not surprise me that she ultimately became FBA Student Division President at UMKC School of Law. I teed up the spotlight with some “Q&A.”
TELL US ABOUT YOUR UNDERGRAD EXPERIENCE?
My undergrad experience probably began as a child peering down at West Point from a lookout on the way to my grandparent’s home in upstate New York. Little did I know that I would soon be part of the Corp of Cadets. There, among other things, I learned leadership, the joy of triathlons and international policy debate. The Academy even taught me to drive a tank before ever having a license to operate a passenger vehicle.
In my junior year I discovered an aptitude for the Chinese language and realized that as much as the Academy had to offer, the Army was not the career for me. So I packed up my science education and headed to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif., where I earned a degree in Chinese language and policy studies.
WHY LAW SCHOOL?
Throughout the ensuing years, participation in community organizations and local government led a number of people to ask if I was an attorney. This started to make more sense as I helped to draft preliminary legislation and began to manage small local political campaigns.
A few years later, I found myself working as a paralegal at a local law firm. It was there that mentors encouraged and ultimately helped solidify the decision to pursue a law degree. It took a bit of doing, juggling a full-time job and extra studying for the LSAT but eventually I was thrilled to be enrolling in my first classes at UMKC. I have never looked back.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN FBA?
As a 1L, I wasn’t really sure what student organizations to join or honestly how much commitment to take on if I wanted to survive the first year. So, I just participated in a casual way in a couple of groups.
It wasn’t until my second year that seeking more active roles was feasible, and I served as the treasurer of the Intellectual Property Law Society and the FBA. In my final year, serving as president of the FBA, I’ve learned how to manage a significantly larger student organization and was really able to give back to my law school.
WHAT YOU GOTTEN OUT OF FBA?
For me, the experience and relationships built while serving in this organization were the most applicable to the role of being a lawyer, serving others, and upholding respect for the rule of law.
Especially for 1Ls, it is important to join the FBA as part of their initial foray into professional development. Our area judges and federal practice attorneys are very generous with their time and have a genuine interest in law students. The annual Welcome Back event provides the first opportunity to network in a relatively low-key manner, with upper-level students facilitating the experience.
FBA also has an exceptional mentorship program. Students are paired with an attorney or judge and meet on a customized schedule to share experiences and provide guidance. I’ve been able to field ideas, get advice and form relationships with attorneys that have been truly inspirational. They have encouraged me to explore areas of law and educational experiences I would never have known existed.
WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL PLANS?
What’s next? Do you mean beyond finals, papers, and bar prep? This last year through Professors Callister, Jacobs, Luppino, and my advisor Dean Nancy Levit, I’ve been exposed to a pretty unique aspect of law—the intersection of law, technology, and public policy. This is particularly interesting, especially as we look at how emerging technologies will shape our future and the role that law plays in facilitating positive change. I’m looking forward to the future, and deeply appreciate the generosity of my mentors and the experience gained through the Federal Bar Association.
Susan is not just worthy of the spotlight, you can see she shines the spotlight on others. We wish her well in the practice and look forward to her continued involvement in FBA.
Federal Litigation Spotlight
3M Military Earplugs MDL Blasts Off to the Northern District of Florida
At a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation hearing on the morning of March 28 in Washington D.C., scores of lawyers jockeyed for position in one of the nation’s newest and most talked about lawsuits: 3M Company Combat Arms Earplug MDL 2885. There were familiar faces at the hearing on the plaintiffs’ side, including Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm, P.C., who called the lawsuits “[O]ne of the most important litigations in our generation.” The litigation alleges that 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs – issued by the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 – were defectively designed for use in combat and elevated noise situations, leaving hundreds of thousands of soldiers and veterans to sustain hearing loss and tinnitus. 3M has denied these allegations, stating, “Safety is a key component of what we do for the United States military and 3M denies that Combat Arms Earplugs caused injuries.”
The battleground for this litigation was set at the JPML hearing: the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, where veteran Judge Margaret Catherine “Casey” Rodgers will preside over the MDL proceedings. The JPML described Rodgers as an “able jurist with experience in presiding over a large products liability MDL.” Recently, Judge Rodgers has overseen more than 2,000 lawsuits in multidistrict litigation over the antipsychotic drug Abilify. With the number of filed lawsuits totaling around 640 at the time of the JPML hearing, but expected to reach well into the tens of thousands, a strategic discovery and bellwether trial system will be instrumental in bringing these hotly contested suits to a swift conclusion.
Students from J.C. Harmon High School participated in a mock hearing April 26 in the Robert J. Dole Courthouse as part of the FBA’s National Community Outreach Project. Chapter members Dan Hodes, Ben Stueve and Grace Colato served as attorney coaches for the student attorneys and jurors as they prepared to argue and decide a fictional case based on Elonis v. United States. Magistrate Judge Teresa James presided over the hearing, hearing the arguments and helping facilitate discussion. Judge Carlos Murguia, a J.C. Harmon High School graduate, also stopped by to welcome the students. Thank you to all the volunteers for participating and to Whitney Novak for coordinating the event.
Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference, Hot Springs, Ark. June 5
Federal Courts Advocates Section Social Event at KCMBA June 5
D. Kan. Open Doors for Summer Associates, Wichita U.S. Courthouse June 7
Chapter Board Meeting, conference call June 10
FBA/FCAS/FPC Summer Law Academy Session 9, noon June 21
D. Kan. Open Doors for Summer Associates, Frank Carlson Federal Building, Topeka June 26
D. Kan. Open Doors for Summer Associates, Robert J. Dole Courthouse, Kansas City, Kan. June 27
W.D. Mo. Federal Practitioner Summer Social, 4:30 p.m. June 28
W.D. Mo. Bartlett Lecture Series August 9
Chapter Board Meeting September 5-7
FBA Annual Meeting & Convention, Tampa, Fla. September 6
Chapter Board Meeting, conference call September 19
FBA KU Welcome Event September 24
FBA Washburn Government Professions Program October 4
Chapter Board Meeting, conference call October 4
W.D. Mo. Judge Sachs 40th Anniversary Reception October 12-13
D. Kan Addiction seminar, Wichita October 26
FBA Copyright Program: Catie Zaller Rowland, “This Year at the Copyright Office” October 28-29
Civics & Diversity Field Trip to Dodge City and Garden City middle schools and high schools November 6
D. Kan. Civil Practitioner Lunch with Judges April 22, 2020
Continuing Education Program: Holocaust Art