ua law logo high res | Link                                                                                  January 29, 2014



It was great to see so many alumni and friends at last week's superb Marks Lecture with Justice Goodwin Liu.


I hope many of you will join us for tomorrow's Richard Grand Writing Competition Awards Ceremony and on Friday for the "Saving the Neighborhood" Conference, featuring some of the country's top scholars.  


This week we feature four members of the Arizona Law community, 3L student Michael DiGiacomo, sisters and fellow alums January Contreras and Melanie Rainer, and Senior Director of Development Jonelle Vold.


Until the footnotes,




Michael DiGiacomo (JD '14)


Time in the courtroom led 3L student Michael DiGiacomo to the corridors and classrooms of Arizona Law.


Michael, a Tucson native, graduated from the U of A with a psychology degree in 2006 and started working in behavioral health, where he spent almost five years as a member of a mobile acute crisis team in Pima County.


"Often clients required hospitalization and I was frequently involved in filing petitions for involuntary court ordered mental health treatment. This usually required testifying in court hearings to decide whether or not the person's illness and symptoms met the standard for involuntary treatment," Michael says.


This time in court sparked his interest in attending law school and he applied to several institutions. He chose U of A because of the people and the atmosphere. 


"People were genuinely friendly and approachable, and it seemed like just about everyone was willing to take the time to talk to me about the school, what the environment was like, and why they chose Arizona Law. Other schools I visited did not seem as inviting or vibrant."


Michael has never regretted his choice of law schools, making the most of his three years. He has served on the Arizona Law Review as an articles editor and participated in the Arizona Law's Pro Bono Appellate Project supervised by Dean Jordan-Curtis. The group represented a client in her appeal on a copyright infringement case. In November 2013, he and another student, Rosimar Varela-Gradaille, argued in front of the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena.


Michael has also accrued great experiences during both summers. He was an extern for federal Judge David C. Bury (JD '67) in Tucson during his 1L summer. During his 2L summer, he served as a summer associate with the firm of May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie in Phoenix where he discovered his fondness for litigation--particularly bankruptcy.


After graduation, Michael will clerk for Judge David T. Thuma on the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His goal after clerking is to begin practicing in the area of bankruptcy.


You can connect with Michael here

Jonelle Vold ('01)


Senior Director of Development Jonelle Vold is on a mission. "The Arizona Law community is filled with passionate and motivated people. My mission is to turn this goodwill and affinity for the College into an accessible network and create resources to benefit the entire Arizona Law community."


As a young attorney, Jonelle witnessed the power of a strong alumni network. "One of my fellow associates made the decision to leave her job and move across the country. This colleague was a Notre Dame law grad. Her first call upon deciding to move was to the alumni office. The alumni office put in her contact with a network of people. Within days my colleague had job interviews, assistance locating housing, and several offers to introduce her to her new community. That is the type of network we are building at Arizona Law. We already have the people and the passion, and we are working hard on the path".


In addition to leading the alumni and fundraising efforts at Arizona Law, Jonelle is also an alumna with fond memories of her time as a student.  "I enjoyed every minute of law school. The rigor of the classroom and the warmth of the community created an exhilarating experience."  Rumor has it that this former Student Bar Association President and Ares Fellow "practically lived" at Arizona LawSpending her time in classes,  club meetings, and chatting with classmates.


Jonelle's fondness for Arizona Law extends to the entire University. Her husband Jeff -- a high school basketball coach and special education teacher -- and nine-year-old twins (Kaylee and JT) share her passion for the U of A. She says, "Our lives often revolve around what sport is in season and our vacations have been known to track Arizona away games."


Outside of Arizona Law, Jonelle is very proud of her work with the Arizona Women Lawyer's Association, Women 2020, and the ABA Women Rainmakers.


Jonelle, I think there is only one thing to say, "Bear Down."


You can connect with Jonelle here. 

January Contreras (BA '93, JD '96) and Melanie Rainer (BA '07, JD '10) 

January Contreras and Melanie Rainer are sisters and double Wildcats. Although their tenures as students were at different times, they share similar experiences and reflections of Arizona Law.


According to January, Arizona Law was a welcoming place. Former Assistant Dean for Admissions Terry Holpert was exceptionally helpful and an invaluable source of guidance. Not only did Dean Holpert offer her a scholarship to attend, but when January didn't have the money for LSAT prep classes, she helped January find free study books. "Her personal touch meant a lot." January also enjoyed her time at the U of A prior to law school, "The U of A was very good to me as an undergraduate, providing amazing leadership and growth opportunities,"


Melanie echoed her sister's positive sentiments: 


"Law school is hard work, but having faculty to guide you and support you in your personal goals helps. For example, 1L year our Constitutional Law professor brought in camel cookies, to mark the "hump day" of our first semester in law school. It was a small but meaningful gesture for tired 1Ls."

Melanie Rainer 


As a law student, Melanie had a chance to work as research assistant to Associate Dean Brent White and assisted him in writing a substantial research paper. Citing this as "hands down" her favorite experience while at Arizona Law, she says that "it afforded me one-on-one time to learn about legal research and writing and apply this skill to social issues, which is important to my current work."


At one point, Melanie considered pursuing a Master's in Public Health rather than a law degree. When asked about her choice, she says, "I am grateful that I decided to pursue a law degree. It has provided me with the necessary tools to work in domestic policy. It has also given me strong advocacy tools, as well as legal research and writing skills."


Melanie's career path led her to Washington, D.C. after graduation. She worked with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services as an inaugural staffer to the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office, an office created by the Affordable Care Act. Melanie helped draft regulations, administrative policies, and implement the ACA. "This was a fun experience, as I was essentially working on a start-up company in the federal government," she says.


Her knowledge of the ACA's intricacies has been helpful in her current job as the chief policy and budget advisor on Medicaid and the ACA with U.S. Senator Patty Murray from Washington State. "I love my job as I get to work to increase access to the millions of Americans without health insurance through the new Marketplaces and Medicaid expansion." she says.


January also ended up in Washington, D.C. for a short while, after serving as a Deputy County Attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and an Assistant Attorney General for the Arizona Attorney General's office. She became an advisor to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, and moved with her to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. January comments: 


January and her family 

"I have had the opportunity to sit at tables with people I would have never dreamed of meeting, helped make decisions that impact people all across the state and country, and, all the while, had the chance to learn how government should really work from one of the smartest, most ethical leaders of our time. I will always be grateful to Secretary Napolitano for these opportunities."  


January couldn't stay away from Arizona for long. She returned to Arizona and launched a non-profit named ALWAYS, for Arizona Legal Women and Youth Services. "Every time we serve one more homeless youth or young adult, I feel enormous gratitude for the privilege of practicing law," she says. On the personal front, January is preparing to celebrate 20 years of marriage to Carlos (BS '92) her fellow Wildcat husband, and having great fun raising two wonderful sons--Lucas (12) and Noah (9).


We are proud to claim both sisters as part of the Arizona Law family.  Click on the name to connect with January or with Melanie.


Coming soon!


Join us tomorrow for the Richard Grand Writing Competition Awards Ceremony.  

Thursday, January 30th from 12:00 - 1:00 pm

At the College of Law. Call 520-621-5794 to RSVP.   


During the ceremony we will announce the final order of the awards.  This year's finalists are:


Tim Butterfield (1L) 

Kate Hollist (1L)

Jessica Schulberg (1L)

Matt Smith (3L)

Omar Vazquez (3L) 


These finalists were selected from 20 entries.  The selection committee was impressed by the variety and the high quality of the submissions.  Selecting the five finalists was difficult, and the committee commends all who wrote. Five outside judges will determine the final order of the awards. This year's judges are:

  • The Hon. Ann Timmer, Justice, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Geri Mose-Mahrt, Staff Attorney, Arizona Court of Appeals
  • Timothy Eigo, editor, Arizona Attorney magazine
  • Sarah Bullard, Attorney, Pima County Public Defender
  • Brian Laird, Attorney, Laird Law Firm, PLLC

We are grateful to Marcia Grand for continuing to inspire and fund this competition in honor of her late husband attorney Richard Grand '58.   


"Saving the Neighborhood"-Full Day Conference.   

Friday, January 31st 9a.m.-4:30p.m. 

Join us at the law school as we celebrate the book by our colleague Carol Rose and Columbia Law School professor Richard Brooks, exploring the history and continuing implications of racially restrictive housing covenants.


Panelists include:

  • Robert Gordon (Professor of Law, Stanford and Chancellor Kent Professor Emeritus of Law and Legal History, (Yale Law School),
  • Risa Goluboff (John Allan Love Professor of Law, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law, and Professor of History at the University of Virginia),
  • Lani Guinier (Bennett Boskey Professor at Harvard Law School),
  • Gerald Torres (Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin),
  • Gabriel "Jack" Chin (Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and the former Chester H. Smith Professor of Law, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law), and
  • Price V. Fishback (Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management).

 Thomas Girardi to deliver the inaugural Civil Justice   lecture,  

"Jurors No Longer Decide Facts - They Decide Philosophies"  

Thursday, February 6, 5:00-6:15 p.m.


 Legendary California trial attorney Thomas V. Girardi will give the Inaugural Lecture for the Arizona Law Civil Justice Initiative.  Thursday, February 6, 5-6:15 p.m.  Ares Auditorium.  Reception to follow.    


Thomas V. Girardi is known as one of the great trial lawyers in the United States.  He has been involved in many major individual and class action cases, including the case against Pacific Gas & Electric portrayed in the movie Erin Brokovich, and in a major settlement with the pharmaceutical company Merck for injuries caused by the drug Vioxx.  Mr. Girardi is a member of the Board of Directors and former President of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.   Mr. Girardi and his Los Angeles firm, Girardi Keese, represent many former players and their families in the case against the National Football League for concussions and brain injuries that resulted in a $765 million settlement. 


*Phoenix Option! For our many alumni and friends in Phoenix who are not able to join us in Tucson in person, the firm of Gallagher & Kennedy will host a live, high-definition stream of Mr. Girardi's talk.


Networking Nosh at Arizona Law  

to be held in the Lewis Roca Rothgerber Lobby 


February 27 4:30-6:00 p.m.


March 27 4:30-6:00 p.m.


Connections between alumni and students are important part of the Arizona Law community.  To help facilitate those connections, we are launching a new networking series. If you are an alum willing to return to campus to spend time with and advise students, please sign up by emailing Marissa White.


Thank you to all of our friends and alumni who contribute to Arizona Law 




Our days continue to be packed with ideas and people--in talks, in classes, in conferences, at awards ceremonies, and in lunchtime gatherings. We know our alumni and friends are here every day in spirit; please keep in mind our standing invitation to join us in person whenever your schedule allows.  






Marc Signature      

Marc L. Miller 
Dean & Ralph W. Bilby Professor of Law 
James E. Rogers College of Law    

Stay Connected

Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn   View our videos on YouTube   Email   Wildcat
 Online Giving | | Link

Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.