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Whistle-Blower Case Whistles First-Year Oral Arguments to a Close

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Grace Garrett expected some blowback when she brought down the law upon her employer, accusing the Twin Oaks Hospital in Overland Park, Kansas of fraudulently overbilling patients to the tune of a half-million dollars.
 
But did Garrett anticipate having to defend against being called a sneak, a snoop, and a thief?
 
Like a well-written soap opera that keeps viewers glued to the screen, the final simulation mediation exercise of 2013, the capstone event for the first year oral arguments, played out during the final act of the fictitious case of U.S. ex. rel. Garrett v. Twin Oaks Hospital, Inc. staged in Slowinski Courtroom on April 15.

The student-acted legal scenario, realistically scripted by Professor A.G. Harmon, a writing instructor in the Lawyering Skills Program (LSP), is designed to expose students to the nuances and complexities of negotiating a contentious financial settlement between two parties. Just as in real life, the litigants come to the table equipped with all-too-human agendas, anxieties, and deceptions.
 
Flanked at the table by the opposing parties, Ben Jacewicz, an assistant county attorney and professional mediator for Fairfax County, Va., led the two hour session.
 
For the student participants and onlookers, the First-Year LSP Mediation Simulation was the culmination of a semester’s work. Nine of the eleven LSP sections have been arguing the federal whistleblower action involving alleged Medicare fraud since January.
 
Five first-year students took on the roles of the parties and their attorneys—as well as a Department of Justice attorney—in hopes of resolving the matter.
 
Each student was provided with private motivations, courtesy of Professor Harmon’s novelist’s creativity.  Having only the basic scenario, the mediator was privy to none of them.
 
“This is our fifth year of staging a mediation based on the first-year problem, providing a unique—and to my knowledge, exclusive—opportunity for students to witness the dynamics that go on in this crucial part of litigation practice,” said Harmon.
 
The roles of the parties and attorneys were assumed by these first-year students:

Grace Garrett, the qui tam relator - Maureen Hughes
Her attorney, William Sheffield - David Steenburg
DOJ Counsel - Dan Kane
Hospital Board Chair- Arielle Kesnig
Her attorney, Gail Gentry - Rebecca Neville
 
The fully-informed audience was provided with all of the facts of the mediation, both public and private, to follow along with the strategizing.
 
The mediation followed students’ capstone arguments last Friday before fictional Tenth Circuit panels composed of alumni, practitioners, and faculty. Vice-Dean George Garvey and Professors Sylvia Bacon, Cara Drinan, Megan La Belle, Michael McGonnigal, Faith Mullen, Michael Noone, Tony Perez, and Marin Scordato joined 64 alumni and friends of the law school in judging the arguments.
 
Exposure to federal fraud statutes and implementing regulations has positioned students well to compete for internships at the Department of Justice, Offices of Inspectors General, other federal agencies, and private firms that represent qui tam relaters and defendants.