• * A legal writing program that starts in the first year and continues through the upper level courses.
  • * A clinical program that entitles every student to the opportunity to represent a live client.
  • * A unique law firm program that allows students to engage in simulated cases and transactions in specific practice areas.



  • * Committed to developing lawyers who serve the public good
  • * Committed to serving the Detroit community
  • * Founded on Jesuit and Mercy principles of service and the success of each individual

Study Internationally

Study Internationally

  • * Dual degree program with the University of Windsor
  • * Extensive international law and comparative law courses
  • * Established relationship with Universite d"Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, France



  • * Downtown Detroit Location provides proximity to courts and employers
  • * Strong Alumni Network dedicated to supporting UDM graduates
  • * ability to pursue a concentration in Immigration Law

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Professor introduces students to full breadth of Con Law

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

“There’s not much coverage of it in college programs or grade school – so, they’re bright and capable and eager and launching into a field they’ve never really had a chance to explore before. It’s a lot of fun to go on this adventure with them and to be their guide as to parts of it. It’s always fun for me to see how far they go in such a short period of time.”

Olson, who teaches Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, finds his students bring a wide array of background and experiences to the classroom, and “an amazing cross-section” of socio-economic classes, ages, occupations, creeds, and cultures.

“I’ve found it very interesting and enriching to associate with all of these interesting people,” he says.

When Olson earned his degree in political science from Brigham Young University, studies primarily centered on relations with the Soviet Union.

“I like to tell people my undergrad education became obsolete with the fall of the Berlin Wall,” he says. “That’s an exaggeration, but it’s amazing how quickly the world can change.”

Fascinated by two undergrad semesters on Constitutional Law and International Law, he set his sights on law school – and on teaching.

“I felt I had a talent for teaching and wanted to teach something I found interesting and challenging. Law seemed to be the ideal field – and I was right.”

He went on to teach at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of Oklahoma College of Law, Oklahoma City University School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law where he was also Associate Dean, and Appalachian School of Law where he was the founding Dean. He was also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Southern Virginia College and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Great Falls in Montana.

Actively involved in accreditation processes, Olson has served as co-chair of an accreditation site team for the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE).

“When it works well, the accreditation process encourages participating schools to articulate what they are, what they want to become, and how they intend to get there,” he says.

Olson shares his past experience with students, including his clerkship for a state trial judge in Idaho, an invaluable experience for teaching Civil Procedure.

“I can relate experiences from the clerkship to show the way the court approaches its decision-making role and how the rules really do shape the litigation.”

He also shares a rare case from private practice in Portland that has come in handy teaching Property, in which he negotiated the settlement of a rule against perpetuities case; and a case of a client whose employer breached its contract and refused to pay salary it owed.

“It was gratifying that our firm was able to get a full recovery plus statutory penalties and attorneys fees for him,” Olson says. “I also handled a libel defense and successfully obtained a dismissal – a nice result in an interesting type of case that most first year associates would not get a chance to handle.”

Olson has a deep respect for the governmental structure that the framers crafted.

“I recognize the preeminence of the rights of speech, press, religion and assembly in maintaining a free government – for me there are no more interesting or important questions than the ones posed in constitutional analysis.”

One of the great challenges, he says, is to respect the democratic process essential to the U.S. constitutional republic while also giving full effect to the constitutional protections that temper that majority rule.
“There’s a common misperception that judicial review is anti-democratic – that’s not so. The Constitution required super-majority support for its ratification and any later amendment.

“There’s no inconsistency between popular sovereignty and fealty to the Constitution as it is duly ratified. But that misperception of anti-democratic judicial review feeds a constant temptation to conclude that our own preferences must be what the Constitution actually requires.”

The danger can be illustrated in the context of the First Amendment.

“It must protect more speech than just that in which I would engage or my version of the First Amendment just appoints me czar,” Olson says. “So, we must explore how far those speech protections will go.”
The same questions arise in other areas.

“It’s not enough that I’m pleased with the policy result – I have to ask honestly whether we’ve achieved these results in accord with the constitutional system that a super-majority of the citizens has chosen. Any other approach subverts the bedrock principle of popular sovereignty.”

Olson cites the 7-year legal case over prolonging or ending treatment for Terri Schiavo – a Florida woman with massive brain damage – as an interesting way of framing questions about respect for the constitutional structure and process and an important cautionary tale.

“There were many people who on a broad array of issues had questioned whether the courts were not simply imposing their policy views on social controversies; yet, suddenly when faced with a result they didn’t like, wanted the courts to do the same thing they had so vociferously condemned – to impose a decision contrary to the rules established through the political process based on their policy preferences,” he says.

“We all have policies we prefer, and we’ll all lose at times in our effort to persuade others. We have to accept losing – even when we’re convinced we’re correct or even morally superior – as a requisite price of a free government. We’ve no reason or right to think if we abandon popular sovereignty that we’re entitled to be the new sovereign.”

Olson views the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission issue as a prime example of what he terms “the human capacity for mind-boggling inconsistency.” When the government argued that media corporations had an exception from the limits on speech only because of legislative grace, which could be withdrawn at will by the government, one would have expected those media corporations to howl in opposition, he says.

“Instead, in an amazing show of hypocrisy, the media corporations cast their lots with hoping the government will continue to give them a preferred status rather than defending the principle of free speech. Thankfully, the court did not make the same choice.”

A member of the Federalist Society, Olson enjoys hearing – and sometimes being a part of – debates with contrasting perspectives.

“The conservatives and libertarians who make up the group often have diametrically opposed viewpoints, and the invited commentator may bring yet another perspective or two into the picture. I enjoy the commitment to our constitutional system of government and the active debate that generates a broad array of positions.”

Olson, who is married with seven children, enjoys reading and listening to classical music.

Of Norwegian heritage with family roots in Minnesota, he enjoys genealogical research, and volunteers every Saturday at a local family history center. “I’m always fascinated by the story of people’s lives and the puzzle of trying to find their ancestors.”


Reception at the State Bar of MI Annual Meeting in Novi - State Bar of Michigan

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 4:30 pm

Dean Phyllis L. Crocker will host a cocktail reception for UDM Law alumni, State Bar dignitaries, and members of the judiciary at the Annual Meeting of the State Bar of Michigan at the Suburban Collection in Novi on Thursday, October 8, from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.  She will make remarks at 5:15 p.m.

Meet the Judges Reception - Atrium

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 5:00 pm

Meet judges of the federal and state courts during a casual reception in the UDM Law atrium and café on Thursday, October 15.  The schedule for the evening  is:  registration from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.; welcome remarks 6:00 - 6:10 p.m.; group photo 6:10 - 6:15 p.m.; network and meet the judges 6:15 - 7:30 p.m. UDM Law is co-sponsoring this event with the Catholic Lawyers Society of Detroit; Incorporated Society of Irish American Lawyers; and the Polish American Lawyers Society.
Meet the Judges Invitation>>
RSVP for Reception>>

Law Review Symposium on the Great Lakes - Room 226

Friday, October 16, 2015 - 9:30 am

The UDM Law Review will host a symposium entitled, "The Public Trust Doctrine:  An Ancient Tool for Protecting the Great Lakes from New Hazards," on Friday, October 16, from 9:30 a.m. - 3:15 p.m. in room 226.  Topics include, "A Proper Framework for the Public Trust Doctrine and the Great Lakes," and "Trails and Microplastics:  New Developments."  The symposium is complimentary but advance registration is required.

Law Review Symposium Invitation>>

Reunion for All Law Alumni - UDM Law Campus

Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 7:00 pm

The School of Law's annual Reunion will be held on Saturday, October 24, from 7:00 - 11:00 p.m. at the School's Riverfront Campus.  As part of the festivities, we will celebrate the the 50th anniversary of our clinical program; selection of Hon. Anthony J. Fiorella, Jr. as UDM's 2015 Alumni Award recipient and Richard T. Krisciunas as the 2015 Time and Talent Award recipient; and the special anniversaries of the classes of 1965, 1990, and 2005.  The Reunion is for all School of Law alumni.  Additional details may be found on the Reunion website.


November 14, 2015: Prospective Student Open House - UDM Law Campus

Saturday, November 14, 2015 - 9:00 am

Find out why men and women have been choosing UDM Law for over 100 years for their legal education.  Learn how UDM Law not only teaches you the law, but teaches you how to be a lawyer.  Through your education here, you will become a lawyer who makes a difference in your workplace and your community.  

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the campus and speak with admissions representatives, faculty, and current students.  

January 7, 2016: Prospective Student Open House - UDM Law Campus

Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 5:30 pm

Find out why men and women have been choosing UDM Law for over 100 years for their legal education.  Learn how UDM Law not only teaches you the law, but teaches you how to be a lawyer.  Through your education here, you will become a lawyer who makes a difference in your workplace and your community.  

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the campus and speak with admissions representatives, faculty, and current students.  



    The legal community came together to celebrate UDM Law's 103rd annual Red Mass on September 29.  Judges, attorneys, civic leaders, faculty, and law students of all faiths filled Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church to pray together at the beginning of the new judicial term. View Red Mass Photos>>  Read More>>



    Professor Alex Vernon represented the Immigration Law Clinic in participating in "Become a Citizen Day" hosted by the Chaldean Community Foundation and the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit on Saturday, September 19, in Sterling Heights. Attorneys and volunteers from these organizations and other firms assisted permanent residents in applying for citizenship. This was part of a nation-wide effort coordinated by organizations including the American Immigration Lawyers Association.



    Four UDM Law students will compete in the Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan's 16th Annual National Trial Advocacy Competition in Lansing on October 9-11, 2015. The prosecution team will be led by Scott Ruark and Nina Paolini-Lotarski, and the defense team members are Hannah Treppa and Patrina Bergamo.



    UDM Law will offer new programming this fall to meet the needs of its entrepreneurial-minded students and graduates interested in developing their own law practices. Eight different free workshops have been scheduled for September 23 to November 18 at the School of Law campus, exploring the practical implications of developing a solo or small firm practice, and some will also be available for online viewing. The School was awarded a $30,000 grant from the DeWitt C. Holbrook Memorial Fund to fund and expand its Solo and Small Firm Incubator Program to add these workshops through a new Center for Solo and Small Firm Practice.

    Register for Workshops>>

    Press Release>>


    In the Fall 2015 issue of Conversations, a semi-annual magazine published by the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education, alumnus Allen Elzerman '03 praises UDM Law's commitment to social and criminal justice.  In his article, "On Loan to the Poor," Elzerman discusses how he personifies that commitment through his work as a public defender and how his sense of fulfillment is more important than financial gain.

    On Loan to the Poor, Conversations magazine, Issue 48 - Fall 2015 (written by Allen Elzerman '03)


    UDM Law is pleased to announce the founding of the Hon. Lawrence Paul Zatkoff Endowed Scholarship, made possible by the Zatkoff family, in memory of the late judge.  This gift is the first million-dollar scholarship the law school has ever received.  The scholarship provides support for a student to extern or intern with a federal court or state supreme court judge.

    Press Release>>