Newsroom to Courtroom . . .


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

As a general assignment reporter at Channel 6-WLNS in Lansing, Savana Ciavatta often covered local court stories. After one such trial, she had an epiphany—picturing herself sitting at counsel table, instead of reporting in front of the camera.  
After a year at Channel 6, Ciavatta left and started studying for the LSAT—landing a full ride scholarship as a Detroit Mercy Law School Fellow.

“I’ve always enjoyed being a student and learning in school,” she says. “Pursuing my goal to be a lawyer was a natural next step—a chance to be back in the classroom and continue to improve my writing skills.”   

Her television experience has been put to great use in law school.

“I’ve never had trouble speaking in front of others, and this made joining Moot Court an easy move for me,” she says. “Instead of talking in front of a camera, I’m now talking in front of a panel of judges.   

“Law review and Moot Court have been great experiences and have helped me hone my skills and put them to the test early on, in an academic setting,” she adds. “Nicole Joseph and I competed in the annual Patrick J. Keenan Moot Court competition and made it to the semifinals. We were required to write an appellate brief as well as argue our positions in multiple rounds in front a number of judges. And Law Review required us to write an original 30-page note on a topic of our choice with the help of an adviser.”   

Serving as managing editor of Law Review has provided experience with the managerial side of the organization.

“Not only do I have a hand in the editing and formatting process of our journal, but I’m in charge of the accounting, administration, and other day-to-day functions,” she says. “It’s rewarding to be a part of one of the school’s oldest standing organizations. And I enjoy reading articles that really deal with the cutting edge of current legal scholarship.”   

Ciavatta, who served as secretary for her 1L and 2L years, hopes to fuse her presentation skills learned as a TV reporter with her legal writing skills to become a successful litigation attorney.

“I’ve always been attracted to a challenge, and I thrive under pressure, that’s what initially led me to TV—but now the challenge isn’t in a newsroom, but in a courtroom,” she says. “I also see myself having a career in the judiciary, and becoming a judge, after I’ve become an established litigation attorney.”   

Ciavatta gained experience by clerking for Clinton Township attorney Stephen Rabaut, where her job entailed going through discovery of both state and federal criminal cases, many of them Medicare fraud and racketeering cases.    

“I also did legal research, wrote memos, and helped Steve prep for trial, including helping prepare witness files,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to watch him conduct a few state and federal level trials. He’s one of the most sought out criminal defense attorneys in the Macomb County area—I definitely had the privilege of working under one of the most elite attorneys in this area.”

In a judicial law clerk internship with U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit, Ciavatta focused predominantly on legal research and writing.

“I wrote memos that would assist the legal clerks in making decisions on motions to amend complaints and summary judgments” she says. “I also had a chance to sit and eat lunch with Judge Edmunds and her staff every day. She is one of the most down-to-earth and intelligent women I’ve ever met, and it was a pleasure to work under her and her clerks.”

This past summer Ciavatta worked under a number of different practice groups at Bodman, including litigation, banking, workplace, enterprise procurement, and pro bono. “Bodman was a great experience and really helped me with hone my writing and time management skills,” she says.

“It helped me better learn how to prioritize assignments, and work under a pressing deadline.”

Ciavatta earned her undergrad degree in communications from Oakland University, with a minor in journalism.

“As a child, I thought news anchors were so knowledgeable about daily events the local community,” she says. “I used to use a Barbie doll as a microphone and mimic being a TV anchor in front of the mirror.

“I grew up wanting a career where I can write and tell a good story. And I wanted to do something worthwhile and meaningful. Being a television reporter seemed to encompass all those things, and I would find out later a career in the legal field would reward me with the same kind of feeling.”

Although Ciavatta has put television behind her, it is something she will never forget.

“My past career is an experience I’ll always remember and cherish, and I want to continue to use the skills I learned and apply them to my future career.”

A native of Washington Township in Macomb County, Ciavatta now makes her home in Detroit. She enjoys working out, and traveling with her boyfriend, Andrew Krause, a resident physician at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital.