Detroit Mercy Law welcomes three new members to its faculty


Jelani Jefferson Exum, Leslie E. Scott and Stephen Wilks have joined the faculty at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The three professors bring unique skill sets, interests and expertise ranging from commercial law to criminal defense to sentencing law.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome these outstanding professors to Detroit Mercy Law,” said Dean Phyllis L. Crocker. “Their commitment to innovative teaching and scholarship and the importance of social justice to both arenas will enrich our faculty, our community and our classrooms.”

Jelani Jefferson Exum joins Detroit Mercy Law as the Philip J. McElroy Professor of Law. She is a nationally recognized expert in sentencing law and procedure, and a member of the editorial board of the Federal Sentencing Reporter. Exum teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Sentencing, and Race and American Law. Her scholarship on federal sentencing has been featured on prominent sentencing blogs, and her research includes analyses of comparative criminal law and procedure and the impact of race on criminal justice. Previously, she was a professor and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Toledo College of Law, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law and a visiting associate professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Exum, who earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from Harvard College, began her career as a law clerk to the Honorable James L. Dennis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Honorable Eldon E. Fallon of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

“I am excited to be a part of an institution that has such a rich history of educating lawyers who are service-minded. It is very important to me to teach future attorneys who will be seekers of justice within their communities,” Exum said..

Stephen Wilks joins Detroit Mercy Law as an associate professor following a two-year visiting professorship at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and tenure-track appointments at Lincoln Memorial University School of Law and Valparaiso University Law School. He teaches business associations, secured transactions, payment systems, sales and contracts. Wilks’ cross-disciplinary scholarship has appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada Law Review, the Harvard Journal of Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Cornell International Law Journal and other flagship journals. His work explores the intersection of governance, regulation and social justice issues emerging within transactional spaces. Prior to becoming a law professor, Wilks practiced law and gained his initial teaching experience in Canada. He holds a B.A. and J.D. from Queen’s University; an M.S.W. from the University of Toronto; and an LL.M and Ph.D. from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

“I am happy to be on the faculty at Detroit Mercy Law, where I will have the rare chance to combine my Canadian legal training with American teaching and research experience in ways that align with the institution’s mission,” said Wilks.

Leslie E. Scott became an assistant professor at Detroit Mercy Law after nearly seven years as a criminal defense attorney with the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District of New York. In this role, she gained extensive litigation experience and won countless victories for her clients. Previously, Scott served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Victoria A. Roberts of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Honorable Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals. Her expertise and research interests lie at the intersection of race, mental illness and criminal justice. Scott currently serves on the ACLU of Michigan’s Lawyer’s Committee, where she assists the ACLU’s legal department to identify cases and issues to pursue. Scott earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan and J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law.

“I’m excited to join the faculty of Detroit Mercy Law because I believe in the school’s mission of providing hands-on, experiential instruction. A well-rounded legal education best prepares students to effectively interact with clients, attorneys, and judges, and to zealously advocate in the courtroom,” said Scott. “I’m also thrilled to be back in my hometown of Detroit, with its rich history and culture, and thriving, diverse legal community.”