'Voice for the voiceless'


MSU?Law student receives Wanda Nash award

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Morgan Pattan is the 2021 recipient of the State Bar of Michigan’s Wanda A. Nash Award, named after the founder of the SBM Animal Law Section. The annual award recognizes a 3L law student at a Michigan law school for substantial contributions to animal law. The award ceremony was held via Zoom on April 13.

 “I’m honored to have been presented with this award and feel endlessly grateful to Wanda for her work on behalf of animals,” says Pattan, a 3L student at Michigan State University College of Law, approaching graduation. “She paved the way for future attorneys like myself to make a career out of animal advocacy, and I hope to make the same impact in the field and the lives of others that she did.

“I’ve have always loved animals and was quickly drawn to animal law for that reason. I became passionate about using my platform as an attorney to advocate for animals in the legal system because they don’t have a voice and I think it’s so important to advocate for the voiceless.”

Pattan was nominated for the award by Clinical Assistant Professor of Law Carney Anne Nasser-Garcia, former director of the MSU Law Animal Welfare Clinic where Pattan spent five months early last year.

Pattan, who earned her undergrad degree in humanities and pre-law from MSU, always knew she wanted a career that allowed her to make a difference in the world or in the lives of individuals.

“My decision to attend law school was solidified after taking a philosophy course called Logic and Reasoning, where the professor shared the relevance of this type of thinking to the practice of law,” she says.

At MSU Law, Pattan has particularly enjoyed courses and extracurricular activities relating to animal advocacy, including the Animal Law Clinic that provided hands-on experience.

“My favorite thing about the Animal Welfare Clinic was having the opportunity to learn from Professor Nasser – she’s been such an inspiration to me and an example of the kind of attorney I hope to be,” she says.
Inspired by Professor Nasser, Pattan wrote a research paper relating to the need for species-specific standards for captive exotic animals in the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Her preliminary research showed her the general public is becoming more sensitive to the issues many animals face in captivity, but that sympathy is often reserved for ‘exotic’ animals such as big cats and elephants.

“Having recognized bears have natural behaviors and needs that are nearly impossible to replicate in captive living, it became clear how important it is to alter the AWA to include species-specific standards for bears to ensure their positive welfare in captivity,” Pattan says.“Having the opportunity to do a deep dive into the insufficiencies of the AWA as it pertains to the protection of captive animals, big cats and bears specifically, through a petition for rulemaking gave me insight into important issues and the ways we can advocate for change for animals.”

Pattan has spent the past year clerking for the Humane Society of the United States, working remotely due to the pandemic.

“I’ve so much enjoyed the people I’ve worked with at HSUS – they’ve all been so gracious in allowing me the opportunity to collaborate with them on many projects,” she says. “Much of my internship included research projects on different issues that the non-profit organization faced, reviewing or drafting policies to ensure compliance with laws, and researching defense strategies for a lawsuit filed against HSUS.”

As president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Pattan partnered with like-minded students to educate themselves and others on the ways animals suffer as a result of human behavior, and how to better protect animals’ interests. And serving as an articles editor on the Animal and Natural Resource Law Review allowed her to develop critical skills while furthering her knowledge on issues in animal and natural resource law.

Her three years of law school included other legal topics. A 2019 internship for the Court of Appeals in Lansing introduced her to many legal topics she had not learned in her 1L year. She created a research paper summarizing Michigan Supreme Court cases; and helped create a legal memo for the no-report case that judge was assigned to.

She also interned that summer for Legal Services of Southeast Michigan in Flint, working with attorneys focusing on family law issues and representing a client in court for an extension of a PPO.

“Being able to assist the Flint community by providing legal services to those that would not be able to afford it otherwise was invaluable,” she says.

Patttan’s family was devastated by the recent loss of their French bulldog, Bentley, to cancer. “He was truly a member of the family,” Pattan says.

“We took him everywhere in a doggy stroller, and all of our plans revolved around him. He lit up the whole room with his goofy tendencies and made all our troubles melt away with his snuggles. Although he wasn’t registered as an official service animal, he provided unwavering love and support to me, my mom and my grandma through many tough times. We would not be the same people if it weren’t for him – he was truly special!”

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