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Phillip Walters (’12) Wins Burton Award for Legal Writing

MAY 9, 2012—Phillip Walters (’12) is the winner of a 2012 Burton Award for Legal Achievement in the law school legal writing category for his article, "'Would a Cop Do This?': Ending the Practice of Sexual Sampling in Prostitution Stings." The article was published in Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2011, of Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice (JLI).

The national Burton awards honor effective legal writing and use of clear, concise language. "Phillip's article is a great example of the Law School's writing program. It is well-researched and well-analyzed, and it is also interesting, clear, and in plain language," says Professor Brad Clary (’75), who selected Walters' article for submission.

Walters' article examines the controversial issue of police officers engaging in sexual conduct during prostitution stings to obtain evidence against women engaging in prostitution. Walters argues that rather than participating in sexual victimization, officers should focus their enforcement efforts on customers.

"While society's view of women who engage in prostitution has shifted significantly from demonizing them to seeing them as the true victims of prostitution," Walters says, "the practices of law enforcement have not kept up with this change and courts are largely unwilling to step in."

Walters will receive his award at the Burton Awards 13th Annual Awards Program and Gala on June 11, 2012, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The guest speaker at the formal dinner, co-hosted by the Library of Congress and the Burton Foundation, will be retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who also won this year's Book of the Year in Law Award.

"It's an honor even to be nominated for this award at a school with so many strong writers," says Walters, lead managing editor of JLI. "I'm very proud of this award, and I'm proud to be representing the U of M and JLI at the ceremony in D.C."

The nonprofit Burton Foundation was founded by William C. Burton, a former New York State Assistant Attorney General and a strong advocate of plain language in legal writing. Its award program was launched in 2000 and has grown in prestige, prominence, and competitiveness over the years.

The Law School is one of only five schools to receive the Burton Award seven or more times. Walters joins the six previous legal writing honorees: Eva B. Stensvad (’11), Noreen E. Johnson (’09), Emily C. Melvin (’08), Dan Robinson (’07), David Leishman (’06), and Kari M. Dahlin (’01).


Phillip Walters

Phillip Walters (’12)