Taking the lead: Meet KU Law’s student publication editors

Denise Dantzler, left, editor-in-chief of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, and Joy Merklen, editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review.

Third-year law students Denise Dantzler and Joy Merklen are embracing their roles as editor-in-chief for each of the law school’s two student-edited publications. Merklen leads the Kansas Law Review, and Dantzler heads up the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.

Dantzler and Merklen learned about their selections this spring, and have been at work setting goals, reviewing write-on submissions and selecting staff editors for the 2019-20 academic year.

“I was elated to hear that the executive board selected me for the role, and I feel truly honored to lead this talented group,” Dantzler said.

Dantzler and Merklen spent their 2L years as staff editors on for their respective publications. They helped shape articles for publication and, as Merklen put it, became “intimately familiar with the world of the Bluebook.”

Goals for the year

Joy Merklen portrait
Joy Merklen

In their roles as editor-in-chief, both women said they want to build on the publications’ missions of advancing scholarship, while also pursuing new goals.

At the Law Review, Merklen wants to use digital tools to serve the publication’s mission of contributing to legal scholarship and providing an intellectual community for student members. That means expanding on the Kansas Law Review Blog, which was launched in August 2018. In addition to being the digital home for the Kansas Criminal Procedure Survey, the blog will provide timely content exploring other areas of the law, Merklen said.

The Journal will expand its own digital presence with the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy Online. Dantzler and her team are setting up a blog to house Journal articles and additional content. Like the Kansas Law Review Blog, it will complement the print publication.

Maintaining an inclusive culture at the Journal is also on Dantzler’s list of goals.

Denise Dantzler portrait
Denise Dantzler

“I want to create a positive community. Being on a publication is not easy. The work is tedious and frustrating. Knowing this, I am going to do my best this year to make sure the members of Volume 29 (of the Journal) have an overall positive experience,” Dantzler said.

Merklen also aims to make the Law Review office a positive place to be.

“The previous board had a very welcoming and inclusive culture that made the Law Review feel like home. That is something we are dedicated to maintaining and strengthening,” Merklen said.

Women in leadership

Both publications being led by women is an accomplishment for KU Law, Dantzler said, and it’s one she is grateful to be part of. Dantzler is the first woman of color to hold the top leadership position at the Journal since the publication’s founding in 1990.

“Joy Merklen is an intelligent, hardworking leader, and I know she will do an amazing job as editor in chief of the Kansas Law Review,” Dantzler said. “I also think it is wonderful that KU Law’s Student Bar Association President, Terra Brockman, is also a woman.”

Dantzler and Merklen are part of the KU Law Class of 2020, the first female-majority class in the school’s history. The Class of 2021 is also composed of a majority of female students. 

“I’m thrilled that both EICs for KU Law’s publications this year are women, and even more so that one of us is a woman of color. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it, ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made’,” Merklen said.

“A diverse editorial board is important not only for the editorial process itself but also for the trajectory of the legal profession.”

Denise Dantzler: Editor-in-chief of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy

Denise Dantzler, editor-in-chief of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy
Denise Dantzler attends the 2019 Diversity in Law Banquet. Photo by Earl Richardson.

Before coming to KU Law, Dantzler studied chemistry as an undergraduate at MidAmerica Nazarene University. She played on the school’s soccer team and ran track. She also tutored her peers in chemistry and writing, and has continued as an academic counselor for the MidAmerica Nazarene soccer team as a law student.

At the law school, Dantzler is a member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council and the Black Law Students Association, and works as a teaching assistant for lawyering skills classes. In the 2019-20 academic year, she will extern with the Hon. Julie Robinson, L’81, Chief Judge of the United States District Court of Kansas, through the school’s Judicial Field Placement Program.

This summer, Dantzler is working as a summer associate at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City, Missouri. She plans to practice as a patent attorney after graduating.

Joy Merklen: Editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review

Merklen is French and grew up in Bali, Indonesia. She came to Kansas by way of California, where she studied sociology as an undergraduate at University of California Berkeley. When she and her husband decided to start a family, that meant moving to his home state of Kansas – Merklen’s parents were across the world. Merklen and her husband live in Lawrence with their 2-year-old daughter, Sylvia.

Merklen works as a teaching assistant for the lawyering program and as a research assistant to Professor Richard Levy. In the coming year, she’ll serve on the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council and as a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar for civil procedure. She also plans to participate in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.

This summer, she is also a summer associate at Shook, Hardy & Bacon. After graduating, Merklen plans to clerk for the Hon. Julie Robinson for two years, then return to Shook, Hardy & Bacon.

— By Margaret Hair

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