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Law, Literature, and Energy Make Education Exciting for Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain

Only a handful of professors can say they have been a part of the UC Law community for over two decades. Dean Emeritus and Wilbert and Helen Ziegler Professor of Law Joseph Tomain is one of them. Originally from Long Branch, New Jersey, Dean Tomain received his undergraduate degree in government from the University of Notre Dame.  He then went on to law school at George Washington University National Law Center (now known as George Washington University Law School), from which he graduated with honors in 1974. 

Following graduation, Tomain returned to New Jersey, where he worked as a litigator for Giordano & Halleran for two years.  He practiced general litigation, focusing a significant amount of his work on land use, zoning, and city planning issues. This would prove to be fortuitous. Following this stint, Tomain moved to Des Moines, Iowa, beginning his career in academics at Drake University Law School.  There, he taught several courses, including contracts, energy law, constitutional law, remedies, land use, and property. 

UC Law Brings New Challenges

In 1983, Tomain became a member of the UC Law community. “The College of Law is a good place to teach and an excellent place to serve as  dean,” he said. “It has provided me with great opportunities to interact with alumni that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”  A few years later in 1989 he became acting dean of the law school, a position he held for one year. He went on to become Dean and Nippert Professor Law, serving in this role for 14 years. His entire tenure in the dean position (15 years) makes him the second longest serving dean in the law school’s history. (He is second to Dean Merton Ferson who served for 20 years.)  Though busy with the rigors of law school administration, Tomain still maintained his connection with students by continuing to teach classes. Significantly, he maintained a strong interest in Law in Literature and Philosophy, which gave him opportunity to share his thoughts and research with students. He also taught Introduction to Law to many first year students.

In 2004, Tomain became dean emeritus at the law school. Today, he continues to enjoy teaching students, particularly in the areas of Energy Policy and Climate Change, Contracts, along with the other classes he has taught. 

Literature and the Law Make Interesting Combination

Dean Tomain is an accomplished author. He has recently published Creon’s Ghost: Law, Justice and the Humanities (2009). Examining the relationship between man’s law and a “higher” law from the perspective of humanities texts, Creon’s Ghost shows that the humanities can both illuminate understanding of contemporary problems and that the classics can be read alongside jurisprudential texts, enriching the understanding and appreciation for law. Tomain examines such issues as intelligent design in school curricula, same-sex marriage, and faith-based government grants—all examples of the interaction between man’s law and another set of moral principles. He uses texts such as Antigone and Plato’s Republic to explore different approaches to the contemporary conflict or court ruling being considered. 

He has also written extensively in the energy law field, publishing several book chapters on the subject, as well as in law reviews. Currently, he is completing a book on this subject for Cambridge University Press. In addition, Tomain is the recipient of the 2009 Harold C. Schott Scholarship Award which recognizes outstanding research and scholarly achievement by a member of the UC Law faculty. As part of the award, he will be making a presentation during in the upcoming year.

Taking Advantage of the Cincinnati Community

Dean Tomain is extensively involved in the local community. He serves as the chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and is a board member of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the Mercantile Library Association, among many others.  Additionally, Tomain lectures at law schools throughout the country about energy policy, and he also serves as an American Bar Association consultant for reviewing law schools and their accreditation.

Says Tomain, “These many areas of my life keep me busy; but what free time I do have I enjoy spending it with my family.”  He and his wife of 38 years, a retired public school teacher, have two sons.  One son teaches at the University of Louisville, and the other is a local chef. He enjoys listening to all kinds of music—particularly jazz , travelling, golf, and reading a variety of materials.  He also noted that he particularly enjoys teaching great books seminars in Tuscany, Italy.