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Love of Public Interest Law Is What Drives Professor David Singleton

David Singleton with familyAdjunct Professor David Singleton always planned on practicing public interest law.  After graduating from Duke University with a double major in public policy and economics, he went straight to Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1991.  Singleton received a Skadden Fellowship following graduation, and thus began his career serving the public.  “Public interest law is why I went to law school,” said Singleton, “I had no intention of ever doing anything else.”

As a Skadden Fellow, Singleton worked for three years at the Legal Action Center for the Homeless, now known as the Urban Justice Center, in New York City.  After his fellowship, he then worked at the Neighborhood Defenders Service of Harlem for two years.  Singleton then moved to Washington, D.C., and spent the next five years working for the District’s Public Defender Service.

When Singleton’s wife, Professor Verna Williams, got the opportunity to teach at the College of Law in 2001, they moved to Cincinnati.  Singleton said that transitioning from the political and legal climates of New York and Washington, D.C., to that of Cincinnati was difficult.  “I didn’t really expect to like it,” he said, “But I’ve really come to love this city.” 

In 2002, Singleton was offered the position of Executive Director of what was then known as the Prison Reform Advocacy Center, better known today as the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC).  The OJPC is a public interest, non-profit law firm that offers free legal representation to prisoners and former offenders.  OJPC also works for progressive legal justice reform.  Part of the Center’s mission, says Singleton, is to “grow up a new generation of young lawyers who understand the importance of providing quality legal representation to poor people in the criminal justice system.”  Singleton also emphasized that it is important to create that awareness in all lawyers and law students, not just those seeking to practice public interest law.  “Whether they practice law, run for office, or use their law degree in some other way, these are people who are going to be leaders in the community.  It is important to make them aware of the significance of the kind of work OJPC does.” 

As executive director of the OJPC, Singleton has created two clinics for law students.  The first clinic, the Indigent Defense Clinic at the College of Law, was created in 2008.  This clinic offers students the opportunity to work on public defender cases in Hamilton County under the supervision of lawyers that work for or are affiliated with OJPC.  One of the many important goals of this clinic is to teach students to represent these cases as thoroughly as possible, as though money is not an option, because that is the kind of representation the clients deserve. The second, the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, exposes students to litigating important state and federal issues under Singleton’s supervision. Created in 2006 it is available only to students from Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law.  Although in the past he has taught other courses at the College of Law, Singleton is currently an adjunct professor solely in his capacity as director of the Indigent Defense Clinic.  Singleton is also a full-time visiting professor at Chase College of Law as well. 

Singleton’s work at OJPC keeps him plenty busy, but he does like to take advantage of his free time when he is able to find some.  He enjoys being at home with his family, their nine-year-old daughter Allison, and the family dog.  Singleton also said that he likes to cook, enjoys reading non-fiction novels, and is an avid sports fan.  He confirmed that he enjoys both college and professional sports, and just as he has come to love Cincinnati, he has become a fan of the Reds, Bengals, and, of course, the UC Bearcats.