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UC Law's Alumni Celebration a Big Hit!


Guest speakers. Great music. Amazing food. Lots of memories. Saturday, November 4, 2017 was the big day: Cincinnati Law’s "All Alumni Reunion". With sold-out events in the morning and a jammin' party atmosphere in the evening, UC Law was “the place” to be last weekend!

ICYMI: A Recap

 Alumni began the day with breakfast and the familiar faces of their peers and former professors. After the meet-and-greet, Dean Verna Williams commenced UC Next, a series of mini-lectures in the style of TedX talks.

Williams described the class of 2020 and the changes coming to Cincinnati Law. Of the latest class of JD candidates, she noted, “It’s 97 students strong, and for the first time in many years, we have more women than men. They’re diverse coming from as close as Indiana and Kentucky, and as far away as Utah and California.” Williams also shared the story of the successful LLM program, which brings in students from around the world and features a special partnership between UC Law and Javeriana University in Bogotå, Colombia.

The guest lectures were presented by distinguished alumni. In order of appearance, these were: Kathy Woeber Gardner, Sally Young, Chris Chapman, and William “Billy” Martin.

Gardner’s talk covered her professional path, in which she overcame career speed-bumps but ultimately landed her dream career. She even followed her husband out West and took the California bar exam, after years of practice in Ohio. Gardner now practices International Law and works with large companies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Sally Young cracked up the alumni crowd, largely because her current line of work is atypical for someone with a law degree—or anyone else, for that matter. She writes romance novels, using the penname, Ann Christopher. Young referred to retiring from private practice after the birth of her second child, noting that she has “been in legal recovery for 18 years now.” Some time passed before she took up writing romance novels, but Young made it clear that reflection led her to do the things she enjoyed most in life.

Chris Chapman discussed the “image problem” the legal community faces. He noted that the stereotype of the greedy, heartless lawyer is entrenched in our culture, reaching as far back as Shakespeare’s joke, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Chapman noted, however, that lawyers can and often do give back to their communities, and that civilizations with many lawyers have historically been the most able to provide justice to all.

Billy Martin’s talk dealt with his rise to professional success as an attorney with a UC Law degree. He maintains that his education at UC Law prepared him for these heights within the legal profession. He shared that the pinnacle of his career was representing a witness in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Martin also shared an anecdote in which he represented movie star Wesley Snipes, when he was wanted by the Federal government for tax evasion. Snipes was at the time filming in Namibia, and would have faced immediate arrest if he went to any airport, because he had ignored an arraignment in order to continue filming. Martin smilingly recalled, “So what does an actor with unlimited resources do? We rent our own jet.” Snipes was able to surrender on US soil.

The alumni were then treated to a delicious, full barbecue meal provided by Cincinnati’s own Sweets and Meats, a client of our Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. At lunch, Cincinnati Law alumnus and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval addressed the crowd.

Pureval mentioned his own success story. On entering politics, he recalled, “people would say, ‘are you crazy? You’re running for this office that no one cares about, against an opponent who cannot be beat in conservative Hamilton County. And to do all that, you have to leave Proctor and Gamble. What are you thinking?’” He added, “and that was just my mom” to tremendous laughs.

Pureval’s run ended up being a successful, of course. His speech took a serious turn when he talked about the new Hamilton County Help Center. Pureval implored everyone in the room to put themselves in the shoes of those who are facing evictions and now have to deal with the legal system. He said there is cause to be optimistic, however, as the Help Center, which started only two months ago, has already aided over 800 people.

After an afternoon touring campus and the city of Cincinnati, alumni and friends gathered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the Red and Black Gala. This was an opportunity to continue catching up with old friends (and new ones), eat some good food, and enjoy the music of The Exoneree Band.

The band is comprised of musicians from around the country who were wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 100 years. One band member, Raymond Towler (who is also the manager), was freed through the work of our own Ohio Innocence Project.

Throughout the concert, the band members shared their stories and their music borne from their incarceration experience. They even covered great singers like Stevie Wonder. The crowd was literally on their feet, dancing the night away. In the end, they didn’t want to leave… and the crowd didn’t either.

Thanks for everyone who came and we’ll see you next year for #Celebration2018!

Here's a peek at the day! (More pics and video to come soon!): Celebration2017

Writers: Pete Mills, Sherry English

College of Law Announces $183,800 Gift for Student Scholarships


Cincinnati, OH—Thanks to an anonymous donor, student scholarships will be more plentiful at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. October’s $183,800 planned gift is the second significant contribution to student scholarships in as many months, enabling the law school to continue to attract and support a diverse student body.

“This funder from the Class of 1977 joins countless others in demonstrating their commitment to the continued success of the College of Law,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law. “Such support is essential to fulfilling our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders. This gift will make a substantial impact on the lives of students,” Williams said. The scholarship will be awarded to a student who plans to practice criminal law upon graduation.

“This latest gift represents a deep appreciation for the College of Law and is the result of a long and illustrious legal career,” explained Thomas Giffin, senior director of development at the law school. “The work of the College continues, thanks in large part, to alumni and friends who provide support in their wills, trusts, life income gifts, retirement plans, life insurance designations, and other planned gifts. We are forever thankful for their generosity.”

This Class of 1977 donor becomes a part of the Herman Schneider Legacy Society, founded to recognize University of Cincinnati benefactors whose contributions to educational excellence are realized through gift plans. The Society was named for University of Cincinnati educator Herman Schneider, founder of the university’s cooperative education program, whose vision propelled UC to the forefront of higher education early in the 20th century.

About the University of Cincinnati College of Law
As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history. Its distinguished alumni include a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources, such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit www.law.uc.edu .

Date: October 30, 2017

Ohio Innocence Project Awarded Grants Totaling $265,000 to Fund Forensic Research Project and Expand its Efforts


Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) has received two grants that will enhance its important work in the state. Together, the grants total $265,051.

The Department of Justice awarded the OIP $205, 051 for its proposed Forensic Review Project, which will examine 300-400 cases of retired Ohio forensic scientist Michelle Yezzo to determine whether she manufactured bogus or exaggerated test results to obtain convictions. If OIP identifies problematic cases, it will litigate them jointly with the Ohio Public Defenders office in hopes of freeing additional wrongfully-convicted persons. The grant enables OIP to hire a forensic science review attorney to analyze decades of case work; all work will be supervised by Assistant Clinical Professor Donald Caster, and OIP Director Mark Godsey.

Awarding such a significant grant for reviewing convictions is not standard practice for the Department of Justice. According to Godsey, DOJ funded only two additional grants of this nature this year, making OIP’s selection even more noteworthy. “We are honored that the Department of Justice demonstrated this level of faith in our organization. It is a testament to the hard work of so many students, staff, lawyers, donors--everyone who has made OIP what it is today,” said Godsey.

Studies of the incarceration of innocent individuals estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the United States are innocent. Amazingly, if just 1% of all prisoners are innocent, then over 20,000 innocent people are in prison.

OIP is one of the most well-known, recognized and successful innocence organizations in the nation. Through the efforts of OIP attorneys, staff and hundreds of clinic student fellows, 25 individuals have obtained their freedom on grounds of innocence to date. Cumulatively, they have served more than 471 years in prison.

The Forensic Review Project has a disturbing background, resulting from OIP’s work on the James Parsons case. Parsons, an exoneree, spent 22 years in prison for the murder of his wife. In the midst of the investigation, the OIP discovered that Yezzo, a lab technician with Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), had produced very questionable, if not false, lab results which led to Parsons’s wrongful conviction.

The OIP will be working in conjunction with the OPD and the BCI to review these cases. “It is wonderful that Ohio’s BCI, where Yezzo worked, has been open in sharing her case files with us. Attorney General Mike DeWine should be credited, too,” said Godsey. “After something like this happens, the last thing you want is government officials trying to hide things and prevent further examination. The citizens of Ohio should appreciate the reactions of BCI and the Attorney General’s office in this matter.”

OIP Continues to Expand Efforts with Estabrook Charitable Trust Pledge
In addition to the DOJ grant, the OIP recognizes and thanks the Hubert A. & Gladys C. Estabrook Trust, long-time supporters of the OIP. Since 2001, the Hubert A. & Gladys C. Estabrook Trust has given or pledged $265,000 to the organization. This includes their most recent pledge of $60,000. “I want to thank the Estabrook Charitable Trust through Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLC for their tremendous generosity over the years,” said Godsey. “It is because of the continued support of donors like you that the OIP can continue to expand its efforts to help the wrongfully convicted.” These funds have been underwritten in part by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLC by means of a grant from the Estabrook Charitable Trust.

College of Law Announces $183,800 Gift for Student Scholarships


Cincinnati, OH—Thanks to an anonymous donor, student scholarships will be more plentiful at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. October’s $183,800 planned gift is the second significant contribution to student scholarships in as many months, enabling the law school to continue to attract and support a diverse student body.

“This funder from the Class of 1977 joins countless others in demonstrating their commitment to the continued success of the College of Law,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law.   “Such support is essential to fulfilling our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders.  This gift will make a substantial impact on the lives of students,” Williams said.  

The scholarship will be awarded to a student who plans to practice criminal law upon graduation.

“This latest gift represents a deep appreciation for the College of Law and is the result of a long and illustrious legal career,” explained Thomas Giffin, senior director of development at the law school. “The work of the College continues, thanks in large part, to alumni and friends who provide support in their wills, trusts, life income gifts, retirement plans, life insurance designations, and other planned gifts. We are forever thankful for their generosity.”

This Class of 1977 donor becomes a part of the Herman Schneider Legacy Society, founded to recognize University of Cincinnati benefactors whose contributions to educational excellence are realized through gift plans. The Society was named for University of Cincinnati educator Herman Schneider, founder of the university’s cooperative education program, whose vision propelled UC to the forefront of higher education early in the 20th century.

 

About the University of Cincinnati College of Law

As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history. Its distinguished alumni include a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources, such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit www.law.uc.edu .

Date: October 30, 2017

 

Words of Wisdom from Alum Billy Martin


His past clients have included a range of high profile people, from sports stars Allen Iverson and Michael Vick to politicians Bill Campbell and Larry Craig.  But William “Billy” Martin (class of ’74) spends more time doing less-publicized work for large corporations in complex civil and white collar criminal cases, not to mention his past as a prosecutor for the city of Cincinnati, and later, the federal government.  He is delighted to return to his alma mater tomorrow, November 4th,  to speak at the All Alumni Reunion. 

 Martin set aside time to take a few questions for Cincinnati Law.

To understate it, you’ve had an impressive career.  Have lessons learned at UC Law proved beneficial along the way?

 The legal education I received at the University of Cincinnati has prepared me to litigate all over the world.  I’ve been in Europe and Africa, in the Caribbean, as well as almost every state.  I have a degree of confidence that was given to me by the professors and the work I did at UC.  Leaving [there] I felt ready to compete.

 What was your first major career move after graduating?

 I actually had a clerking position with the city solicitor’s office in my second year and third year.  They hired me immediately to go into the city prosecutor’s office.  From there I went to the US Attorney’s office.

 What was the experience of moving up the federal level like?

 It greatly expanded the type of legal issues that I was dealing with.  I went from dealing with, say, a petty theft or DUI, to dealing with the interstate transportation of stolen goods.  Or maybe I’d find myself dealing with Constitutional issues around the Fourth Amendment.  It really exposed me to a broader type of legal practice. It all ultimately culminated in—and UC actually prepared me to—represent a witness in the impeachment proceeding of a president.

It must have felt inescapable that you were in the ‘big leagues’ then.

You are in the ‘bigs.’   It felt like going to federal court as a federal prosecutor that you’d moved up.  People would say, “you’re in the big court now.”  It strikes me when people ask “well, where did you go to law school?”  I proudly represent the University of Cincinnati at some of the highest levels of litigation.

When you’re approaching trial law, and the client is amid scandal and the case is being heavily publicized in the media, how do you deal with that kind of scrutiny?

 You move very carefully.  I use two or three lawyers for every one of these cases, and there are no moves made and no decisions made without having the benefit of the team of your lawyers.   It’s not the time to be a solo practitioner.

 Do you have any words of advice for soon-to-be law graduates?

 I absolutely do.  Part of my talk on Saturday is going to cover the notion that in order to accomplish the goal, you have to believe in yourself that you can do it.  And, if you have the benefit of three years of legal education from the University of Cincinnati, and you pass the bar exam, you should feel that these three years have prepared you.  Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it.  You have to believe that yourself.  That’s the basis of my talk.  UC prepares you, and hopefully, you have the confidence to apply that which you’ve learned at the College of Law.

International Business Law Expert Comes to Speak at UC Law Reunion


From Cincinnati to Brussels to sunny San Francisco, Kathy Woeber Gardner ’88 has traveled the globe in her distinguished legal career.  But on November 4, she will be back with us in Clifton to speak at the All Alumni Reunion.

Gardner feels that the farther she has advanced in her profession, the more she has come to appreciate her time studying at Cincinnati Law.  She recalls that her participation in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition during her third year of JD studies was one the “real drivers toward the rest of [her] career.”  Her team came in first that year, and Gardner’s lifelong passion for international law began.

Gardner also credits members of UC’s faculty for having a lasting influence on her.  She recalls that Associate Dean Emerita Dean Barbara Watts and Assistant Dean for Career Planning Center Kathy Grant helped bridge her studies and her early professional life.   Gardner notes that these mentors “took a really strong interest in me and helped me in terms of interviews and making introductions for me to lawyers.” 

Her next big move was participating in the American Bar Association’s International Legal Exchange program.  She interned at two law firms in Brussels, Belgium.  Gardner was only a third year lawyer at the time.  With this international experience, she returned to the states—first to Chicago, then to San Francisco, where she and a partner began a boutique international corporate law firm.

Gardner’s work as a partner at Montgomery Pacific Law Group LLP sees her working with clients who come from all over Europe and Latin America.  She also works with clients in Silicon Valley who seek to expand their businesses internationally.   When legal matters arise abroad, Gardner handpicks lawyers to represent her companies. 

Kathy Woeber Gardner’s at the top of her field, so if you are an alum who wants to hear from her and chat with her, come out to the reunion!

College of Law Celebrates the Life of Professor Christo Lassiter


Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law community mourns the loss of Professor Christo Lassiter who died last Wednesday, October 25, 2017 after a prolonged illness. Professor Lassiter remained active in the classroom until just a few weeks before his death.

“We are saddened to lose one of our long-time colleagues,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law.  “Our faculty will not be the same without Christo.”

Professor Lassiter joined the College of Law in 1991. He also was a Professor of Criminal Justice at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services.

Lassiter taught courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, antitrust and white collar crime. An award-winning teacher, Professor Lassiter was the recipient of the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching on three occasions (1993, 2006, and 2008). He also received the Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology award in 1998.

Merging thought-provoking hypotheticals and meaningful discussion, Professor Lassiter challenged students to think harder while clarifying difficult legal issues. It was uncommon for a student to leave his class without having learned something.
 “He expounds the idea that law school is about ‘learning to think like a lawyer,’ ” wrote his students when nominating him for the 2008 Goldman Award.

Students also noted that Professor Lassiter “…demonstrated over and over that he genuinely cared about student education and their professional experiences. He was always eager to help, whether judging Moot Court practice rounds or participating in panel discussions.”  Students commented that his intelligence, energy, theatrics and occasional song kept them coming back.

Professor Lassiter’s scholarship appeared in many legal journals and publications, including the International Journal of Law and Technology, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law, and the National Black Journal. Lassiter also lectured internationally on ethics, corruption, and countering terrorism for the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies, presenting in Malawi, Mali, and Argentina.

Professor Lassiter was active in the community and at the University.  For example, he served on the boards of the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame Foundation, Ohio GI Promise (member of the Governor’s Council), Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and the YMCA of Cincinnati. He was a member of Cincinnati Citizens Patrol Association, served as a university appeals officer and president of the Order of the Coif at the College of Law.

Professor Lassiter enjoyed commenting on the issues of the day, writing editorials, and appearing on television, providing a legal perspective for the Cincinnati Enquirer, the (now defunct) Cincinnati Post, local TV stations, FOX News Hosted by Shepherd Smith (national coverage), and Court TV.  In addition, he worked as a film consultant for The Affair, a joint HBO-BBC production concerning a false allegation of interracial rape against a black American soldier in World War II.

A sports aficionado, Lassiter coached Christo’s Angels, an intramural softball team; served as national chair for the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSAA) Track and Field Program; and coached track and field in a variety of settings, including Moeller and Walnut Hills High Schools.

Professor Lassiter came to the academy after serving in the Judge Advocate United States Marine Corps and in private practice. 

He will be missed at the College of Law. We will remember him as an insightful, hard-working colleague, as well as a mentor and friend to students.

University of Cincinnati College of Law Bar Results Announced; Students Continue to Beat State-wide Average


82% of all Cincinnati LawTakers Pass the July 2017 Ohio Bar Exam

Cincinnati, OH—Today, October 27, 2017, the results of the July 2017 Ohio Bar Exam were released and the University of Cincinnati College of Law recorded an 82 percent passage rate for Cincinnati Law first time exam takers, outpacing the state’s first-time taker pass rate of 77 percent.

“Congratulations to our Cincinnati Law graduates who successfully passed the bar,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law. “We are so proud of you and what you have accomplished.  Passing the bar is not an easy feat; but through hard work, studying and determination, you did it. Good luck as you move forward with your career.”

The overall passage rate for Cincinnati Law’s bar exam takers was 81 percent. This rate exceeds the state-wide average passing rate of 70.9 percent.  Over 900 aspiring attorneys from across the state and the country took the July exam.

Applicants who successfully passed the examination and who satisfied all of the Supreme Court’s other requirements for admission will be invited to take the attorney oath of office on November 13, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. during a special session of the Supreme Court of Ohio at the historic Ohio Theatre in Columbus, OH.

FERC Chairman, Cincinnati Alumnus, Neil Chatterjee to Speak at UC Law Reunion


He has advised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He is now Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But before rising to these professional heights, Neil Chatterjee was a JD student here at the College of Law. He will be back to visit his alma mater and speak at the All Alumni Reunion on November 4.

Chatterjee plans to use his speaking time to elaborate on his formative experiences in law school and the years after his graduation that led him to dedicate his life to public service.

He emphasizes that UC’s affordability was a meaningful factor in his career path. Of first coming to Washington D.C., he recalls “I was able to pursue opportunities that paid little to no money,” while many of his peers from other schools had to forsake growing opportunities and limit themselves to positions that were “more lucrative” but less personally fulfilling.

Chatterjee is quick to emphasize the value of pursuing a meaningful profession over monetary gain. “In my era, everybody was focused on making money, [wondering] ‘how can I make the most money possible?’ I have on multiple occasions in my career taken pretty substantial pay cuts for opportunities, for things that would move me toward my ultimate career objectives.”

He will also discuss how his studies at UC prepared him for the many challenges he has undertaken in his career. “I had no background in energy law coming out of UC, but the foundation of the education I got at UC enabled me to learn it pretty quickly . . . you learn that expertise and that specialization when you get out in to the field.” Chatterjee insists that UC gave him a well-rounded education and that, for those pursuing law today, a well-rounded education is best.

His foundational education and focus on meaningful work has lead Chatterjee to a great place. The Senate confirmed him as member of the FERC on August 3, 2017, and the President appointed him Chairman the following week. “It’s been a seamless transition. We’ve been able to hit the ground running, and in a short amount of time, we’ve already demonstrated a lot of productivity.”

If you are a Cincinnati Law alum of any year, come on out to the reunion, hear Chatterjee speak, and chat with him about his exciting work.

Paul Taylor Talks Tort Reform at Cincinnati Law


Paul Taylor

On October 17, Paul B. Taylor, Chief Counsel in the House Committee on the Judiciary, delivered Cincinnati Law’s Schwartz Lecture.  This annual lecture series brings in a distinguished speaker, one who plays an active role in understanding and shaping law and policy.  Taylor shared his expertise and scholarship with the UC community in a speech entitled “Federal Tort Reform: Policy, Law and Practice.”

Taylor’s lecture explained tort reform and its role in encouraging innovation. He traced the origins of tort reform back to the framing of the Constitution. Madison and Hamilton observed inhibitive restrictions on trade and commerce between states and included the interstate commerce clause, giving Congress the power and duty of removing such barriers.

Taylor stated, “The public may ask their legislatures to enact tort reform which removes barriers that discourage private entities from taking actions that increase public benefits and reduce public risk. In this light, tort reform can provide this sort of check-and-balance that helps ensure the separation of powers the framers of the constitution insisted upon.”

Paul TaylorHe noted that excessive lawsuits against private companies can often result in adverse effects for the public. Class-action lawsuits are intended to benefit large segments of the public, but it is actually quite rare that individuals end up collecting their share of a settlement from such a suit. Taylor maintains that “while class action lawyers collect huge fees, their clients collect virtually nothing.”

Taylor celebrated successful instances of tort reform. He argued that post-9/11 innovations in cyber-security have benefited greatly from tort reform, as technological industries are protected from frivolous lawsuits. He also observed that Obama-era tort reforms allowed for the speedy development of vaccines to combat the Zika and Ebola viruses.

 

A fun note about the speaker:Victor Schwartz, the lecture series’ namesake introduced the speaker.  Among other things he noted that Taylor is down-to-earth, despite Ivy League credentials, and that from a young age, Taylor spent much of his time drawing comic strips.  His still draws political cartoons between law-review articles.