Building Understanding at the Intersection of Law and Psychiatry
“The Weaver Institute is actually the reason I came to UC Law, and I know that my law school education would not have been the same without it.” Olivia Luerhmann
For nearly two decades, students at the Cincinnati Law have been exploring the spaces where the not-so-disparate fields of law and psychiatry intersect, taking advantage of a rather unique opportunity offered by the college.
Dr. Glenn M. Weaver, who started at the law school in 1986 as an adjunct professor, founded the Institute of Law and Psychiatry in 1998 with the intention of furthering the understanding between the two fields.
“It is such a unique experience that very few law students are able to have across the nation,” said 3L student and Weaver Fellow Olivia Luehrmann in an email. “The Weaver Institute is actually the reason I came to UC Law, and I know that my law school education would not have been the same without it.”
Each spring, first-year law students can apply to be a Weaver Fellow, and are chosen based on academic merit, school performance and a demonstrated interest in mental health law. Beginning in the fall of 2016, the fellowship will be open to “uniquely qualified” law students who are beginning their first year, says James Hunt, the Administrative Director of the Weaver Institute.
Coursework Builds Understanding
Once chosen, Weaver Fellows are required to take three courses: Law and Psychiatry, which is a course open to all law students; Mental Health Law I and Mental Health Law II, both of which are open only to Weaver Fellows and taken in conjunction with the Medical School's Forensic Psychiatry Fellows.
“It is a very enlightening and symbiotic experience,” said 2L student and Weaver Fellow John D. Elleman in an email. “The law students, such as myself, and the doctors help one another learn and understand the different perspectives involved.”
“Professor Stephani [who teaches Mental Health Law I & II] is very passionate in instilling a sense of respect for the autonomy of the client,” said 3L Weaver Fellow Lacey Brewster.
Outside the classroom, Weaver Fellows further their understanding of law and psychiatry by attending monthly gatherings of the Forensic Psychiatry Journal Club. Weaver Fellows and Forensic Psychiatry Fellows attend the dinners, along with law professors, practicing attorneys, psychiatrists, psychologists, and, occasionally, magistrates, philosophers and mental health patients and advocates—discussing the latest research and trends.
“It is an amazing experience to be invited to the table (quite literally) in a discussion of recent research and issues in forensic psychiatry with such a broad and respected array of local professionals,” said Elleman. v
Community Works Builds Experience
Beginning in the spring of their second year, Weaver Fellows start the community placement portion of their fellowship. Structured as an independent research project, fellows work for two semesters with areas of the community where law and psychiatry intersect.
For her first semester of community placement, Brewster worked in the Competency Restoration Unit at the Summit Behavioral Healthcare. She would sit in on meetings, shadow psychiatrists, look through forensic files and review legal analyses—all activities geared toward determining if a patient was competent enough to stand trial.
“It amazed me some of the stuff you and I would take for granted,” said Brewster. “I ultimately got a very good perspective of what a client’s life would be like going through competency restoration.”
In her second semester of community placement, Brewster shadowed a social worker working with the Veterans Affairs Justice Outreach Program, which involved reaching into the legal system to find and help veterans in need, says Brewster.
Brewster sat in on Therapeutic Treatment Courts, which differ from regular trial courts. The court personnel constituted a treatment team, which met an hour before the trial to identify and discuss therapeutic needs of the defendant, who in these cases was a veteran. The defendant would then arrive to further discuss treatment options.
“I think that it addresses underlying needs of people more over just putting them in a box,” said Brewster. “And usually,” she continued, “that’s going to be more effective in the long run.”
Experience Gives Insight and Perspective
John Elleman is currently doing his community placement project at the Butler County Probate Court during Magistrate Patricia Hider’s civil commitment docket. So far, he says, he’s spent a lot of time in and out of court with the Magistrate, as well as with the prosecutor who represents the Mental Health Board. He also has plans to spend some time with the probate court monitor, respondent’s counsel and a forensic psychiatrist.
Though Elleman plans on practicing criminal law, a path different from the work he’s doing with Magistrate Hider, he says his time there has offered him insights that have changed his perspective in terms of how he views legal issues.
“Now, when I see criminal cases, particularly misdemeanors, I am much more likely to look at the defendant and consider whether there is potentially underlying mental health issues that may be affecting the defendant’s behavior,” says Elleman. “If instead of sending someone like that to jail for short stays behind bars, getting them psychiatric help may address the underlying issues once and for all, and break the cycle of deviant behavior, court dates, and jail time.”
For Olivia Luehrmann’s first semester of community involvement, she split her time between two areas, spending the first half of the semester observing Judge John Andrew West’s mental health docket.
Luehrmann says mental health dockets are a fairly new concept, in which eligible defendants are transferred from normal criminal court dockets to specialized ones, where they are treated for their specific illnesses, assigned case workers and treated “as individuals instead of ‘just another defendant.’”
The second half of her first semester of community placement was spent shadowing professionals in the “fast-paced environment” of The Christ Hospital Behavioral Unit. In her second semester of community placement, Luehrmann shadowed a treating psychiatrist at Summit Behavioral Healthcare Center.
“At both hospitals, I was able to observe a treating psychiatrist’s day-to-day activities, as well as the legal hurdles that they face with nearly every decision they make,” said Luehrmann in an email. “I want to be a felony prosecutor after graduation. The Weaver Institute has undoubtedly given me the tools I need to pursue such goals.”
Symposia is Opportunity to Learn and Share
In the spring of their third year, Weaver Fellows are responsible for presenting a symposium focusing on a specific issue in mental health law. This year, on March 10, Dr. James Blair, Chief of the unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at the National Institute for Mental Health, discussed and explored the links between violent anti-social behavior and the brain.
Author: Nick Ruma, Communication Intern
Alumnae Shares Secret to Career Success: Try Everything
“Don’t even try.” That’s what a seasoned tax attorney told Tina Varghese when she met with him to talk about working in New York City. “You’re wasting your time,” he’d told her. “None of these firms are even going to be interested in you as a potential candidate since you’re not from a top ten school.”
A few months later, while she was sitting in her criminal procedure class at the University of Cincinnati, Varghese received a job offer from a firm in New York City. The rest of the class was a bit of a blur,” she admitted. “I was happy that I did not get called on that day, because I would not have been able to focus!”
She graduated, sat for the bar, and signed the lease on a New York apartment on Wall Street. In October 2007, she started her job as an associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP.
Life as a New York Attorney
The firm work was intense. Varghese recalled long days spent laboring over complex issues for extraordinarily sophisticated clients, but the memory of this did not seem to bother her. She fondly remembered the experience as an exhilarating one, ripe with opportunity. “We were tightly staffed so you could do as much of the heavy lifting as you wanted,” she said. “By fifth year I was closing my own multi-million dollar debt deals.”
Of her coworkers at Shearman and Sterling, Varghese had only the kindest things to say. She described the friends she made during that time as some of her closest. “We worked around the clock and had all three meals at the office,” she said. “You bond very quickly when you work night and day with the same group of people.”
Five years after she arrived in New York City and in need of a change of pace, she decided to return to the Midwest. So, she packed her bags and moved back to Cincinnati, Ohio, accepting a position at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP as an associate in their Corporate group. While there, she worked on mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings, and general corporate governance issues.
Finding Work-Life Balance, Varghese Takes Corporate Position
A year and a half later, she left her job at the firm to take on new challenges as in-house counsel for Abercrombie and Fitch Co. Ms. Varghese expressed her appreciation for the work-life balance that comes from working in an environment with no billable hours.
She enjoys working for a single client—her current company. While her firm work called for her to address individual issues for various clients, her position as Senior Legal Counsel has allowed her to develop an ongoing relationship with the company and to become totally immersed in the many different aspects of the business. “The retail industry is going through a period of tremendous change,” she said. “It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
It has been nine years since a New York tax attorney told Tina Varghese not to try. Three fulfilling corporate legal jobs later, Tina Varghese remembers his misguided advice as more of a catalyst than an obstacle.
“After that meeting, I hustled even harder,” she said. To current students, Varghese has a piece of wisdom: “I would have never had such a rich early legal career if I had taken that man’s advice to heart; try everything!”
Author: Catlin Wells'16
LLM Program Expands Its Reach; Attorneys from the Philippines and the Ukraine Share Their Experiences
L: Attorney and LLM Student Cora Wray; R: Attorney and LLM student Jane Nemirovska
“I don’t know yet where I’m going to fit it in my life, but one can never plan. You just grab on whenever there is an opportunity,” said LLM student Cora Wray, a native of the Philippines, on what she wishes to accomplish using knowledge gained during her time in the program.
Although Wray was a parent of adult children when she made the decision to enroll in the LL.M. program, she credits her parents with giving her the encouragement and drive to do so. Growing up with eight siblings, she was raised by industrious parents who didn’t have the chance to go to college. However, they instilled a love of learning in each of their children, and all nine went on to higher education.
Driven to law school because of a desire to help impoverished people and uplift her community, she attended Xavier University in the Philippines. After graduation, Wray spent time in several different careers, and eventually made her way to the United States about 20 years ago. Now that her children are adults (one of whom even attends UC), she’s decided it was time to take her career off the back-burner and move forward again.
UC Legal Education Means Experiencing the Socratic Method
Like many other LL.M. students, Wray referenced the Socratic teaching method as being a big difference between education in the United States versus her native country. As well, she described class mortality in her home country: when you enter law school, you may have a large class, but over time students are weeded out, and only a portion make it to graduation, largely due to the intense pressure placed on students. “Not only are you expected to be responsible for your studies, but the school also pressures you,” Wray said. Studying here is a much more liberating experience, with a high value being placed on self-responsibility and freedom.
Counting Blessings, Creating Opportunity, Giving Back
Wray is passionate about helping her community, and the people who need legal help but due to their circumstances cannot afford it. “I’ve been given a lot of blessings, and I want to give back the blessings that I have received, and add value to the work that I am doing now.” She is still toying with the idea of working with the United Nations, and is passionate about immigration and the current refugee crisis. Currently, she is working at Procter & Gamble.
“In my country there is no opportunity: you have to create one where there is none. And here, there are a lot of people who need help…who is going to help them? Who is going to take care of them?” Wray asked.
Grateful for the opportunities and support she’s received while studying at UC—both from faculty and fellow students—Wray feels committed to giving back.
“Coming from a third world country,” she said, “the lessons that I received, the acceptance by UC and the help I’ve gotten to work around my job, it’s something I never even thought could happen. But the goodness of the heart of people in America...how do I pay that back?”
Once Again a Student, Ukrainian Attorney Learns About US Law
Fellow LL.M. student Evgenia “Jane” Nemirovska, from the Ukraine, says her parents played a direct role in her decision to come here. Upon graduating from a five-year law program in her home country, her mother Marina suggested she apply to the LL.M. program. Nemirovska declined, not wishing to be a student again, and certainly not so soon; her mother, who has a love for learning, decided to enroll. After seeing her mother complete the program, Nemirovska decided she, too, would apply. Now in her second year, she is grateful for the opportunity to study new aspects of law, even if she is once again a student.
Examining the differences between Civil and Case Law
Nemirovska has seen two major differences between education in the Ukraine and the United States - the first being the cases. She explained that because she grew up in a civil law country, she literally read these cases as fairy tales. Courts work differently in the Ukraine, and the person with more money typically wins. Clients give money to their attorney, who then forwards it to the judge as a bribe, and that is how most cases are settled.
“That’s what bothered me when I graduated from law school,” Nemirovska explained. “I didn’t want to participate in corruption. I felt so dirty about that, and learned I didn’t want to practice there. I didn’t want to pay a bribe; I want to win it [the case] on my own.”
The second difference she has seen has been in the professors. In the Ukraine, education is treated with an “every person for himself or herself” approach. If a student doesn’t understand what was assigned, then their choice to become a lawyer is questioned. Professors here, she’s found, are willing to share whatever knowledge students need to be successful.
Her Three-Pronged Approach to Law
Nemirovska is particularly interested in domestic relations and estate planning. “This includes property law, wills and estate, divorce and child support,” she said. “I see it as a perfect circle: Property, Estate Planning and Family Law. You build the property; you build the family; you build the estate for your future.”
Nemirovska hopes that her clients will see her as more of a psychiatrist or friend than a lawyer. She also believes that a lot of good can come from pro bono work, something that is unavailable in the Ukraine. “An attorney should not be that distant person, like a god,” she expressed. Right now she is externing at Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati, working in the housing department. “It is a great opportunity for learning about potential lawsuits and the conflicts that are raised.”
She continued, “My time at legal aid has been eye-opening. It’s really helping me to understand American legal culture.”
The LLM Program Continues to Grow
The LL.M. program provides students who have studied law in a foreign country the opportunity to receive up to two years of exposure to the U.S. legal system. Each student has, at minimum, a bachelor’s in law and earns a masters in law for foreign-trained lawyers. The program is currently in its fourth year, and has so far graduated 30 students from 18 different countries. This year’s class features 18 students from 10 countries.
Author: Michelle Flanagan, UC Honors Students
The Constitution, Cincinnati Law, and Justice Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia’s visit nearly three decades ago not only brought a sitting Supreme Court Justice to campus but also provided one of the first opportunities for the Justice to share his thoughts on interpreting the Constitution. His approach, originalism, is the hot topic in today’s political conversations.
Cincinnati, OH—As President Obama, the Senate, and the country ponder who should become the next justice of the Supreme Court, talk lingers on a topic Justice Antonin Scalia championed —originalism, or the view that the Constitution means today what it meant when adopted. Not long after his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia shared his thoughts on constitutional interpretation when he visited the law school as the 1988 William Howard Taft Lecturer. His topic? “Originalism: The Lesser Evil.”
He returned to Cincinnati years later to deliver the 2002 John H. Burlingame Distinguished Lecture. Afterward, he visited the campus, toured the law school building, and addressed the law college body. According to a 2002 news article about the visit, Justice Scalia spoke, again, about his role on the court as an originalist when it comes to interpreting the Constitution.
Years later, the 2006 William Howard Taft Lecturer Professor Randy E. Barnett critiqued Scalia and his implementation of originalism in his aptly named lecture “Scalia’s Infidelity: A Critique of ‘Faint-Hearted’ Originalism' ”. The lecture, available in the University of Cincinnati Law Review, is one of the most frequently-cited articles about the topic of constitutional interpretation.
Interesting Links to View:
Cincinnati Law Named to Honor Roll for “Best School for Practical Training”
Cincinnati, OH—Cincinnati Law has just been named to the National Jurist magazine honor roll for “Best School for Practical Training.” The annual list highlights law schools that have strong clinic, externship and simulation offerings for its students. The law school is one of 56 schools named to the list.
“This latest recognition of our ‘learn by doing curriculum’ and our unique ‘Complete Professional Program’ provides even more support for our earlier designation as a "best value" law school,” said Cincinnati Law Dean Jennifer S. Bard. “Students at Cincy Law get all the benefits of our highly talented faculty and extensive externship opportunities while enjoying the low cost, high quality amenities of a city recently recognized as a prime destination for young professionals."
The official ranking and grades of each law school will be announced in the Spring issue of National Jurist and preLaw magazines.
Professor A. Christopher Bryant made two panel presentations at the AALS Annual Meeting
Professor A. Christopher Bryant made two panel presentations at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York City. On January 8, 2016, he presented "Constitutional Law from the Ground Up: How the Prohibition on 'Under-ruling' Distorts the Judicial Function" at the Federalist Society's works-in-progress session. On January 9, 2016, he spoke at the Law & Interpretation Section's panel addressing "The Empirics of Legal Interpretation."
Dean Bard Publishes in Utah Law Review
Congratulations to Dean Jennifer S. Bard on her recent publication. Her article “Diagnosis Dangerous: Why State Licensing Boards Should Step in to Prevent Mental Health Practitioners from Speculating Beyond the Scope of Professional Standards” was recently published in the Utah Law Review (vol. 2015, No. 4).
News from the Feb. 2, 2016 Board of Trustees Meeting
Left to right UC Board of Trustees members William (Wyn) C. Portman, III, Thomas D. Cassady, outgoing chairperson Thomas H. Humes, new Trustee chairperson Robert E. Richardson Jr. and UC President Dr. Santa Ono
I’m writing to share with you all three important things that happened at today’s Board of Trustees’ meeting:
- Professor Emeritus Marianna Brown Bettman ‘77 was awarded the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
- Our alumnus Robert E. Richardson, Jr. ’05 was elected Chair of the Board of Trustees. At age 37, he will be the youngest Board chair in the University’s history.
- The board approved a resolution authorizing UC to enter into formal discussions to “fully pursue and evaluate” a potential move of selected academic facilities, including the University of Cincinnati ’s College of Law, to the downtown riverfront development known as The Banks.
Here is the press release that is being distributed.
“During today’s Feb. 2 Board of Trustees meeting, the board approved a resolution authorizing UC to enter into formal discussions to “fully pursue and evaluate” a potential move of selected academic facilities, including the University of Cincinnati ’s College of Law, to the downtown riverfront development known as The Banks.
The resolution authorizes university discussions with the City-County Joint Banks Steering Committee (JBSC), the master developer, Carter USA, and designated staff from the City and County.
It also authorizes the establishment of a University Banks Working Group (UBWG), to be appointed and led by President Santa J. Ono and to be advised and assisted by the chair of the board’s Finance and Administration Committee, Thomas D. Cassady, and the chair of the board’s Real Estate Subcommittee, William “Wym” C. Portman III.
The conditions and contingencies outlined in the resolution include:
- Reaching satisfactory final terms, design and use agreements between UC, the City and the County, as recommended by the JBSC, within 180 days of the resolution.
- Raising a minimum of $25 million on behalf of the College of Law in private contributions and/or project specific funding from other public or private sources.
- Such other terms and conditions to be determined by the University Banks Working Group.
- Final approval by the UC Board of Trustees.
“The opportunity to establish something so distinctive and dynamic in the heart of the city comes only once in a few generations,” said Thomas H. Humes, UC’s outgoing Board Chairman. “It brings together three historic institutions, the university, the city and the county in a way that will create new synergy. It’s very appropriate that it would be anchored by our historic College of Law and potentially include other university programs and assets. We think this would be a truly special addition to The Banks and offer some exciting accelerated learning opportunities, not only for our students but also our entire community.”
“I am excited about the bold vision of a UC presence on The Banks, and I look forward to the efforts of the working group that will evaluate what’s going to be possible,” said UC President Santa J. Ono. “As an urban-serving university, our connection with Cincinnati is part of our DNA and a UC presence downtown would enhance the strong relationships between our university, the city and the county.”
For several years the College of Law has discussed the possibility of renovating or building a new structure.
“We look forward to working with the University and the Board of Trustees as we move forward with these plans,” said College of Law Dean Jennifer Bard. “The current law school building, although historic, is in need of substantial renovation, and this offers a wonderful opportunity to create the space our faculty, staff and students need to continue our mission to educate and inspire leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society.”
ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF LAW
Established in 1833, the University of Cincinnati College of Law is the first law school west of the Alleghenies and the fourth-oldest continuously operating law school in the country. When it began as the Cincinnati Law School with 17 students, it was located above a downtown office.”
One important point, the time line of the project, it is highly unlikely to affect the day-to-day life of any current student. I am sharing this information with our alumni and donors, but please feel free to distribute this email to anyone you think would be interested.
As always, I will share information with you as I get it.
Dean Jennifer S. Bard
Professor Mark Godsey Receives Awards Bar Foundation and Philanthropy Group
Professor Mark Godsey accepted the Rescuer of Humanity Award in December, 2015 on behalf of the OIP from Project Love, a major philanthropic organization in Cleveland. Prior winners of the award include Rosa Parks, Steven Speilberg and Christopher Reeve.
He also received the Outstanding Organization Award in December, 2015 on behalf of the OIP from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.
Professor Kristin Kalsem Elected Section Secretary at AALS Meeting
Professor Kristin Kalsem attended the AALS conference in New York City in January, 2016. She was elected secretary of the Section on Law and Interpretation and to the Executive Boards of the Sections on Law and Humanities and Commercial and Related Consumer Law.