Wells Channels Life Experiences into Public Interest Work
Catlin Wells ’16, a Dayton, Ohio native born at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, spent her formative years as a military kid, travelling all over the United States with her family. She lived the “military lifestyle” throughout her childhood before returning to Ohio for her collegiate studies, graduating from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications. With a growing interest in the area of public interest, Wells decided to focus on a legal education and joined the UC Law community.
Now working with the Ohio Innocence Project, she had been engaged in public interest work for some time. While in Dayton she was involved in an after school care program and worked with special needs children. By the time she moved to Columbus for undergraduate school, Wells knew she wanted to stay involved in this area of work and did so as a Head Start teacher. It was her experiences doing this work that, in part, inspired her to seek a legal education so that she could work to improve the situations for struggling families.
“I was particularly drawn to the OIP from hearing what previous students had to say about it,” she shared. Now several months into her time as an OIP fellow, she has benefitted enormously from her experiences thus far. “It’s sometimes too easy to get lost in the cases you read for class. But my time with the OIP has given me an outlet to apply the sometimes nebulous classroom lessons in a very real, practical setting.”
Wells admits, however, that her work is sometimes frustrating. “The work at the OIP can feel like a losing battle some of the time,” she shared. “I may spend all week calling witnesses who don’t want to talk with me, begging overworked public employees to send me records from dusty and unorganized file cabinets, and trying to find evidence that might not even exist.” It’s at these difficult moments that she remembers her supervisor’s advice on how to channel her frustration: “Don’t get mad for you, get mad for the inmate.”
When asked about her future, Wells shared that she plans to continue working to benefit the community. “I tell people I want to go into politics, but I think that’s a little bit misleading."
She continued, “I was blessed with access to good education, health care, and a house in a neighborhood that was safe enough for me to knock on a stranger’s door when it was time to sell Girl Scout cookies. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life begging for campaign donations and votes, but I’m serious about working with local government officials to make sure that the next generation can say the same thing about their community.”
Jackie Welp Likes Being a Truth-Seeker
“The Ohio Innocence Project was a big factor in my decision to come to UC Law,” shared Jackie Welp '16. While attending the University of Cincinnati (for her two degrees) she was involved with the Pre-Law club. There, she arranged to get an OIP exoneree to come speak to the club. “It was a great experience, and afterwards I almost immediately wrote my personal statement and applied!”
Welp is a 2L working with the Ohio Innocence Project. A Columbus, Oh native, she has strong family ties to the Queen City. After graduating from UC with majors in history and political science, she chose the College of Law as the place for her legal education.
Working on 20 twenty cases (a typical caseload for an OIP student) Welp has been truly immersed in her work. “For one reason or another, myself and other OIP students sometimes have trouble pulling ourselves away from one particular case or another—whether it be the particular facts or our belief that the defendant is innocent,” she shared, noting that the experience is useful and educational from a time and caseload management standpoint. It is also work about which it is easy to become enthusiastic.
Being a ‘Truth Seeker’
Since she began working at the OIP, Welp has found that her perspective on post-conviction work has evolved. “The prosecution (in these cases), in the midst of defending their convictions, look at us as ‘defense attorneys.’ We, however, see ourselves more as truth-seekers,” she explained. She noted that while the prosecutors are simply doing their jobs, it can be frustrating at times when her truth-seeking efforts are resisted.
Welp has always been interested in criminal law, and, in particular, sees herself doing prosecution work after graduation. OIP, while on a different side of the criminal law spectrum, has been an excellent experience for her, and has really reinforced for her the interest she has in practicing criminal law.
Her advice to any students potentially interested in criminal law is to check out OIP. “Get involved in the OIP, even if you are just exploring criminal law. While the experience has really reinforced my interests in criminal law, it has led other students to the important realization that this sort of thing isn’t for them. Either way, you learn how to handle a large caseload and how to work with an office full of your classmates, which is really a valuable skill.”
Donald Caster Talks About Experience, DNA and Making Connections
“My time there [at the Prosecutor’s Office], in part, served to truly eliminate any notion I had of there being ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ when it comes to defense attorneys and prosecutors,” said Donald Caster '03. In fact, his experience as a prosecutor benefitted him in several ways. First, it confirmed for him that he is best suited to appellate and post-conviction work; and second, it confirmed that he is more comfortable on the defense side. Further, it gave him insight into a prosecutor’s point of view on post-conviction cases, which is invaluable in his current position as a staff attorney with the OIP.
A native of Buffalo, NY, Caster attended Youngstown State University before coming to the College as a student. Here, he was a member of Moot Court and the Law Review. Caster was also a fellow with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.
After graduating, he began building his professional resume in earnest, beginning with a clerkship for the the Honorable Robert C. Chambers, Chief Judge, United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia. Thereafter, he returned to Cincinnati to work at a boutique civil rights firm for several years and then spent additional years as a solo practitioner. Most recently, he worked in the Appellate Division of the Butler County Prosecutor’s office.
Training the Next Generation
Caster and the other attorneys supervise the OIP fellows, as well as represent clients in the courtroom. Offering some insight as to how the work OIP does has changed over the past 10 years, he noted that today there is much better access to DNA than there was when the OIP started, largely because of OIP’s work to get Ohio’s DNA testing statute passed. That being said, he noted that there are fewer and fewer “easy” cases. Instead, the majority of cases today involve smaller traces of DNA and, as such, it is often more difficult to convince a prosecutor that the DNA test will answer the question of who committed the crime. Further, the general trend is that the cases are increasingly difficult and complicated. “The work is just as important as ever,” he noted. “I look forward to the challenge as well as working with this and future classes of OIP students.”
The Importance of Making Connections
Caster shared why he believes it is important to be kind to your peers in law school and beyond. His two most recent legal jobs came about in no small part due to his connections with former classmates. He also offered additional useful advice: “ I strongly recommend students take as many practice-oriented classes as possible. Whether civil or criminal, the advocacy and writing skills you learn will be invaluable throughout your career.
“And, to young practitioners, seek mentorship from an experienced attorney, especially if you are on your own practicing criminal law. Those that have come before you can instill in you a wisdom that can help you enormously.”
No Longer a Student, Brian Howe’10 Returns to Work at OIP
Cincinnati native Brian Howe ’10 has never wandered too far from home—the College of Law and the city. Now several years after his graduation, he is back at the hallowed halls of the College of Law – not as a student, but as a staff attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project.
Howe graduated from The Ohio State University in 2003 with majors in philosophy and Russian language. As part of his degree program, he studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia for a summer (now that’s a long way from home!). After graduating from OSU he found work as a media buyer for three years in Washington and Illinois. It was around this time in 2007 that Howe made the decision to return to school for his JD.
“I knew from the start I wanted to do something in the area of public interest,” explained Howe when speaking about his student involvement with OIP. “The opportunity to do something like this through the university is amazing -- it was such an easy decision to want to do this. I was really hungry as a law student for actual, real clinical experience, and the opportunities at OIP are miles ahead of most other first summer experiences.”
Between graduating from UC Law and returning to the College of Law to work as a staff attorney with the OIP, Howe worked here in Cincinnati. He completed a two-year fellowship with Equal Justice Works hosted through the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio. After the fellowship, he was hired on as a full-time staff attorney with Legal Aid, continuing his work defending foreclosures, handling evictions, and assisting with other related cases.
He joined the OIP as a staff attorney in January of this year. As opposed to the caseload that a student handles (about 20 cases), Howe now handles 60-75 cases as a staff attorney, though only about a dozen are in active litigation. Reflecting on his time as a student with OIP and comparing it to his current experience, he noted that the ability to see cases through is something he is looking forward to. “It’s interesting. The cases take so long to develop, almost as a rule, and it is rare for a student to be able to see a case through to its conclusion during their one year with OIP.” One example of this is that a case in his caseload now was one that he worked on as a student years ago. “It is nice as an attorney to be able to know that I can see these cases through as opposed to just a one year window before handing it off to the next class.”
Howe gave these words of advice to law students in the throes of school and looking forward to life after graduation: “It is important to enjoy what you are doing -- it is a luxury that not everyone will have,” he counseled. “I have been really lucky to have the opportunity to do things that I enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis—both as a student and a professional.”
OIP Lecture: CSI and Cognitive Bias
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Time: 12:10 p.m.
Location: College of Law – Room 114
CLE: Application for 1 hour of general CLE has been submitted to Ohio and Kentucky; approval is expected.
Food: Pizza will be provided
About the Program
Dr. Itiel Dror has performed groundbreaking research revealing how cognitive bias makes many types of crime scene investigation expert testimony far less reliable than the criminal justice system and the public generally believe. His research shows that the way experts think—and the way the brain works—makes scientific testimony highly prone to human error. Dror’s research was pivotal to the National Academy of Sciences report in 2009 recommending widespread reform to forensic disciplines in the U.S. He will discuss his findings and make recommendations to improve the state of forensics moving forward.
About the Speaker
Dr. Itiel Dror is the Senior Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher at the University College London. He studies how the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise affects how experts perceive and interpret information. His research demonstrates the influence of contextual information on the judgments and decision making of investigators; for example, he has shown that fingerprint and DNA experts can reach different conclusions when the same evidence is presented within different extraneous contexts.
Dr. Dror has published over 100 research articles, and has been extensively cited in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Science and the United Kingdom Fingerprint Public Inquiry. He currently is a member of the Forensic Human Factor Group recently established by U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) & the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
This event is sponsored by the The Rosenthal Institute for Justice/the Ohio Innocence Project and the College of Law’s Criminal Law Society
Bettman’s Legally Speaking Ohio Blog Cited by FindLaw
Kudos to Professor Marianna Bettman and her Legally Speaking Ohio blog, which was recently mentioned on FindLaw for Ohio v. Clark, Darius, a case from the Ohio Supreme Court which was taken up by the Supreme Court of the United States. The writers of FindLaw noted that the Legally Speaking Ohio blog was a resource for information on the case. It was number 4 on the FindLaw list.
Professor Solimine Cited in Election Law Expert’s Blog
One of the country’s most well-known authorities on national and state election politics and blogger on legislation, Professor Rick Hasen at the University of California Irvine School of Law, commented on Professor Michael Solimine’s newest article “Rethinking District of Columbia Venues in Voting Rights Preclearance Actions,” recently published in the Georgetown Law Journal. Professor Hasen noted he looked forward to reading it (Solimine’s article). “Michael leads the field in his writing on election law procedure.”
Hannah Brooks’14 Shares Her Experience at the Lavender Law Conference
I have so many wonderful things to say about the Lavender Law Conference and I'm honestly not too sure where to begin. I just want to thank you, as an office (the CPD), again for having sent out the information; and, I also want to thank you and everyone you worked with to help me get funds to ease the financial burden of the trip. It was beyond worth it. There were so many opportunities for networking, lots of job opportunities, and opportunities for professional growth. I was beyond pleased with each moment.
Next year the conference will be in Chicago so I want to encourage as many people, students, and grads-to-be to head there after the bar exam. If they are able to come, I would like to ask to have my information kept on file so I can help them secure cheap/free accommodations and help them figure out how to navigate the city and ways to get the most out of the conference. I would love to be a resource to help others participate. I entirely intend on returning next year.
I am writing up several e-mails about different workshops and contacts that I made at the conference to e-mail to different professors regarding related work. If you have any questions or want to know more please let me know. I'm still gushing about it to everyone.
One more thing - The shorter man with white hair in the photo next to me is late civil rights' activist, most notably MLKs advisor, Bayard Rustin's partner. His name is Walter Naegle, and I took this picture shortly after wiping my tears. I couldn't believe he was there. They talked quite a bit about the Brother Outsider documentary so that's part of what I will be sending into other students, organizations, and professors. Definitely a highlight for me.
Doreen Canton elected Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers
Taft Attorney Elected Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers
CINCINNATI, OHIO (Sept. 25, 2014) – Doreen Canton, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, has been elected Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America.
Founded in 1950, the College is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada. Fellowship in the College is extended by invitation only and only after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality. Lawyers must have a minimum of 15 years trial experience before they can be considered for Fellowship.
Canton, a partner and co-chair of the Labor & Employment practice group of Taft, graduated from Canisius College and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where she was Lead Articles Editor of the University of Cincinnati Law Review.Canton has advised and represented private and public employers in all areas of labor and employment law and has tried many Title VII, Title IX and state law claims, including age, sex, race, disability and national origin discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation and contract claims to defense verdicts. She also has substantial experience in traditional labor matters, including arbitrations, contract negotiations, elections and labor disputes.
Canton is listed in Best Lawyers in America and was named a 2015 "Lawyer of the Year" for Cincinnati Labor Law - Management. She is also listed in Chambers USA: America’s Sept. 25, 2014
Leading Lawyers for Business. Ohio Super Lawyers rated her one of the "Top 25 Women Attorneys in Ohio" and one of the "Top 50 Women Attorneys in Cincinnati."
At Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, delivering outstanding legal performance to help clients succeed is what drives and motivates our more than 400 attorneys every day. Taft has offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Chicago; Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Covington, Kentucky; and Phoenix, Arizona. The firm practices across a wide range of industries, in virtually every area of law, including Business and Finance; Litigation; Labor and Employment; Intellectual Property; Business Restructuring, Bankruptcy and Creditor Rights; Environmental; Health and Life Sciences; Private Client Services; Real Estate; and Tax. With a proven track record of experience since 1885, the firm offers breadth and depth of legal expertise coupled with a trusted business perspective to help our clients, big and small, regionally, nationally and internationally, reach their goals. For more information, please visit www.taftlaw.com.
Robert J. Martineau, Jr., Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, elected to serve as ECOS President
State Commissioners Elect Tennessee Commissioner Martineau President
Santa Fe, NM – Robert J. Martineau, Jr., Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, was elected by his peers to serve as ECOS President at the organization’s Fall Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joining Martineau at the helm of the national nonprofit, nonpartisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders are newly elected Vice President Martha Rudolph, Director of Environmental Programs with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Secretary-Treasurer Henry Darwin, Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and Past President Dick Pedersen, Director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
“I am honored to lead ECOS at a time when the state-federal relationship is front and center in critical discussions on air, water, and natural resources in our nation,” said Martineau, who was appointed to his Commissioner post by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in 2011. “ECOS is leading conversations on how we collectively are going to deliver a clean and healthy environment to all Americans in a fiscally responsible, modern, and efficient manner.”
Martineau’s priorities will include advancing the joint U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-state E-Enterpise for the Environment initiative, building an enhanced relationship between state environmental agency attorneys and EPA’s Office of General Counsel, and advocating for federal funding for state environmental agencies. “States implement 96 percent of the delegable environmental programs in our country.
This means that the state voice has to be heard and considered, as we are co-regulators with EPA,” said Martineau. “At the same time, state primacy and autonomy must be respected.”
He also plans to enhance the association’s relationships with the Departments of Defense and Energy. “Silos are breaking down between agencies and departments every day,” Martineau noted. “This opens up new partnerships and opportunities for ECOS to seize.”
Martineau has spent more than 25 years as an attorney in the field of environmental law, including seven years of service in EPA’s Office of General Counsel and 16 years as a partner in private practice in Nashville, Tennessee.