Experience of a Lifetime: Second-Year Law Student Ariel Guggisberg Helps Secure Prisoner’s Release
Law student helps write petition that leads to prisoner’s sentence commutation.
Cincinnati, OH—President Barack Obama’s recent commutation of 61 federal prisoners has a Cincinnati Law connection: second-year student Ariel Guggisberg helped draft the clemency petition for one of the prisoners whose sentence was commuted. “It feels like we really changed a person’s life,” she said.
The clemency petition was made possible under the umbrella of Clemency Project 2014, a working group of attorneys and advocates who provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentence if sentenced today. Participants include federal defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, more than 70 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious law firms, 500 small firms and solo practitioners, and 30 law schools and clinics. The project was developed after former Deputy Attorney General James Cole appealed to the legal profession to provide free assistance to help identify eligible prisoners and assist them in preparation of clemency petitions.
The Clemency Project 2014 reviews requests from a prisoner who has served 10 years and does not have an obviously disqualifying feature (ex. a crime of violence). The prisoner is assigned an attorney, who requests permission to review documents in his/her case to determine if other criteria are met. If the prisoner is qualified, the individual is assisted by a lawyer to help fill out and file a clemency petition. That’s where Guggisberg came in.
As part of her summer internship at firm Pinales Stachler last year, Guggisberg—under the direction of her supervising attorney Candace Crouse—was charged with helping to draft the petition for her client Michael Morris. (The firm was assigned two cases.) “I thought it was so much fun over last summer,” she said, “finding ways to argue how our client would be sentenced differently today—such as ‘the old laws required mandatory outlandish sentences,’ ‘the sentencing laws differ today,’ and ‘our client has accepted responsibility and learned from his experience.’
“We had to show he’s been rehabilitated and that he can contribute to society.”
After the petition was written, it was submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, where the US Pardon Attorney makes final recommendations to the President. Then they wait to hear.
President Obama’s commutations are part of a larger effort calling for changes to sentencing laws. Most of the recipients “are low-level drug offenders whose sentences would have been shorter if they were convicted under today’s laws,” wrote President Obama in a Facebook posting. He went on to describe pardons and communications as ways “to show people what a second chance can look like.”
Guggisberg and her colleagues at the firm had the pleasure and privilege of breaking the exciting news to their client. She described it as an “incredibly rewarding experience.” Mr. Morris, who is in Texas, will live with his family to reintegrate into society, beginning his new life in July when he and the others are officially released.
What did she learn from this experience? Guggisberg shared that she was impressed and encouraged by watching her colleagues, daily, do everything they can for clients. “It was beautiful to see. I learned that to be successful in criminal defense, you have to have thick skin and relentless hope in humanity.”
Upon graduation next year, Guggisberg plans to focus her career in healthcare law.
Marianna Bettman, Law Professor and Alumnae, Receives University’s Distinguished Teaching Award
Professor Emerita of Practice Marianna Bettman received the University of Cincinnati Distinguished Teaching Professor Award on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
Cincinnati, OH—Congratulations to Cincinnati Law graduate and Professor Emerita of Practice Marianna Brown Bettman who received the University of Cincinnati’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. The award was presented at the university’s annual Faculty Awards Celebration, presided over by President Santa Ono, Provost Beverly Davenport, and the Faculty Senate.
"We are all exceptionally glad of the recognition Professor Bettman is receiving for being an exceptional educator. She has had a positive influence on the practice of law in Ohio and beyond through the hundreds of students she has taught. I look forward to her continued association with the law school even as she enjoys the much deserved freedom of retirement," said Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at Cincinnati Law.
Professor Bettman started her professional career working in community development during the late 60’s, speaking to community members about school desegregation. Recognizing the role legal solutions could play to address racial injustice, she determined that her next career step would be law school at the university. While there, she excelled at school, winning the Constitutional Law Prize and becoming the first woman to be awarded first prize in Trial Advocacy.
After graduation in 1977, Professor Bettman began working in private practice. From there, she was elected Judge, First District Court of Appeals—the first woman elected to this position. She developed an expertise in separation of powers, state constitutional law, and the Ohio judicial system. After six years on the bench, the opportunity arose to join academia, leading her to College of Law in 1999; she remained at the school until recently. Her mastery of material and the high expectations set for students is legendary. Students, in turn, thrived under her style. Noted one, “Professor Bettman keeps us on our toes. You must be well-prepared at all times because you are called on every class!” In addition to teaching, she directed the Judge-In-Residence and Judicial Extern programs.
Professor Bettman is the recipient of numerous awards. They include the following: The Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2005, 2011, 2014), the Excellence in Education Award (Ohio Magazine, 2011), Cincinnati Attorney of the Year (Jewish National Fund, Judge Carl B. Rubin Legal Society, 2010), the Foot Soldiers in the Sand Award (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-National Chapter, 2008), the A.B. “Dolly” Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching (University of Cincinnati, 2008), the Nettie Cronies Lutes Award (Ohio State Bar Association, 2008), the University of Cincinnati Law Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna Award (2001), the Women’s Studies Distinguished Alumna Award (University of Cincinnati, 1998), the YWCA Career Woman of Achievement (1994), and many more. She authors the well-respected blog Legally Speaking Ohio and the monthly newspaper column Legally Speaking for the American Israelite, in addition to lecturing at numerous continuing legal education seminars, including an annual presentation at the Ohio Judicial Conference. Professor Bettman retired from teaching in December 2015. However, she is still committed to the law school and the education and training of future generations of attorneys.
Third Year Law Student’s Oral Argument Garners a New Sentence For Client Before the Sixth Circuit
Kellie Kulka’s oral argument at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals brings a win for the Sixth Circuit Clinic and a published opinion—all before graduation.
Cincinnati, OH—Kellie Kulka ’16 had an opportunity only a small number of law students get – to argue a case before a federal appellate court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. What happened her first time up? The court ruled in her client’s favor, reversing the sentence!
“This is a big win,” said Kulka. “I’m just shocked that they issued an opinion so quickly.”
The case, United States v. Fowler, involved a Detroit doctor who was convicted of healthcare fraud. The law school’s Sixth Circuit Clinic, which introduces students to the basics of appellate advocacy, took the case on appeal. Last year’s clinic participants wrote the initial brief; this year’s group did additional research and brought the case to argument.
Clinic director Colter Paulson, Senior Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, explained: “Kellie took oral argument preparation, and her representation of the client, very seriously and spent the better part of two months working on and preparing for the argument. ” This was in addition to her regular clinic assignments and academic work.
“When I walked through security at Potter Stewart Court House, I was asked if I was there to argue a case, to which I responded "yes I am,” said Kulka. “That's when the experience became very real to me, that this wasn't just at Moot Court competition, but that I was actually advocating for someone. I spent months reading trial transcripts and the briefing by the parties. I was actually dreaming about the case by March. However, it was not until I told them that I was there to argue, that I was able to take real ownership the case.
“Kellie’s preparation paid off. In fact, she did such an excellent job during oral argument that the federal public defender in a companion case ceded his reply time to her so she could drive our points home before the panel,” said Paulson.
“I argued in the En Banc Courtroom. I had been in that room before to observe, but actually learning that I would argue in that room was surreal,” Kulka remarked. “I was nervous initially, but once I began to present the case, the adrenaline kicked in and I rode that thrill for the remainder of my time.”
The clinic team won a reversal of the doctor’s sentence because the court failed to make factual findings to support it. And Paulson and the team feel that they should be able to substantially reduce the client’s sentence on remand, based on some of the language written in the decision about the extent of the fraud.
“But we also won a larger victory,” noted Paulson. “Lots of sentencing arguments like this are losers because of waiver before the trial court, but we argued that the right to factual findings could not be waived. There were no cases in any circuit saying so, but we got the panel to agree that even if the trial attorney waived the argument, ‘the district court was still under an obligation to make factual findings regarding the applicable Guidelines range.’ This is decision requires district courts to make factual findings to support sentences rather than (as is often the case) just hand-waiving to create a Guideline sentence.”
Congratulations to Kellie Kulka, the Sixth Circuit participants, and clinic co-directors Paulson and Lauren Kuley, Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, on their successful win.
Professor Verna Williams participated in a Black Feminist panel
Professor Verna Williams participated in a Black Feminist panel discussion on Black Lives Matter and advocacy around the unique experiences of African American Women hosted by the UC Women’s Center on April 6, 2016.
Associate Dean Sandra Sperino's Article Cited by the EEOC
Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor Sandra Sperino's article, The Sky Remains Intact: Why Allowing Subgroup Evidence is Consistent with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 90 Marquette L. Rev. 227 (2006), as cited by the EEOC on April 7, 2016 in an amicus brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Professor Stephanie McMahon accepted an offer to publish “The Perfect Process Is the Enemy of the Good Tax: Tax’s Exceptional Regulatory Process,” at the Virginia Tax Review
Professor Stephanie McMahon accepted an offer to publish “The Perfect Process Is the Enemy of the Good Tax: Tax’s Exceptional Regulatory Process,” at the Virginia Tax Review.
Professor Lewis H. Goldfarb was selected as the winner of the 2016 Small Business Administration Award
Professor Lewis H. Goldfarb was selected as the winner of the 2016 Small Business Administration Award for Small Business Legal Assistance for his significant contributions in helping small businesses with their legal needs. He, along with winners of other small business awards, will be honored at an SBA awards banquet in Columbus on the evening of May 5, 2016.
Brandon Craig ’09 Presents Paper on Fighting Housing Discrimination
Brandon Craig ’09 presented his paper “Black Zip Codes matter: Fighting Housing Discrimination in the 21st Century,” at the recent David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia Law Review Symposium. The symposium’s theme was “From Protest Movements of the ‘60s to #BlackLivesMatter: Legal Strategies for an Emerging Civil Rights Movement.”
In his paper, Mr. Craig covers the historic change in the laws leading to the passage of the fair housing act in 1968. He then goes on to discuss the changes in the enforcement of the fair housing act up to the present, finishing with how we must change our arguments going forward in the 21st Century.
Here's a link to the symposium to view the presentation: Craig Presentation
Former Dean Victor Schwartz Publishes WSJ Editorial on Federal Legislation and Liability of Gun Manufacturers
Remarks from Victor Schwartz: In the Presidential campaign an issue has been raised about federal legislation and the liability of gun manufacturers. A lot of misinformation about that topic has come forward from a variety of sources. Since I have been involved with most federal liability bills over the past three decades, I thought it might be helpful to clarify just what the federal legislation on gun manufacturer liability titled, “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" actually does in fact. On March 2, 2016 the Wall Street Journal ran Mr. Schwartz’s op-ed on the topic.
Sue Erhart '96 promoted to General Counsel at Great American Insurance
Great American Insurance Group has named two new leaders for its legal team. Sue Erhart has been promoted to general counsel, while Eve Cutler Rosen has been named executive counsel within its Property and Casualty Legal Group.
Erhart will continue to have direct responsibility for the staff and operations of the Property and Casualty Group’s Legal Department in her new role. She joined Great American in June 2010 after she became a partner at Cincinnati’s Keating, Muething & Klekamp PLL. She received her bachelor’s degree from Xavier University and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Rosen will oversee the company’s international operations in her new role and serve as senior counsel for the Property and Casualty Group. She has been general counsel since August 1999 and worked for Great American for 29 years. She previously worked at Aetna and was in private practice in Philadelphia. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and Juris Doctor degree from Villanova University School of Law.
Great American primarily focuses on property and casualty insurance for businesses along with the sale of traditional fixed and fixed-indexed annuities in the retail, financial institutions and education markets. It’s a subsidiary of American Financial Group (NYSE: AFG), which is also based in Cincinnati.
As published in bizjournals.com