Walia’s Life Experiences Lead to Career in Social Justice
Second year law student Priya Walia ’16 finds strength and satisfaction working with those from disadvantaged communities. Originally from the mountain state, she grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, and stayed there to attend West Virginia University. There she studied philosophy and political science, and further involved herself in the world of social justice thorough her work at a nonprofit organization West Virginia Women Work.
West Virginia Women Work primarily focuses on assisting women to explore, train for, and secure employment opportunities with a focus on the skilled trades. Walia spent four years there, doing the gamut of assignments including putting on construction training classes twice a year in different locations across the state. She started as a receptionist and eventually became an office manager, taking on a lot of additional responsibilities. “I really liked serving that community,” she shared, “and I knew that when I came to law school that I wanted to do similar work and stay in the realm of nonprofits.”
Now, Walia works in the College of Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice as a Program Assistant. In this position, she does a bit of everything to help the Center and its programs run smoothly, including attending meetings, developing and planning events, and assisting with program implementation.
The Appeal of Cincinnati, OJPC, and Social Justice
When deciding on law schools, Cincinnati appealed to Walia for several reasons: the urban environment, the size of the city, the friendliness of the law school community, and the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. And Cincinnati has treated her exceptionally, as she expressed her interest in remaining in the Queen City after law school. This past summer Walia worked at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) downtown. This summer job fit perfectly with her desire to work with nonprofits, and she was able to work with disadvantaged communities here in Cincinnati. OJPC’s stated mission is “to create fair, intelligent, redemptive criminal-justice systems through zealous client-centered advocacy, innovative policy reform, and cross-sector community education.” Walia contributed with her research and blog writing regarding Ohio’s record sealing practices and her work with the Second Chance Project whereby former offenders receive assistance with re-entering the community after release from prison.
While she acknowledged that burnout is a common fear of people considering a career working in disadvantaged communities, she found encouragement from her experience at OJPC. “Once I was able to see people in the field, doing great work, and not getting burnt out, it was inspiring to me.” Now, she finds the work to be a way of recharging.
“There is an intimidation factor in coming to law school,” she shared. “Be prepared to guard your goals. You may have to look a good salary in the eye and turn it down, but if you stick to your guns you will find the work you do to be rewarding.”
Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown Discuss the Role of Social Justice
Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown Discuss the Role of Social Justice
Center for Race Gender, and Social Justice Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown shared their thoughts about the legal field, social justice, and how they hope to make an impact in the field.
Porter, from a small town in southern Indiana, attended Indiana University Southeast, receiving a B.A. in psychology. Prior to UC Law she worked as a probation officer for almost a decade. In her role as a fellow she supports the Center by helping with panel discussions, editing the Freedom Center Journal, and conducting social justice research. “My research interest on pregnant women in the U.S. prison system will fit well within the Center's mission as I strive to be an activist and advocate for the rights of prisoners and institutional change,” said Porter.
Brown, from Hamilton, OH, is a graduate of the University of Chicago. There, she received a B.A. in English literature, minoring in gender studies. She worked for Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, both organizing communities around labor issues and managing the data collected. “In addition to taking courses, I will be able to participate in a Center sponsored research project,” said Brown. “I’ll also be helping out with the Center’s events, including the upcoming screening of Private Violence.
What drove your interest in the legal field?
Porter: I became interested in the legal field many years ago working as a corrections officer at a juvenile detention center. This is how I transitioned into working in probation. After spending many years working in the criminal justice system, law school seemed like the next logical step in my career. I received a master's degree with a focus on gender studies in 2012. This led me to UC Law and the dual degree program with the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. My thesis will focus on incarcerated mothers in the U.S. prison system.
Brown: I see law as the practical tool that, when combined with passion, can be a vehicle for social change.
Why are you interested in social justice?
Porter: I am interested in social justice feminism because I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. I am currently a volunteer advocate at Women Helping Women in downtown Cincinnati. This organization is designed to encourage and support survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Brown: I’ve always had a drive to work to enact change that will make our society more righteous and ethical. Seeing ‘up close’ the injustices the communities that I organized faced only solidified my desire to do work in this field.
What do you plan to do with your degree?
Porter: I hope to spend a long career in the law working to make positive changes in our legal system concerning female offenders, particularly incarcerated mothers.
Brown: I plan to continue my work in the labor field, whether that be in a private firm that works on employment issues, an agency like the National Labor Relations Board or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or directly with a labor union.
Pureval Takes His Passion for Social Justice Wherever He Goes
Aftab Pureval ’08, a proud alum of the College of Law, has maintained a deep interest in social justice—not only here but in whatever city he has worked. Originally from Beavercreek, Ohio, he attended The Ohio State University, where he majored in political science and was the president of the student body his senior year. Having always made service a priority in his life, Pureval’s experiences as the student body president furthered his passion for social justice. After graduating, he moved down the I-71 corridor to join the College of Law.
“The College was really a breath of fresh air,” he said, referring to not only the small class sizes and great classmates, but also to the faculty, staff, and the city of Cincinnati. While at UC Law, working at the Warren County Domestic Relations Court and with the Domestic Violence Clinic were particularly impactful experiences for him. “I saw firsthand the devastation that domestic violence does to our community,” he explained, “and I have since sought to prioritize this work in my professional career.”
Since graduating in 2008, Pureval has had a varying and successful career. As an associate with White & Case LLP in Washington D.C., he practiced in the area of anti-trust litigation. The Queen City, however, called him back, and he worked as a special assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, prosecuting federal felonies involving guns, drugs, and white collar violations. Now, he is counsel for The Procter & Gamble Company. These experiences truly involve vastly different subject matter, but one thing that has remained consistent throughout it all is his commitment to serving his community.
Social Justice as a Life-Long Commitment
While in Washington D.C., Pureval worked with female immigrants, filing U-Visa applications on their behalf. U-Visas are a way for women who are victims of or witnesses to abuse to gain residency in the country in exchange for testifying against the perpetrator(s). Further, he worked on a team of attorneys who drafted a memorandum that aided the Nepalese government in drafting their constitution. For this work, Pureval was honored with the White & Case Pro-Bono Award.
Now back in Cincinnati, he is working within the community to promote social justice. He serves on the board of trustees of Cincinnati Union Bethel, an organization that works to shelter, support, and educate Cincinnati’s urban women, children, families, and communities to help them to realize their potential. Additionally, he sits on the Leadership Council of the Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. As Pureval explained, “Both organizations address the overwhelming issue of poverty in Cincinnati.” While he is truly dedicated to working toward a better future for Cincinnati’s impoverished women, Pureval still has energy to spearhead initiatives to better the city on the broadest of scales. He is now co-chairing the Grand City Experiment – turning the 31 days in October of this year into 31 days of random acts of kindness in an effort to make Cincinnati a more welcoming place.
When asked what advice he would give to someone looking to follow a similar career path promoting social justice and service to the community, Pureval was big on the opportunities available right here in the tri-state area:
“One of the things I love about Cincinnati is the opportunity here -- big enough to rely on and leverage the resources available, but not so big that you will get lost in the crowd. You can have a real ripple effect. I would challenge anyone who is interested in social justice to join organizations that are working on it, and become a leader in that organization. It’s not that hard -- you have to have energy, ideas, and the ability to work hard. But, if you really commit yourself to working on these issues, you will surprise yourself how much you can accomplish and how many lives you can touch.”
2014 Harris Distinguished Practitioner Paula Boggs Muething
Date: October 7, 2014
Time: 12:10 p.m.
Location: College of Law, Room. 118
Food will be provided
About the speaker:
Paula Boggs Muething joined the Port Authority in March 2012 to assist in redevelopment initiatives, including operating the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation (“Landbank”) on behalf of the Landbank Board. The Hamilton County Treasurer incorporated the Landbank in 2011 as a tool to assist the County in addressing the problems associated with the increasing number of vacant and abandoned properties.
Paula was previously employed by the City of Cincinnati Law Department, most recently as senior assistant city solicitor. While at the City of Cincinnati, she demonstrated exceptional interest and ability in the areas of blight and nuisance abatement solutions and was active in the effort to expand landbank-enabling legislation to include Hamilton County. Prior to joining the City, Paula was an associate at Keating, Muething and Klekamp, PLL, and a law clerk for the Honorable James E. Keller of the Kentucky Supreme Court. Paula earned a juris doctor from the University of Cincinnati, College of Law in 2003, where she was a Human Rights Fellow and a member of the Editorial Board of the Law Review. She studied Community Land Reform Initiatives at the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education.
She serves on the boards of Talbert House, Cincinnati Development Fund, Legal Aid and Greater Ohio Policy Center, as well as organizations and task forces directly contributing to regional quality of life. She is a frequent speaker on community revitalization strategies and land bank legislation, delivering programs to the UC Real Estate Roundtable, Ohio Land Bank Conference, National Vacant Properties Conference, Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties Conference, the Cincinnati Bar Association and 2013 Covington Neighborhood Summit. Paula was named one of Cincinnati Business Courier’s Forty Under 40 in 2013, and was named the 2014 Most Outstanding Government Staffer by the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati.
New Collaboration Proves to be a Great Experience for Law Fellows
This summer, four third-year College of Law students, working closely with local entrepreneurs in a range of industries, put their growing legal skills and acumen to the test. Under a new collaboration between the College’s Entrepreneurship and Development Clinic, the Hamilton County Business Center, and the First Batch Business Accelerator, students got “live client” experience tackling real, tangible legal issues for the entrepreneurs. The first legal fellows to work as part of this partnership, the students received a “taste” of what their professional lives will be like very soon as lawyers.
“This was an incredible opportunity for these students,” said Professor Lew Goldfarb, Director of the College’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) and one of the supervising attorneys.
A Seat In the Middle of the Action
“When we first arrived at the Hamilton County Business Center (HCBC) and First Batch, we saw our clients in action,” explained Matt Dubin ’15 , one of the four legal fellows. “They were developing formulas and constructing products, but took the time to talk with us about their needs.”
The students, working in teams of two, completed a range of business assignments. Their work included selection and formation of business entities, preparation of agreements among business owners, and preparation of agreements with vendors, customers, and consultants. They also provided advice on intellectual property issues and business-specific regulatory issues. In total, nine companies were counseled this summer.
“Being able to leverage the skills and experience of the clinic was great,” said Pat Longo, Director of the HCBC. “Our clients benefitted greatly from the high energy, knowledgeable and personable law students who performed many assignments concerning legal issues and early stage businesses,” he said. “They are definitely better off due to the relationship and effort of the UC Law Clinic team!”
The HCBC, located in Norwood, OH, provides a full service business incubation program to local start-ups, including office space, training, mentorship, access to capital, and other valuable resources.
The experience at First Batch was similarly successful. “Each of our companies benefitted tremendously in having guidance on issues that they would usually resolve alone and without a full understanding of the surrounding laws,” said Matt Anthony, Co-Founder of First Batch. “I think the UC legal teams not only instilled more confidence in our companies’ operations, but also educated us on a lawyer’s value in helping young businesses.”
“We felt like privileged clients of a good team. This partnership was another great way that UC is both making an impact and engaging students with the larger social and professional world in Cincinnati.”
First Batch, located in the heart of Over-The-Rhine, selects manufacturing startups to participate in its four-month accelerator program. They provide work space and equipment, capital, valuable manufacturing connections, entrepreneurial training and – as of this summer — legal counsel.
Now, About That Office Space
The four legal fellows worked in the same space as the HCBC startups, but also travelled to meet clients at First Batch’s facility. This proved to be invaluable. “Being so close to our clients gave our work a more ‘personal’ feeling as we saw directly how our efforts benefited these local companies,” said Lauren VanHook ‘15, another legal fellow. “We were motivated to provide the best assistance to these local businesses as we addressed their needs.”
The internship program is made possible under the guidance of Professor Goldfarb, the HCBC and First Batch. “I am grateful to the leadership teams at HCBC and First Batch and to the local lawyers who volunteered their time to help me supervise the program,” said Professor Goldfarb. “Through collaborations like these, we can make a real difference in the education of our students and the economy of our region.”
The legal fellows felt the experience was invaluable too. “Law school teaches students how to spot legal issues, but interacting with clients, discerning their legal needs, and delivering a useful work product to real people is something that cannot be replicated in a classroom,” explained Nicholas Ehlert ‘15. “We were fortunate enough to have great clients working in a wide variety of industries, each with different legal issues.”
Looking to the Future
The summer program will be held again next summer, with the possibility of expanding it to a year-round program in the future. “This internship was an all-around great experience,” said Julie Payne ‘15. “The skills we learned and relationships we made this summer will carry us through our final year in law school and into our careers as practicing attorneys.”
Authors: Lauren VanHook'15 and Sherry Y. English, Director of Communications
Professor Moore Invited to Participate at Criminal Defense Forum
Congratulations to Professor Janet Moore, who was invited to participate as one of 12 national experts on a new national working group on indigent criminal defense reform in early September. The working group is supported by the U.S. Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Professor Moore’s scholarship focuses on the legal and political conditions that empower stakeholders to obtain greater transparency and accountability from criminal justice systems.
Read more about Professor Moore:
From the Courtroom to the Classroom Janet Moore focuses on Policy Reform
100% Success: Faculty Staff Campaign Makes History
What an impact! For what is believed to be the first time in our history, the College of Law reached the 100% participation level for the 2014 Faculty Staff campaign. This means all UC Law faculty and staff members contributed at some level to the annual giving campaign.
“Reaching 100 percent participation is a fabulous accomplishment that makes a difference and says a lot about our individual and collective dedication to the College,” wrote Dean Louis Bilionis in a congratulatory email to the college body.
Kimberly Danker, Assistant Director of Development, concurred. “This milestone demonstrates the commitment we all share to the law school, its students, and its mission. We have done what very few colleges have ever done, and the message is clear – we’re an amazing TEAM!”
There are many reasons for giving: out of habit, support of the program, or love for the college. For Brian Howe, Assistant Director of Academics for the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice and a first-time participant, the reason is both personal and professional. “I've worked for several public interest organizations, and I understand the importance of people giving to causes they believe in. I want to do whatever I can to help the law school continue to promote the public interest, and allow the school to be a magnet for good students-- whatever their means or background. It was also nice to show solidarity among the faculty and staff by getting 100% participation.
“And finally, I'll admit I have some self-interest too. OIP counts on students to take a big role in our case work. If UC can attract great students who might not otherwise have the chance to attend law school, and some of those students end up at OIP, it will be well worth the donation!”
This year’s campaign success is a significant increase over last year’s participation rate of 64%. It can also be favorably compared to the university’s overall participation rate of 66.35%, which is an all-time high.
Best of all, the college’s contribution and complete participation is serving as a catalyst for support to UC Law by other groups and alumni, noted Danker. It is inspiring others to reach for this goal. Beyond funding, the goodwill engendered has had a positive ripple effect among the law school’s communities.
Special thanks to co-chairpersons Cheryl DelVecchio, Assistant Director, Curriculum and Student Affairs, and Professor Christopher Bryant, without whom this success wouldn’t have been possible.
Update on Homecoming Tailgate
Homecoming 2014 will be celebrated on September 20, 2014 when the Bearcats play Miami (OH) University. Because of Nippert Stadium renovations this year’s Bearcat home football games will be played at Paul Brown Stadium. So, homecoming will be hosted at Paul Brown Stadium and The Banks.
With that in mind, the College of Law has decided to not host a separate tailgate this year. With so many activities and events that highlight both our great football team and Cincinnati’s heritage (Okotoberfest and the Hudepohl 14K Brewery Run that weekend), we encourage you to immerse yourself in these great activities. There will be a Bearcat Fanzone around the Paul Brown Stadium concourse and The Holy Grail Tavern & Grille is the official UC Headquarters for all home games. Take part in the Hudepohl 14K and you will receive a mini-history of Cincinnati’s former breweries along the way or visit Oktoberfest if the Chicken Dance is more your speed.
For more information about homecoming and the weekend’s events, check www.uc.edu/homecoming and www.bearcatsfootball.com. For information about Oktoberfest visit www.oktoberfestzinzinnati.com and for information about the Hudepohl race details, check out www.hudepohl14kbreweryrun.com.
Constitution Day 2014: The American Constitution in a Changing America
Date: September 17, 2014
Time: 12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
Location: Room 114
CLE: Application for one (1) hour of general CLE has been submitted for Ohio and Kentucky. Approval is expected.
Webcast (available 9/17): 2014 Constitution Day
About the Event
Polarization in Congress and the nation’s politics. Elections, campaign contributions, and money. Equality and liberty in an increasingly diverse nation. Individual privacy in a digital age. Free market freedoms in a complex society and an interconnected world.
These are among the foremost constitutional challenges of our day, provoking controversies and cases that have captured the nation’s headlines and attention. In this Constitution Day 2014 program, three constitutional law experts will explore how they are testing and evolving the meaning of the United States Constitution in a changing America
About the Speakers
Louis D. Bilionis, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law, is a nationally recognized scholar in the areas of constitutional law and criminal law and procedure, with his work published in leading law journals such as the Michigan Law Review, Texas Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, University of California-Los Angeles Law Review, Emory Law Journal, North Carolina Law Review, and Law and Contemporary Problems. He has taught constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence, as well as seminars on capital punishment, constitutional law and theory, criminal law and procedure, and sentencing.
A. Christopher Bryant, Rufus King Professor of Constitutional Law, has been a prolific scholar and an exceptionally skilled and award-winning teacher of constitutional law. His numerous published articles and essays reach a wide range of issues of contemporary constitutional importance, including the separation of powers, judicial review, and the roles of the various branches of the national government in constitutional interpretation. He is a recognized expert on the scope and exercise of national legislative power and the respect that Congressional action is owed from the federal judiciary, with leading articles on the subject published in the Cornell Law Review, George Washington Law Review, BYU Law Review, Notre Dame Journal of Legislation, and William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal.
Ronna Greff Schneider, Professor of Law, is an expert in constitutional law, with a focus on the First Amendment, and education law. She is a frequent speaker and commentator on issues involving constitutional law, education law, and educational policy and is the author of the two volume legal treatise, Education Law: First Amendment, Due Process and Discrimination Litigation (Thomson Reuters), and its annual supplements (available in print and online in Westlaw).
Sperino Cited by Iowa Supreme Court and Quoted in Washington Post
July 2014 has been a great month for Professor Sandra Sperino. In addition to having her work cited several times by the Iowa Supreme Court in cases involving federal and state employment law and employment discrimination, she was quoted in a Washington Post article about punishments federal whistleblowers may receive on their jobs. And, she also was published in the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Iowa Supreme Court Cites Sperino’s Work
The Iowa Supreme Court cited articles by Professor Sperino in two opinions issued this summer. The two cases are Goodpaster v. Schwan's Home Serv., Inc., 13-0010, 2014 WL 2900950 (Iowa June 27, 2014) and Pippen v. State, 12-0913, 2014 WL 3537028 (Iowa July 18, 2014).
In both cases, the Iowa Supreme Court decided whether it should interpret the Iowa Civil Rights Act to be consistent with federal law. In both cases, the Iowa Supreme Court used Sperino’s work to support its conclusion that Iowa state law should be interpreted independently from federal law.
Sperino’s articles discuss how fractured federal discrimination law has become over time. Under federal law, discrimination protections are found in three main statutes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Prior to the 1990s, the federal courts tended to read these three statutes consistently. If a phrase was interpreted one way under Title VII, the courts would interpret the same or similar phrase in the ADEA to have the same meaning. However, in recent cases, the Supreme Court has interpreted these statutes differently.
Sperino’s work explains how many states have a single anti-discrimination statute. It is difficult for state law to continue to follow federal law because federal law now approaches some questions differently, depending on whether the underlying claim is one for age discrimination, sex discrimination, or disability discrimination. In many states, claims for age, sex, and disability discrimination would all be brought under the same state statute.
Her work also explains that Congressional amendments to Title VII and the ADA were largely in response to Supreme Court decisions interpreting these statutes narrowly. State laws may use different words than the federal statutes. Many state laws also do not have the same history of narrow court interpretation followed by subsequent amendment. It is now difficult to read many state laws in tandem with federal law. As the Iowa Supreme Court noted: “Congressional reaction to a specific case decided by the United States Supreme Court does not shed light on the meaning of state law when there has been no comparable narrow state court precedent to stimulate a legislative override.” Pippen v. State, 12-0913, 2014 WL 3537028, at *15 (Iowa July 18, 2014).
Here are links to the cited articles:
- Sandra F. Sperino, Revitalizing State Employment Discrimination Law, 20 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 545, 546–64 (2013), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/results.cfm
- Sandra F. Sperino, Diminishing Deference: Learning Lessons from Recent Congressional Rejection of the Supreme Court's Interpretation of Discrimination Statutes, 33 Rutgers L. Rec. 40, 42–43 (2009), available at http://lawrecord.com/files/33_Rutgers_L_Rec_40.pdf.
Washington Post Article Quotes Sperino
Professor Sperino was also quoted in the August 4, 2014 Washington Post article “For whistleblowers, a bold move can be followed by one to department basement.” The article follows the case of former Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital employee Paula Pedene who alleges she was reassigned to a new position after complaining to higher-ups about mismanagement at the hospital. In the article Sperino talks about the challenges employees often face when attempting to bring this type of case to court.
- Here’s a link to the story: “For Whistleblowers, a bold move can be followed by one to department basement”.
Finally, her article Fakers and Floodgates, co-authored by Professor Suja Thomas, University of Illinois College of Law, appeared in print at 10 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 223 (2014).