College of Law Receives $103K Gift to Target Gender Equality
Cincinnati, OH—Thanks to an anonymous donor, future University of Cincinnati College of Law students committed to working toward gender equality will benefit from a new scholarship fund. This most recent planned gift of $103,000 is the third significant contribution to student scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year, enabling the law school to continue to attract, encourage, and support a diverse student body. This donation is the College’s first scholarship specifically dedicated to addressing gender barriers.
“We deeply appreciate this alumna’s gift,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law. “Recent headlines make crystal clear that much work remains to eliminate gender bias in society. This scholarship will enable the College to prepare the next generation of leaders who will dismantle the many ways traditional notions about men and women constrain all of us.”
The new scholarship will support students enrolled in the Joint Degree program in Law and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as those who plan to study or address gender barriers to full participation in society.
The College of Law provides multiple opportunities for students to explore the interaction of gender and the law. Its Joint Degree program launched in 1995, the first of its kind in the nation. It provides students a unique opportunity to engage in a rigorous, interdisciplinary, and feminist study of law and social justice and remains on the cutting edge in the studies of gender, sexuality, race, and social justice. Students also may explore gender issues through the College’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, which provides experiential learning, research, and other opportunities across disciplines to have an impact in this arena.
“This latest gift enhances the ability of the College of Law to support students seeking to make a difference,” said Thomas Giffin, Senior Director of Development at the law school.
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: April 9, 2018
From Working on the Human Rights Quarterly to Working Inside the International Criminal Court… Erin Rosenberg’s Winding Career
From January 8 through 12, Cincinnati Law had the pleasure of seeing one of its alumni, Erin Rosenberg (Class of ’11) return to teach JD students a specialized week-long course in international criminal law, a relatively new and fascinating field.
When Rosenberg graduated Cincinnati Law, she embarked on a different journey than the one she had intended to undertake when she began her legal studies. She recalls:
“I worked the decade before I came to law school in politics, the legislative side of things. I didn’t have any interest in international criminal law whatsoever. None. I [came] to the University of Cincinnati specifically for the Urban Morgan Institute.”
There, she had been selected as a Fellow, and she saw great opportunity in the exciting, meaningful summer internships offered by the Institute. She wanted to get involved with human rights worldwide, not criminals worldwide.
Rosenberg’s first internship was in the Republic of Botswana, where she worked for Botswana’s first female Judge, Unity Dow at the High Court. All was going according to plan, and she was gaining valuable experience in the sort of international law she intended to pursue professionally.
Her second summer, however, saw her initial internship plans fall through. Rosenberg was exploring potential alternatives when Professor Bert B. Lockwood suggested working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). She “didn’t have anything else set up,” so she took the suggestion, not yet realizing what a pivotal step this would be (she knew, of course, that it sounded pretty cool for a plan B).
Through this work, Rosenberg “fell in love with international criminal law.” She finished her JD, passed the bar exam, and immediately returned to the ICTY, where she worked for one more year.
She was then recruited to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where she has worked since 2012.
The ICC serves a different purpose than many might expect. Its functions are separate from those within the Human Right’s field, like dealing with shortages of food and water. Its purpose is instead to bring to justice and make reparations for international crimes. States must voluntarily agree to become member states, and at present, 123 from around the world have agreed to do so.
Rosenberg works as an Associate Legal Officer, which she explains is essentially the equivalent of a law clerk for a judge.
Almost immediately after she arrived at the ICC, the first reparations case in the court’s history had come to the Appeals Chamber. It was an entirely new type of case for the ICC, and it became Rosenberg’s responsibility to make sense of it. She recalls that she “developed a unique background and expertise in reparations simply because I was there.”
In 2015, Silvia Fernández became President of the ICC and asked Rosenberg to become her legal officer in the Appeals Division—a great honor and an immense responsibility. Fernández decided that the Trust Fund for Victims (a part of the ICC that serves to implement reparations) needed legal support. For the past two years, Rosenberg “has been on loan,” as she puts it, from the Appeals Division to the Trust Fund.
Rosenberg’s work at the Trust Fund has been to figure out how to take court ordered reparations and figure out how they can be implemented. Sometimes this task calls for creativity and communication.
For instance, in the case of Lubanga Dyilo, a man convicted for crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the trial chamber asked Rosenberg to explore “symbolic, commemorative restorations.” The trial chamber suggested a statue that would commemorate former child soldiers.
Rosenberg spoke with the community that had been plagued by Dyilo’s activities. They were not fond of the statue idea; in their culture, statues are only for heroes, not for victims or painful memories. They stated that they would prefer something interactive to something static. In consulting them, Rosenberg found that the community would prefer a center where former child soldiers could come together and heal through programs in which “art, dance, and painting give them a chance to tell their own stories.”
Rosenberg presented the community’s view to the Trial Chamber, and the center was built.
Rosenberg brings wisdom to UC Law students who are looking for opportunities abroad. Her course provided an introduction to international criminal law and also explored reparations, examining what they are in a criminal context and how they are implemented in that context.
She advises UC Law students not to assume that members of the European legal community will be familiar with UC or even the Urban Morgan Institute. Rather, she says, “If you say, ‘I worked on the Human Rights Quarterly,’ everyone knows what that is. When I was hired at the ICC and went to the interview, on the bookshelf of the person who was interviewing me was the most recent copy of HRQ.” Rosenberg insists that if you take advantage of the opportunity to work for the journal, read the
articles, and attend the dinners, more doors will open up for you. “It is one of the most well-known and well-respected publications in the field.”
By: Pete Mills, communication graduate assistant
Giving Back With Your Time & Talents
For double Bearcat Tom Cuni (BA 1969, JD 1975), the practice of law is about more than bringing home a paycheck.
“People who come to law have this imperative to help people and make a living,” says Cincinnati Law alum Tom Cuni.
“There’s a good deal of satisfaction in doing that.” Cuni has had a long, successful career, primarily spent representing small businesses. As a partner at Cuni, Ferguson & LeVay Co., LPA, he represented clients in 600+ civil cases with approximately 100 going to trial to either the bench or a jury. These days he no longer represents clients in his legal practice, but he does volunteer his time for work in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court along with helping local non-profits and mentoring law students.
Getting Started on the Volunteer Train
Cuni started volunteering at Cincinnati Law a few years ago when, speaking at a Coffee Corner hosted by the Center for Professional Development, he learned the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) needed supervising attorneys. “I thought it’d be a good fit,” he commented.
Cuni’s decades of small firm experience and background in representing small businesses made him a great fit for ECDC. He spent several semesters supervising and mentoring clinic students, even working over the summer with them at the Hamilton County Business Center and Mortar, a local entrepreneurship lab.
“I really have a good time,” he said.
In addition to supervising, he was worked with the ECDC to bring legal seminars to the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati; he also plans to assist with organizing a seminar for Mortar clients later this year.
“The Clinic has a remarkable learning curve,” he said. “You can see a significant difference in the students from the start to the end of the semester. That’s one of reasons I love volunteering to work with law students, especially at the start of their careers.
“Besides, I like being busy,” Cuni, who jokingly refers to himself as ‘semi-retired,’ said.
He shared that he likes to be involved. In fact, for most of his professional life, he has been involved in some form of volunteer work, starting with the local Bar Association in the 90s. This led to position as a trustee on the board and, eventually, to the position as Cincinnati Bar Association Board president. “This took a good deal of my time, but I realized my business did very well when I was very busy.” He acknowledged he learned to manage his time efficiently and make decisions quickly. He didn’t have time to waste.
But as Cuni left the role of board president, he was approached by three representatives involved with ProKids, a non-profit organization which provides help for abused, neglected, or dependent children who are involved in proceedings in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. They invited him to bring his skills and talents to that board and organization. Now, he spends two to three days per week volunteering as an attorney for ProKids’ Guardians ad Litem who look after the best interest of the children in the court system.
“I started as a litigator and I created my job all over. It’s just for free now,” he says.
“I rarely see the kids I help. I deal with the guardian ad litem. A good amount of the time, though, the kids really benefit. I like to believe that their lives are changed for the better in part because of the work that I do.”
Connecting the Dots; Paying it Forward
After a hearing one day, Magistrate Scheherazade Washington spoke with him about the need for more lawyers to work in this this practice area. “I asked her ‘What does this mean to me? Am I supposed to do something?’ The magistrate smiled and said yes.”
After getting some good advice on the subject, Cuni helped bring together Tracy Cook, the Executive Director of ProKids and a UC law alum; Verna Williams, now interim dean of the College; and Kimberly Helfrich, the Director of the Guardian ad Litem Division of the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office to talk about what they could do to start addressing this issue.
The result was a Juvenile Law class which takes students through a typical juvenile court case. “I think the class was very successful and I hope it continues,” Cuni said.
Not content to volunteer in just these areas, Cuni also is working with ECDC Director Lew Goldfarb on a new project that would expand legal services in the community. “It is an interesting project we’re developing,” he said. More details will be coming soon!
For Cuni, volunteering isn’t just about doing what he feels is right. It also has practical implications.
“People hire who they know. Join community organizations. Meet people. Talk with them. Volunteer your time and skills. It doesn’t immediately result in business, but over time people will get to know you and will hire you—because they know who you are (and have worked alongside you)” says Cuni.
“You can find real satisfaction from that part of your life [volunteering]. Personally, I know I’ve helped with projects that have value and that I’ve helped to influence. You get the sense you’re helping to make positive changes.
“And that’s a good feeling.”
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
Six Years and Growing: An update on the LLM Program
Six years ago, the College of Law launched its first master’s degree program, the LLM in the US Legal System. It is a program for students who have earned a law degree outside of the United States and now seek graduate level education in in US law.
Nora Burke Wagner, Assistant Dean for International Student Programs and LLM Director, sat down with Updates to discuss the program’s first years, the successes of graduates, and its future.
Q: How has the LLM Program developed over the last six years?
A: We had imagined a diverse program that would bring many different backgrounds and perspectives to the College of Law—both in and out of classes. We’ve definitely been successful in this area. We’ve brought the world to UC Law.
The first year, we started with five or six students, and the growth has been steady. Since then, we’ve enrolled 60 students from 28 different countries, so we’ve actually exceeded our own expectations. Moving forward, we’re turning our attention to the Middle East and looking at firming up partnerships in Africa, which will open doors to many more international attorneys.
Q: How does the program collaborate with other universities?
A: We have at least a half dozen partner universities in a wide variety of countries, and we’re working on creating additional partnerships. We’re already seeing new opportunities opening for law students in terms of travel and overseas internships.
We’re also seeing new opportunities for faculty. They’ve been able to teach abroad and conduct research at partner universities. For example, Professor Jennifer Bergeron delivered a lecture on the innocence movement at the University of Graz in Austria earlier this year. Professor Lynn Bai gave a series of lectures on US business law topics at the University of Lorraine in France. And, Professor Marjorie Aaron had the opportunity to lecture at the University of Bordeaux, one of the top universities in France. (Professor Ronna Schneider will be lecturing there this fall.)
Professor Ildiko Szegedy-Maszak from Javeriana University, a very highly regarded university in Bogotá, Colombia, taught international trade to our students this year. She also lectured to the broader legal and business communities.
We’ve been able to launch our first dual-degree program with Javeriana University. This arrangement allows students who are in the fifth and final year of their bachelor’s of law program to come here and spend one year also earning their LLM. I’m excited to share that this year we have our first students from Javeriana. It’s great for our LLM program, because it brings several highly qualified students in each year, and hailing from Latin America, they further broaden our diversity. It is particularly exciting and promising given the existing business relationships between Cincinnati and Bogotá.
Q: What sorts of places are alumni of the LLM program now?
A: Students come to us with wide ranging goals, so unsurprisingly, their lives and careers after graduation run the gamut. We’ve had students from Africa who return home to pursue careers in academia. We’ve had students who stayed in North America and are pursuing additional degrees, both here and in Canada. We’ve also had students from Europe and the Middle East who have returned home and landed dream jobs with big companies or teaching.
We also have graduates working in Cincinnati area law offices. We think we’ll see more of this as the local legal community meets and gets to know our students. LLM students are attorneys in their home countries. Many of them have wide-ranging professional experiences. If you find yourself in need of technical language or cultural expertise, let us connect you with one of them.
Q: What are some plans for future development and growth?
A: Every year our recent graduates are helping us forge new networks, establish new contacts, reach out to new sets of students, and create new relationships with additional universities. Because of them we have a whole new set of opportunities, allowing us to grow not only in terms of our general international work and partnership opportunities , but also our recruitment efforts.
It’s hard to say exactly what the next six years will have in store, but if the last six are any indication, we know there’s always a host of opportunities right around the corner.
College of Law Receives $125,000 Gift for Student Scholarships
Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law has received a $125,000 gift targeted specifically at the College’s scholarship program. The donor, who has requested anonymity, said his donation reflects the significant role the College played in his success, giving him the tools to excel in the legal and business worlds.
“Gifts of this level represent a powerful vote of confidence in the institution,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean at the College of Law. “We could not be the exceptional institution that we are without this kind of support, which will ensure that we continue to attract and retain an academically talented and diverse student body.”
In today’s highly competitive law school environment, scholarships are a priority for students and for the law school. “We are fortunate to have such a strong supporter,” said Tom Giffin, Senior Director of Development at the College. “This alum’s experience at the College of Law made him excited and happy to be able to ‘pay it forward’. ”
The scholarship will be awarded to a student who “demonstrates exceptional ability, promise and/or need, as well as having demonstrated the highest ethical standards.”
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 of educating and inspiring leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Its ranks include many distinguished alumni, including a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a9:1 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.
A Note from LLM Grad Natia Mezvrishvilli
Dear Professor Williams,
I hope you remember me. First of all thanks for all wonderful opportunities UC law school gave to me throughout the year. Each professor I met at the university was new experience for a student coming from different system of law and completely different system of high education.
I am writing this e-mail to express my gratitude towards school, professors, students and especially professors - Lassiter and Moore. Professor Lassiter ensured my smooth transition from Civil Law to Common Law system, inspired me by his teaching methods, friendly and professional attitude toward student who was experiencing serious difficulties in the process of learning. The assistance Professor Moore provided is immeasurable. She connected me to various professionals at Prosecutor’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and etc. which was extremely helpful for practicing lawyer.
As you are aware, Georgian criminal justice system is based on codes, thus hundreds of Supreme Court cases at the beginning of semester was the toughest thing could happen to me. However, with the assistance and almost constant encouragement of professor Lassiter, that I was able to succeed, I managed to get highest grades in the most difficult subjects, including his Criminal Procedure. We started working on a project, encompassing comparative analysis on Georgian-American Criminal Procedure. Although I could not finish it due to my heavy workload at school, I have succeeded back home with respect to teaching future lawyers. I am sharing this news being confident it might please you as a dean and representative of the law school as this particular success is mainly triggered by Professor Lassiter’s encouragement to share American experience with Georgian colleagues and impact of wonderful professors of UC law school as a whole.
I will be teaching Criminal Procedure of Georgia in two leading Georgian Universities this fall. I used to teach before coming to the UC law school, but what makes more sense now is that I will use American methods of teaching, the one I learned from Professors Lassiter, Moore, Bryant, Bilionis and others. There will be something innovative in the Syllabus of Georgian Criminal Procedure and for Georgian law students on behalf of UC law school. I am considering to pursue PHD in Constitutional Law - the area I would never imagine to step in. This interest and decision was greatly conditioned by Professor Lassiter’s advice to work on constitutional aspects of American and Georgian Criminal Procedure… and by fascinating Constitutional Law courses taught by Professors Bilionis and Bryant. Professor Moore's way of teaching made me reconsider the way my department defines criminal justice policy within the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. I hope I can manage to establish new approaches in policy making, which will ultimately ensure the effective functioning of Georgian criminal justice system.
Hope I did not take much of your time. Thanks once again. … My gratitude belongs to school and all professors. … (The) experience and knowledge I gained in UC law school will definitely influence development of Georgian Prosecution Service and education system.
Natia Mezvrishvili, LLM (‘17)
Head of the Department of Supervision Over
Prosecutorial Activities and Strategic Development
Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, Tbilisi, Gorgasali str. 24.
Martha Stimson – At 100, Still Never Afraid
While interviewing Martha Stimson’43 at her home in Cincinnati, it quickly became apparent that she isn’t much different from other Cincinnati Law alums. She enjoys recalling her days of strenuous study, the constant worry about her grades, the professors that impacted her life, and the lunches she shared with her best friend before heading back to class – memories that all grads have.
However, one discovers Martha is unique from her fellow alums because when she says, “back in the day,” she’s talking over 74 years ago—from 1940 to ’43.
What was happening in the world at that time? It was the height of the Second World War, the global war that involved over 100 million people and 30 countries. Nazi Germany’s attempt to invade Moscow was beginning to fail. The Star of David was required wear by all Jews in the Netherlands and Belgium; Jews in other Nazi-controlled countries had already been forced to wear it. And, the Japanese naval advance in the Pacific would soon be halted thanks to the American victory at the Battle of Midway.
It was also a period of time when Martha, living at home, was deciding where to submit her applications to law schools.
Interestingly, Martha toured Italy and Germany as World War II continued to explode. Asked if she was ever afraid during her excursion held while the world appeared to be separating at the seams, Martha said, “I was a little scared. It was a period where all the homes had black curtains.”
She quickly added, “But when I communicated with my parents, I always told them that I was alright. Never afraid.”
Making the Case for Cincinnati Law
Martha cut her trip short due to the war. Soon, however, she was accepted at Cincinnati Law. Martha, and one other female, Dale Case, whose father was a professor at the University of Cincinnati, comprised the women in the Class of 1943. The two became fast friends and often ate lunch together between classes. Martha shares, “There was very little social life.”
Nine men and the two women made up the class. But did she or Dale ever consider themselves “trailblazers for women in the legal field”? The humble, soft spoken Martha politely shakes her head no. Not one for protest marches and bullhorn parades, her inroads were made with a quiet dignity, the daily pursuit of excellence, and a confidence in her classroom work.
“I enjoyed law school,” Martha softly states. “Some people were surprised I enrolled and I was told, ‘Only men do that.’ That is what men said then and that is what they always will say.”
Though it would take another 37 years before Cincinnati Law had its first tenured female faculty member, Martha reports there was never any pushback from her instructors.
“The professors were glad to see you in class. They were a valuable part of your life,” she fondly recalled.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1916, Martha’s path took her through Long Island to Cleveland, Ohio and finally to Cincinnati in 1937 following the infamous Ohio River flood that left over a million people homeless from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois.
Later, an aunt urged her to apply to prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts, which she did. In today’s competitive nature of law school acceptance and emphasis on LSAT scores, Martha shyly states that her excellent undergraduate grades at Smith were credentials enough for her to gain entry into UC Law.
She can still recite the names of numerous faculty members that taught her at UC. In an earlier interview, Martha is quoted as saying, “Dean (Frank) Rowley made us work hard and toe the line.”
A Professional Career Kicks Off
Martha was in one class taught by the legendary Murray Seasongood. The, “Father of Cincinnati’s Charter form of Government,” Seasongood took on what many called the nation’s worst governed city in 1923, and ignited a reform movement that later led Cincinnati to be hailed as the country’s best-run municipality. It was Professor Seasongood that asked Martha to come to work at the Paxton & Seasongood Law Firm upon her graduation.
Through her work at Paxton & Seasongood, Martha met Si Lazarus, who started the law department at Federated Department Stores, which is now known as Macy’s Inc. Federated Department Stores operated more than 400 department stores and 157 specialty stores in 37 states. “Mr. Lazarus got permission from Mr. Seasongood for me to come to work for him,” Martha says.
Martha proudly states, “Everything I ever accomplished professionally was because of my law degree.”
As for her dear friend Dale Case, she passed away over 20 years ago due to cancer. Martha still communicates with Dale’s daughter on a regular basis
Martha’s son, David, followed in her mother’s footsteps, graduating from Cincinnati Law in 1977. David is now Senior Counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP, in Rochester, New York, and reports, “I was allowed to make my own choices with law school. No pressure from Mom. But I knew where I was going.”
Still Engaging with the College of Law
On November 4, 2017, the College of Law will be hosting an alumni event: Celebration 2017: ReConnect. ReEngage. ReIgnite.—an opportunity to renew relationships with the law school and with other alumni. As with most gatherings of this type, it is a sure bet that memories will be recounted and improved upon… and perhaps even stretched a bit due to the passage of time.
However, if 100-year-old Martha Stimson attends – and she certainly still may physically – the “youngsters” of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s will probably discover a new definition of the phrase, “back in the day at UC Law.”
- By Thomas W. Giffin, Director of Development
Former OIP Fellow Continues to Fight for the Innocent
When attorney John Kennedy’s indigent client was acquitted of murder last year, his greatly relieved defendant turned to him and asked if it felt good to represent an innocent person. The answer was a little hard for Kennedy to articulate.
Keeping the innocent free is the highest goal for the former OIP fellow. “But I always have a fear of an innocent man going to prison if I fail,” says Kennedy, JD ’10. “It would be my fault.”
That’s a heavy weight to carry on one’s shoulders for an entire career, but Kennedy is exactly where he wants to be — in the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. He joined the office in 2011 soon after graduating. It was his dream job, one he began longing for as an Ohio Innocence Project fellow.
The New Richmond, Ohio, native decided to become a lawyer after his first year as a political-science major at Miami University in Ohio. As he began checking out law schools, he was leaning toward Oregon’s Lewis and Clark Law School when he attended a prospective-student open house at UC College of Law. He was snagged immediately. “I was attracted to UC at that open house,” he says. “There was so much warmth and happiness in the students that I decided this is where I wanted to go. At Lewis and Clark, there was no enthusiasm. Everyone seemed down.”
Furthermore, the Ohio Innocence Project also tugged at his heart. A promotional video shown that weekend contained a short segment about Clarence Elkins, OIP’s first exoneration. “I remember sitting there and thinking how amazing that was.” The atmosphere, the students and the OIP video were enough for Kennedy to ditch any thoughts about Oregon. His OIP fellowship a couple of years later sold him on the branch of law he wanted for his career — criminal defense, especially for indigent defendants.
The fellowship, he says, was “very good — reading through transcripts and hearing from inmates, seeing the glaring discrepancies in cases.” It was also very frustrating, he admits. “I would read transcripts and say to myself, ‘Don’t you think that should be questioned? As a defense attorney, you don’t think you should fight over that? Aren’t you going to zealously represent your client?’ ”
Time constraints were another frustration, a common one among OIP fellows. “Everything took so long,” he says. “It was so difficult to get certain things done. A couple of my big cases hit dead end after dead end.
“Ed Emerick was one of those cases. We visited him in prison in Toledo. We went to police stations. We searched evidence rooms. There were spots of blood he wanted tested, but we just couldn’t find them.
“I believe he was innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, but there were no options left. That’s the kind the frustration that I sometimes felt in the process.”
Lengthy timeframes demoralize defendants, he adds. “Ed was very frustrated the first time we saw him. He felt like previous fellows weren’t hearing him.” Kennedy and his partner won Emerick over with their empathy, but in the end, they had no more success than their predecessors.
Fortunately, Kennedy had greater success as an OIP fellow while working on the Wally Zimmer case; Zimmer got released early. But that didn’t happen until years after Kennedy had graduated and others continued working on the case. The end result met everyone’s hope, but the interim required great patience. Frustrations have followed him into his public defender work. “I enjoy being here,” he says, “but it has its trying days, too.”
One of the annoying parts of the job is knowing that some people call pubic defenders, “public pretenders.” “It's frustrating that the public believes public defenders are bad attorneys - that they do not effectively represent their clients,” he says. He believes his profession has grown more hard-working and passionate in Hamilton County over the last few years.
“In my first six months, I hadn’t seen anyone do a jury trial. Now, as an office, we had 16 jury trials by September of this year. Many people are winning them. In the past four days, we’ve had three wins.
“We’re expected to fight for our clients. Things are happening now that are unprecedented. In many other areas, indigent public defense is lacking, but we are changing that.” An example of the Hamilton County Public Defenders’ commitment to their clients is the fact that Kennedy got a client acquitted for murder in May. Joshua Maxton, 26, had been indicted for shooting and killing an 18-year-old girl who was riding in the front passenger seat of a car in North Avondale.
Kennedy retells the story:
“Joshua was walking down the street, when a car with three people in it stopped and turned around, and the driver called out to Joshua. After talking with someone in the car, Joshua walked away, and a shot was fired. It hit the back passenger window, killing the passenger in the front seat — killing an innocent teenage girl who was with the wrong people.
“The passenger in the back seat and the driver didn’t see who did it, so they assumed last person they saw — Joshua —was the one who shot.
“Later, the driver rode by the scene in a police car, and he pointed out Joshua. The police then picked him up. They tested his clothes and his hands for gun-shot residue. Everything came back negative. DNA was also taken from items at the scene, and there was no match to Joshua.
“Within two days, three people had called the police to say that someone else had committed the murder. Two of them had witnessed the shooting and gave the police the shooter’s name. A third person at the scene described what the shooter was wearing, where he went afterward and identified the shooter by his size, skin tone and what he was wearing. None of the characteristics matched Joshua’s. A fourth person came forward about four months later and also gave the police the shooter’s name.
“Yet the police didn’t follow up on any of the calls.”
At the grand jury hearing, Maxton was indicted on eight charges — murder, aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault and a weapons-while-under-disability charge. He was placed in the Hamilton County Justice Center with bond set at $1 million.
At the trial, Kennedy presented evidence from recorded interviews and lab results obtained from bottles found at the scene. The jury decided that Maxton was not guilty. Getting an acquittal on a murder charge was a relief for Kennedy. He hopes it helps to boost public confidence in their office and in other public defenders around the country. One aspect of his job that appeals to him is the variety of the work. “It’s different every day,” he says, “new cases, new issues, new people to deal with. It’s ever changing.” But in the end, it’s his attitude that makes all the difference: “It’s something I am very passionate about. You can really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Written by Deb Rieselman
Cincinnati School of Law alumnus honored grad named to Chambers USA list
TULSA, Okla., July 7, 2017 – Cincinnati School of Law graduate Oliver Howard (J.D. 1979) was recently named by Chambers USA to its list of Leaders in Their Field. Howard, who practices law with the law firm of GableGotwals, was honored for his work in Litigation - General Commercial (Band 2).
The qualities on which Chambers USA rankings are assessed include technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, diligence, commitment and other qualities most valued by the client. Interviews are conducted with peers outside of the firm and clients in order to determine inclusion and rankings.
Howard was one of 15 GableGotwals attorneys to receive this ranking. The firm was also recognized as a Leading Firm in the areas of Energy and Natural Resources (Band 2), General Commercial Litigation (Band 2) and Corporate/Commercial (Band 3). It also was added this year as “Other Noted Firm” in the area of Native American Law.
GableGotwals is a full-service law firm of more than 90 attorneys representing a diversified client base in Oklahoma, the Southwest and across the nation. The firm has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas.