Cincinnati Law Launches Academic Year; LLM Program Grows with First Students from Dual Degree Program
Cincinnati, OH— The 2017-2018 academic year opened as the College of Law welcomed the next generation of corporate attorneys, social justice leaders, immigration rights
activists, prosecutors and public defenders. The Class of 2020 includes 97 JD students and 17 LLM attorney students enrolled as of August 21, 2017.
The first-year students represent 48 universities. Most (55%) are Ohio residents; 45% are from out of state, coming from 18 states, including California, Texas, Utah, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The class has spent significant time living or studying abroad in places like Italy, Thailand, Armenia, India, France, Mexico, Belgium and Oman. They were, literally, born all over the world: in Canada, Ghana, the Republic of South Korea, Belarus and China.
A Look at their Backgrounds
Interestingly, the class includes native speakers of German, Belarusian/Russian, Japanese, Hindi, and Armenian/Russian.
Though many are recent graduates from undergraduate institutions, some come to law school after careers in other fields. One worked as a life insurance agent, a paralegal, a global IT specialist for Amazon, and a finance and human resources manager at a New York City start-up.
They have a wide range of hobbies. In addition to reading, they enjoy hiking, competing in mud runs, competitive Pokémon trading cards, home brewing, golf, and animal rescues. They also engage in baseball card trading, playing archery, studying languages, playing squash, running marathons, skiing, and cooking.
Law School Welcomes 17 LLM Students
The LLM (master’s degree) program for internationally-trained attorneys and law graduates continues to grow. Now in its sixth year, the LLM program boasts 17 attorney students, including several individuals who have returned for additional training.
This year’s participants come from 11 countries: Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Kuwait, Italy, Nepal, Turkey, Colombia, Venezuela, Uganda, Jamaica, and China. The professional careers of the attorney students include positions as a manager at the National Pensions Regulatory Authority in Ghana; teaching assistant in law at the University of Ha'il (UoH) as well as a case investigator for the Saudi Arabian Industrial Development Fund; a civil and criminal law attorney in Italy; and an assistant specialist at the Development Bank of Turkey, focusing on international loan agreements. This year’s class also includes the first two students earning their LLM via our dual agreement with the University of Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia.
Their areas of interest are varied and include antitrust law, business law, criminal law, international law, corporate law, and human rights law.
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.
Law Students' Work on US Supreme Court Case Pays Off; Brief Cited by Highest Court in the Land
Early in 2017, first-year students at the University of Cincinnati College of Law were invited to research a high-stakes question that was pending in the United States Supreme Court: when the prosecution chooses to pursue the death penalty against a defendant who has mental illness but cannot afford to hire counsel, does the defendant have the right to a mental health expert who is independent from the prosecution?
Since 1985, capital defense lawyers across the country have obtained such assistance as a matter of right under the Court’s landmark decision Ake v. Oklahoma. Nevertheless, the Alabama courts held there was no such right. In McWilliams v. Dunn, nationally-renowned attorney Steven Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights asked the Supreme Court to correct that error.
The students jumped at the chance to research the expert appointment practices that have existed across the country since Ake was decided. Their research supported an amicus curiae brief filed by the National Association for Public Defense and other co-amici in McWilliams. Professor Janet Moore supervised the students in her role as chair of NAPD’s Amicus Committee, which she shares with Professor Jennifer Kinsley of NKU-Chase College of Law.
The students’ work paid off. On June 19, 2017, the Court ruled 5-4 that Ake clearly established the capital defendant’s right to a mental health expert who is sufficiently available to the defense and independent from the prosecution to effectively “assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.” The students were thrilled to see Justice Breyer’s majority opinion cite the NAPD brief as showing that the majority of jurisdictions have already adopted this principle.
In reflecting on the experience, many contributing students found it to be not only a valuable learning opportunity but a highlight of their first year at UC Law.
“Assisting Professor Moore with research for the McWilliams brief was one of the highlights of my 1L year,” reflected rising second year law student Francesca Boland. “When I started law school, I never dreamed that before the first year was over I would provide research support for a Supreme Court brief. This was a fantastic opportunity to put my new skills into action and to get a taste of real lawyering. I am thrilled that the brief played a role in the Supreme Court win!”
David Wovrosh expressed similar sentiments. “It was pretty surreal to see our work cited by the highest court in the land,” he said. “The research really tossed the principles we learn in the classroom into the thresher that is the practical application of law. It was an invaluable learning experience. I could never have imagined having access to such profound and impactful experiences my very first year!”
Marissa Lee also was enthusiastic about her experience: "I'm incredibly appreciative of Professor Moore for giving us the opportunity to do research for an NAPD amicus brief for the Supreme Court. My work allowed me to collaborate with my professor and fellow students outside of class, and my work had a sense of significance. We understood the importance of the case to the defendant in this case and to lawyers representing indigent defendants across the country."
The students’ energetic response to the opportunity offered in the McWilliams case led to the formation of the College of Law’s Bearcat-NAPD Amicus Team. Students continue to actively assist Professors Moore and Kinsley with research and drafting as well as with the many administrative tasks required to conduct effective appellate advocacy. The team is therefore well-positioned to continue following the McWilliams case, which was remanded for further proceedings, and to assist in the many other cases across the country that raise questions about whether courts are enforcing the bedrock constitutional guarantees that the Supreme Court emphasized in Ake: “a fair opportunity to present [a] defense” and “to participate meaningfully in a judicial proceeding in which . . . liberty is at stake” – in short, “[m]eaningful access to justice.”
Connected: The Unique Ties of Cincinnati’s Mayoral Race
Forecasting election outcomes can be tricky business, but here’s one prediction guaranteed to come true: The next mayor of Cincinnati will have strong ties to UC Law.
That’s because among the three leading candidates in 2017’s mayoral race, two are UC Law graduates, and one cofounded a major UC Law initiative.
Incumbent John Cranley, who’s running for a second term as mayor, helped start the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law in 2003, serving as administrative director until 2006. Candidate Yvette Simpson, currently in her second term as a city councilwoman, received her JD at UC in 2004. Former candidate Rob Richardson Jr., who recently completed a nine-year stint on UC’s Board of Trustees, graduated from UC Law in 2005.
Cranley, Richardson, and Simpson faced off in a primary election on May 2. The top two vote-getters—Cranley and Simpson—will now compete in the Nov. 7 general election.
Besides their UC Law connection, the three mayoral candidates shared many other things in common. They’re all lawyers, Democrats, and natives of Cincinnati. They also hold similar views on core civic issues, such as improving public transit, helping families get out of poverty, and partnering with regional institutions such as the University of Cincinnati. Yet each followed a unique path to UC Law, and eventually to this three-way race for mayor.
Going to UC might have seemed like a no-brainer for Richardson, whose parents, aunt, and sisters all attended the school. But his struggles with learning disabilities as a young student made the path to higher education seem less than certain.
“I wasn't a kid that naturally got school. I struggled pretty early on,” he recalled. “Because of that, and because I was probably bored by school, I didn't do as well taking the tests. That pretty much ruled out college for me.” One conversation with a teacher particularly discouraged Richardson as an eighth-grade student. “I told her I wanted to prepare for college. She told me, ‘Why? You’re not going to do that. You’re going to fail.’ That's a crushing conversation to have.”
Fortunately, Richardson’s mother countered his teacher’s message with these words of encouragement for her son: “People are going to have lower expectations of you. Some because you're an African American man, too. Don't let yourself be defined by anybody's narrow expectations. You define yourself for yourself, by yourself.”
Richardson eventually studied electrical engineering at UC, earning his B.S. degree in 2002. At that point, he knew he didn’t want to pursue a career as an engineer, though he had learned a great deal about solving problems. He decided law school was his next logical step, because “legal training teaches you how to identify problems, how to look at them from multiple sides,” he explained. “If you're going to be in public office, it helps to understand how policy, how the law works, and then you can change it.”
Soon after earning his JD, Richardson was appointed to the UC Board of Trustees, where he recently led the search for the 30th President, Dr. Neville Pinto, and advocated for systemic, top-down reforms to UC police policy following the killing of Samuel Dubose. Currently, he’s a marketing construction representative, and serves as Of Counsel with the law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, specializing in labor and employment and securities litigation
In his first run for political office, Richardson hoped to take a fresh approach to governing the city. “We know that the best ideas often come from the people and places that have been ignored by the power brokers in City Hall,” he said. “It’s our responsibility, as leaders in our city, to be stewards and partners in innovation, inclusion, and creativity.”
Simpson’s journey began at the age of eight, when she pulled a book from the library shelf. Of all the titles in the “when I grow up” series, she chose the one about growing up to be a lawyer. Pictured on the cover, she recalled, was a man arguing his case before a judge. “And I said: ‘That’s gonna be me, except I’ll be wearing a skirt.’”
Simpson’s grandmother and other mentors encouraged her to stick with her dream, even as the young girl’s family struggled to make ends meet and many friends and family members dropped out of school or fell prey to criminal activity. She ended up with a full scholarship to Miami University, where she became the first in her family to graduate from college.
She made her younger self “very proud” by earning her law degree at UC. As a student, Simpson co-chaired the Student Legal Education Committee, was an executive member of the Moot Court board (and was inducted to the Order of the Barristers), served on the honor council, was a senior articles editor for the Human Rights Quarterly, and worked as an associate with both Baker & Hostetler LLP and Frost Brown Todd LLC.
Having gotten “a taste of leadership and involvement” at UC, Simpson said, “I loved it.” Just a few years later, in 2011, she was elected to City Council. Now she hopes to become the first African-American woman mayor in the city's history.
The classic novel that inspired Cranley to become a lawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, centers around an attorney who helps free an innocent man. Years later, while working as a lawyer and serving on Cincinnati City Council, Cranley wanted to bring that kind of legal heroism to Cincinnati.
“I’d seen these Innocence Projects pop up in other states and I saw that there was none in Ohio and it would be great for UC,” Cranley said. He and his friend Professor Mark Godsey founded the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law. Cranley ran the organization for its first few years. In one case, he successfully argued before the Ohio Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District to overturn Christopher Lee Bennett’s conviction of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Today, OIP is known as one of the most active and successful Innocence Projects in the world, and to date has secured the release of 25 individuals on grounds of innocence who together served more than 450 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
“It’s an amazing success story,” Cranley said. “There’s no question that it gets back to the tradition of wanting to see the world better and to deal with injustices and build a more just society.” He took office as mayor of Cincinnati in December 2013, and hopes to be re-elected for a second term this fall.
By: Susan Wenner Jackson
Published: June 1, 2017
KMK Attorneys Named Leaders in their Fields
The following KMK Law attorneys have been selected for inclusion as “Leaders in Their Fields” in the 2016 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers.
Jim Burke, 1978
Joe Callow, 1993
Bob Coletti, 1982
Mike Scheier, 1991
Read the complete press release here.
Cincinnati Law Celebrates its 184th Hooding
Cincinnati Law celebrated the accomplishments of its graduates on May 13, 2017. Led by Interim Dean Verna Williams, 84 degrees were conferred, including 14 LLM degrees. Take a look at a few pictures from the ceremony and celebration.
Michael Solimine Awarded 2017 Provost Faculty Career Award
Cincinnati, OH—In a career spanning three decades, Michael E. Solimine, JD, has built a firm career defined by a constant devotion to teaching, research and serving the academic and professional communities.
Over the course of his career he has developed a remarkable reputation as a researcher in the field of law, earning the distinction of being one of the most cited civil procedure professors in the United States for the last half decade. His work has seen publication across more than 70 law review articles, book chapters and book reviews.
His scholarship has been influential in the nation’s courts, with his works having been cited by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a Supreme Court of the United States case. As a prominent figure in the College of Law, his colleagues and students have taken note of his constant professionalism, kindness and his role as a champion for the college’s core values of collegiality, due process and transparency.
Holding the title of Donald P. Klekamp Professor of Law, he has been known to his students as a professor who can translate “legalese into English” as he has transformed seemingly abstract concepts into comprehensible lessons.
He has served as a valuable mentor for the legal professionals under his tutelage, with his immense knowledge of all forms of federal courts and civil procedure making him an invaluable research source for his many students. In addition to his research and teaching service, he has shown a strong commitment to serving his community, helping newer faculty members as a key figure on the RPT committee and multiple decanal review boards and appearing as a consistent staple of the Faculty Senate.
Congratulations to Professor Michael Solimine!
College of Law Celebrates its Graduates at the 184th Hooding Ceremony
Cincinnati Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at the 184th Hooding Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
Cincinnati, OH – The University of Cincinnati College of Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at its 184th Hooding Ceremony. Interim Dean Verna L. Williams will lead the ceremonies, where 84 degrees will be conferred. This number includes 70 juris doctor degrees and 15 LLM (master’s) degrees.
The Hooding keynote speaker will be Robert E. Richardson Jr. ’05, Of Counsel at Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings. He recently ran a campaign for mayor of Cincinnati. A double Bearcat, Richardson served as the university’s Student Body President, was awarded the UC Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, and established the first college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the tristate. Later, he was appointed to the university’s Board of Trustees and was unanimously elected chairperson of the board in 2016, the youngest person to be elected to this position in the university’s history. His term has now ended.
This year’s recipient of the 2017 Nicholas Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award is the Hon. Marilyn Zayas ‘97. This annual award recognizes law school graduates for their outstanding contributions to society. Prior to joining the First Appellate District of Ohio, Judge Zayas served her community as an attorney for nearly 20 years. Judge Zayas, who was born in New York to immigrant parents, earned a degree in computer science at City University of New York, training which helped her land a job with Procter & Gamble here in Cincinnati. But she carried with her a passion for law, born of her experiences as a teen who saw how the legal system worked when her parents divorced and she grew concerned about the custody and care of her younger brother.
She left her job as a P&G tech manager to pursue her law degree. After graduation, she spent time as a public defender before opening her own firm, MZD Law, in 2000. She now serves on the board of Beech Acres Parenting Center.
For more information about the ceremony, visit the Hooding web pages.
Cincinnati Law’s Trial Practice Team Advances to National Competition
3Ls Chris Diedling and Rob Jones took home their second win at the regional TYLA Trial Practice competition, putting them in contention for a national win.
Cincinnati, OH - Cincinnati Law’s Trial Practice Team recently competed at the regional Texas Young Lawyer’s Association competition. For the second year in a row, the team successfully advanced to the national level. Third year law students Chris Diedling and Rob Jones are headed to Fort Worth, Texas this week (March 20 – 26) to compete against 14 other regional winners.
“It should be exciting,” said Chris Diedling recently about the upcoming competition. “Last year we felt like the first win was maybe a bit of luck, but we’ve won regionals two years in a row now. We deserve to be there.”
“We’re going to do better this year,” added Rob Jones, “second time around.”
Though they seem confident, Diedling and Jones are not taking the victory for granted. Working alongside a trio of dedicated coaches and collaborative practice with the 2L trial team, they are more than prepared to take their skills to the national level. With long weekly practices, lengthy conference calls with coaches, and tiresome travelling, the entire team shows true dedication among their busy schedules and heavy course work.
“We’ve got some great coaches, Bill Markovits, Zach Schaengold, and Bill Blessings, who basically drop everything to help us do this,” said Jones. “The amount of work and preparation they put into this is mind-blowing, they really help us prepare.
“Specifically, we would do practice once a week. The last couple of weeks we ramped it up to two per week,” said Jones, “but we would also do conference calls between practices with our coaches, and those could be pretty lengthy. The 2L team—Kalisa Mora, Jefferson Kisor, and Jonathan Walker—were good. They’ve helped us immensely in preparing and bouncing ideas off of each other. Practice went for four hours. It was mind-numbing at points, and they were a good laugh. They kept it fun”
All in all, there is more to the trial practice team than tiresome competition with gruesome preparation. Students are benefiting from all of their hard work, whether they win or lose. The practical experience, according to Diedling and Jones, is one the most helpful exercises they can participate in to better their future in law.
“You can only learn so much in a classroom,” said Diedling. “We both want to go into litigation in our careers and this was a way for us to really develop those skills.”
Jones agreed. “It is the most practical thing you can do at law school, especially if you’ve got a practical setting to apply what you’ve been taught.”
About the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association National Trial Competition
Attracting nearly 140 law schools of over 1,000 law students each year, the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association National Trial Competition encourages and strengthens students' advocacy skills through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar. Established in 1975, the program intends to provide a meaningful contribution to the development of future trial lawyers.
Co-sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers, students have the opportunity to win the Kraft W. Eidman Award, consisting of $10,000 to the winning school thanks to the generous donation Fulbright & Jaworski. Beck Redden LLP presents a $5,000 award to the second place team, and each semifinalist team is awarded $1,500 by Polsinelli PC.
Author: Kyler Davis’19, communication intern