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Real-world Internship Solidified former OIP Fellow’s Desire to work in Indigent Defense

Chris Collman was an Ohio Innocence Project fellow during the last academic year and co-president of the College of Law’s Public Interest Law Group. He also worked in the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. Over the summer, he lent some help to John Kennedy, who was working on the Joshua Maxton case. A winner of the Clarence Elkins scholarship, Collman was one of five UC third-year law students selected to intern for the full year at the Indigent Defense Clinic through the Hamilton County PD office.

— By Chris Collman

Chris CollmanI was a fellow with OIP last year. I have been involved with the Hamilton County Public Defender’s office since January 2016.

First, I was with the Guardian ad Litem Division for a semester [providing services in Hamilton County Juvenile Court, investigating what solutions would be in the “best interests of a child” in cases where a complaint has been filed alleging a child to be abused, neglected, or dependent]. Then I was with the Felony Division for the summer and now work with the Indigent Defense Clinic, which allowed me to have my own municipal cases.

OIP was a wonderful experience that really cemented my desire to work in indigent defense. I also learned great investigative and client relation skills. Most important, it taught me the importance of conducting a thorough investigation early on because it only gets more difficult with time.

As for John’s (Maxton) murder trial, I helped review a bit of evidence, but that was it. It was a tremendous win for John, and having watched the case, I am confident that it was the correct decision.

OIP Internship Develops Criminal Defense Passion

Maxel Moreland was an Ohio Innocence Project fellow during the last academic year. During summer 2016, Moreland worked as a legal intern for the felony division, Office of the Hamilton County Public Defender, where he helped attorney and UC Law alum John Kennedy work on the case involving Joshua Maxton, an indigent client acquitted of murder. Moreland was one of five UC third-year law students selected to intern for the full year at the Indigent Defense Clinic through the Hamilton County PD office during the 2016/2017 academic year. Moreland also served as the inaugural president of UC Law’s National Association for Public Defense chapter, the first student chapter in the country.

By Maxel Moreland

Maxel MorelandHearing that Joshua Maxton was acquitted of all of his charges last year was elating! The entire Public Defender’s office was buzzing with excitement.

Last year, I assisted John Kennedy by looking through phone records and by attempting to track down a witness. I had previously reviewed phone records on a case for OIP, so it was great to use the skills I had already learned to work on an ongoing murder trial.

The phone records we received from the police ended up not matching those from the phone company. The inconsistency was addressed at trial and may have played a part in creating reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. Unfortunately, I could not track down the witness.

I started interning with the Hamilton County PD Felony Division during the summer. Mainly, I assisted felony attorneys with their cases, observed court, and argued bond hearings. As a fellow with the Indigent Defense Clinic (IDC), I was allowed to serve as a public defender with a truncated caseload. I handled cases from the moment they make it to the PD office until the end of trial or when the client takes a plea.

The Ohio Innocence Project provided me with the skills to conduct better interviews with clients and witnesses. It also taught me to think outside the box when it comes to constructing a defense for my clients.

My Ohio Innocence Project experience was life-changing and truly opened my eyes to the injustices served by our justice system. Pouring over these old cases and attempting to find new evidence of innocence is hard, but rewarding, work.

I think that I most enjoyed the investigatory aspect of the Ohio Innocence Project. It was always an adventure to seek out witnesses, especially adverse witnesses. The experience made me a more compassionate person and greatly strengthened my interviewing and interpersonal skills.

After working with the Ohio Innocence Project, it was refreshing to see a case conclude and receive that instant gratification. While the Ohio Innocence Project is a rewarding experience, it can be taxing to work on cases and know that they will not be resolved anytime soon. The work I do now with the IDC is incredibly fulfilling as I get to help clients at one of the hardest points of their lives while getting the instant gratification of completing a case.

The experiences that I have had with the Ohio Innocence Project and at the Hamilton County PD greatly influenced me and accelerated my passion for criminal defense work!

A Semester Review (... and a Sneak Peek at 2018!)


Fall @ Cincinnati Law (A Recap)

Fall 2017 at Cincinnati Law was full of interesting programming designed for professional growth; great opportunities for networking with the local legal community; and fun events that brought together students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends.

Here’s a brief snapshot:

The academic year kicked off with Welcome Week for our LLM students. It was followed by Week 1, the first week of law school for first-year students.  In addition to introducing students to the rigors of law school, getting the layout of the law building, and meeting professors, it was also a great time for fun and games – courtesy of the SBA Cookout.  8.7.17-8.18.17

The LLM Program at the law school hosted Dr.  Ildiko Szegedy-Maszak, affiliated with Universidad Pontificia Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia University, for the lecture “International Trade: Why a Balanced World Trade Regulation is Imperative for the Well Being of All.”  Her lecture addressed the question of why rigid protectionism is not the answer for world trade created local problems. 8.17.17.

The UC Law Alumni Association hosted its summer social at Rhinehaus OTR, bringing together local Bearcats for an evening of fun and networking. 8.24.17.

And, the first month of school ended with the annual SBA Day of Service, an opportunity for the law school to utilize its strength in numbers and give back to the community by volunteering at locations around the city. Students, faculty, staff and local attorneys all participated in this event. 8.26.17.

Our student organizations hosted informative programs for the law student body. The Criminal Law Society hosted Professor Brian Howe'10 for a coffee corner event.  The Republican Law Students organization hosted “Meet the Judges,” a non-partisan panel discussion that included members of the local and state judiciary: Justice R. Patrick DeWine, Supreme Court of Ohio;  Hon. Beth A. Myers, Ohio Court of Appeals, First District; Hon. Leslie E. Ghiz, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court; Hon. Curt C. Hartman,  Hamilton County Common Pleas Court; Hon. Lisa C. Allen, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court; Hon. Jackie Ginocchio, Hamilton County Municipal Court; and the Hon. Curt Kissinger, , Hamilton County Municipal Court.

Professor Kenyatta Hurd was the featured guest for the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice Coffee Corner. UC Law Women led an event featuring the women professors at the law school to discuss the issues women face in the legal community. 9.06.17

Throughout the semester, the Cincinnati Project on Law and Business brought informative speakers to the school, including Prof. Lawrence Glosten from Columbia Business School; Professor Ian Ayres, Yale Law School; Professor Quinetta Roberson, Villanova University School of Business, to name a few.

The Constitution Day lecture featured Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In her lecture, “The Increasing Significance of an Independent Judiciary,” she delved into the threats to judicial independence, from state judiciaries to even the federal courts. 9.18.17

Then, the College of Law, the Department of German Studies, and the European Studies Program hosted Dean Stefan Storr, University of Graz law faculty in Austria, for a week-long event, which included a lecture “National Identities in the EU as a Challenge for EU Law and National Constitutional Law.”  9.19.17

Responding to the events of the day, the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice began a year-long series “Hard (But Urgent) Conversations,” examining various aspects of racial injustice and looking at ways the law community can play a role in addressing and impacting these issues. Their first program, “After Charlottesville…” was the first in the series. 9.28.17

The 2nd Annual Bearcat Dash & Bash brought over 1800 walkers and runners to campus, raising funds for the OIP and for UC’s Athletics Department. 10.01.17

Judges Beth Myers, Judge Marilyn Zayas and Judge Charles Miller from the Ohio First District Court of Appeals heard arguments at the law school and led discussions about the cases afterward. 10.02.17

Paul Taylor, Chief Counsel, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, House of Representatives, presented the lecture “Federal Tort Reform: Policy, Law and Practice” as the 2017 Schwartz Lecturer. He delved into the federal tort reform’s role in our representative republic within a separation of powers system. He then discussed the legal framework that governs federal tort reform, and concluded with a discussion of the nuts and bolts of modern federal tort reform, including legislative responses to threats such as terrorism, pandemics and cyber-attacks. 10.17.17

Each fall the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) hosts the “Free Legal Advice to Better Your Business” Clinic in collaboration with Duke Energy Law Department. This semester was no different. Many local small business owners and entrepreneurs had the opportunity to meet with attorneys to discuss everything from contracts to trademarks/copyrights. 10.26.17

The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights hosted the “Sir Nigel Rodley Human Rights Conference,” focusing on the contributions of the late Sir Nigel Rodley to human rights and his areas of concern, as well as the challenges currently facing the international human rights community. Leading human rights advocates came to pay tribute. 10.28.17-10.29.17

UC Law Women hosted the first “Trunk or Treat” event for over 400 children in the local community. With bags of candy, great costumes, cool music, fun was had by all. 10.28.17

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto visited the law school, sharing his strategic vision of the university and learning about the law school. 10.30.17

The law school hosted the program and panel discussion “Moving Beyond DACA and DAPA: What’s Possible for DREAMers Now?”.  The event was moderated by Professor Yolanda Vazquez and included DACA recipients, UC representatives and attorneys from the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center. Here are a few pictures from the event11.01.17

The UC Law Alumni Association CLE and Annual Meeting brought together local attorneys for a day of ClE events. Topics included Ethics and Professionalism in Appellate Practice; Important Recent Cases from the Supreme Court of Ohio; What You Don’t Know about Criminal Law can Hurt You – and Your Clients; and Race, Class & Reform in the Carceral State. 11.03.17

Cincinnati Law hosted the first Celebration: ReConnect. ReImagine. ReIgnite event. This daylong lecture series and gala featured great speakers, great music, amazing food and lots of memories. With sold-out events in the morning and a jammin’ party atmosphere in the evening Cincinnati Law was “the place” to be that weekend.  Guest speakers included Kathy Woeber Gardner, Sally Young, Chris Chapman, Billy Martin, and Aftab Pureval. The Exoneree Band, a group of musicians from around the country who were wrongfully convicted for a combined 100 years, were featured during the evening program. One band member, Ray Towler, was freed through the work of our own Ohio Innocence Project. Here are pictures from the event: Celebration 1  and Celebration 2. Plans are in the works to host the 2018 event. Stay tuned! 11.04.17

Professor Jacob Cogan, Judge Joseph P. Kinneary Professor of Law, gave the Harold C. Schott Lecture. His topic was “Money, International Organizations, and the Turn Away from Collective Decision-Making”.   He discussed how international organizations are financed and, in particular, showed how contemporary means of financing have turned multilateral institutions into unilateralist ones. 11.15.17

Cincinnati Law’s student organizations ended the year with incredible programming that touched on “School Prayer and Other Mysteries of the Religion Clause” (ACS), Campus Speech: Can the First Amendment Tolerate Hate? (Federalist Society), Trump and Civil Liberties, and a movie screening of “Amreeka” (Muslim Law Students and ACS).

Finally, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center hosted a program on Solitary Confinement and the Death Penalty. 11.27.17


Looking Ahead to Spring 2018

Exciting programs are in the works for spring 2018. Here’s a sneak peek:

Speech and Equality (A Discussion). Among our most prized constitutional values are those of free speech and equality. A panel of experts will discuss what the constitution requires, how to resolve apparent conflicts between these values, and the significance of each to democracy.

This event features the following: Professor Omotayo Banjo, PhD., UC College of Arts & Sciences; Professor Eric Jenkins, Ph.D., UC College of Arts & Sciences; Professor John Paul Wright, Ph.D., CECH; and Professor Ronna Schneider, UC College of Law. The panel discussion will be led by Interim Dean Verna Williams.

Date/Time: January 22, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.                           Location: TUC Cinema.


Blind Injustice Book Signing Event. Professor Mark Godsey, Director of the OIP, will host a book signing event.

Date/Time: January 20, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.                           Location: Joseph Beth (Madison Rd.)

Movie Screening: Women in the Profession: Balancing the Scales

Date/Time:  February 15, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.                        Location: UC Law


Center for Practice CLE event (CLE 2.5 applied for)

Additional information coming soon.

Date: February 16, 2018                                             Location: UC Law 

Judge in Residence Lecture.  The Hon. Shira Scheindlin, former US District Court Judge will present “Race & Policing in the 21st Century: A Difficult Relationship”. She will trace the history of the relationship between law enforcement and race from the Civil War to the present.  (CLE)

Date/Time:  February 27, 2018 at 12:15 p.m.                      Location: Rm. 114, UC Law 

YWCA Racial Justice Breakfast. The annual key note address will be livestreamed at the College of Law. Speaker will be Fania Davis, co-founder and executive director, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.

Date/Time: March 28, 2018 at 8:00 a.m.                              Location: Rm. 118, UC Law

Professor Osagie Obasogie will present "A Fear of Too Much Justice: Revisiting McCleskey v. Kemp After 30 Years” as the Robert S. Marx lecturer. Professor Obasogie is the Hass Distinguished Chair and Professor of Bioethics, University of California, Berkeley, in the Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health.  (CLE)

Date/Time: April 12, 2018 at 12:15 p.m.                             Location: Rm. 114, UC Law

The College will convene an interdisciplinary conference on the challenges to racial equality faced by Europe and the United States. “Transatlantic Approaches to Racial Equality:” Convergences & Divergences” will explore critical race theory and racial formation; intersectionality, civil society, and social movements; representation and media; and remedies, government enforcement, and private litigation. Keynote speaker will be Professor Cheryl Harris, UCLA School of Law. This event is sponsored by the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, the European student Program, and the German Studies Department.

Dates: April 12-13, 2018                                           Location: UC Law

Isabel Johnston, Law Student and Dreamer, Shares Her Story

On September 5, 2017 President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, the immigration policy that allowed minors who illegally entered or remained in the US to receive deferment from deportation, as well as eligibility for work permits. The rescission was delayed six months to allow Congress to work out a resolution.

Isabel JohnstonThe young people affected by DACA are called “Dreamers,” and their fate is uncertain. As they have increasing reason to worry that they may be soon forced out of the country, most keep secret their identities as Dreamers.

Some Dreamers, however, have spoken out with the hope that sharing their stories will dispel the myths surrounding the immigration issue. Isabel Johnston, a first-year law student, is one such Dreamer.

Johnston’s father was the first in her immediate family to travel from Peru to the states. After eight months apart, the rest of the family flew in to join him.

Johnston, who was six at the time, recalls, “There was this long hallway, and my dad’s at the end of it, and I’m with my mom and my siblings. He gets down on one knee and opens his arms for us to run into them.

I looked up to my mom, because I didn’t know who he was. My dad [had been] a big guy. I thought it was my uncle who looks like my dad but is much thinner. My dad had been working three jobs, sleeping two hours, and not actually eating anything. I didn’t recognize him.”

Despite this initial shock, Johnston and her family settled in. They first lived in Florence, Kentucky, but later moved to Texas for two years. When she was 15, Johnston’s parents sat her down and informed her that they were undocumented immigrants and explained the legal implications. Johnston says, “I [already] knew we weren’t citizens and that my parents didn’t vote. I didn't know what being undocumented meant. All I really knew was that it was bad and ugly and shameful.” They instructed her not to share this information with her siblings – or anyone.

Johnston was worried and disheartened. She knew that her family came from Peru, but she had not previously felt like a foreigner. She notes, “we were well integrated, I think. I don’t have an accent.” Johnston recalls classmates, unaware of her immigration status, making occasional green card jokes, but she maintains that she fit in with her peers.

Her first major complication came when she was in high school and wanted to sign up for college courses. She needed to fill out forms that asked for a social security number. Confused, she came to realize that she did not have one. Her instructors did not know what to do. Eventually, she found out that she could use her father’s Tax ID, but the episode stirred her. “I was embarrassed, really.”

Things got worse as friends started getting their first jobs and drivers’ licenses. “I just told people that my parents were strict and wouldn’t let me drive, which was only partially true.” The family’s undocumented status remained a secret to her peers the whole time.

But, notably, not a secret to the government. Like many migrants, the Johnstons came on tourist visas and overstayed them. They have paid taxes from day one. “The government has always known that we’re here,” states Johnston. Of paying taxes she notes, “we don’t get anything from it. We’re never going to see any of that money.”

The situation looked up with DACA’s passage. During her senior year of high school, Johnston got a work permit, a driver's license, and a social security number. She saw doors opening to her that she previously could not have counted on.

She graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. There, she completed a self-designed program of study that focused on social justice issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. While in college, johnston began to share her status with her closest friends, feeling safe under the protection of DACA.

After college, she came here to Cincinnati Law. This fall semester, she was in class when she learned about DACA’s rescission. She saw reports on social media and saw she had messages on her family’s group-text. She remembers, “my dad had opened with ‘don’t worry, you guys are safe right now.’” Johnston's immediate reaction was to cry--for herself, her family, and the hundreds of thousands of other young people affected by the decision.  Then she got to work, researching the issue to better understand what the future had in store for Dreamers.

Around this time, an immigration lawyer from Kentucky with whom Johnston had previously worked, contacted her and encouraged her to speak to a local news outlet about DACA. She thought, “no way my parents want me to do that.” They had always kept their identity secret.

But when Johnston mentioned to her father that she had been contacted by the news, he encouraged her to consider it. “My mind was blown,” she said. “We’ve been talking about the situation in a very different way than we would have before. I’ve been sharing my story and doing a lot more publicly.”

Coming out this way was not easy. Her decision initially left her mother worried, and her brother upset. Her father and sister, however, were supportive from the start. Johnston says they want her to “make sure that my message is clear and that there’s no confusion about what DACA is or was and what we’re looking for in the future.”

Johnston continues to be open about her status as a Dreamer. "Not only have I been open about my status, but I have been actively trying to make change," she said. (She plans to focus on human rights and immigration law as a career.) "I was interviewed on Fox19, I have spoken on immigration and Dreamer panels, and I have become more involved in the UC community. In October, I travelled to DC with and over 100 other DACA recipients from 25 states to meet with our members of Congress. I shared my story with Senator Portman, KY Representatives Barr and Yarmuth, and staff of other members. I was empowered through this experience by making connections with so many other people in the same situation—something I have never been able to do before.

"I am continuously educating my peers and fighting for immigrants. Next summer, I will be returning to DC for an internship at an immigration firm which focuses on asylum work. In addition to working with HRQ, I am the 1L rep for Latino Law Student Association and have helped to create informative material to share with others at the law school, so they too can participate in this fight."


Writer: Pete Mills

Working Abroad: Law Alum Mark Whittenburg’s Shanghai Experience

Mark Whittenburg ’92 has had an impressive career since graduating Cincinnati Law. Though he now works for Core & Main in St. Louis, Missouri, he spent the several preceding years in Shanghai, China.

Mark WhittenburgIt all started while he was working for General Electric here in the states. After moving back to Cincinnati for several months, he was contacted by a recruiter from Autoliv, a Fortune 500 company. Autliv is the world’s largest automotive safety supplier with sales to all the leading car manufacturers in the world. They develop, manufacture and market protective systems such as airbags, seatbelts, steering wheels, passive safety electronics and active safety systems including brake control systems, radar, night vision and camera vision systems. They also produce pedestrian protection systems.

He successfully navigated the interview process and was hired for the Vice President of Legal position. Whittenburg jumped at the opportunity, moving from Cincinnati to Shanghai, where he worked from 2011 to 2013.

When asked about the professional and cultural challenges of working abroad, Whittenburg makes it clear that those challenges are inseparable. “I had to do some cultural learning [because] what motivates people is a little bit different, so trying to lead a team in China isn’t the same as leading a team in Charlottesville, Virginia,” he said. While a handful of his coworkers were fellow foreigners, the overwhelming majority were Chinese natives.

Whittenburg also shared that “cultural awareness was my greatest learning curve—even more than, well . . . the law.”

Chinese law and the Chinese legal system differ radically from their American counterparts. In Whittenburg’s case, he had to learn them on the job and without mastery of Mandarin.

His studies at the law school proved helpful, however. He emphasizes that Cincinnati Law taught him that “it’s not really knowing all the answers but knowing how to find the answers and how to think through problems.”

Autliv’s Shanghai branch covers all Asian markets. Whittenburg’s work there gave him opportunities to travel to Japan, Korea, India, and Thailand.

What’s it Like Living in Shanghai?
His personal life in Shanghai was interesting. He lived in a rented house in a compound that was home to as many fellow expats as it was to native Shanghainese.Whittenburg recalls that seeing a man riding a bicycle with a tower of Styrofoam above and behind him was “one of [his] very first shocks.” Even with such surprises, his transition was smooth, and his memories of coworkers and neighbors are fond.

He experienced the local culinary culture in full. What did he eat? “I ate incredibly strange stuff . . . snake, turtle, intestines, and blood, and all kinds of stuff,” he chuckled. “I definitely prefer it to the China Kitchen.” [The China Kitchen is a United States Chinese restaurant.]

While Whittenburg warns against eating sautéed snakeskin (he likens it to “chewing on a tire”), he does strongly encourages lawyers take up opportunities to live and work abroad. “Do it in a heart beat,” he says. “It will change [you and your practice] in ways that nobody could ever explain.”

UC Law's Alumni Celebration a Big Hit!

Guest speakers. Great music. Amazing food. Lots of memories. Saturday, November 4, 2017 was the big day: Cincinnati Law’s "All Alumni Reunion". With sold-out events in the morning and a jammin' party atmosphere in the evening, UC Law was “the place” to be last weekend!

ICYMI: A Recap

 Alumni began the day with breakfast and the familiar faces of their peers and former professors. After the meet-and-greet, Dean Verna Williams commenced UC Next, a series of mini-lectures in the style of TedX talks.

Williams described the class of 2020 and the changes coming to Cincinnati Law. Of the latest class of JD candidates, she noted, “It’s 97 students strong, and for the first time in many years, we have more women than men. They’re diverse coming from as close as Indiana and Kentucky, and as far away as Utah and California.” Williams also shared the story of the successful LLM program, which brings in students from around the world and features a special partnership between UC Law and Javeriana University in Bogotå, Colombia.

The guest lectures were presented by distinguished alumni. In order of appearance, these were: Kathy Woeber Gardner, Sally Young, Chris Chapman, and William “Billy” Martin.

Gardner’s talk covered her professional path, in which she overcame career speed-bumps but ultimately landed her dream career. She even followed her husband out West and took the California bar exam, after years of practice in Ohio. Gardner now practices International Law and works with large companies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Sally Young cracked up the alumni crowd, largely because her current line of work is atypical for someone with a law degree—or anyone else, for that matter. She writes romance novels, using the penname, Ann Christopher. Young referred to retiring from private practice after the birth of her second child, noting that she has “been in legal recovery for 18 years now.” Some time passed before she took up writing romance novels, but Young made it clear that reflection led her to do the things she enjoyed most in life.

Chris Chapman discussed the “image problem” the legal community faces. He noted that the stereotype of the greedy, heartless lawyer is entrenched in our culture, reaching as far back as Shakespeare’s joke, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Chapman noted, however, that lawyers can and often do give back to their communities, and that civilizations with many lawyers have historically been the most able to provide justice to all.

Billy Martin’s talk dealt with his rise to professional success as an attorney with a UC Law degree. He maintains that his education at UC Law prepared him for these heights within the legal profession. He shared that the pinnacle of his career was representing a witness in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Martin also shared an anecdote in which he represented movie star Wesley Snipes, when he was wanted by the Federal government for tax evasion. Snipes was at the time filming in Namibia, and would have faced immediate arrest if he went to any airport, because he had ignored an arraignment in order to continue filming. Martin smilingly recalled, “So what does an actor with unlimited resources do? We rent our own jet.” Snipes was able to surrender on US soil.

The alumni were then treated to a delicious, full barbecue meal provided by Cincinnati’s own Sweets and Meats, a client of our Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. At lunch, Cincinnati Law alumnus and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval addressed the crowd.

Pureval mentioned his own success story. On entering politics, he recalled, “people would say, ‘are you crazy? You’re running for this office that no one cares about, against an opponent who cannot be beat in conservative Hamilton County. And to do all that, you have to leave Proctor and Gamble. What are you thinking?’” He added, “and that was just my mom” to tremendous laughs.

Pureval’s run ended up being a successful, of course. His speech took a serious turn when he talked about the new Hamilton County Help Center. Pureval implored everyone in the room to put themselves in the shoes of those who are facing evictions and now have to deal with the legal system. He said there is cause to be optimistic, however, as the Help Center, which started only two months ago, has already aided over 800 people.

After an afternoon touring campus and the city of Cincinnati, alumni and friends gathered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the Red and Black Gala. This was an opportunity to continue catching up with old friends (and new ones), eat some good food, and enjoy the music of The Exoneree Band.

The band is comprised of musicians from around the country who were wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 100 years. One band member, Raymond Towler (who is also the manager), was freed through the work of our own Ohio Innocence Project.

Throughout the concert, the band members shared their stories and their music borne from their incarceration experience. They even covered great singers like Stevie Wonder. The crowd was literally on their feet, dancing the night away. In the end, they didn’t want to leave… and the crowd didn’t either.

Thanks for everyone who came and we’ll see you next year for #Celebration2018!

Here's a peek at the day! (More pics and video to come soon!): Celebration2017

Writers: Pete Mills, Sherry English

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 .

Date: October 30, 2017


Words of Wisdom from Alum Billy Martin

His past clients have included a range of high profile people, from sports stars Allen Iverson and Michael Vick to politicians Bill Campbell and Larry Craig.  But William “Billy” Martin (class of ’74) spends more time doing less-publicized work for large corporations in complex civil and white collar criminal cases, not to mention his past as a prosecutor for the city of Cincinnati, and later, the federal government.  He is delighted to return to his alma mater tomorrow, November 4th,  to speak at the All Alumni Reunion. 

 Martin set aside time to take a few questions for Cincinnati Law.

To understate it, you’ve had an impressive career.  Have lessons learned at UC Law proved beneficial along the way?

 The legal education I received at the University of Cincinnati has prepared me to litigate all over the world.  I’ve been in Europe and Africa, in the Caribbean, as well as almost every state.  I have a degree of confidence that was given to me by the professors and the work I did at UC.  Leaving [there] I felt ready to compete.

 What was your first major career move after graduating?

 I actually had a clerking position with the city solicitor’s office in my second year and third year.  They hired me immediately to go into the city prosecutor’s office.  From there I went to the US Attorney’s office.

 What was the experience of moving up the federal level like?

 It greatly expanded the type of legal issues that I was dealing with.  I went from dealing with, say, a petty theft or DUI, to dealing with the interstate transportation of stolen goods.  Or maybe I’d find myself dealing with Constitutional issues around the Fourth Amendment.  It really exposed me to a broader type of legal practice. It all ultimately culminated in—and UC actually prepared me to—represent a witness in the impeachment proceeding of a president.

It must have felt inescapable that you were in the ‘big leagues’ then.

You are in the ‘bigs.’   It felt like going to federal court as a federal prosecutor that you’d moved up.  People would say, “you’re in the big court now.”  It strikes me when people ask “well, where did you go to law school?”  I proudly represent the University of Cincinnati at some of the highest levels of litigation.

When you’re approaching trial law, and the client is amid scandal and the case is being heavily publicized in the media, how do you deal with that kind of scrutiny?

 You move very carefully.  I use two or three lawyers for every one of these cases, and there are no moves made and no decisions made without having the benefit of the team of your lawyers.   It’s not the time to be a solo practitioner.

 Do you have any words of advice for soon-to-be law graduates?

 I absolutely do.  Part of my talk on Saturday is going to cover the notion that in order to accomplish the goal, you have to believe in yourself that you can do it.  And, if you have the benefit of three years of legal education from the University of Cincinnati, and you pass the bar exam, you should feel that these three years have prepared you.  Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it.  You have to believe that yourself.  That’s the basis of my talk.  UC prepares you, and hopefully, you have the confidence to apply that which you’ve learned at the College of Law.

International Business Law Expert Comes to Speak at UC Law Reunion

From Cincinnati to Brussels to sunny San Francisco, Kathy Woeber Gardner ’88 has traveled the globe in her distinguished legal career.  But on November 4, she will be back with us in Clifton to speak at the All Alumni Reunion.

Gardner feels that the farther she has advanced in her profession, the more she has come to appreciate her time studying at Cincinnati Law.  She recalls that her participation in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition during her third year of JD studies was one the “real drivers toward the rest of [her] career.”  Her team came in first that year, and Gardner’s lifelong passion for international law began.

Gardner also credits members of UC’s faculty for having a lasting influence on her.  She recalls that Associate Dean Emerita Dean Barbara Watts and Assistant Dean for Career Planning Center Kathy Grant helped bridge her studies and her early professional life.   Gardner notes that these mentors “took a really strong interest in me and helped me in terms of interviews and making introductions for me to lawyers.” 

Her next big move was participating in the American Bar Association’s International Legal Exchange program.  She interned at two law firms in Brussels, Belgium.  Gardner was only a third year lawyer at the time.  With this international experience, she returned to the states—first to Chicago, then to San Francisco, where she and a partner began a boutique international corporate law firm.

Gardner’s work as a partner at Montgomery Pacific Law Group LLP sees her working with clients who come from all over Europe and Latin America.  She also works with clients in Silicon Valley who seek to expand their businesses internationally.   When legal matters arise abroad, Gardner handpicks lawyers to represent her companies. 

Kathy Woeber Gardner’s at the top of her field, so if you are an alum who wants to hear from her and chat with her, come out to the reunion!

College of Law Celebrates the Life of Professor Christo Lassiter

Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law community mourns the loss of Professor Christo Lassiter who died last Wednesday, October 25, 2017 after a prolonged illness. Professor Lassiter remained active in the classroom until just a few weeks before his death.

“We are saddened to lose one of our long-time colleagues,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law.  “Our faculty will not be the same without Christo.”

Professor Lassiter joined the College of Law in 1991. He also was a Professor of Criminal Justice at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services.

Lassiter taught courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, antitrust and white collar crime. An award-winning teacher, Professor Lassiter was the recipient of the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching on three occasions (1993, 2006, and 2008). He also received the Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology award in 1998.

Merging thought-provoking hypotheticals and meaningful discussion, Professor Lassiter challenged students to think harder while clarifying difficult legal issues. It was uncommon for a student to leave his class without having learned something.
 “He expounds the idea that law school is about ‘learning to think like a lawyer,’ ” wrote his students when nominating him for the 2008 Goldman Award.

Students also noted that Professor Lassiter “…demonstrated over and over that he genuinely cared about student education and their professional experiences. He was always eager to help, whether judging Moot Court practice rounds or participating in panel discussions.”  Students commented that his intelligence, energy, theatrics and occasional song kept them coming back.

Professor Lassiter’s scholarship appeared in many legal journals and publications, including the International Journal of Law and Technology, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law, and the National Black Journal. Lassiter also lectured internationally on ethics, corruption, and countering terrorism for the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies, presenting in Malawi, Mali, and Argentina.

Professor Lassiter was active in the community and at the University.  For example, he served on the boards of the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame Foundation, Ohio GI Promise (member of the Governor’s Council), Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and the YMCA of Cincinnati. He was a member of Cincinnati Citizens Patrol Association, served as a university appeals officer and president of the Order of the Coif at the College of Law.

Professor Lassiter enjoyed commenting on the issues of the day, writing editorials, and appearing on television, providing a legal perspective for the Cincinnati Enquirer, the (now defunct) Cincinnati Post, local TV stations, FOX News Hosted by Shepherd Smith (national coverage), and Court TV.  In addition, he worked as a film consultant for The Affair, a joint HBO-BBC production concerning a false allegation of interracial rape against a black American soldier in World War II.

A sports aficionado, Lassiter coached Christo’s Angels, an intramural softball team; served as national chair for the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSAA) Track and Field Program; and coached track and field in a variety of settings, including Moeller and Walnut Hills High Schools.

Professor Lassiter came to the academy after serving in the Judge Advocate United States Marine Corps and in private practice. 

He will be missed at the College of Law. We will remember him as an insightful, hard-working colleague, as well as a mentor and friend to students.