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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


Three Alumni for Mayor 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.

Rob Richardson
Robert RichardsonGoing 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.”

Yvette Simpson
Yvette SimpsonSimpson’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.

John Cranley
John CranleyThe 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 BurkeJim Burke, 1978

Joe CallowJoe Callow, 1993

Bob ColettiBob Coletti, 1982

Mike ScheierMike 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.

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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

Urban Morgan Fellow Travels to the International Criminal Court


Luke Woolman became the first UC Law student to study abroad at The International Criminal Court during his externship with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Cincinnati, OH – After completing four years of undergrad at Texas Christian University and commissioned as an engineer officer with ROTC, Luke Woolman embarked on a new journey with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. With a military background and an interest in international relations, Woolman set his sights on traveling to The Hague, Netherlands to work at the International Criminal Court.

“I’ve always been interested in International relations,” said Woolman, “being with the Urban Morgan Institute, they kind of had different opportunities, and they’ve never had someone go to the ICC before, so I was able to work with them and find a way to get there.”

The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization located in The Netherlands. The treaty that was signed to establish the ICC is called the Rome Statute, which was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17, 1998. This treaty gave the ICC jurisdiction to investigate crimes of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in an international setting. One hundred twenty-four (124) states are currently party to the statute, however, the US formally renounced their signature on May 6, 2002.

“First of all, I was the only American on my floor. Second of all, I was the youngest person by far,” said Woolman. “The court functions in English—English and French are the main languages there—but since America isn’t a party to the ICC, they’re just less Americans there in general. Of the two people that I spent time in the office with, the two visiting professionals, one was from Canada, the other was from Australia. You get a nice mix of people to work with.”

Though Woolman may have been an outsider at the ICC, this was not his first experience studying abroad. During his time at Texas Christian University, he spent a summer working and training with the Thai army. The main challenge at the ICC, according to Woolman, was the adjustment to working with law in the international environment.

“I studied abroad in undergrad and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel, but I’ve never worked abroad,” said Woolman. “It was kind of eye opening, because in your first year of law school you learn about law in the US. The system of law, the general formatting and stuff is completely different at the ICC. It’s pretty much like learning everything all over, but most people that actually go to work at the ICC worked within their country for probably over five years as a lawyer, but it was a good experience.”

After his time spent at the ICC, Woolman is prepared to take on bigger and bolder challenges. His time dedicated to traveling abroad, along with his interest in international relations, has led him on a path toward grand opportunities. Though he doesn’t see himself working at the ICC anytime soon given the tough requirements, his future is solid as he takes on his next summer experience with the Department of Justice.

“(The ICC) is a very competitive place to get a job at. Obviously you’re competing with people all over the world, but they do expect you to at least have five to 10 years of experience in your own country before they even consider hiring you. So maybe when I get to that point I’ll think about it,” said Woolman. “This summer I’m working in DC at the Department of Justice in their criminal section, so I’m looking forward to that. I have the military too, so we’ll see what happens. I hope to probably work for the government here to some degree, ideally the DOJ or some kind of federal agency.”

About the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights
The Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers, who promote and protect human rights all over the world. Established at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, the institute has become a model for other human rights programs throughout the country, based on the unique experiences students gain both inside and outside of the classroom.

Writer: Kyler Davis’19, communication intern

Emily Roberts Conducts Field Research in Durban, Africa


2L Emily Roberts reflects on her experience at the Legal Resource Center in Durban, Africa during her externship with The Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights.

Cincinnati, OH- After their first year of law school, Urban Morgan Fellows are given the opportunity to spend their summer abroad through an externship program. Students work with international judges, human rights attorneys and organizations, governmental agencies, or U.N bodies. The externships provide invaluable hands-on training for the student and much needed assistance to the host organization. For an incoming law student planning on entering the human rights field, it is a chance to gain real-world experience, and begin making a difference before getting a degree.

This was the driving force in Emily Roberts’ decision to enroll in the College of Law, and become an Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights fellow. As an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, Roberts studied abroad in Botswana, Africa while obtaining her BA in International Studies and Global Health with a focus in African Studies and Human Rights. She immediately fell in love with South Africa while abroad, and knew she wanted to return. The Urban Morgan Institute was her ticket back.

“I wanted to make sure that I was able to go abroad as much as possible,” said Roberts. “If you’re admitted as a fellow, even before you start school, you’re guaranteed to go abroad after your 1L year.”

After her admittance into the program, Roberts’ dream of returning to South Africa came to fruition. Following her first year, she embarked on her externship at The Legal Resource Center in Durban, Africa. Established in 1979, the center promotes justice for marginalized populations, advocating for those suffering from discrimination regarding race, class, gender, disability, or historical circumstances.

“I was probably only at my desk in our office two out of the five days a week,” said Roberts. “The majority of the time was spent driving out to these far away farms in the middle of no where, and sitting down with these elders who could tell us the story about why the land is so important to them, and what the government is not doing to help them. That’s the type of experience I want as a career.”

Roberts enjoyed the fact that her externship was not a “typical” desk job. Much of her work involved investigating discrimination in land and housing, where she gathered data during numerous field visits. She talked directly to victims, listening first-hand to the stories of men and women who were affected by cases involving the unlawful destruction of their home and property. For Roberts, this was the exact career she hopes to one day pursue. However, her experiences came with many tough challenges and obstacles.

“One of the harder things was the language barrier,” said Roberts. “English is widely spoken, but then there’s also Zulu, which is the biggest tribal language in South Africa. When you’re out in the farms, the residents really don’t have a high level of education, so they most often don’t know English. Me and two other candidate attorneys would do the interview process; they would relay the information to me and translate it. I appreciated that they would take the time to do that.”

Conducting this field work in Durban called for very intimate and close discussion with people who have lived in these areas for generations. Roberts expressed difficulty not only by barrier of language, but also as an outsider to their culture. However, she added that the experience was humbling.

“If you are used to being the majority, go some place where you’re going to feel like the minority,” said Roberts. “Being in a completely different culture, it’s not only just that you’re white and you’re blonde and you’re a girl, but you’re obviously American. I always worry that when you go someplace, especially when you don’t look like everyone else, people are going to think that I’m sort of imposing on their life. I try to blend in as much as possible.”

Victims of Unlawful Destruction
Roberts most impactful project involved the unlawful destruction of an “informal settlement” in rural Durban. After collecting research via field visits, Roberts utilized her education to interpret the crimes against many of the victims in an international context in order to present a viable case to the Legal Resource Center.

“We were trying to bring a suit against the government, not only for damages of property destruction, but also for how it affected the kids that lived in those villages, who were sleeping or playing outside and pretty much saw their homes destroyed right in front of their eyes. I had to really use what I learned, constitutional law based on US Law, and try to apply it to a South African context.”

The service experience and knowledge Roberts gained during her three months spent in Durban will forever be cherished as she embarks on future pursuits to provide justice.

“It was amazing to see one woman who knew so much about her rights,” said Roberts. “You know, she barely knew English but she was able to articulate to me why this was so important to her. We were really thankful for being there and listening to them, because sometimes that’s really all you can do.”

About the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights
The Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers, who promote and protect human rights all over the world. Established at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, the institute has become a model for other human rights programs throughout the country, based on the unique experiences students gain both inside and outside of the classroom.