Experience of a Lifetime: Second-Year Law Student Ariel Guggisberg Helps Secure Prisoner’s Release
Law student helps write petition that leads to prisoner’s sentence commutation.
Cincinnati, OH—President Barack Obama’s recent commutation of 61 federal prisoners has a Cincinnati Law connection: second-year student Ariel Guggisberg helped draft the clemency petition for one of the prisoners whose sentence was commuted. “It feels like we really changed a person’s life,” she said.
The clemency petition was made possible under the umbrella of Clemency Project 2014, a working group of attorneys and advocates who provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentence if sentenced today. Participants include federal defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, more than 70 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious law firms, 500 small firms and solo practitioners, and 30 law schools and clinics. The project was developed after former Deputy Attorney General James Cole appealed to the legal profession to provide free assistance to help identify eligible prisoners and assist them in preparation of clemency petitions.
The Clemency Project 2014 reviews requests from a prisoner who has served 10 years and does not have an obviously disqualifying feature (ex. a crime of violence). The prisoner is assigned an attorney, who requests permission to review documents in his/her case to determine if other criteria are met. If the prisoner is qualified, the individual is assisted by a lawyer to help fill out and file a clemency petition. That’s where Guggisberg came in.
As part of her summer internship at firm Pinales Stachler last year, Guggisberg—under the direction of her supervising attorney Candace Crouse—was charged with helping to draft the petition for her client Michael Morris. (The firm was assigned two cases.) “I thought it was so much fun over last summer,” she said, “finding ways to argue how our client would be sentenced differently today—such as ‘the old laws required mandatory outlandish sentences,’ ‘the sentencing laws differ today,’ and ‘our client has accepted responsibility and learned from his experience.’
“We had to show he’s been rehabilitated and that he can contribute to society.”
After the petition was written, it was submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, where the US Pardon Attorney makes final recommendations to the President. Then they wait to hear.
President Obama’s commutations are part of a larger effort calling for changes to sentencing laws. Most of the recipients “are low-level drug offenders whose sentences would have been shorter if they were convicted under today’s laws,” wrote President Obama in a Facebook posting. He went on to describe pardons and communications as ways “to show people what a second chance can look like.”
Guggisberg and her colleagues at the firm had the pleasure and privilege of breaking the exciting news to their client. She described it as an “incredibly rewarding experience.” Mr. Morris, who is in Texas, will live with his family to reintegrate into society, beginning his new life in July when he and the others are officially released.
What did she learn from this experience? Guggisberg shared that she was impressed and encouraged by watching her colleagues, daily, do everything they can for clients. “It was beautiful to see. I learned that to be successful in criminal defense, you have to have thick skin and relentless hope in humanity.”
Upon graduation next year, Guggisberg plans to focus her career in healthcare law.
Marianna Bettman, Law Professor and Alumnae, Receives University’s Distinguished Teaching Award
Professor Emerita of Practice Marianna Bettman received the University of Cincinnati Distinguished Teaching Professor Award on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
Cincinnati, OH—Congratulations to Cincinnati Law graduate and Professor Emerita of Practice Marianna Brown Bettman who received the University of Cincinnati’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. The award was presented at the university’s annual Faculty Awards Celebration, presided over by President Santa Ono, Provost Beverly Davenport, and the Faculty Senate.
"We are all exceptionally glad of the recognition Professor Bettman is receiving for being an exceptional educator. She has had a positive influence on the practice of law in Ohio and beyond through the hundreds of students she has taught. I look forward to her continued association with the law school even as she enjoys the much deserved freedom of retirement," said Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at Cincinnati Law.
Professor Bettman started her professional career working in community development during the late 60’s, speaking to community members about school desegregation. Recognizing the role legal solutions could play to address racial injustice, she determined that her next career step would be law school at the university. While there, she excelled at school, winning the Constitutional Law Prize and becoming the first woman to be awarded first prize in Trial Advocacy.
After graduation in 1977, Professor Bettman began working in private practice. From there, she was elected Judge, First District Court of Appeals—the first woman elected to this position. She developed an expertise in separation of powers, state constitutional law, and the Ohio judicial system. After six years on the bench, the opportunity arose to join academia, leading her to College of Law in 1999; she remained at the school until recently. Her mastery of material and the high expectations set for students is legendary. Students, in turn, thrived under her style. Noted one, “Professor Bettman keeps us on our toes. You must be well-prepared at all times because you are called on every class!” In addition to teaching, she directed the Judge-In-Residence and Judicial Extern programs.
Professor Bettman is the recipient of numerous awards. They include the following: The Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2005, 2011, 2014), the Excellence in Education Award (Ohio Magazine, 2011), Cincinnati Attorney of the Year (Jewish National Fund, Judge Carl B. Rubin Legal Society, 2010), the Foot Soldiers in the Sand Award (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-National Chapter, 2008), the A.B. “Dolly” Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching (University of Cincinnati, 2008), the Nettie Cronies Lutes Award (Ohio State Bar Association, 2008), the University of Cincinnati Law Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna Award (2001), the Women’s Studies Distinguished Alumna Award (University of Cincinnati, 1998), the YWCA Career Woman of Achievement (1994), and many more. She authors the well-respected blog Legally Speaking Ohio and the monthly newspaper column Legally Speaking for the American Israelite, in addition to lecturing at numerous continuing legal education seminars, including an annual presentation at the Ohio Judicial Conference. Professor Bettman retired from teaching in December 2015. However, she is still committed to the law school and the education and training of future generations of attorneys.
Third Year Law Student’s Oral Argument Garners a New Sentence For Client Before the Sixth Circuit
Kellie Kulka’s oral argument at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals brings a win for the Sixth Circuit Clinic and a published opinion—all before graduation.
Cincinnati, OH—Kellie Kulka ’16 had an opportunity only a small number of law students get – to argue a case before a federal appellate court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. What happened her first time up? The court ruled in her client’s favor, reversing the sentence!
“This is a big win,” said Kulka. “I’m just shocked that they issued an opinion so quickly.”
The case, United States v. Fowler, involved a Detroit doctor who was convicted of healthcare fraud. The law school’s Sixth Circuit Clinic, which introduces students to the basics of appellate advocacy, took the case on appeal. Last year’s clinic participants wrote the initial brief; this year’s group did additional research and brought the case to argument.
Clinic director Colter Paulson, Senior Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, explained: “Kellie took oral argument preparation, and her representation of the client, very seriously and spent the better part of two months working on and preparing for the argument. ” This was in addition to her regular clinic assignments and academic work.
“When I walked through security at Potter Stewart Court House, I was asked if I was there to argue a case, to which I responded "yes I am,” said Kulka. “That's when the experience became very real to me, that this wasn't just at Moot Court competition, but that I was actually advocating for someone. I spent months reading trial transcripts and the briefing by the parties. I was actually dreaming about the case by March. However, it was not until I told them that I was there to argue, that I was able to take real ownership the case.
“Kellie’s preparation paid off. In fact, she did such an excellent job during oral argument that the federal public defender in a companion case ceded his reply time to her so she could drive our points home before the panel,” said Paulson.
“I argued in the En Banc Courtroom. I had been in that room before to observe, but actually learning that I would argue in that room was surreal,” Kulka remarked. “I was nervous initially, but once I began to present the case, the adrenaline kicked in and I rode that thrill for the remainder of my time.”
The clinic team won a reversal of the doctor’s sentence because the court failed to make factual findings to support it. And Paulson and the team feel that they should be able to substantially reduce the client’s sentence on remand, based on some of the language written in the decision about the extent of the fraud.
“But we also won a larger victory,” noted Paulson. “Lots of sentencing arguments like this are losers because of waiver before the trial court, but we argued that the right to factual findings could not be waived. There were no cases in any circuit saying so, but we got the panel to agree that even if the trial attorney waived the argument, ‘the district court was still under an obligation to make factual findings regarding the applicable Guidelines range.’ This is decision requires district courts to make factual findings to support sentences rather than (as is often the case) just hand-waiving to create a Guideline sentence.”
Congratulations to Kellie Kulka, the Sixth Circuit participants, and clinic co-directors Paulson and Lauren Kuley, Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, on their successful win.
Former Dean Victor Schwartz Publishes WSJ Editorial on Federal Legislation and Liability of Gun Manufacturers
Remarks from Victor Schwartz: In the Presidential campaign an issue has been raised about federal legislation and the liability of gun manufacturers. A lot of misinformation about that topic has come forward from a variety of sources. Since I have been involved with most federal liability bills over the past three decades, I thought it might be helpful to clarify just what the federal legislation on gun manufacturer liability titled, “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" actually does in fact. On March 2, 2016 the Wall Street Journal ran Mr. Schwartz’s op-ed on the topic.
Professor Tim Armstrong’s book review accepted for publication
Professor Tim Armstrong’s book review titled Two Comparative Perspectives on Copyright's Past and Future in the Digital Age has been accepted for publication in the John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law. The essay critically evaluates two recent high-profile titles on digital copyright law: The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle by Peter Baldwin (Princeton, 2014) and Copyfight: The Global Politics of Digital Copyright Reform by Blayne Haggart (Univ. of Toronto, 2014).
Professor Michael Solimine co-authored an amicus curiae brief filed in Shapiro v. McManus, 136 S. Ct. 450 (2015)
Professor Michael Solimine co-authored an amicus curiae brief filed in Shapiro v. McManus, 136 S. Ct. 450 (2015), arguing that the lower court decision should be reversed. The case concerned the powers of a single district judge in deciding whether to convene a three-judge district court. In December, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case in a unanimous decision agreeing with the argument asserted in the amicus curiae brief.
Professor A. Christopher Bryant judged the state finals of the high school We The People Competition
Professor A. Christopher Bryant judged the state finals of the high school We The People Competition on January 22, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio at the Statehouse. See more here. We The People is a national, civic education program that originated with the Burger commission on the Bi-centennial of the Constitution.
Professor A. Christopher Bryant made two panel presentations at the AALS Annual Meeting
Professor A. Christopher Bryant made two panel presentations at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York City. On January 8, 2016, he presented "Constitutional Law from the Ground Up: How the Prohibition on 'Under-ruling' Distorts the Judicial Function" at the Federalist Society's works-in-progress session. On January 9, 2016, he spoke at the Law & Interpretation Section's panel addressing "The Empirics of Legal Interpretation."
Duane Morris partner Kevin E. Vance elected Interim Chairman of Sunrise Community, Inc. Board
Miami Attorney to Lead Board of Directors of National Non-Profit Organization Serving Individuals with Disabilities
Miami, Fla. (March 21, 2016) – Duane Morris is pleased to announce that Kevin E. Vance, a partner in the Miami office, has been elected Interim Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sunrise Community, Inc., a national leader in providing residential and habilitation services for people with a wide range of intellectual and physical disabilities. Vance joined the organization’s Board in 2014.
For over 45 years, by means of advocacy and education directed toward acceptance, Sunrise has provided its individualized support and services to enable people with disabilities to live valued lives in the community. The Miami-based organization offers a growing range of services, including group home facilities, in-home support, residential habilitation services, respite care, supported employment, adult training, and transportation services, among others. At the heart of its mission are its residential group home facilities, which provide safe, comfortable, family-style caring homes anchored in the community. Currently, the organization has 214 residential group homes serving more than 1,000 individuals.
“I am honored to be elected chairman of such a remarkable organization that is devoted to strengthening communities and ensuring people with disabilities become full participants in community life,” said Vance. “I look forward to working alongside the Board to further the organization’s mission and continue to impact the lives of so many deserving individuals.”
A Florida Bar board-certified attorney, Vance focuses his practice on labor and employment litigation and other types of business litigation. Vance is AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. He earned his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and his B. A. from Vanderbilt University. In addition to his Board position with Sunrise, Vance is the Vice Chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Human Resources and Workforce Development Committee.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris LLP, a law firm with more than 750 attorneys in offices across the United States and internationally, is asked by a broad array of clients to provide innovative solutions to today's legal and business challenges. In addition, Duane Morris affiliates have approximately 100 professionals engaged in ancillary service businesses.
Karen Kovach '92 Named UC's Interim General Counsel
Cincinnati Law graduate Karen Kovach has been named Interim General Counsel for the University of Cincinnati, effective April 1, 2016. She currently serves as UC's Deputy General Counsel.
With more than 23-and-a-half years of experience as an attorney, the last three of those years spent at the university, Ms. Kovach is familiar with the many aspects and issues affecting universities in the legal arena. In her interim role, she will serve as the key point of contact related to legal issues at the university.