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Moot Court is a Part of Brian Pokrywka’s DNA

While March is a busy time for any UC law student, Moot Court has certainly kept Brian Pokrywka ’12 on his toes this month. Pokrywka, the Moot Court executive director, recently participated in a moot court competition of his own in Boston, while he has been hard at work preparing for the UC-hosted August Rendigs Products Liability competition at the end of the month.

Like every other student who has tried out for Moot Court in recent years, Pokrywka weathered “an intense time crunch” during his 2L fall semester, completing an appellate brief and a three-round oral argument.

He saw Moot Court as an opportunity to hone his legal research and writing skills to better prepare him for a future legal career. Not only did his hard work lead to being selected to join the student-run appellate advocacy organization, but he even received the top oral argument score last fall.

While most of his peers were free of any further Moot Court responsibilities until the spring semester last year that was far from true in Pokrywka’s case. Late last fall, an emergency came up with the 3L student who had been writing the problem for the 2011 Rendigs competition. It was Pokrywka, a Toledo native, who stepped up, replying to an urgent email asking for someone to write the problem.

“The day after Christmas, I told my family about the opportunity, and then I drove back to Cincinnati from Toledo and started crafting the 2011 Rendigs Moot Court problem with a two-week deadline,” Pokrywka said.  “Our competition is always a products liability issue, and I previously had no experience with any products liability.”

After taking a week to learn products liability law, Pokrywka drafted the problem the following week. While most students try avoiding the law library after exams, he was putting in 14 hour days. “While the long hours were tough, I wanted to make sure that the problem represented the work that I was capable of,” he said. “At the same time, the problem reflects the work of UC Moot Court, so I did everything I could to make sure that I gave maximum effort in writing the problem.”

Last spring, Pokrywka competed in a securities law competition at Fordham Law School in New York. Then, in March 2011 he and Greg Laux participated as an unscored team in the Rendigs competition, due to an odd number of competing teams.

Pokrywka eventually opted to run for and was elected by his peers to serve in the executive director position. He functions in a managerial role, working with his “great team” of officers to make certain the organization runs efficiently and successfully.

“I chose to run for the position because Moot Court is something I’m passionate about,” Pokrywka said. “I believe the advocacy skills that Moot Court fosters will serve us well throughout our careers. Beyond just the written and oral advocacy skills, participating in Moot Court competitions builds organization skills, time management skills, and teamwork.”

In addition to his involvement with Moot Court, Pokrywka is working at a law clerk downtown for civil litigation defense firm Montgomery, Rennie & Jonson. He aspires to work in litigation, “preferably on the defense side,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Toledo in 2009 – where he majored in business administration, while minoring in finance – he finished work as a stockbroker intern with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, before coming to the College of Law.

In his free time, Pokrywka likes to golf, where he is a “single digit handicap with aspirations to get to scratch sometime after the bar exam.” He also once bowled a 298.

Until graduation, studying for the bar exam, and making it out onto the golf course, Pokrywka will continue putting in the long hours in the moot court office. After all, his goal when running for executive director was “to lay the groundwork for building and sustain a successful Moot Court program” at the College of Law.

By Jordan Cohen, ’13




UC Law Trial Practice and Moot Court Teams Excel

UC Law’s Trial Practice Competition team took first place at the Regional TYLA competition February 10-12, 2012 with a perfect score! Congratulations to the team of Alexander Rodger ‘12, Emily Homel ’13, and Allison Kendall ’12 who represented the school at the competition in Michigan. They will go on to represent UC Law at the National Competition in Texas in late March.  Credit for terrific trial performance also goes to the team of Tony Strike ‘13, Jeff DeBeer ‘12, and Sarah Kyriakedes ‘13, whose fine work also made us proud.

Hats off to all of the team members as well as their professors/coaches Dan Donnellon, Faruki Cox & Ireland, and Sheila Smith, Freking and Betz. 

In addition, congratulations go to Kathryn McBride ‘12 and Sundeep Mutgi ’13, who attended the Whittier Moot Court Competition February 3-5, 2012. They placed third in the competition. Mutgi received a second place finish for best oral advocate. 

Law Review to Host First Annual Alumni Banquet on March 8

The University of Cincinnati Law Review is hosting its first annual Law Review Alumni Banquet, honoring former alumni and recognizing the efforts of current students.  

This year's banquet will be held on Thursday, March 8 at the Millennium Hotel.  At the banquet, the Law Review will honor former members Doug Dennis of Frost, Brown, Todd and James Helmer, Jr. of Helmer, Martins, Rice & Popham.  

For more information on the banquet or to purchase tickets, please visit the registration website or contact Kevin Tamm at

Department of Education Releases Loan Forgiveness Certification Form

In 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program was established by Congress to encourage individuals to enter public sector and non-profit professions. The program provides forgiveness of any Federal Direct student loan debt remaining after individuals have made 120 separate, on-time, monthly payments in certain repayment plans while working full-time for one or more qualifying public service organizations. While the program has been in place now for several years, it was only late last month that the US Department of Education finally released an Employment Certification form borrowers can use to track their progress toward meeting the 120 month (ten year) goal.

View the Employment Certification Form for PSLF

View the Instructions for Completing the Form

Because the Department never created a process for borrowers to signal their intention to enter the program on the front-end, advocates for attorneys and others working in government and public interest positions believe this new form will go a long way in helping borrowers to at least now document that their ongoing employment will qualify. A separate application is still being developed in advance of the date when the first group of borrowers will be eligible for loan forgiveness in 2017.

Further details on what types of employment qualify, what student loans can be forgiven, and more are available at the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program website.

Meet Law Review’s Managing Editor Matthew Wagner ‘12

Matthew Wagner ’12 applied for a position on Law Review because he thought the experience would help his research and writing skills. Sure enough it has – “immensely,” he said. “Those skills are extremely important to practice, and if I hadn’t been on Law Review, I wouldn’t have had as much of a chance to improve those skills after 1L year,” Wagner said.

After working as an associate editor in 2009-10, Wagner is currently the Law Review’s managing editor, which largely consists of selecting the lead articles the staff publishes. These pieces are typically submitted by professors and practicing attorneys.

While Wagner said topic selection was the most difficult aspect of being on the staff as a 2L, he has embraced the opportunity, as a 3L, to review others’ articles. “I enjoy reading the different article submissions and seeing people’s ideas for how the law in a given area is evolving and learning more about different areas of law,” Wagner said. He has also enjoyed getting to know the other members of the Law Review staff, people he might not have had an opportunity to meet otherwise, he said.

In addition to his Law Review position, Wagner is also the chair of the Honor Council this year and has been involved with Out & Allies.

Wagner came to the College of Law after working a number of jobs, including a five-year stint at F+W Media, a publishing company at which he was involved with book production, purchasing, and logistics. “Since the publishing industry is imploding, it seemed like a good time to switch careers,” said Wagner, who had seen several of his friends graduate from law school straight from undergrad.

Wagner, who was born in Washington but moved east to Louisville at a young age, ended up in Cincinnati when he enrolled at Xavier University. He graduated from Xavier in 2001, where he was an English major and Theater minor. Wagner has been in the Queen City ever since. “I wanted to stay in Cincinnati if possible,” he said, when asked about his choice to attend the College of Law. “My wife’s family is here and my family is close by.”

In his free time, Wagner enjoys reading, playing video games, watching football, and simply socializing. But music, especially, is Wagner’s true pastime, and he writes music and also plays in a band. “I’ve been playing music my whole life – saxophone when I was younger and then guitar. It helps keep me sane,” he said.

Upon graduation and ultimately passing the Ohio Bar, Wagner will be working in the Labor & Employment group at the downtown office of Frost Brown Todd.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

For Executive Editor Sarah Topy Law Review is Opportunity to Cultivate Skills

Sarah Topy ’12 likes to stay busy. Any student or faculty member who has come in contact with her the past three years at the College of Law knows just that.

Topy, a 3L, is currently the chairperson of the Student Legal Education Committee (SLEC), and also has been doing research for Professors Marianna Bettman and Christopher Bryant for the past two years.  In addition to those opportunities and her busy course load, Topy is also a member of Law Review, where she currently serves as its executive editor.

“We’re in here pretty much every day, weekends, during the breaks,” she said. “It’s a really big commitment and it takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.”

Upon graduating from The Ohio State University in 2004, where she studied political science and creative writing, Topy spent several years working in politics. This included positions with John Kerry’s presidential campaign, the Ohio Democratic Party and with a congressional race in Chicago. After deciding to pursue a law degree, the Columbus native was attracted to the College of Law by its small size and also the comments made to her by a close friend, who earned his JD from UC in 2010.

While Topy has been and still is very busy with a number of activities and experiences, she has been devoting a lot of time to Law Review since joining the staff during the 2010-11 academic year.

Topy said three of her four section advisers during her 1L year were members of Law Review, which immediately piqued her interest. When she applied and received an invite to be part of the journal, Topy was “really excited” to join the staff.

“It’s nice, in addition to what you’re doing in the classroom, to be able to research and write in an area of law that you care about,” she said. “Plus, it is a collection of great students that you get to work with,” Topy said. “All of the people that are on Law Review are fantastic and smart and writing about really interesting topics.”

As an associate member of Law Review a year ago, Topy said she was “fortunate” to get published twice, once each semester. Her first article was a civil procedure topic on the State Secret Doctrine and her second one focused on Sharia Law and the First Amendment.

Since then, Topy was elected to fill the executive editor position for the current 2011-12 year. This requires doing the substantive editing for the journal, with both the lead authors and the student authors, for the various publishable pieces submitted. Topy said there are usually about five professors from across the country whose articles are selected for publication by the Cincinnati Law Review, and she works with these lead authors on their editing schedule.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to read and to learn about a lot of different areas of the law. The authors and the students that we publish are writing on complex and fascinating topics,” Topy said. “Also, just doing the editing and looking carefully at writing and making the writing as polished as possible helps me cultivate my writing skills. Obviously, that is a big part of being an attorney.”

In her free time, Topy enjoys reading fiction and is a big sports fan. In addition to cheering on her New England Patriots in the recent Super Bowl XLVI, the Ohio State graduate and Columbus native is also fan of, surprisingly, Michigan football!

Upon graduating from the College of Law in May, Topy will be working for Procter & Gamble, where she “had the incredible opportunity” of working last summer, she said. Topy was also a fellow at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., during summer 2010.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

Jeff DeBeer Finds Law Review Experience Mirrors Life

When given the chance to submit an entry into the Law Review write-on competition two years ago, Jeff DeBeer ’12 saw the journal as an opportunity to improve upon his research and writing skills.

“I tried out for Law Review, in part, because I thought I could have done better in my legal research and writing class,” he said. “I wanted to improve.”

Not only was DeBeer invited to join the Law Review, but he had a case note published as an associate member during the 2010-11 school year. It analyzed the effect of U.S. v. Doss on the federal witness tampering statute, § 1512(b),

After enjoying his Law Review experience as a 2L, DeBeer wanted to continue contributing to the publication as a 3L student. Thus, last spring he submitted a statement of interest to announce his candidacy for editor-in-chief, and he was eventually elected by his peers to serve in that capacity during this 2011-12 year.

“I ran for editor-in-chief for several reasons,” DeBeer said. “One reason is that the editor-in-chief gets to be a part of every aspect of running the journal, so there is a lot of group work and collaborative problem solving with bright, motivated students. Also, the editor-in-chief gains a lot of substantive editing experience.”

While being editor-in-chief certainly requires a significant time commitment, the St. Louis native has found it to be a very positive and even “fun experience so far,” he said.

Just last month, the Law Review launched a new website, which DeBeer credits to the work of Kenneth Hirsh, Director, Law Library and Information Technology and Professor of Practice, and the library staff.

The 2009 University of Kentucky graduate was also instrumental in establishing the Law Review’s new alumni advisory board, which was born out of the idea of holding an annual Law Review alumni banquet – the first of which is being held March 8 at the Millennium Hotel downtown.

DeBeer, a former member of the College’s Student Court, is also a member of the Trial Practice Competition Team and is a student member of the Inn of Court.

Of course, DeBeer spends most of his time outside the classroom in the third-floor Law Review office, working towards publishing the latest volume of the Cincinnati Law Review.

For the former UK political science major, getting the opportunity to work on Law Review to publish something that will be distributed to the legal community is a unique experience, unlike the typical submission of a term paper, DeBeer said. “When you’re putting your words, your opinions, your voice out (there), the level of detail and diligence required to make sure things are done properly mirrors what students on Law Review will have to do as attorneys,” DeBeer said. “The experiences gained while working on Law Review carry over into the student’s legal careers.”

DeBeer, who worked for a family law judge in Batavia and at the Northern Kentucky office of a Cleveland-based civil defense firm the last two summers, respectively, said he has aspirations to work in a litigation-oriented firm after graduating from the College of Law.

“As an end goal, hopefully somewhere down the line, I’d like to end up being a litigator, being in the court room and trying cases in front of juries,” he said.

Despite being extremely busy with classes, Law Review and the Trial Practice Team, DeBeer has made sure not to miss a single UK basketball game this season. The 3L said he “religiously” watches his alma mater, even if he has to watch on the Law Review television or on his computer when he cannot make it home in time to watch the Wildcats play.

DeBeer also enjoys playing basketball and running, as well as pleasure reading during breaks.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

University of Cincinnati Law Review Announces New Website, First Annual Alumni Banquet

The University of Cincinnati Law Review is pleased to announce that it has launched a new Website, which can be found at  The site contains past editions of the law review, current student casenotes and comments, and information about upcoming law review events.  

"This is a great opportunity for us to share our scholarship, and the Website allows the Cincinnati legal community to learn more about the exciting work students are doing on Law Review," said Jeff DeBeer, Editor-in-Chief, '12.

In addition to posting law review articles online, the site will be used to reconnect with former law review members.  The Law Review hopes to encourage alumni involvement through the Website and the newly created Law Review Alumni Board.  "We hope that by going online, we can reach out to our alumni practicing in Cincinnati and beyond," said DeBeer.

Alumni can sign up for more information about events and networking opportunities here or by visiting the group's new Linkedin page. Additionally, the Law Review will be hosting its first annual Law Review Alumni Banquet, honoring former alumni and recognizing the efforts of current students.  

This year's banquet will be held on Thursday, March 8 at the Millennium Hotel.  At the banquet, the Law Review will honor former members Doug Dennis of Frost, Brown, Todd and James Helmer, Jr. of Helmer, Martins, Rice & Popham.  

For more information on the banquet or to purchase tickets, please visit or contact Kevin Tamm at

Another OIP Victory: Roger Dean Gillispie Released After 20 Years in Prison

Last week the OIP team was present to welcome home Roger Dean Gillispie from prison just in time for the holidays. Gillispie spent 20 years in prison after being convicted of three rapes in 1988. He was sentenced to 22-56 years in prison. For current and former OIP fellows this case was particularly special as it has the distinction of being the very first case the Ohio Innocence Project took on. On December 15, 2011 a federal judge in Dayton, OH threw out the conviction and on December 22 Gillispie was released.
Students who worked on the case over the years include current students: Caitlin Brown ’13, Chelsea Brint ’13, Megan Collard ’12, and Lindsey Fleissner ’12.
Some of the former fellows who worked on this case include:  Mike Cappell ’05, Ashley Couch ’09, Miranda Hamrick ’09, Ryan Houston '11, Gerri Jones ’06, Melissa Laugle ’10, Jeanette McClellan ‘06, Darryl Osuch ‘11, Amanda Smith ‘10 and Kelly Schukart ’05, and Katie Stanberry ’06.

View the video of his release here: Gillispie release

View the video of Gillispie’s mother’s reaction to the news of impending release: Mother’s reaction

A History of Giving Back Leads 3L Ryan McGraw to the Law and the Linus Foundation

Although he cannot recall a specific moment in time when he became attracted to the law, Ryan McGraw ’12 said he has always wanted to be a lawyer. McGraw grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of  Finneytown, before attending high school at nearby St. Xavier.  It was during his four years of high school when McGraw developed an interest in serving others, and today he says his legal interests lie in the public sector.

“At St. X, our motto is ‘Men for Others,’ and I think that mindset has shaped my life since I graduated,” he said. “I have always felt called to give back in a meaningful way to those in the community who may be less fortunate than me, and I think it is for that reason that I hope to pursue a career in public interest law.” During his high school years, McGraw attended the American Youth Foundation’s National Leadership Conference (NLC), which he described as bringing together high school kids from across the country, to teach them leadership skills to take back to their communities and schools and make a difference.

“After I completed the four year program, I chose to return as staff, because of the impact that many of my mentors had on me throughout the program,” he said. “I hoped to make a difference in just one student’s life to the degree that my mentors had made on mine.” While at the NLC, McGraw struck up a friendship with a St. X graduate and eventual College of Law alumnus, Pat Hayes ’08, who told him about a non-profit organization he was working with in Cincinnati called the Linus Foundation. The Linus Foundation Cincinnati is a non-profit organization committed to providing service, care, and comfort to underprivileged children throughout the tri-state. Since the branch opened in 2008, Linus Cincinnati has donated thousands of dollars to local charities.

McGraw was “eager to get involved,” and has been very much so during law school, spending a lot of his free time fundraising and “trying to give back to the youth in Cincinnati.” In addition to Hayes, McGraw said John Treleven ’07  is also highly involved with the organization. “It has been tremendous to work with both of them and to get to know them on a personal level,” McGraw said. “It has also been extremely helpful to be able to discuss the challenges of law school and the legal economy with people who have been through the gauntlet recently.”  

The Linus Foundation was recently able to donate $1,000 to St. Vincent de Paul, a non-profit social service agency that provides personal assistant with food, clothing, medicine, rent, utilities, transportation and companionship to people facing economic, emotional or spiritual crises.  This donation was expected to pay for 22 beds for children who did not have one. Certainly, McGraw felt a sense of pride in knowing he was able “to make a difference” in those children’s lives.

Prior to attending the College of Law, McGraw majored in criminology and minored in real estate at The Ohio State University (with McGraw putting a special emphasis on the “The,” perhaps because he gave this interview just days prior to the annual Michigan game).

McGraw’s choice to attend the College of Law after his time at OSU was an easy one, aspiring to work for the Ohio Innocence Project. Not only did McGraw get an opportunity to work for the OIP last year, but he said his time as a fellow has been “by far the highlight of law school.” “In particular, working on the case of David Ayers, who was released in September after serving nearly 11 years for a murder he did not commit, was such an honor and privilege,” McGraw said. “Seeing him walk out of the county jail and spending the first moments of his freedom with him are things I will never forget.”

In his two-and-a-half years at the College of Law, McGraw has also been a part of Student Court, has served as a Student Ambassador, was president of the Law Republicans, was co-director of the Tenant Information Project, and currently is an articles editor for the Law Review.

When he is not busy with law school or helping others, McGraw enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as golfing when he has a chance. The OSU graduate also “look(ed) for any excuse to go back to Columbus on Saturdays during the fall,” he said.


By Jordan Cohen, ‘13