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Rex Marvel ’12 Named Public Defender Corp Fellow

After three years in Cincinnati, (Johnathon) Rex Marvel is off to the other Queen City – Charlotte, N.C. Marvel, a recent graduate of the College of Law, will spend the next three years at the Mecklenburg County Office of the Public Defender, as part of the 2012 Class of Public Defender Corps Fellows.

Marvel is one of 19 recent graduates selected into the second ever class of Public Defender Corps Fellows, which was created by Equal Justice Works and the Southern Public Defender Training Center.  The fellows will spend the next three years committed to changing the standard of practice for defendants who are caught in the criminal justice system and can’t afford an attorney. 

Marvel and the other fellows were chosen from 75 finalists, a group selected from the more than 450 initial applicants from across the country. In addition to North Carolina, fellows will work in Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“It basically starts the day after the bar exam,” said Marvel, who has been studying in Cincinnati.  “I have to drive to Birmingham (Ala.). They call it boot camp and I’ve heard somewhat about it. It’s basically every day of the week, 12 hours-plus days. You don’t get to start working as a public defender until your bar results are back, but you are a fellow once the training starts.”

Marvel came to the College of Law from Florida State University, where he earned a degree in political science and religion in 2009. At FSU, Marvel’s main focus was in human rights, and he also earned a certificate from the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights (CAHR), which is led by another UC Law graduate, Terry Coonan ’95. “He is the only reason I considered applying to anywhere outside of good weather,” Marvel said.

While an undergraduate student, Marvel had the opportunity to attend a conference at FSU with members of the International Criminal Tribunals of Rwanda and the Rwanda president. Also attending the conference was the College of Law’s Professor Bert Lockwood, director of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. “I was able to meet him and it kind of sold me on UC Law,” Marvel said.

Although he will soon move to Charlotte, Marvel has enjoyed his time in Cincinnati – the largest city in which he has ever lived. Marvel, who grew up in Wichita, Kansas but finished high school in North Florida, has been surprised by the amount of culture in town and has enjoyed some of the festivals that take place in the warm weather.

Understanding His Drive for Justice

The recent graduate also had a positive experience at the College of Law, where he was an Urban Morgan fellow and later a book reviews editor for the Human Rights Quarterly. The summer after his 1L year, Marvel worked as a law clerk with the Botswana Court of Appeals through the Urban Morgan Institute. While Marvel noted that the judges in Botswana “did their best to preserve justice,” he was deeply troubled that there was no the right to counsel in Botswana. This led to many appellants struggling to defend themselves against the State, he noted.

Marvel’s experience in Botswana, coupled with family experiences involving a public defender, helped shape his interest in public defender work.  “I come from a blue collar background. I lived in a couple of trailer parks growing up and a couple members of my family have had public defenders represent them. Most recently it was my mother in my 1L year,” he said. “The public defender really invested a lot of time in her case and really helped her out of a very difficult situation.”

Moving forward into his own career as a public defender, Marvel has been inspired by something said to him by Coonan, his mentor.  “He told me to ‘find something you’re passionate about, make a niche of it and of kind of become an expert,’” Marvel said. “I really want to focus on helping people from very difficult backgrounds … I’m trying to get an understanding of the person and not just the problem.”

Life Away from UC Law

Although Cincinnati offers less warm weather than Florida, plus the fact that studying has kept Marvel very busy the last three years, he very much loves being outside. In fact, he and his wife, Bonnie, were members of the FSU Rowing team and were “on the water every single day” while in college. One hobby Marvel has picked up while in Cincinnati is brewing beer, which compliments his passion for cooking.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

Anna Lammert Wants to Fight for Social Justice…in Her Own Backyard

Early in her law student career, St. Louis native Anna Lammert ’12 focused on international law. Today, however, the recent College of Law graduate is back home studying for the Missouri bar, which is just one more step in the process of beginning a career in criminal defense.

Lammert graduated from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO in Dec. 2008, where she earned a political science degree and minors in French and women’s studies. From January to July 2009, Lammert taught English in China before returning to the States to pursue a law degree that fall.

“Initially I was attracted to the joint degree program at UC, primarily the women’s studies program,” Lammert said. “Although I did not end up pursuing a joint degree, UC has a very strong social justice program and I have not been disappointed with my decision.”

After her 1L year, Lammert clerked for a judge at the High Court of Botswana through the Urban Morgan Institute. It was this experience abroad, which included visits to “some of the poorest areas of South Africa and Botswana,” that marked the start of Lammert’s interest in indigent defense, she said.

“I realized that I don’t have to travel around the world to fight for social justice. In fact, I realized that many areas of St. Louis have been ravaged by racism, poverty, aggressive policing and over-incarceration and something just clicked for me,” Lammert said. “I knew I needed to be back in St. Louis and I knew that I could combine my intrinsic interest in the law and criminal defense with my passion for social justice – and even if I could help even one person, the effect of my assistance could be infinite.”

Since her trip to Africa, Lammert has been involved with and worked in a number of positions reflecting her interests. At school, she worked as a research assistant for the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice and helped host a number of the Center’s events.  In fact, she says her favorite event was “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice,” featuring former federal prosecutor and current George Washington University Law School’s Professor Paul Butler. Lammert spent months preparing for this event, and her parents even came in from St. Louis to attend, she said.

After her 2L year, Lammert interned with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic (DPLC) in Kansas City, MO, a habeas corpus firm.  “DPLC is like OIP (the Ohio Innocence Project), except all of the clients have already been found guilty, sentenced to death and do not dispute their convictions,” she said. “Rather, attorneys at the DPLC look through the client’s trial and appeal records and investigate mitigating evidence in order to commute death sentences to life sentences.”

For most of her final year at the College of Law, Lammert had an “informal” internship at the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. She also worked with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy in Kenton County during her final semester on campus.

“In all three states (Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri), I have limited practice licenses and have really enjoyed appearing for clients and representing their interests in court,” Lammert said.

After completing the bar exam, Lammert said she would “love” the opportunity to work in the Missouri Public Defender System, particularly in her hometown of St. Louis. “Either way, I definitely plan on being a public defender,” she said.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

Future Trial Attorney Greg Laux Finds Moot Court to be a Great Training Ground

March 30 marks the start of the 25th Annual August A. Rendigs, Jr. National Products Liability Moot Court Competition, a special event for the Moot Court Program and the College of Law. The two-day event will also mark the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for Greg Laux ’12, the Rendigs Competition Director. Since the first day after last year’s competition, Laux has been planning and coordinating this year’s event.

“I did a lot of work last spring, a lot of work in the summer, a ton of work in the fall and this spring has kind of been a whirlwind too,” Laux said.

While the Rendigs Competition has had up to 30 teams in years past, only 15 teams participated in last year’s event. “I took that on as a personal challenge,” Laux said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen a decreasing number of teams that have attended the competition the last several years, and I really wanted to reverse that trend.”

After selecting a date for the 2012 competition, Laux began booking and negotiating contracts with hotels, planning a dinner banquet, recruiting attorneys and judges to serve as competition judges, while also trying to attract teams to attend the competition.

“Last year’s Moot Court Board sent out email recruitments. Emails are easy to ignore and easy to delete,” Laux said. “What I did this year was have everyone send emails, but also follow up with personal phone calls to the law schools (and Moot Court directors).”

This year, 22 teams from 17 different law schools will travel to Cincinnati for the competition. This includes teams from the Mississippi College School of Law and the South Texas College of Law (which sent last year’s winning and second-place teams, respectively), as well as newcomers from the likes of Nevada-Las Vegas and New Hampshire.

Laux joined Moot Court a year ago, after transferring from NKU’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law. With his interest in becoming a trial attorney and doing litigation, it seemed like a perfect fit when he was extended an invitation to join last fall.

The 1999 College of William & Mary graduate was attracted to appellate advocacy for two major reasons. First, he commented, he has found the trend where judges establish tests and principles for future cases, as opposed to making decisions solely based on disputed facts in individual cases, to be very interesting. Second, he appreciates how Moot Court “combines both writing and advocacy at a very high level.”

The Road to Cincinnati

Laux’s pathway to Moot Court, but more specifically his journey to Cincinnati and the College of Law, is unique. He was born in Louisville, Ky., but his family moved to Arkansas at a young age. His father’s work at a Reynolds Metals aluminum factory also took the Laux family to Texas, back to Arkansas and then to Virginia – where most of his family still lives today.

While Laux considers Arkansas home, he did go to college at the Williamsburg, Va.-based William & Mary, where he majored in political science and philosophy. Upon graduating, Laux found work with the Justice Department in Washington D.C., and worked in a grants program office, where he helped distribute block grants and discretionary grant money to state and local police departments and fire departments.

After five years in that role, and then a stint on Capitol Hill with the House Appropriations Committee, Laux began work as a volunteer fire fighter on the side. “It was really rewarding work,” Laux said. “I liked being able to help people in a direct way. People call 9-1-1 when they don’t have anywhere to turn and don’t know what to do. I liked being able to solve people’s problems on the spot.”

Laux was later hired as a firefighter near Richmond, Va., and he worked for two different fire departments over the next five years. He later quit his job and came to Cincinnati, after his girlfriend at the time (now wife) began a residency program in emergency medicine at University Hospital.

After working “a few odd jobs,” Laux opted to attend law school, something he once considered pursuing straight from undergrad.

UC Law and Beyond

Since transferring from Chase, Laux has had more than a full plate, even joking that he has “probably over-extended” himself the last two years. For example, in addition to his high involvement with Moot Court, Laux is a Westlaw student representative, a BARBRI student representative, and editor-in-chief of the Immigration and Nationality Law Review.

Laux additionally works about 20 hours each week at Wood & Lamping LLP, where he began clerking last summer. The busy 3L also helps out with the Student Ambassador Program, specifically talking with and giving tours to prospective “nontraditional” students who similarly have worked several years since getting their undergraduate degree. “The admissions office likes to pair me up with those folks and just give them a realistic perspective of what law school is like and why UC Law would be a great place for them,” he said.

Laux, now in his fifth year in Cincinnati, said he and his wife “love” living here. In what little free time he does have, Laux enjoys spending it with her, whether that involves running, traveling, attending shows at the Aronoff Center, “vicariously” rooting for Duke basketball (her alma mater), or cheering on the Bengals and attending Reds games.

After graduation and taking the bar, the avid baseball fan is also wanting to learn Mandarin Chinese and further hopes to become “more heavily involved” in the community. “My wife and I like to volunteer when we have the chance to,” he said. “That’s one thing I want to get into more.” For now, the Rendigs Competition, work, other activities and, yes, classes, will continue to keep Laux quite busy.

By Jordan Cohen, ’13

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