Alumni News

February 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm

CLJC Spotlights History Alum | Pepper Prosecutes White Collar Criminals, Sexual Assault Cases

Center for Law, Justice & Culture Alumni Spotlight

Ohio University alumnus Elizabeth Pepper is Assistant County Prosecutor for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office and serves as Chief of the Criminal Division.

Elizabeth Pepper

Elizabeth Pepper

She graduated with a B.A. in History in 2003. After graduation, Pepper pursued her Juris Doctorate at The University of Toledo College of Law. She graduated in 2009 with a Certificate of Concentration in Criminal Law and returned to Athens to begin her law career.

She began working at the firm of Walker & Walker before becoming an Assistant Prosecutor for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office in 2011. Pepper prosecutes felony cases and was promoted to Chief of the Criminal Division and lead prosecutor on sexual assault and white collar crime cases. In addition to her work for the Prosecutor’s Office, Pepper is the current President of the Athens County Bar Association.

What brought you to Ohio University?

I grew up in Athens and wanted to attend Ohio University, knowing I would be getting a higher level education without paying for a private school. I also love Athens and the beautiful campus here at Ohio University.

What is your current occupation? Explain what you do in a typical day.

I am currently an Assistant Prosecutor and Chief of the Criminal Division for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office. I am also the lead prosecutor for sexual assault and white collar crime cases. Every day is different in the office, but one might find me in court for hearings, meeting with defense attorneys, victims or witnesses in my office, reviewing case files, and doing all of the daily tasks that come with ensuring the cases proceed on time including research, discovery, emails and phone calls.

How did you become interested in that field? Was there a particular topic or field of law that got you interested in it in the first place?

In law school, I pursued and received a Certificate of Concentration in Criminal Law, and the field has always interested me. When I graduated, I began working in a general practice law firm but knew immediately I wanted to work for the prosecutor. When a position opened up, I immediately applied and was lucky that our elected prosecutor, Mr. Keller Blackburn, saw potential in me and hired me as an assistant prosecutor for his criminal division.

What’s your favorite part of your position? What are you passionate about?

I am passionate in just about everything in my life whether it be family or friends, but in my career I am extremely proud of the work that our office has done with regard to sexual assault cases. I have personally sought out additional training to better my ability to prosecute these cases, and our office has transformed the process for how they are reviewed from start to finish. Pursuing justice in sexual assault cases is incredibly important to me.

How did your Ohio University experience prepare you for law school and shape your career path?

I was a history major, and I was incredibly lucky to have Dr. Phillip Bebb as one of my history professors. Without the education I received in my major, I would not have had the skills necessary for law school, including the basics of reading, writing and studying. Most importantly was the confidence instilled in me as a student by Dr. Bebb.

What do you think most important things you did as an undergrad to get you prepared for law school?

I am positive that my education in the different areas I studied, including English, Sociology/Criminology and History, were pivotal in learning the study and writing skills necessary for law school. Participating in my discussions and actually reading the materials were also incredibly important since law school professors will randomly call on you to answer questions, whether you have read or not!

Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

I think it is imperative that students understand the financial obligations of law school. When I first graduated, I was not sure I had made the right decision in going because I was not happy working in private practice. Now that I have found my passion in criminal law, it makes it all worth it but it is still a huge financial burden. Those students who have always been passionate to pursue a law degree seem more determined to take on this burden, but for those who are unsure, they need to understand the ramifications of their decision.

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

I can remember being in Dr. Bebb’s class and getting my first test back. This test, and his classes in general, were unbelievably hard and I was hoping for the best. He handed me my blue book, and I had done really well. He congratulated me – kind of like I had surprised him – I knew if I could excel in his class, I could really succeed in my major. It motivated me to work my hardest for the rest of my major. I actually did not apply for law school until three years after graduating from Ohio University, and when I asked Dr. Bebb to write a letter of recommendation, he immediately remembered me and wrote letters to all the schools to which I applied. Dr. Bebb is no longer with us and knowing that he is never able to teach ever again is very difficult for me to comprehend, and I am sad for all of the students who will miss out on his passion for learning.

Anything else you would like to share?

I highly recommend interning in different types of law offices in college before going to law school to get a better idea of how the actual practice of law works.

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