Alumni News

July 16, 2016 at 9:32 am

Young Legal Minds Thrive at OHIO’s Summer Law and Trial Institute

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor talks to students in the Summer Law and Trial Institute.

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor talks to students in the Summer Law and Trial Institute.

Eighteen high school juniors and seniors are attending Ohio University’s Summer Law and Trial Institute, an immersive residential program that seeks to increase understanding of law and its possibilities among high school students.

This program, which runs July 10-22, is a new initiative developed by Larry Hayman (B.A. Political Science ’03), who serves as the pre-law specialist and adviser for OHIO’s Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

The institute is the first high school program to directly address the complex legal challenges associated with social and economic inequality in Appalachian Ohio. The selective program targets high-achieving students from Appalachia, and it raises their critical awareness of issues relating to housing, property, natural resources, education, transportation, and access to justice in the region.  Additionally, the program seeks to develop professional skills like public speaking, analysis, negotiation, reading comprehension, networking, and independence.

The two-week program is free to all students. This program was made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

“I’m very happy with this group of students,” says Hayman. “They are bright, inquisitive, engaged, and eager to learn. We had many strong applicants this year, who were required to have at least a 3.0 GPA, submit a letter of recommendation, and write an essay about their interest in law and in the program. Selected students come from Athens, Fairfield, Franklin, Hocking, Jackson, Muskingum, Vinton, and Washington counties in Ohio, as well as Raleigh County in West Virginia and Greenup County in Kentucky.”

Several attendees of OHIO's Summer Law and Trial Institute

Several attendees of OHIO’s Summer Law and Trial Institute

Courtroom Observations and Interactive Experience

Hayman leads the program with support from many legal professionals, including OHIO alumni in law-related fields.

Through the institute, students engage in rigorous academic coursework on law and the American legal system, including criminal appeals, law school admissions, plea bargaining, and professionalism and ethics. These sessions include interactive exercises on textual analysis, case briefings, and negotiations.

Students are also learning through field trips and on-site courtroom observation labs.

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor

Visiting the Supreme Court of Ohio, ACLU, Ohio House, and Ohio Attorney General

On July 13, students spent the day at the Supreme Court of Ohio, where they were hosted by Pierce J. Reed, (B.A. Psychology ’86) Senior Judicial Attorney for Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the first woman to lead the Ohio judicial branch. At the Supreme Court, the students had the opportunity to observe oral arguments, take a tour of the Ohio Judicial Center, and enjoy lunch attended by the Chief Justice and her judicial externs.

Following their visit to the Supreme Court, the students met with State Rep. Debbie Phillips (B.S.S. ’97) on the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives. Phillips explained her role as a legislator and the process of drafting and passing legislation..

Upon leaving the Statehouse, the students traveled to the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, There, the group met with Adrienne Gavula (B.S. Communications ’04) the regional office director and development director, and Gary Daniels, the chief lobbyist. They learned about the organization’s mission and its role as an advocacy organization.

They finished the afternoon at the Rhodes Tower, meeting with representatives of Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine’s Office. Here, they learned about the multitude of functions the attorney general’s office serves, were introduced to the heads of different sections of the office, were given a tour of the floor, and met with the office’s interns.

Interacting with Area Judges and Attorneys

The day before, the students also visited the Athens County Courthouse, where they observed proceedings in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas and met with Judge Patrick Lang (B.A. Political Science Pre-Law ’99).

“Visiting Judge Lang at County Court and seeing what it’s going to be like to be a lawyer was so interesting,” says senior Daphne Emory of Zanesville.

Interacting with attorneys and judges has been a highlight of the Summer Law and Trial Institute for many students. On Monday, Margaret Smith Replogle (B.A. Political Science ’93) and Tracy Meek (B.S. Political Communication ’03) of the Athens City Prosecutor’s Office led sessions on criminal trials.  The students learned about the differing perspectives of a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney.  They also learned about trial process, including jury selection and burdens of proof.  Following this session, students learned about the intensive process of presenting and arguing a criminal appeal by Meg Saunders of the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.  Saunders explained the process of researching and writing an appeal and arguing the case in front of three judge panels.

The students, many of whom are interested in criminal law, were excited to learn about the intricacies of criminal cases.

“I really like the guest speakers. Tracy Meek was very interesting and insightful. I learned a lot from that session,” said senior Raylin Fetherolf of Athens.

Alum, Attorney, and Acting Judge Rusty Rittenhouse teaching at OHIO's Summer Law and Trial Institute

Alum, Attorney, and Acting Judge Rusty Rittenhouse teaching at OHIO’s Summer Law and Trial Institute

On July 12, Athens attorney Rusty Rittenhouse (B.A Political Science ’02), currently the acting Athens County Municipal Court Judge, led a session on case briefings. Rittenhouse asked students to imagine that they were attorneys working at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services. In this role, they had to determine whether a hypothetical eviction case should be dismissed by the judge.

Rittenhouse explained to students the “IRAC method,” which, he explained, attorneys regularly follow when filing a case briefing. The method, which stands for “Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion,” allowed students to learn about the standard that judges expect attorneys to follow in their briefings and communication. Rittenhouse also taught students about the Ohio Revised Code and different databases attorneys use when searching for specific sections of the ORC.

Other Events and Meetings

Students also had classroom sessions with Athens City Law Director Lisa Eliason (B.S. Education ’76), Elizabeth Pepper (B.A. History, ’03) from the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Douglas Francis, supervising attorney at the Athens branch of the State Public Defender’s Office, and Assistant State Public Defender Karyn Justice.  Eliason explained her duties as Athens City Attorney and her election as the first female legal elected position in Athens County.  Pepper and Justice led the students in a discussion regarding plea bargaining and its place in the criminal justice system.  Following their lecture, the students engaged in plea bargaining exercises.  Francis explained his role as a public defender and the importance of the right to counsel.

Attorneys Anne Rubin (B.S. Social Work ’74) and Robin Bozian from Southeast Ohio Legal Services met with the students on campus to talk about the history and future of legal aid and their role as legal aid attorneys.

Students will learn about the academic and professional challenges of law school and becoming a lawyer through a panel featuring Yousef Faroniya (B.S.J. Journalism ’06) Amy Flowers (B.A. Political Science ’05, M.A. Public Administration ‘08) and Grant Garber, Associate General Counsel in OHIO’s Office of Legal Affairs.

They will also learn about pre-law and law and society studies at OHIO through interactions with Ohio University faculty members Jennifer Fredette from Political Science, Kelly Faust from Sociology, Marianna Dantas from History, and Elizabeth Koonce from English.

During the second week of the program, students will engage in a mock trial case. Sandy Anderson (B.S. Communication ’73), former Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the Ohio State University Office of Legal Affairs and former Chair of the Ohio University Board of Trustees, will train them in Direct Examination and Cross Examination, while Charles Cohara, Attorney with the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, will teach them Rules of Evidence and Closing Statements.  Judge George McCarthy will preside over the mock trial case in the Athens County Courthouse.

SLTI Students (left to right): Camiah Barnett (Zanesville, OH), Teara Hill (Zanesville, OH), Alexandria Johnson (Vincent, OH), Raylin Fetherolf (Athens, OH), and Lori Smith (Jackson, OH)

SLTI Students (left to right): Camiah Barnett (Zanesville, OH), Teara Hill (Zanesville, OH), Alexandria Johnson (Vincent, OH), Raylin Fetherolf (Athens, OH), and Lori Smith (Jackson, OH)

Two undergraduate students, Aleksandra Tyler a senior studying Psychology and Social Work, and Alexa Jesser, a junior double majoring in Psychology and Political Science with a certificate in Law, Justice & Culture, serve as program assistants. Institute program assistants serve as mentors to the students, living with them in the residence hall and assisting in the day-to-day facilitation of the program.

Institute students are housed in OHIO’s new Luchs Hall, part of the state-of-the-art Living Learning Center, on South Green.

When not in the classroom, they spend their evenings watching and discussing films such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Gideon’s Trumpet and participate in game nights, a bowling outing, and a weekend excursion to Hocking Hills State Park.  They also interact with current Ohio University students interested in law and members of the Ohio University Mock Trial Team.

Students of SLTI, left to right: Lori Smith (Jackson, OH), Nicholas Hacker (Albany, OH), Ellen Gill (Barlow, OH), Molly Moore (Jackson, OH), and Samuel Slyss (Fairdale, WV)

Students of SLTI, left to right: Lori Smith (Jackson, OH), Nicholas Hacker (Albany, OH), Ellen Gill (Barlow, OH), Molly Moore (Jackson, OH), and Samuel Slyss (Fairdale, WV)

Living and Learning at OHIO

“Living on campus and staying in the dorms with new people is a good thing because it helps prepare us for going to college and staying away from home, and the lectures get us ready for what we’re going to go through in college. Plus, meeting all of these lawyers and judges gives us an idea of what it will be like to have a legal job. It’s fun to see them in action and to see how successful they are,” says senior Alexandria Johnson of Vincent, OH.

Senior Daphne Emory from Zanesville, OH, agrees: “Living on campus for twelve days is pretty cool because OHIO is one of my top schools!”

The OHIO Summer Law and Trial Institute was made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and does not necessarily represent their views. The Institute, which is primarily coordinated by OHIO’s Center for Law, Justice, & Culture, works in collaboration with the Ohio University College of Arts & Sciences, Athens County Court of Common Pleas, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services. The Supreme Court of Ohio, Athens County Public Defender’s Office, Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Athens City Attorney’s Office, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, State Public Defender’s Office, and Athens County Reentry Program, the Ohio University Office of Legal Affairs, and the Ohio University Mock Trial Team, among others, significantly contributed to the program.

Please contact Larry Hayman ( for more information.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

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