Alumni News

August 7, 2017 at 12:32 pm

High School Students Visit Supreme Court, Conduct Mock Trial

Summer Law and Trial Institute 2017 Cohort group photo

Summer Law and Trial Institute 2017 Cohort

by Kristin Distel

Eighteen high school juniors and seniors attended the Summer Law & Trial Institute, an immersive residential experience—including a mock trial—that directly addresses the complex legal challenges associated with social and economic inequality in Appalachian Ohio.

At the same time, the program seeks to increase understanding of the law and its possibilities among high school students.

Student Zoé Williams addresses the jury during the mock trial, shown here before the judge in the Athens Courthouse

Student Zoé Williams addresses the jury during the mock trial.

The program, now in its second year, is led by Ohio University alum Larry Hayman, (B.A. ’03) who serves as the Pre-Law Advisor and Specialist for the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

“The applicant pool for this year’s Summer Law & Trial Institute was incredibly competitive, which made admissions decisions difficult,” Hayman remarks. “The 2017 cohort did not disappoint. They are inquisitive, bright, and engaged. It’s rewarding to see them grow through these two weeks.”

The breadth of the program’s emphasis on diverse legal issues, as well as the range of speakers whom Hayman invites to instruct the institute students, is a draw for many applicants.

Institute students at the Ohio Supreme Court, standing before justices

Institute students at the Ohio Supreme Court

Interacting with Lawyers and Judges, Many OHIO Alumni

“This year they learned from and networked with lawyers and judges with backgrounds in environmental law, civil rights litigation, public defense, prosecution, legal aid, and many others. We also incorporated a community service project component into the program, giving students an opportunity to learn firsthand about topics they studied in the classroom. Many of them reflected on what a meaningful experience this was for them,” Hayman adds.

Students attended a series of lectures that covered topics such as criminal trials and appeals, law school admissions, legal needs of Appalachians, plea bargaining, and several other issues pertinent to prospective pre-law students. These sessions were conducted by Hayman and many guest presenters, several of whom are OHIO alumni.

Alum Colin Bennett ’05, Senior Staff Attorney at the Ohio EPA, found his experience with the institute to be professionally rewarding. Bennett earned a B.A. in Political Science–Pre-Law and a Certificate in Environmental Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University.

“It was great sharing my story of becoming an environmental lawyer with the students at the Summer Law & Trial Institute. The students asked a lot of great questions, and I hope they got a better understanding of a unique area of law. I’m always happy to help with OHIO programs when I can, and I’ll gladly take a reason to come back to Athens,” Bennett remarks.

“The speakers have been amazing,” says institute student Mikayla Rochelle, from Swanton, Ohio. “It seems like I’ve met all the lawyers in Athens!” She notes that the session led by Jessica Branner, an Athens city prosecutor, and James Linehan, an attorney in private practice in Lancaster, which gave an overview of criminal trials, was particularly useful.

Attorneys James Linehan and Jessica Branner discuss criminal trials, with students watrching in the foreground.

Attorneys James Linehan and Jessica Branner discuss criminal trials.

Student Cormac Frank-Collins, from Marietta, Ohio, who is interested in maritime or election law, agrees.

“The speakers have been the highlight of the program,” he says. “It’s great to be able to ask them lots of questions!”

Lydia Cardwell examines a witness in the Athens Courthouse.

Lydia Cardwell examines a witness in the Athens Courthouse.

Students explain that one of the program’s many benefits is that it helps them decide what aspect of law most interests them.

“Because of the Summer Law & Trial Institute,” Rochelle notes, “I’ve decided that I want to be a prosecutor or perhaps go into corporate law.”

OHIO alum Shawn Stover (B.A., B.S.W. ’89), who currently works as the Reentry Coordinator and Chairperson for the Athens County Prison Reentry Task Force, appreciated the chance to share his expertise with SLTI students.

“This was an opportunity for me to educate the students on what kind of resources there are for people when released from prison. [I]t is important to address the many negative misconceptions surrounding a person with a felony.… When given the opportunities and supportive services, people with a felony have a much better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty, drugs, and crime. The Reentry Task Force and Reentry Program were designed so that area support systems and professionals can talk about their programming and work together towards better solutions to keep people on the right track,” Stover explains.

Cormac Frank-Collins on a tour Ohio Supreme Court, posing with a farmer statute.

Cormac Frank-Collins on a tour of the Ohio Supreme Court.

‘I’m In Love With OHIO!’

For many students, another highlight of the program is spending two weeks on OHIO’s campus.

“I applied to SLTI because I’m in love with OHIO! I love this school so much,” Rochelle states. “I thought I wanted to go to law school, and coming here definitely solidified that.”

Jansen Wilhelm, a senior from Chillicothe who wants to be a criminal defense attorney, agrees.

“I applied to SLTI because I’ve known since the fifth grade that I want to be a lawyer, but until now I didn’t know what area of law I wanted to pursue,” he notes. “The visits from area attorneys have been great, and I love being surrounded by others who share my interests.”

Natalie Sanchez-Carrillo presents opening statements in the mock trial at the Athens Courthouse

Natalie Sanchez-Carrillo presents opening statements.

During the program, students also had an opportunity to learn more about a variety of majors available through the College of Arts & Sciences. Moreover, Dr. Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Law, Justice & Culture, Dr. Jennifer Fredette, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr. Elizabeth Koonce, Assistant Professor of English, and Dr. Kevin Uhalde, Associate Professor of History, all provided a short lecture on their area of expertise and explained how law intersects with their discipline.

Avery Robinson questions the witness, played by fellow SLTI student Thaliyah Cools-Lartigue.

Avery Robinson questions the witness, played by fellow institute student Thaliyah Cools-Lartigue.

Visiting the ACLU of Ohio

The students also visited the ACLU of Ohio, where they met with OHIO alum and ACLU development director Adrienne Gavula (B.S.C. ’04).

“At the American Civil Liberties Union we focus on making systemic change, whether it’s reforming police practices and their use of force, to how prisons use solitary confinement, to making sure the LGBTQ community have protections against discrimination. When the Summer Law & Trial Institute students visited our office, we talked about how we go about doing this work—through the courts, through the legislature, through government departments, and through the court of public opinion. I hope students got a feel for how varied the work is and how different skills are needed to do this work. I hope one day to see them on staff at the ACLU,” Gavula remarks.

SLTI student Olivia Mayer cites the group’s ACLU visit as one of the high points of the program. “Our visit was so interesting because the ACLU staff is really passionate about what they do,” she notes.

Mayer, who is interested in international law or civil rights law, applied to SLTI because she wanted experiential training and education in law.

“I like all the different job opportunities they’ve shown us students. Now I see what all you can do with a law degree,” she adds.

Hayman notes that part of the program’s purpose is to familiarize students with the many applications of a law degree.

“The most rewarding part of SLTI for me is watching students become inspired to pursue newly discovered passions through the people they meet during the program,” he says.

Institute students listen to information about the history of the Supreme Court building from Sara Stiffler, Interim Director of Civic Education and Outreach Programs at the Supreme Court. From left, Cormac Frank-Collins, Joey Derrico, Gabrielle Tharp (intern), Avery Robinson, Danielle Klein, and Natalie Sanchez-Carrillo.

Institute students listen to information about the history of the Supreme Court building from Sara Stiffler, Interim Director of Civic Education and Outreach Programs at the Supreme Court. From left, Cormac Frank-Collins, Joey Derrico, Gabrielle Tharp (intern), Avery Robinson, Danielle Klein, and Natalie Sanchez-Carrillo.

Visiting the Supreme Court of Ohio

During the first week of the institute, students had the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court of Ohio and have lunch with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s staff. Several institute students cited this as a particularly rewarding experience.

Part of their visit included attending a Supreme Court proceeding, led by OHIO alum Pierce Reed (B.A. ’85), who currently works as the Senior Judicial Attorney to O’Connor.

Reed praised the institute students, noting their intelligence and enthusiasm: “[T]he Summer Law & Trial Institute is special in that it reaches a wonderfully diverse group of younger students, including students from communities that have been historically underrepresented in the law.

“This year’s group of SLTI students was incredibly bright and perceptive, and genuinely very likeable. I most struck, however, by the maturity and civility with which these students engaged one another.… Many adults, including those in the courts, legislatures, and other elected positions, could have learned a great deal from the SLTI students. I know that I did,” Reed says.

“The work that we do at the Court is often hard, and it can be depressing. Cases involving the termination of parental rights, gruesome accidents, and horrible crimes—including capital cases—cross my desk every week. … It is important work, but it is not easy work. … As I sit here today, however, I can’t tell you which of those cases were on my desk. But I can tell you that I’m still thinking about the SLTI students—and I’m still inspired by them to do my best,” Reed states.

Joey Derrico presents closing arguments at the mock trial in the Athens Courthouse

Joey Derrico presents closing arguments at the mock trial.

Gaining Valuable Knowledge and Public Speaking Experience

Student Beth Powell, from Jackson, Ohio, decided at this year’s SLTI that she wants to pursue a career in criminal law. Prior to attending the program, Powell was trying to decide between medicine and law.

“Now I know that I’d like to be an attorney,” Powell remarks. “I’ve learned so much at SLTI, and it’s so immersive, even more than I thought it would be.”

Powell notes that in addition to the sessions led by Attorneys Yousef Faroniya, Brian Kelso, and Doug Francis, she especially appreciated learning from OHIO alum Sandra Anderson. Anderson was a partner with the Columbus law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP for 33 years, followed by a term as Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at The Ohio State University for three years. She also spent two terms as Chair of the Ohio University Board of Trustees.

“Ms. Anderson’s tips were very useful. I wrote down everything she said,” Powell remarks. “Ms. Anderson was really helpful with public speaking, which is an area where I’m trying to improve,” she explains. “It was refreshing. She helped me conquer my fears.”

Anderson herself appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Summer Law & Trial Institute again.

“I am a proud Bobcat and first-generation college student from southern Ohio. Being on Ohio University’s forensics team many years ago was a transformational experience, setting me on the path to becoming a lawyer. The opportunity to help teach at the Summer Law & Trial Institute is a chance to give back to the University that has given me and my family so much,” she said.

“I hope that the bright and eager students in this year’s session learned not only the mechanics of direct and cross examination but also lessons in communication, advocacy and strategy that will help in whatever paths they choose from here. It was a pleasure to spend a day with these leaders of tomorrow,” Anderson said.

Students pose with Judge George P. McCarthy in his Athens courtroom.

Students pose with Judge George P. McCarthy in his Athens courtroom.

Mock Trial at the Athens County Courthouse

The two-week program culminated in two mock trials, held in the courtroom of Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge George P. McCarthy.

The fictional case of the State of New Columbia v. Chris Archer focuses on a young woman named Milan Jackson, who has fallen to her death from a university clock tower during a fraternity initiation activity. Her blood alcohol level was .10. Chris Archer, the president of the fraternity, has been charged with first-degree murder and criminal hazing in Milan’s death. In trying this case, the students were divided into prosecution and defense teams.

The mock trial followed the procedures of an actual criminal trial, with lead counselors giving opening statements, calling and cross-examining witnesses, offering documents into evidence, and providing closing statements. The students followed standard courtroom procedure, such as asking Judge McCarthy’s permission to move freely about the courtroom and to approach witnesses on the stand.

Witnesses, who were also played by SLTI students, were sworn in by Judge McCarthy and subsequently answered questions from both the prosecution and defense. The state’s witnesses included Milan Jackson’s best friend, Milan’s psychiatrist, and the vice-president of the fraternity. The defense’s witnesses included the Dean of Columbus University, a local historian, and the defendant.

SLTI student Cirus Stowe, from Athens, who is interested in international law, cited the mock trial as one of the highlights of the program. Stowe served as the closing defense attorney and also participated in cross-examinations.

“I enjoy the rigor of the SLTI program and the mock trial preparations,” he notes. “The mock trial is very interactive. We’re gaining real experience.”

Current Students Gaining Internship Experience

Current pre-law students at OHIO benefited from the Summer Law & Trial Institute, as well. OHIO students Alexa Jesser, Cassidy Cleland, Niara Stitt, Keeghan White, Alexis Mroczka, and Tori Alexander led a session in which they fielded questions from the institute attendees about being a pre-law student at Ohio University. They were joined by Hannah Caldwell (B.A. ’16) who is entering her 2L year at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

OHIO students Casey Tisdale and Gabrielle Tharp served as this year’s program assistants; they proved invaluable in assisting Hayman with the program’s day-to-day functions.


Olivia Mayer presents an opening statement to the jury in the Athens Courthouse.

Olivia Mayer presents an opening statement to the jury.

Gabrielle Tharp, an OHIO junior who is double-majoring in Political Science and History with a minor in World Religions, also found SLTI to be genuinely rewarding. Tharp is the incoming Pre-Law Associate. Like Tisdale, she appreciates the chance to mentor budding legal minds.

“I really like mentoring high school students,” Tharp states. “This is a good opportunity to get leadership experience and to help others.” Tharp wants to enter the field of juvenile and family law, and she finds that working with high school students is “a great segue” into these fields.

Part of her role as an intern is to answer students’ questions about college and OHIO.

“Some of the students said they hadn’t really considered applying to OHIO before attending the institute, but now OHIO is at the top of their list,” she states.

Funding and Other Support

The OHIO Summer Law & Trial Institute was made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and does not necessarily represent their views. The program was also generously supported by Dagger, Johnston, Miller, Ogilvie & Hampson, in Lancaster, Ohio, as well as the Ohio University Cutler Scholars Program. The institute, which is 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, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

In addition, Athens County Municipal Court, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Athens City Attorney’s Office, Office of the Public Defender, Athens County Prison Reentry Program, Ohio EPA, Ohio University Office of Legal Affairs, Ohio University Mock Trial Team, Ohio University Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, Ohio University Honors Tutorial College, Ohio University Office of Undergraduate Admissions, The Law Firm of Dagger, Johnston, Miller Ogilvie & Hampson, Linehan & Associates, LPA, The Law Offices of Yousef M. Faroniya, Lavelle & Associates, Athens Food Pantry, Goodwill Industries, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, The Law Office of Spater & Davis-Williams, and Ohio University Cutler Scholars Program significantly contributed to the program.

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