News

August 1, 2019 at 3:06 pm

High School Students Explore Access to Justice in Appalachia, Legal Profession

SLTI Students with Judge George McCarthy in the Athens County Courthouse

SLTI Students with Judge George McCarthy in the Athens County Courthouse

Twenty high school students, primarily from Appalachian Ohio, were selected from among a pool of almost 80 applicants to attend the Center for Law, Justice & Culture‘s 2019 Summer Law & Trial Institute.

The program is designed to enhance the students’ understanding of the law and American legal system, explore access to justice issues, especially in Appalachia, and give them exposure to the legal profession and a collegiate experience.  To apply, students must have a 3.0 GPA, must write an essay expressing their interest in law and justice, and must submit a letter of recommendation.

OHIO alumnus and attorney Larry Hayman, who serves as CLJC Pre-Law Advisor, launched the program at Ohio University in 2016 and has served as the Program Director since. Hayman leads the program with the support of more than 40 alumni and friends in law related fields who serve as guest speakers. Students engage in rigorous academic coursework, exploring topics such as the access to justice gap, legal and social inequality, civil liberties, and civil rights. The program also provides experiential learning opportunities that focus on textual analysis, case briefings, and negotiations. Finally, students also learn through field trips and site visits.

Students tour the Law Library at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center

Students tour the Law Library at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center

Field Trip to Columbus

  • Visiting Supreme Court of Ohio, Columbus City Attorney’s Office, ACLU of Ohio, and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus/Southeastern Ohio Legal Services

On the third day of the program, after gaining critical background knowledge, students visited the Supreme Court of Ohio where they were able to take a tour and learn about the history of the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center. The students also observed an oral argument before the Court. After the oral arguments, the students had an opportunity to discuss the case with members of the Chief Justice’s law clerks, who joined them for lunch in the building’s Native American lobby. During their lunch, they were greeted by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, where she shared her experiences of decades of work in the legal system. She also encouraged the students to not set a path, but to instead follow wherever their journey takes them. This was many of the students favorite part of the trip.

“The Supreme Court visit was really exciting. Personally, receiving advice from Chief Justice O’Connor was something that was very inspirational for me,” says Maureen Baker, a junior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor addresses the students in the Native American Lobby

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor addresses the students in the Native American Lobby

After visiting the Supreme Court of Ohio, the students’ next stop was the Columbus City Attorney’s office, where they met with Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Joseph Gibson ’05.  Klein explained the primary roles of the City Attorney’s office, with emphasis on his plans to make the criminal justice system more equitable and fair in order to protect the most vulnerable. Additionally, Gibson shared his experiences in the legal field, information about his current role, and his most interesting cases.

The students then visited the ACLU of Ohio’s Columbus Office.  In the ACLU’s Adrienne Gavula Community Room, they met with Executive Director J. Benjamin Guess and the ACLU Leadership Team. Here, they learned more about the legal, lobbying, and educational work that the ACLU coordinates. The visit to this organization made many participants passionate about Civil Rights Law. Students were also surprised to hear that the ACLU has sued every Presidential Administration since they were established in the early 1920s!

SLTI visits the ACLU of Ohio.

SLTI visits the ACLU of Ohio.

Students concluded their day in Columbus with a visit to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus/Southeastern Ohio Legal Services. They met with Attorneys Dianna Parker, Melissa Will and Patricia Varga Vegas. There, they learned about the “access to justice gap,” the work conducted by legal aid attorneys, and also participated in an interactive exercise that illustrated for them firsthand how difficult it is for low income individuals to navigate the legal system without an attorney.

Equality Ohio Attorney Andy Dugan explains civil rights litigation.

Equality Ohio Attorney Andy Dugan explains civil rights litigation.

Learning from OHIO Alumni, Students, Faculty, Staff, and Friends

Throughout the program, the Summer Law & Trial Institute met with OHIO alumni employed in a myriad of law-related careers, highlighting possible career choices available to those with legal training.

“The program would not be possible without the generous contribution of time and effort by Ohio University alumni, faculty, staff, and friends,” said Hayman. “Year after year, they graciously accept my invitations to participate. Their commitment to the program remarkable.” Some OHIO alumni that participated in the institute included the following.

Judge Sean Gallagher, who lectured the students on appellate procedures. Judge Gallagher serves on the Ohio Court of Appeals in the Eighth Appellate District. He graduated from OHIO with his B.A. in Political Science before heading to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law to obtain his J.D.

Zachary Saunders, Esq. taught the students rules of evidence and objections, preparing them for their mock trial. Saunders earned a B.A. in Political Science from the College of Arts & Sciences and his J.D. from Western Michigan University Cooley Law.

Judge Patrick Lang meets students in his courtroom

Judge Patrick Lang meets students in his courtroom.

Sandra Anderson, Esq. trained the students in the art of direct examination and cross examination. Anderson graduated summa cum laude from OHIO in 1973 before earning her J.D. at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Students found her lecture to be very helpful.

SLTI student Maureen Baker said, “I learned so much about direct and cross examination from Attorney Anderson. I had no idea that there was a certain way to word the questions when questioning a witness. It made me realize a lot more is put into a trial than what we see on television.”

Jessica Branner, Esq. lectured the students about criminal appeals. Branner is a City Prosecutor in Athens and graduated from OHIO in 2010.

Amy E. Flowers, Esq. taught the students about trial decorum. Flowers is a bailiff for Judge Kimberly Cocroft of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. She obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degree at OHIO before receiving her Juris Doctor from Capital University.

Robert Foehl, Esq. served on a panel to discuss the topic of “What can I do with a law degree?” After having a very successful career in the legal field, Foehl is now a Executive-in-Residence for Business Law and Ethics at OHIO’s College of Business. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from OHIO then received his Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Ohio Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Russell-Ramos

Ohio Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Russell-Ramos

Tracy Meek, Esq. gave students an introduction to criminal trials. Meek graduated from Ohio University in 2003 and is now the Chief City Prosecutor in Athens.

Dr, Brenda Noftz, Esq. also served on the “What can I do with a law degree?” panel discussion. She serves as the Director of Administrative Services at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She obtained both her bachelor’s degree in English Education and PhD. in Higher Education Administration from OHIO and received her Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Alyssa Parrott, Esq. presented to the students about the juvenile criminal justice system. Parrott graduated from OHIO with a bachelor’s degree in political science and obtained her Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School with a Children and Family Law concentration.

Elizabeth Pepper, Esq. educated the students on plea bargaining and had them engage in an interactive exercise that involved a prosecution and defense side, a crime, and working together to come to an agreement on the defendant’s sentence/charge. Pepper graduated with her bachelor’s degree in History from OHIO before attending The University of Toledo College of Law. Pepper currently works for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office where she is Chief of the criminal division and the lead prosecutor for sexual assault and white-collar crime cases.  This is her fourth year participating in the program, teaming up with Attorney Karyn Justice, who practices criminal defense in Portsmouth, Ohio. to teach the plea bargaining session.

Attorney Karyn Justice advises the criminal defense lawyers on plea negotiations

Attorney Karyn Justice advises the criminal defense lawyers on plea negotiations.

Peggy Smith Replogle, Esq. also gave students an introduction to criminal trials. She graduated with her bachelor’s in Political Science from OHIO and then pursued her Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School. She currently has her own law practice focusing on Criminal Defense and Family Law.

Shawn Stover educated the students on the Athens County Reentry Task Force. Stover graduated from OHIO with two bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Psychology. He currently serves as the chairperson for the Athens County Reentry Task Force in which he works to present ideas and programs to help people with a felony reintegrate into society.

Zachary Tidaback, Esq. taught students about the method of case briefing.

Clay Boeninger, a sophomore at Athens County High School, stated “I enjoyed the lecture about case briefing because I found it really great that there is an easier method for finding the facts, issues, and ruling in a certain case.” Tidaback graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and attended New England Law in Boston, MA where he obtained his Juris Doctor.

Judge Clarke Vandervort also served on the “What Can I Do With A Law Degree?” panel discussion where he discussed his successful career in the legal field. Before retiring, Judge Vandervort was aUnited States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Judge Patrick Lang ’99, hosted the students in his courtroom.  There, he discussed his path to becoming a judge and the types of cases he presides over.  He also explained the jurisdiction of the Common Pleas Court and the layout of the courtroom.

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