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All Roads to a J.D. Begin with Al Watson

For two and a half decades and counting, the road to earning a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law has been running through Al Watson. After all, Watson, currently the Senior Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, has played a major role in the College admitting strong, diverse classes annually, since his hiring in 1986.

After spending four-and-a-half years in undergraduate admissions at Wittenberg University, a liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, Watson was hired by then-dean Tom Gerety, and is currently in his 26th year with the College of Law. 

With 30 years and counting of admissions experience, following his days as an undergraduate and graduate student, Watson joked that he “never left college.”

“I attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and then completed a master’s degree in a college administration field; then I went back to a liberal arts college in a recruiting function and now I work at a major university in admissions at a law school,” Watson said.

Landing His First Recruiting Job

The South Haven, Mich., native was a double major in political science and business at Hope before he pursued a master’s degree in college student personnel at Bowling Green State University.

Upon graduating from Bowling Green, Watson found the job at Wittenberg, where he spent a lot of time recruiting on the East Coast, as well as in Cleveland – the latter being part of a region that Watson and the admissions staff target fairly heavily today. 

Eventually, Watson married and moved to the Cincinnati area, where his wife, Diane – currently a human resources executive with U.S. Bank – had been since they met at Bowling Green.  

When Watson landed at the College of Law, there “wasn’t a lot of strategic, formalized recruiting that was taking place,” he said. “So I was hired as the admissions director in ’86 to really formalize a lot of our enrollment management activities and improve our recruiting in order to grow our national standing,” Watson said.

How the Admissions Office Works

For most of his tenure with the College, Watson was somewhat of a “one man band,” doing “a lot of everything.” Since the arrival of Dean Lou Bilionis, the admissions staff has grown, however, with John Stiles currently serving as the Associate Director of Admissions.

Another major change Watson has seen in recent years is the development of the electronic application, allowing the admissions staff to avoid the previously “tedious process” of individually entering each application into the computer system. “I’m able to really concentrate a bit more on strategy, because things have changed a lot in terms of admissions,” Watson said. 

The admissions process at the College of Law, like at other schools, is a cyclical process, beginning in the fall when Watson spends much of his time on the road talking to pre-law groups, attending law fairs at undergraduate universities and colleges, and hosting some on campus events.

Since the late fall and into the early winter, Watson and the admissions committee – made up of a faculty member, usually Professor Bert Lockwood, and two subcommittees of faculty and law students – have been reading files from prospective students.

In the late winter and into the early spring, Watson will dedicate a large portion of his time to awarding scholarships and working with admitted students on their financial aid packages. Also during the spring, Watson will continue meeting with students in person, in addition to making and receiving phone calls, and assisting in communicating with prospective students through mail and e-mail.

“I think every year is a new challenge and we try to put forward the very best, most diverse entering class that we can do each year,” Watson said.

Expanding UC Law's Outreach

Since 2009, Watson and Mina Jefferson, the College’s Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Professional Development, have been co-directing the Cincinnati Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) for high school students during the summer. LLI is a state-wide diversity initiative started several years ago by the Supreme Court of Ohio to improve Ohio’s law school applicant profiles in the future, Watson said.

Like any other position, Watson’s role as director of admissions is not without challenges. He highlighted three, in particular: the City of Cincinnati not being “as well-known as maybe we would hope”; resources, especially as it relates to the amount of scholarship money that can be currently offered; and rankings.

“Our ranking has been consistent,” Watson said. “Certainly being in the top 50 or so is not bad, but many of the applicants that we’re admitting – our top portion – they are being admitted to top 25 or so schools. Applicants do pay a lot of attention to rankings, (so) that can be a challenge.”

Outside of his work at the College, Watson is an avid golfer. The Fort Thomas, Ky., resident is in a group that plays fairly regularly on Friday afternoons. Watson also gets to a local gym “pretty regularly,” enjoys reading and follows college sports (especially college football) in his time away from UC and the golf course.

Of course, Watson truly enjoys his time at the College of Law and that has not changed since 1986.

“Being able to recruit and get to know a generation of UC law students has been amazing,” Watson said. “With the College of Law’s tradition, size and location we have a unique place in legal education. I am very thankful for the many positive memories!”

In addition to his wife, Diane, the Watson family includes their children, Catherine, a fourth-year business co-op student at UC, and Ben, a second-year student at the University of Kentucky, as well as dogs Duke and Lucy.

Five Questions with Diane Cross, UC Law's Public Sector Coordinator and Counselor

Meet Diane Cross, the law school’s newest Public Sector Coordinator & Counselor for the Center for Professional Development. Cross provides career counseling to students and alumni regarding judicial clerkships, government opportunities, and work in the public interest.   A graduate of Butler University, she received her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. 

What type of law did you practice before joining UC Law?

Prior to joining the Center for Professional Development, I was the Fellow in the Office of Public Service Initiatives for the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).  While at NALP, I managed, its public interest legal career clearinghouse.  Most recently, I was a legal consultant with CT Corporation, dealing with matters of corporate governance and compliance.

What sparked your interest in career development?

Simply put, I believe that a legal education can be one of the most significant investments a person can make.  I enjoy assisting law students and lawyers on how to best utilize their investment and achieve their professional goals.   

What’s the best part about the law/being a lawyer?

Counseling clients is my favorite part of being a lawyer.   I enjoy being able to work through problems and create solutions for people.  As an advocate for social responsibility, I most enjoy working with underprivileged folks to provide them with resources they otherwise may not have.

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

I wanted a career path that would continue to challenge me substantively and professionally.  Mostly, I craved knowledge of the law.

What’s on your nightstand?

A book (and some dust, I’m sure) - What to Expect: the First Year.  I’m afraid that my reading these days is about what is going on in the life of our infant daughter!

Bettman Recognized as Outstanding Educator by Ohio Magazine

Professor Marianna Bettman ’77 was recognized in the December issue of Ohio Magazine as one of its outstanding educators at colleges and universities around the state. She is the only professor at a law school named in the article. Read the article in the December 2011 issue.

Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain’s Latest Book Examines the Relationship Between Energy Law, Policy, and Politics

“Climate change presents the United States, and the world, with regulatory problems of a magnitude, complexity and scope unseen before,” wrote Tomain, the Wilbert and Helen Ziegler Professor of Law in his book Ending Dirty Energy Policy: Prelude to Climate Change. “The United States, however, particularly after the mid-term elections of 2010, lacks the political will necessary to aggressively address climate change.”  Ending Dirty Energy Policy is an extended case study of the relationship between law, policy, and politics. The interaction of these three variables constitutes a model for the study of government regulation. Completed while the stories and the federal investigations of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster and the Deepwater Horizon offshore explosion were unfolding, Ending Dirty Energy Policy argues that the US will not adequately address climate change until it transforms its fossil fuel energy policy. Visit the website for more information and to read an excerpt.

Her Work in Public Defense Reform Led Professor Janet Moore to UC Law

Prior to joining the College of Law’s faculty, Janet Moore had been active in public defense reform locally, where she helped build “a joint indigent defense clinic” for the College of Law and neighboring Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

“It was through that that I came to UC’s attention, so when they needed somebody to teach last spring, they gave me a holler,” Moore said. Brought on as a visiting professor, Moore taught Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure II last year. This semester she teaches Criminal Procedure II and Evidence.

“The teaching of young professionals, the growing and nurturing of young professionals, is extremely satisfying and challenging work,” said Moore, who will teach another Evidence section and also Criminal Law in the spring 2012.

Long before joining the College of Law’s faculty, Moore had aspirations to teach, though not necessarily at a law school. In 1981, Moore earned her undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College, a small liberal arts school in her home state of Michigan. There, Moore studied religion, but also wrote a lot of poetry and developed an interest in theology, she said.

Following graduation, Moore worked for the well-known author and astrophysicist Dr. Carl Sagan as a research assistant in New York, before heading to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago Divinity School, with “the intention of getting a PhD and teaching theological ethics.”

Then, she had two children – who are 27 and 20 years old now.

The next leg of Moore’s journey took her family and her to North Carolina, specifically Duke University in Durham. “I wanted to find a law school where I could do both the law and continue to do a master’s in philosophy,” said Moore, who still had intentions of teaching philosophical and theological ethics.

After graduating from Duke’s School of Law, Moore clerked for the Honorable J. Dickson Phillips, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Durham, North Carolina.

She found this to be a “very eye opening experience in many respects, particularly with respect to the back end of the capital litigation system and habeas corpus, and how that works or doesn’t.” “Wrongful convictions was a rather dramatic introduction to all of that,” she added.

Then, her husband’s work took the family overseas for several years, not far from Paris, but they returned to North Carolina in 1998. Upon her return she took a position as an Assistant Appellate Defender with the Office of the Appellate Defender in Durham and Asheville, still intending to teach and research.  “It turned out that I was really good at getting people off death row,” Moore said, quick to credit her colleagues in contributing to her successes.

Her experiences in this position “furtherer deepened (her) awareness of the pattern that led folks, particularly low-income people and people of color, into the criminal justice system – both as crime victims and as defendants,” she said.

Moore also became “much more keenly aware of the shockingly poor representation that a lot of these folks get as indigent defendants,” she added. 

In 2005, Moore and her family moved to Cincinnati, where she continued this same line of capital and noncapital appeals work on an appointed basis. In 2006, she became involved with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center as director of OJPC’s Race and Justice Project. “The goal, as I saw it,” Moore said of her position, “was to focus at the front end of the system and try to divert the school-to-prison pipeline.” 

Moore stayed on with the OJPC through 2010, before her work caught the eye of the College of Law. In addition to her teaching, Moore has pursued scholarship which is focused, unsurprisingly, on criminal justice reform. She recently had an article published in the Freedom Center Journal, while another of Moore’s pieces will be coming out in the Brooklyn Law Review in 2012.

When Moore is not focused on the law – though, admittedly¸ she enjoys spending her days at the law building  – she enjoys swimming, tennis, golf, gardening, biking, hiking and traveling when she gets the opportunity.


By Jordan Cohen, ‘13

2012 Stanley M. Chesley Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture featuring Angela P. Harris

2012 Stanley M. Chesley Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture
Angela P. Harris, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis, School of Law

"The Occupy Wall Street Blues: Why Americans Have Trouble Talking About Inequality"

January 11, 2012
12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
College of Law, Room 114

One (1) hour of general CLE has been approved for Ohio and Kentucky.

View webcast.


About the Lecture

In her lecture, Professor Angela P. Harris will talk about some of the reasons, legal and political, why Americans have trouble talking about race, class, and structural inequality in particular.

In 2011, Professor Harris joined the faculty of UC Davis School of Law, and lists her special interests as Critical Race Theory, Feminist Jurisprudence, Law & Cultural Studies, Race Relations, and Women’s Rights.  She began her career at the UC Berkeley School of Law in 1989, and has been a visiting professor at Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown law schools.  In 2010-11, she served as Vice Dean of Research and Faculty Development at the University at Buffalo School of Law (SUNY).  She writes widely in the field of critical legal theory, examining how law sometimes reinforces and sometimes challenges subordination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, class, and other dimensions of power and identity. 

Harris received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in social science from the University of Chicago, where she also received her J.D.  She clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, then briefly practiced with the firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, before making her way to Berkeley.  At Berkeley Law, she was the recipient of the Rutter Award for Distinction in Teaching.

Harris is the author of a number of widely reprinted and influential articles and essays in critical legal theory. She is also a prolific co-author of casebooks, including Criminal Law: Cases and Materials; Race and Races: Cases and Materials for a Diverse America; Gender and Law; and Economic Justice. Among other awards for her mentorship of students and junior faculty, she received the 2008 Clyde Ferguson Award from the Minority Section of the AALS.  Professor Harris is a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences, and is active in promoting community among critical legal scholars in legal academia and beyond.

About the Stanley M. Chesley Visiting Professor of Law

The Stanley M. Chesley Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law was endowed by Mr. Chesley in 2006 to bring outstanding legal scholars of national and international prominence in all areas of law to the College as visiting professors. Mr. Chesley, a 1960 graduate of UC Law, is the president of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley. He is a long time supporter of the law school and the University and currently serves on the University’s Board of Trustees.

Professor Bettman Discusses the Issue of Judges’ Retirement Age

Professor Marianna Bettman and the Honorable Patrick F. Fischer of the Hamilton County Court of Appeals were interviewed on WKRC’s Newsmakers TV program about state Issue One: at what age should a judge retire?  (Issue One is up for vote on November 8.)

To find out more about the issue, view the interview here.

For Professor Ronna Schneider Sabbatical Brings New Book Project Exploring Religion and Education

Like colleague Professor Bryant, Professor Ronna Schneider is back in the classroom this fall after a yearlong sabbatical.

It was not Schneider’s first time away from the classroom since joining the College of Law as an Assistant Professor in 1980.

During her previous sabbatical, Schneider – who became an Associate Professor in 1985 and then Professor of Law in 1987 – worked on finishing her two-volume treatise, “Education Law: First Amendment, Due Process, and Discrimination Litigation.”

One of the projects Schneider pursued during the last year was writing her annual update to the treatise. She also did a book review on a book about public education in Ireland.

Schneider’s main purpose for taking a sabbatical during the 2010-11 academic year, however, was to work on her own new book. “The book is looking at the role of religion in publicly funded education in several countries,” Schneider said. “The purpose of doing that is to take a look at the way a particular country treats that issue, and how it reflects the greater society’s attitude about religious pluralism.”

Schneider is, of course, exploring American education and the role of religion in American education, which have long been major focuses of her research and scholarship. To better understand how Americans deal with the constitutionally-imposed division between religion and public education in America (rooted in the Establishment Clause), Schneider is also analyzing the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – as well as the Republic of Ireland and Canada.

“The reason I selected all of those countries is because I think we consider ourselves like them on several grounds,” said Schneider, noting factors such as political and legal culture, strong educational values and the existence of some level of religious strife in each nation’s history.

“Nevertheless all of those countries are somewhat different in terms of the official role religion plays in society and publicly-funded education.”

Schneider, a Boston College Law School graduate, said the book “explores the whole role of religion in the public sphere, but as seen through the lens of education.”

“I think in this age of globalization, it’s time to look at what we can learn from the experiences of other countries, even though our constitutional and legal principles may differ or demand a different result,” she said.

The book project will be “a multi-year process,” for Schneider, who was primarily in Cincinnati during the sabbatical but did visit the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (established in October of 2009).

Schneider, who felt a “wonderful sense of renewal” from her sabbatical, “enthusiastically” returned to the classroom this fall to teach an Education Law Seminar. Of course, it has been a bit of an odd transition back for her, seeing that she is not teaching any 1Ls until the spring, and her Education Law Seminar course consists of predominantly 3Ls.

“It’s very strange to walk around a law school where I’m used to knowing 99 percent of the students,” laughed Schneider, who will teach Constitutional Law II and a First Amendment Seminar in the spring.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13





Professor Chris Bryant’s Sabbatical Brought Opportunity for In-depth Research, Writing and Professional Development

Do you recall that famous elementary school question, “What did you do last summer”? For law school professors, however, the question becomes “What did you do on sabbatical?” For Professor Christopher Bryant sabbatical brought an opportunity for research, reflection, analysis, and significant writing.

The popular professor applied for a year-long sabbatical for the 2010-11 school year, aspiring primarily to co-author a textbook. While, his application was accepted, his co-author asked to defer the project. Nevertheless, Professor Bryant – who is currently teaching Constitutional Law I and Conflicts of Law – was encouraged by Dean Lou Bilionis to use the sabbatical and pursue other scholarly opportunities. “A sabbatical presents an enormously valuable opportunity for concentrated research and writing and is indispensable to the continuing development of faculty as scholars,” Bryant said.

Although Bryant was not in the classroom last year, he spent much of his time working at the College of Law in his fourth-floor office during his sabbatical. Ultimately, he produced four articles and essays – all of which have already been accepted for publication by various law reviews.

In September 2010, Bryant’s “What McDonald Means for Unremunerated Rights,” was accepted by the Georgia Law Review. The essay, which reviewed the 2010 Supreme Court case McDonald v. City of Chicago, ran in Georgia’s Summer 2011 issue.  This past spring, the BYU Law Review and the University of Richmond Law Review also accepted Bryant’s articles for publication – “Foreign Law as Legislative Fact in Constitutional Cases” and “Constitutional Forbearance,” respectively.  Additionally, Bryant’s essay on the Supreme Court’s 1927 decision in Nigro v. United States will be included in the Nevada Law Journal’s forthcoming symposium issue devoted to identifying “The Worst Supreme Court Decision, Ever.”

While he will continue to pursue other scholarship and still plans to work on the aforementioned textbook, the Constitutional Law scholar is happy to be teaching again this school year.

“I love teaching. I find it very rewarding and I am very glad to be back in the classroom,” he said. “It has helped tremendously that I was able to have a break from it in that I feel very refreshed; I have a renewed excitement and energy and willingness to experiment and desire to try different teaching methods and different tools in the classroom.”

Professor Bryant added that stepping away from teaching for a year gave him “a perspective (he) otherwise would not have enjoyed. I think it’s likely over the long-term, it will make me a better teacher,” he continued. “I certainly hope so.”

In addition to teaching, Bryant has also been working on a legislative fact project, which he recently expanded to cover research into the practices of foreign constitutional courts. And on October 5, jumping right into the college’s extracurricular activities, he participated in one of the Federalist Society’s semester debates:  “A Debate on Judicial Engagement” with Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice.

By Jordan Cohen, ’13

Computer Support Specialist Alan Wheeler helps Change Ohio Gun Rights Law

On June 30, 2011, Ohio Governor Kasich signed House Bill 54 into law, essentially providing certain Ohioans with a means of restoring their firearm rights. Ninety days later on September 30 that bill became effective.

For Alan Wheeler, the College of Law’s Computer Support Specialist, the signing of House Bill 54 marked a long time coming, as he began working towards this result since 2007.  Wheeler, who joined the College of Law around that same time, had learned that the Ohio law for restoring a person’s firearm rights – ORC § 2923.14 – was not valid under the 1998 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Caron.

He realized that some of the people who might have had their gun rights restored nevertheless were still legally without those rights, based on the language of the Ohio statute. 

“(For example,) [w]e had police officers who had been ticketed many years ago for misdemeanor marijuana possession, and had their rights restored pursuant to Ohio law, but were unknowingly committing a federal felony every time they carried their duty weapon,” Wheeler said.

The South Point, Ohio, native was one of the first people who discovered the issue. When Wheeler became aware of it, he took advantage of the fact that he was employed at a law school.

Seeing that his office is adjacent to the Ohio Innocence Project, he began talking with Professor Mark Godsey, Director of the OIP, as well as Jenny Carroll, former Academic Director and Assistant Professor.

Carroll, now an Associate Professor at Seton Hall, helped Wheeler learn how to use WestLaw and had him make some phone calls to gain more information. Godsey, meanwhile, helped him develop an understanding of the court rulings and laws.

Others in and around the College of Law community, including (former) Professor Margret Drew and Susan Boland, Associate Director of Public and Research Services, also aided Wheeler along the way.

Professor Drew, for example, put Wheeler in touch with State Rep. Connie Pillich ’98, who met with him and discussed the issues with the law. Wheeler also met with State Senator Bill Seitz ’78, a big supporter on the Senate side, he said.

Additionally, Wheeler worked closely with Jim Irvine and the Buckeye Firearms Association, a political action committee that was instrumental in getting the law changed by pushing the issue to the members of the House and Senate.  “The first thing I had to do was tell people it existed, then find some people who would listen,” Wheeler said. “That’s when I got involved with Buckeye Firearms. “

Wheeler spoke with an attorney working with Buckeye Firearms, Ken Hanson, who was also aware of the issue. Buckeye Firearms eventually had Wheeler stand before the Senate Judiciary on Criminal Justice to testify in December 2008.

The bill was first introduced in 2009, but got stuck in the House after elections, said Wheeler, who later submitted written testimony in February of this year.

It began as a bi-partisan bill in the Senate, but it was ultimately the version introduced into the House – and passed by a House committee that included Pillich – that was signed into law by Governor Kasich.

The State Legislature’s website best explains the objectives of House Bill 54: To amend sections 2923.13 and 2923.14 of the Revised Code to conform the restoration of civil firearm rights with federal law and U.S. Supreme Court case law; to eliminate the prohibition against persons with certain misdemeanor drug offense convictions acquiring or possessing firearms or dangerous ordnance; and to allow restoration of civil firearm rights for firearms that are dangerous ordnance.”

As a guest of State Rep. Ron Maag, who co-sponsored House Bill 54, Wheeler was present when Governor Kasich signed it into law.

Although House Bill 54 became effective mere weeks ago, Wheeler is aware of the impact his efforts will make on many people. He also acknowledges the many people, both inside and outside of the College of Law,  that helped along the way.

“I’m just an IT person, with no legal background or experience, and I could not have done it without (them),” Wheeler said.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13