A View from the Other Side: Hilly McGahan’12 Talks About Working With Victims
An often-overlooked side of criminal law is that of the victims. The defendant hires or is appointed counsel, and the prosecution represents the state throughout the process, but the victims of crimes can find themselves left to their own devices on how to seek redress for the wrongs done to them. Hilly McGahan ’12 is working to bolster the voice of victims in her work with victims of domestic violence.
McGahan grew up in Arlee, a small, picturesque town in western Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Growing up, her parents were in the beekeeping business, and McGahan lived a rural, farming-style childhood. During the summers she and her family worked on the farm, but when the long, cold winters came they travelled south – not just to Arizona or California, but to Mexico, and sometimes further south into South America.
Inspired by her travels, McGahan studied political science and Spanish in her undergraduate years at the University of Montana. After graduating she spent a year working in northern Guatemala. There she worked to support persons who had witnessed the military massacres that took place there, as they were to soon testify against the government. McGahan’s experiences in her travels sparked her interest in human rights law. As she looked at law schools, Cincinnati stood out because of the Urban Morgan Institute.
Having grown up in a rural lifestyle, Cincinnati was quite a change when she moved here for law school. “I really grew to love Cincinnati,” she explained, though she admitted it took a while to adjust. Findlay Market was one of her favorite Queen City destinations, and she said that she and her (then) boyfriend (now husband) took advantage of the “Enjoy the Arts” program that included numerous shows and cultural events that take place around the City.
Today, McGahan works at SAFE Harbor back home in Montana. Formerly called DOVES, SAFE Harbor has a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (part of the Department of Justice) to provide holistic legal services to victims of domestic violence on the Flathead Reservation and Lake County, Montana. “The grant allows us to provide legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” she explained. Her work takes her to both state court and tribal court, and deals with tribal law, family law, and immigration law, as well as international law in some situations. While she is the only staff attorney, SAFE Harbor contracts with a supervising attorney, and the organization also has a domestic violence shelter and a “Men’s Accountability Program” which provides court ordered services to men convicted of domestic violence related offences.
McGahan’s background and experiences travelling inspired her to do the work she’s doing today, but she also received inspiration from her time at the College of Law. She largely came to Cincinnati for the Urban Morgan Institute, and she was impressed with the program while she was there. “I really enjoyed the group of people I worked with on Human Rights Quarterly,” she said. Further, she was impressed with the speakers that the Urban Morgan Institute brought in, noting that she was particularly impacted by Professor Michelle Alexander’s (OSU’s Moritz law school) lecture on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. McGahan also valued her experience with UC Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic, which allowed her to represent clients in civil protection order hearings and to gain practical experience that prepared her for her current position.
When asked if she had any advice for students who may want to do similar work, she shared the following: “Get lots of practical experience in law school (as much as you can), working with clients, dealing with people from different backgrounds – these experiences are really invaluable. I think that focusing on what you are passionate about and on what sorts of communities you are interested in working with is important. Ultimately passion will take you where you want to go, and employers can see that when they interview you.”
Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Carrie Wood Shares why she is a Public Defender
Formerly an Assistant Academic Director at the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) here with UC College of Law, Carrie Wood ’95 now works with the Ohio Public Defender in Columbus, Ohio.
Originally from Cincinnati, Wood studied engineering at Cornell University. Before coming to UC for her legal studies, she spent three years as a professional equestrian, training horses, teaching students, and helping to run a 60 horse farm. She had an interest in law school, however, and decided to return to Cincinnati to pursue her JD. Before starting school, though, she worked at Graydon Head for a year, giving her a birds-eye view of the profession she was about to enter.
Wood worked on several of the primary wrongful conviction cases in her three years at OIP. Some of the issues involved were mistaken eyewitness identification, “un-validated” or improper forensic science, and informants. “Although post-conviction DNA testing played a role in all of these cases, the causes of wrongful conviction do not go away if the case does not have evidence where DNA testing can help shed light on the identity of the perpetrator,” she explained while noting that the demonstration of innocence without DNA can be more difficult. She said that the law students involved at OIP often work even harder in such cases, sharing that “it was a great experience for [her] as their supervisor to see the energy, drive, passion, and compassion the law students bring to their work on these cases.”
Now working with the Ohio Public Defender, Wood is returning to the type work she did before joining the OIP. (She has prior experience as a public defender from her time working in the Bronx doing trial work.) She learned a lot from OIP regarding DNA, false confessions, “junk science,” and some of the major flaws in the criminal justice system. “It has always been important to me to work to correct flaws in our criminal justice system,” explained Wood, “and I saw the position at the Ohio Public Defender as an opportunity to continue and expand upon that work.”
“In order to work as a public defender, you have to have a passion for it,” she reflected, noting that the money is not much of an incentive. She explained that, the way she sees it, criminal defense attorneys and public defenders are not quite one in the same. “Some people do both – and do them well. However, my primary purpose in going to law school was to work on behalf of people who didn’t have a voice or access to legal counsel.” And this is what Carrie is able to do as a public defender. “It can be difficult and draining work, but it was always helpful for me to have supporters and mentors to turn to when I had a difficult case or a difficult week in court.”
In her spare time, Wood still rides horses, and also hopes to run a marathon this year. Further, she has always had a passion for music, and admits she will miss the local music scene. “Cincinnati’s larger music festivals are doing a great job of putting the city on the national music map; I will definitely be back in September to see the Afghan Whigs at Mid-point!”
Donnie Warner is Committed to Social Justice and Community Building
Graduate, community worker, and marathoner Donnie Warner has a strong commitment to social justice and community and personal transformation. With experiences that range from living on a Navajo reservation to training non-profit leaders through Public Allies Cincinnati to externing with the Indigent Defense Clinic, he will bring a distinctive viewpoint to the law.
Originally from Plymouth, Michigan, Donnie Warner is a member of the Class of 2014. He attended DePaul University in Chicago for his undergraduate studies, graduating with a degree in English. There he ran on the cross-country and track teams, captaining them both his senior year.
Following undergrad, Warner moved to Gallup, New Mexico to teach elementary school as a Teach For America Corps member. There he would meet his wife, Kayla; they then lived on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico for two years. When Warner learned that he had secured funding to pursue a master's degree, he moved to Cincinnati to study for a master's degree in creative writing (while teaching freshman English classes at the university). He then spent two years with Public Allies Cincinnati, a leadership development program committed to developing diverse leaders for leadership positions in nonprofits and communities. Warner explained his role there: “As a program manager with Public Allies Cincinnati, I provided one-on-one coaching to individuals in the program and developed tracking tools to chart our impact throughout the Cincinnati community.” By the time he decided to pursue a law degree, he had become committed to his work and the community. Thus, UC was a logical choice for the school to attend.
“As someone who is committed to social justice work and community-building, what I like about Cincinnati is that it is the ideal size for developing new ideas and models for transformation,” Warner explained about his affinity for the Queen City. He continued, “At the same time, the city is large enough to bring unique perspectives together to develop ideas.” He added that he also has an appreciation for Skyline, Graeter’s, the Reds, and other such things that are uniquely Cincinnati.
At the College of Law, Warner has been involved in several student organizations and programs, most notably the Freedom Center Journal (which he worked on for the past two years) and the Indigent Defense Clinic. “Through the Indigent Defense Clinic, I received fantastic training through the office of the Hamilton County Public Defender,” said Warner of his experience. With the clinic, his work affirmed his desire to focus on legal work that ultimately helps low income people achieve their desired outcomes. “I came to learn these outcomes are not restricted to a single case, but extend to many areas of people’s lives,” he said in reflection.
Warner plans to stay in Cincinnati after graduation. He commented on his legal studies and experiences: “You have to stay humble. There is so much to learn, and I believe that new lawyers should spend a lot of time taking it all in, and then working incredibly hard to answer any questions that remain. Additionally, regarding criminal law, I am struck by what an honor it is to give a voice to a client who would otherwise be voiceless. With such an honor you must have a commitment to work as hard as you possibly can.”
Warner shared that he has kept up with his running hobby, recently focusing on marathons. In fact, he finished second overall in the 2014 Flying Pig Marathon. And, he and his wife have created a blog called Run52, which tells their story of running through each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.
Jenna Washatka ’12 and Professor Jim O’Reilly Combine Efforts to Support Creation of Land Bank
For many people July 13, 2011 was a historic day in Hamilton County with the front-page Cincinnati Enquirer coverage of the official creation of the first public land bank in southern Ohio. UC Law student Jenna Washatka ’12 and Professor Jim O’Reilly had an important had in its development.
Blighted properties that are virtually abandoned and out of the commercial market can be acquired by the new county entity and "banked" until redevelopment possibilities allow the property to be redeveloped or the house to be resold. During the interim the land bank preserves the value of the property, if any, and supervises the removal of weeds and junk.
Rising 3L Washatka took on this independent research project, interviewed the leaders and lawyers behind the concept, and prepared a lengthy analysis for the First Suburbs Consortium. Her paper was distributed to the appropriate county officials and the county treasurer as the legal basis for adopting the pioneering concept. Professor O’Reilly testified at the county hearing in support and offered Washatka's findings to county officials. This month’s adoption is the culmination of the work of public officials, nongovernmental organizations, and Washatka's outstanding efforts.
Congratulations to all!
College of Law Celebrates 181st Hooding Ceremony; 2nd Class of LLM Students Graduate
Graduation will be held on Saturday, May 17, 2014, beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at its 181st Hooding Ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. The event will be held at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. College of Law Dean Louis D. Bilionis will lead the ceremonies, where 139 degrees will be conferred. This number includes 130 juris doctor degrees, six LLM (master’s) degrees, and three certificates.
The Hooding keynote speaker will be college alumnus Gary Garfield ’81, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas, Inc. In addition to his work at Bridgestone Americas, Garfield serves on the board of directors of several charitable and industry organizations, including the Tennessee Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, the United Way of Middle Tennessee, and the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association. Read more about Gary Garfield.
This year’s event will also include the presentation of the 2014 Nicholas J. Longworth III Alumni Achievement Award to Justice Sharon Kennedy’91, Supreme Court of Ohio. This award recognizes law school graduates for their outstanding contributions to society. Throughout her career Justice Kennedy has served on numerous boards, developed and facilitated programs to address the needs of young people, and worked with judges across the state. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Furtherance of Justice Award, the Above the Fold Award, and Judge of the Year. She also was named one of 13 professional women to watch by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Read more about Justice Sharon Kennedy.
Also being honored are this year’s winners of the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching: Professors Marianna Bettman, Felix Chang, and Elizabeth Lenhart. The Goldman Prize is given to law school professors and is based on their research and public service as they contribute to superior performance in the classroom. For more information about the professors and their awards, read their story here.
Bulgarian LLM Student Yana Kostova Shares Thoughts on the City, Working at the Mayor’s Office, and Cincinnati Red’s Opening Day
UC Law’s nine-month LLM program is designed to introduce internationally trained lawyers to the U.S. legal system. One of the reasons the program is so attractive to many students is because of its flexibility. Some students can take advantage of a number of practical experiences with the various centers and institutes at the college and throughout the city. That was a bonus for current LLM student Yana Kostova.
Kostova grew up in Bulgaria, where she lived and studied through high school. When she turned 18, she moved to England, studying law at the University of the West of England in Bristol, working toward an LLB degree. Her focus was commercial law. Kostova gained experience working in the legal department of the Bank of Ireland before making the decision to move to the United States.
While she considered moving to California where her sister lived, Kostova ultimately decided to begin her journey in Ohio. “It is not the biggest city, but at the same time it gives you a lot of the things to do that you can do in bigger cities like New York or Chicago,” she said about the Queen City. Kostova added that the people are very nice here and the weather is a bit better than what she experienced in England. In her spare time, she plays tennis with UC’s club team. She played professionally as a child and is happy she is able to keep tennis as a hobby while in law school.
Prepping to Study US Law
While Kostova did not study law in her native Bulgaria, the transition to studying the field in the US was easy because of the similarities between English and American law, she commented. She also honed her skills reading and speaking English while in England, preparing her even more for studying in this country. After earning her LLM this spring, Kostova plans to continue to practice in the commercial law field in New York as she did while in England. But her time at the college has opened her eyes to other possible avenues for her career.
Kostova is currently interning with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s office. “I wanted to work on establishing contacts and to develop my networking and interpersonal skills,” she shared of her goals with her internship. “But since working there, I have begun to find an interest in civil rights.” She noted that this area of law, in particular, is much different than her prior experiences. The internship also surprised her by introducing her to her first Opening Day parade. “It was my first parade – I had no idea what I was supposed to do,” she explained with a smile and a laugh. Kostova has also developed an interest in public interest work. She feels that it affords attorneys the opportunity to establish a work-life balance as opposed to some firm jobs where attorneys may work twelve-hour days.
Kostova offered some advice for students considering the LLM program in the future: “If you are unsure of what you want to specialize in, this is a good problem to have. The LLM program can be tailored to what you are interested in, and the externship programs allow you to get some practical experience to help you decide.”
Catalina Roa Pacheco Talks About the Socratic Method, the LLM Program, and Cincinnati Traffic
Catalina Roa Pacheco, formerly a practicing attorney in Colombia, will be graduating this spring with her LLM degree. Originally from Bogotá, Roa Pacheco moved to the United States in 2012 with her husband. Though she was working as an attorney in Colombia, Roa Pacheco was unsure of whether she would continue with the legal profession in Cincinnati. Her husband, who is completing his residency at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, recommended that she check out UC Law and the LLM program. In fact, she had the opportunity to participate in a program to learn more about UC Law, the LLM program, and the city of Cincinnati. “Working with the LLM Admissions Office made the process very easy,” she shared. “Seeing how easy it was to apply and that I was able to get a scholarship made my decision easy.”
In her spare time, Roa Pacheco shared that she enjoys watching movies, particularly documentaries, for some respite from the classroom and library. She also enjoys living downtown and taking walks around the heart of the city. “Cincinnati is completely different from Bogotá,” said Roa Pacheco. “But I have really enjoyed my time here. The people are amazing.” While Cincinnati is a smaller city, it still has much to offer, she believes. One difference she shared might surprise Cincinnatians: Roa Pacheco says that the traffic here is much better than in Bogotá. (Keep this in mind on your next commute through the orange cone maze!) Cincinnati also showed her snow for the first time; and Roa Pacheco finds the springtime here to be beautiful.
The Challenges of Different Legal Systems and the Socratic Method
Like many other internationally trained lawyers, pursuing her LLM degree is the first time Roa Pacheco has really engaged with a common law legal system. Not only is the legal system different and challenging to learn, but the classroom experience is also different. She remarked that the Socratic method was a bit intimidating at first (something most law students and UC Law alums can relate to).
Roa Pacheco has been able to gain additional practical experience outside the classroom with an externship at ProKids, a nonprofit agency that provides advocacy for abused and neglected children in Hamilton County. This sort of public interest work has struck a chord with her, and she plans on practicing in this field when she returns to Colombia in a few years.
Ukranian LLM Student Marina Nemirovska has Found Her Niche in Immigration Work
Marina Nemirovska grew up in Ukraine, living in Kiev, the capital of the country. There, she earned her master’s degree in engineering as well as her master’s degree in law. While she worked briefly in the engineering field, she opted to pursue a legal career. For 14 years Nemirovska practiced law in Ukraine. Initially she worked as a corporate lawyer, dealing with customs and contracts. After eight years of corporate work, Nemirovska opened her own firm to work as a private notary. “Instead of mainly witnessing signatures, a notary in Ukraine works in a broader area, preparing all sorts of legal documents,” she explained about the nature of her work. She did this work for six years before moving to Cincinnati.
It was meeting her husband that fueled her decision to move to the United States. Nemirovska moved with her daughter and pets (including a big Newfoundland named Bronya) and a “bunch of luggage.” Once here in Cincinnati, she started her education at the university, graduating with a paralegal studies degree. When she heard about UC Law’s LLM program, Nemirovska initially wanted to investigate it for her daughter. “My daughter received her law degree in Ukraine, but we moved shortly after she graduated,” explained Nemirovska. “I thought the LLM program might be a good avenue to start to her career in the US. Little did I know I would end up entering the program myself!”
Life in Cincinnati…and Kiev
Cincinnati is much different from her life living in the capital of the Ukraine. She noted that life in Cincinnati is much different than in her homeland. “Here, if you want to work, you have to drive,” she stated. “Back in Ukraine, I largely relied on public transportation to get around.” But even though Cincinnati is very different, Nemirovska does like the area—well enough to stick around and establish her legal career in Ohio. After she graduates this spring, she plans to take a bar prep course and then the Ohio Bar Exam. She is, admittedly, nervous about the prospect. “The law here is very flexible,” she said, “whereas back home we have only the code, and that is it.” She also commented that though studying the U.S. legal system a bit later in life coupled with the fact that English is not her native language may have contributed to the difficulties of studying law here, it was the transition from civil law to studying common law that has challenged her the most.
Interestingly, Nemirovska’s time in the U.S. has changed her interests in the law. She has developed interests in both immigration law and intellectual property. In December, Nemirovska became a U.S. citizen and, when taking into account the current events in Ukraine, she does not plan on returning to the country where she spent the first chapters of her life.
In fact, Nemirovska expressed an interest in opening a type of “center” for immigrants and international students. She has found that, even being here for years, it is difficult to learn how to find a job, how to get a driver’s license, and how to meet people, among other things. Commenting that there are very few Russian-speaking attorneys in Ohio, Nemirovska feels that this is one way that she can combine her life experiences with her legal training—both here and in the Ukraine—to help others.
From a Small Town in India to Bustling Cincinnati, Pradeep Kandambath Continue to Pursue a Legal Career
From the small town of Payyanur in a region of southern India known for its long, sandy beaches, coconut trees, monsoon rains, and exotic spices, Pradeepkumar Kandambath moved to the United States looking to pursue a legal career. That was over 12 years ago. His circuitous journey, however, brought him to the College of Law as a student in the LLM program.
Kandambath attended Payyanur College (which is affiliated with Calicut University) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history. He then went on to attend Symbiosis Law School in Pune, a university town not too far from Mumbai. Not done with academia yet, Kandambath also received a diploma in electronic commerce in Bangalore from Asset International, an institute renowned for its programs in e-commerce and computer and information technologies.
“I was, in fact, born in a family of lawyers! My father, the late K.U. Narayana Poduval, was a civil lawyer and freedom fighter who began his practice in the 1940’s with former state minister of law and education K. Chandrashekharan. My uncle, the late K.U. Kunhikrishna Poduval, and my elder brother, the late Jagdishchandran, were also lawyers who have inspired me to take the legal profession with utmost seriousness and a sense of dedication,” Kandambath said.
From 1997 to 2002, Kandambath practiced in the areas of property law, employment law, contracts, and company law in a small firm at Kochi and at the High Court of Kerala. At Kochi, he had the opportunity to intern with former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and world renowned human rights activist, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, which he considers to be a milestone in his career.
“Cincinnati looked almost unreal to me when I first arrived,” said Kandambath. He contrasted Cincinnati with what he knew about urban life in India, where poverty, noise, and pollution are integral parts of urban life. “One thing noteworthy about the Cincinnati is that it is a bustling cosmopolitan city like any other major city in the U.S.,” shared Kandambath, “except for the rush and difficult commutes.”
Having never cooked before moving to the U.S., cooking is now one of Kandambath hobbies along with travelling and music. A notable difference culturally, Kandambath shared that the cooking back home was usually done by servants. “It may sound strange to a Westerner” he laughed. “I had not even seen the whole kitchen in the house I was born in and lived at for more than 25 years!”
Having established his life in Cincinnati, Kandambath admittedly had almost given up his goal of establishing a legal practice here. When he moved to the Queen City years ago, no LLM program existed, and impracticalities and cost prevented him and his family from moving to another city. Then when he was online searching for short-term courses in law, he discovered UC Law’s new LLM program and jumped at the opportunity to pursue his dream. “I always wanted to have a post graduate degree in legal studies,” he said. “The LLM program has been the most exciting thing that has happened to me since I came to the United States.”
Now nearing graduation, Kandambath hopes to work with a law firm or business establishment where he can utilize his unique, multinational educational background. “I have benefitted immensely by doing the LLM program at UC,” he said. “I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in any career path in the legal field.
Faculty members at UC have extensive experience in legal practice and bring outstanding scholarship and teaching experience to the class. I would advise every student to take full advantage of this as well as the career support at the university.”
3L Caroline Hyatt Wins Second Place in National Writing Competition
Congratulations to third year law student Caroline Hyatt who placed second in the 2013-2014 Louis Jackson National Memorial Student Writing Competition in Labor and Employment Law for her paper, “The Legal Enforcement of 'Proper' Gender Performance Through Title VII.”
The competition is sponsored by the national labor and employment law firm Jackson Lewis in memory of Mr. Jackson, one of the firm’s founders. The competition has been administered by IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s, Institute for Law and the Workplace. Her essay will be published on the Institute for Law and the Workplace website and she will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Hyatt, a native of Cincinnati, is a graduate of the university with a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs with certificates in Asian Studies and in International Human Rights.
What have been some of the best experiences at the law school and why?
“In the summer following my first year of law school, I worked at the EEOC in the Office of Federal Operations in Washington D.C. Federal employees with discrimination complaints go through a longer administrative process before they have the option of going to federal court and this office is responsible for the appellate decisions of these claims. About a month before I started working there, they issued an exciting decision in Macy v. Holder. This case established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on gender identity. Following this monumental decision, the EEOC had a panel that summer to discuss the impact of the case that I got to attend. This discussion triggered the nagging question in the back of my mind that eventually led to my MA/JD final project.
“That fall I started researching the topic of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the extent to which it might be protected under Title VII with the help of my MA/JD final project committee, made up of Professors Deb Meem from Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sandra Sperino and Chris Bryant from the law school. Working on that project, a paper that utilized the theoretical concepts that I learned in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies MA program and applying them to a legal problem in a new and unique way, made my 2L year the most challenging and rewarding year of my academic career. The work I did with the EEOC and on my paper also led me to the specialty I plan to practice in when I graduate: LGBT employment discrimination.”
How did you get involved with the writing competition?
“When I finished the paper I wrote for my MA/JD final project, I knew that I wanted to rewrite it in a form that focused on the legal aspect of my work so that I could get the ideas out there in the legal field. While there have been huge gains in protecting the LGBT community from employment discrimination, there is a lot of work still to be done, and my research can help ensure that that work creates real change instead of just the appearance of change or even reinforcing the very societal norms that we are trying to shift. Professor Sperino recommended places to submit my work and all of my committee helped me edit and prepare my paper. I submitted my paper to the writing competition this past January and was just so excited to find out that my paper, “The Legal Enforcement of “Proper” Gender Performance Through Title VII,” had won second place!”
How will this experience help in your career?
“The opportunity to become so deeply knowledgeable in one area of law through the work I did on my article, which I spent a whole year on, has helped me focus my experiences toward a specialty in LGBT employment discrimination. This area of law is new and changing and it’s exciting to be a part of it.
Participating specifically in the writing competition and in winning second place puts my work and my ideas out there on a much larger scale. It’s accessible online to anyone who wants to see it and I hope that it can contribute to a larger conversation, in legal academia and among practitioners, about the direction the law is moving.”
Last Question: what did you think when you heard you won?
“I was so excited! I didn’t know when to expect an answer, so I was completely caught off guard. It was a great feeling after working so hard on something for so long to have that work recognized on a national scale.”
Hyatt plans to work in employment discrimination, doing litigation on behalf of employees, and specializing in working to protect the LGBT community from discrimination.