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  • 27 Feb 2020 11:29 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The bar passage rate for first-time test-takers has increased by nearly 5 percentage points, according to data released Monday by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

    First-time test-takers who graduate from an ABA-accredited law school in 2019 have an aggregate pass rate of 79.64%, compared to 74.83% for 2018 first-time test-takers, according to a news release. Individual pass rates by school can be found here.

    According to the press release, 89.5% of test-takers who graduated in 2017 and had until 2019 to pass the exam did so, compared to 88.64% of 2016 grads. Overall, 97.1% of all 2017 graduates sat for a bar exam within two years of graduation, and the schools gathered bar passage information from 98.6% of 2017 graduates.

    In May 2019, the council of the legal ed section revised Standard 316 to require that at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sat for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation, rather than the previous five-year requirement. The schools’ bar passage data released Monday is not a “compliance report” for the standard, wrote Barry Currier, the section’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, in the ABA news release.

    “The public reports do provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education,” Currier stated.

    According to a June 2019 managing director’s guidance memo, the council, during its February 2020 meeting in Tampa, Florida, plans to review the data and send letters to law schools with class of 2017 pass rates below 75%. Those schools will have an opportunity to respond. At a subsequent meeting, the council, most likely during its May meeting in Chicago, will review the responses.

    “Absent a data reporting error, the Council will likely conclude that under Rule 11(a)(4) a school with a two-year ultimate pass rate below 75% is out of compliance with the standard,” the memo states.

    Noncompliance with the standard requires public notice, and schools will have two years to demonstrate that they have returned to compliance, according to the memo. 

    Click here to view the original article. 

  • 25 Feb 2020 1:24 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Supreme Court and the state’s official access to justice entity are asking the more than 44,000 lawyers in the state to assist thousands of fellow Ohioans in need of legal aid.

    In a partnership with the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (OAJF), the Supreme Court sent a voluntary pro bono reporting survey to all of the state’s attorneys. The inquiry is a way for OAJF to collect data on how many people are volunteering, where, and what types of law in which they’re consulting.

    “The need is great. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming. One in five Ohioans qualify for civil legal aid services,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a statement to the state’s lawyers.

    To get the most accurate data in order maximize outreach, both organizations urge all lawyers, including the ones who prefer to donate their services anonymously, and the ones who have yet to volunteer, to fill out the survey.

    “It’s the only way we can gauge statewide how far we’ve come, and how far we need to go,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “It will also help ensure that all areas of our state are being covered.”

    Since OAJF began the survey in 2009, the foundation has documented responses in an effort to identify which areas are most in need, and what disciplines are in greatest demand. OAJF pro bono director Sophia Chang said people in rural communities, and those with transportation obstacles, experience the greatest disconnect from legal services. When armed with more information, the foundation is able to better coordinate with legal aid groups across the state, and unite lawyers with people seeking help.

    “Generally speaking, what we have found is attorneys in Ohio care about pro bono, and they do pro bono, and year by year it increases,” Chang said.

    Statistics from 2018 indicate lawyers assisted in more than a dozen disciplines. They ranged from foundational needs, such as housing and employment, to personal ones, like family law and establishing wills. Given the wide range of specializations, the technological advancements to consult via mobile apps, and the resources provided by legal aids, doing pro bono work is easier, and the ways to contribute are more plentiful.

    “A lot of attorneys think of pro bono as full representation, and it takes hours and hours of their time, but that’s not true, because there are also other opportunities, like brief advice clinics where it’s only one or two hours a month,” Chang said.

    Recent initiatives have included campaigns for record sealing and driver’s license reinstatement. Both are examples of how the legal profession can solve problems that have plagued people for years in as little as one day. The benefits in these matters aren’t exclusive to a client or an assisting attorney, but the entire practice of law.

    “It lends itself to an overall confidence in our legal system that the system is fair and just, when people are represented by counsel. It’s our obligation as attorneys to help encourage that perception of our system,” said Gina Palmer, the Ohio Supreme Court’s attorney services director.

    The survey can be taken by individual attorneys, or a single firm representative on behalf of all of a firm’s attorneys, and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. The survey will be available only through March 9, 2020.

    Click here to view the original article. 

  • 19 Feb 2020 2:38 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Supreme Court teamed up with the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) for a second time to address the hot-button issue of sexual harassment in the work place.

    The free seminar brought together a record 750 lawyers and judges from across the state, including those who watched in person and others online, via live streaming across the state.

    “Not Another Sexual Harassment Training: Empowering Attorneys and Judges to Create a Culture of Civility and Respect” featured national speaker Fran Sepler, who was commissioned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to develop programs offered nationwide.

    “Every attorney and judge in the state of Ohio has a professional obligation to conduct themselves with civility and to show respect for their colleagues,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “Our goal for this education is to foster the development of workplace and professional environments where harassment will not occur.”

    Instead of hitting the traditional teachings of reducing employer liability, the conference focused on how behavior deemed disrespectful and uncivil can create a hostile work environment if it goes unchecked.

    “This training is a part of a continuing effort by the OSBA and the high court to ensure that the Ohio legal profession is well-educated on a topic that is at the forefront of the national conversation,” said OSBA President Eleana Drakatos.

    “Attorneys are on the front lines when it comes to this topic as they advise their clients on how to create healthy working environments,” she said. 

    Original article posted here

  • 17 Feb 2020 8:34 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    A year after Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart was sworn in as the first African-American woman elected to the state’s high court, she added another historic milestone.

    Justice Stewart became the third justice to be the featured speaker for the Court’s annual Black History Month event.

    “I was a little surprised that I was asked to do it so soon. It was certainly an honor to do it, and follow all the speakers who have been the keynote for this in the past,” Justice Stewart said.

    Joining former Justices Yvette McGee Brown and the late Robert Duncan, Justice Stewart addressed nearly 200 people at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, half the crowd was comprised of students from local high schools. On top of educating attendees about her work, she enlightened the crowd about how her professional passion pairs with her personal one. 

    “When I author or write an opinion, it can’t just read right, it has to sound right, and that’s very similar to me composing music,” Justice Stewart said.

    The program titled, “The Harmony of Music and the Law,” illustrated how certain components in one realm parallel the other. 

    “They’re not something you really think they have a lot in common, but she was able to connect them, which was interesting,” said Lilian Ducy, a student at Columbus Metro Early College High School.

    As Justice Stewart explained during her presentation, both disciplines allow for creativity, but neither “can be completely willy-nilly,” as each is rooted in structure. When looking at statutes – her example was jaywalking in the Ohio Revised Code – each provision begins the same way with qualifiers that progress and build off each other to list all of the scenarios of a violation.

    That composition of law, she described, mirrors how music is produced. Most songs use a motif, which is a simple set of notes that permeate through the song. It’s a method that was utilized in classical works, like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and in pop songs, such as Usher’s “Yeah.”

    Along with technical similarities in the two practices, there are sociological factors in both.

    “Every single person in this room has some set of implicit biases. It’s just who we are,” said Justice Stewart.

    Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, everyone has certain influences in their lives that form stereotypes or expectations based upon personal experience and environment, she said. In music it can lead to misnomers by associating genres or styles to certain groups, be it age, race, or gender.

    In the law, consequences of implicit bias can be much more detrimental. A judge or juror could allow any number of things – such as appearance or an allegation – influence them into an unjust verdict based upon the facts of a case.

    “You need to recognize when it gets to that, so you can stop yourself from making a biased decision,” said Jared Waldman, another Metro Early College High School student.

    With a name like Melody, perhaps Justice Stewart was destined to be a lifelong student of the performing arts. Through her experiences, she’s seen music’s developmental and therapeutic impact, not only for practicing the craft, but anyone who simply enjoys it.

    “If it instilled in them that they can learn more about music, or play a musical instrument, and still do whatever they want to do in life, then all of this will have been worthwhile,” Justice Stewart said.

    Original article posted here

  • 17 Feb 2020 8:27 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor announced today the selection of John S. VanNorman as the Court’s next chief legal counsel.

    “John’s experience as a member of the Court’s legal department for the past 14 years positions him to be our chief legal counsel. He has the  knowledge, experience, and record of success at the Court that allowed the justices to unanimously agree on promoting John to this position,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “He’s a dedicated public servant, and we are grateful for his service.”

    In his new role, VanNorman will manage the Office of Chief Legal Counsel, which oversees the legal, legislative, and policy affairs functions within the state’s highest court.  He will serve on the Court’s administrative leadership team.  He will also provide legal counsel and research support to the justices, Court staff, and implement policy initiatives concerning the administrative operation of the Court.

    VanNorman joined the Court in 2006 and has served in various capacities during his tenure, including deputy chief legal counsel and, for the past four months, interim chief legal counsel.

    “As an attorney, it has been a privilege to work for the Supreme Court of Ohio these past 14 years,” VanNorman said. “I am deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to continue my service to the Supreme Court, as well as the Ohio citizenry, as chief legal counsel.”

    Prior to working at the Court, VanNorman served as an attorney for the Ohio General Assembly’s Legislative Service Commission. His work with the commission included legal research and legislative drafting, as well as staffing various House and Senate committees.

    A native of Ashland, Kentucky, VanNorman received his undergraduate degree from Anderson University and his law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law. 

    He lives in Dublin with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters.

    Original article posted here. 

  • 14 Feb 2020 3:14 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor today issued guidelines for the convening of a new Ohio Supreme Court Task Force on wrongful convictions that would “analyze current practices and recommend improvements to further our standards of justice.”

    To be known as the Task Force on Conviction Integrity and Postconviction Review, the panel will be comprised of a diverse group of members, each of whom “shall have experience or an interest in the integrity of convictions and post-conviction reviews.”

    “We know from exoneration data that justice isn’t always served in our state and this task force would be a great first step in making improvements,” Chief Justice O’Connor said.

    The members of the task force are expected to be announced within several weeks with the panel’s first meeting following shortly thereafter.

    The task force’s duties will include:

    • Analyzing the post-conviction review processes in Ohio and other states
    • Analyzing the work of innocence commissions and conviction integrity units of other states
    • Offering recommendations about DNA testing and “other advances in science”
    • Recommending revisions to laws and Supreme Court rules
    • Offering recommendations regarding education for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys about conviction issues
    • And offering “any other recommendations the task force deems appropriate to further public trust and confidence in the post-conviction review process.”

    Public notice of all task force meetings will be posted on the Supreme Court’s website and will be open to the public.

    Task force members will serve without compensation.

    The task force will issue a report of its findings and recommendations to the Chief Justice and the justices of the Court by Dec. 31, 2020. 

    Article Source

  • 29 Jan 2020 8:36 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Ice Miller LLP is pleased to welcome Diane Menashe to the Firm as a partner in its Litigation Practice and Director of Litigation Training and Pro Bono Activities. Diane is a very experienced trial lawyer who defends individuals charged with the most serious criminal offenses in state or federal courts. In complex civil disputes, she teams with her Ice Miller colleagues and uses her trial experience on behalf of the Firm’s clients to facilitate favorable settlements or litigate cases that proceed to trial.

    Diane’s responsibilities at the Firm also include developing and implementing the training program for the Firm’s Litigation Practice. She coordinates the mock trial and other in-house training programs for newer Ice Miller lawyers, as well as identifies real life opportunities for them to practice their trial skills through pro-bono legal work.

    “At Ice Miller, we strive to not only provide pro-bono opportunities as professional development for our attorneys, but also as an opportunity to be more fully involved in the community. We work to ensure access to justice for all,” said Steve Humke, chief managing partner of Ice Miller. “Diane’s entire career has been dedicated to ensuring every person charged with a crime in this country is guaranteed his or her basic rights under the constitution. I couldn’t conceive a better fit for this new role than Diane.”

    Prior to joining Ice Miller, Diane had her own solo practice criminal defense firm for almost 20 years. She has tried to verdict over 100 felony jury trials in state and federal courts across Ohio, garnering a significant number of acquittals for her clients. During the course of her career, Diane has represented more than 30 people charged with the death penalty; five of those cases were tried to a jury. Her most recent, highly publicized capital trials in 2019 and 2018 resulted in her clients being spared the death penalty.

    In addition to her roles at the Firm, Diane is also a faculty member of Harvard Law School where she teaches annually at the school’s prestigious Trial Advocacy Workshop.


    About Ice Miller LLP
    Ice Miller LLP is a full service law firm dedicated to helping our clients stay ahead of a changing world. With over 340 legal professionals in seven offices, we advise clients on all aspects of complex legal issues across more than 20 practice areas. Our clients include emerging growth companies, FORTUNE 500 corporations, municipal entities and nonprofits. Learn more about 
    Ice Miller and our client commitments.
    This press release is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

  • 27 Jan 2020 4:00 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Image of Justice Melody Stewart at a podiumThe path to the Ohio Supreme Court can follow many twists and turns. For Justice Melody Stewart, it started with an interest in music theory and composition.

    Justice Stewart will share her journey from playing the piano as a child to making the decision to go to law school at the Ohio Supreme Court’s annual Black History Month celebration Feb. 10 at 1 p.m.

    “Before I started law school, I didn’t know that music and law had anything in common,” Justice Stewart said. “I thought, having majored in music as an undergrad, I was entering law school at a disadvantage compared to my classmates who were political science, history, and pre-law majors. But that wasn’t the case.”

    Justice Stewart, the first African-American woman elected to the Court, studied music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music before choosing a career in law. She started her legal career working as an assistant law director for the city of Cleveland.

    Justice Stewart also worked in legal education as a professor and an administrator at several law schools. She served on the Eighth District Court of Appeals before being elected to the state’s highest court.

    The event will be held at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center and is open to the public. RSVP by Feb. 6 to or 614.387.9267.

  • 03 Jan 2020 4:40 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    By Anne Yeager | December 31, 2019

    The Ohio Supreme Court adopted several mediation rule changes in 2019 that take effect on January 1, including requiring courts to incorporate the state’s Uniform Mediation Act, identify the cases eligible for mediation, and address confidentiality.

    Currently, 77 percent of common pleas courts refer cases to mediation, and 63 percent of courts do so statewide.

    Of the courts that use mediation, 84 percent have a local rule regarding mediation.

    The current rule reads that a court “shall consider, and may adopt, a local rule providing for mediation.” Under the adopted rules, courts would continue to have discretion in whether to refer cases to mediation, but those courts that elect to refer cases to mediation would be required to have a local rule.

    Under adopted Rules 16-16.36 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio, provisions will be updated or added to include:
    • Responsibilities of mediators
    • Responsibilities of courts
    • Pre-referral education and training
    • Complaint process
    • Core values for mediation

  • 30 Dec 2019 4:30 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    By Anne Yeager | December 26, 2019

    A documentary that traces the work of Ohio drug courts will make its television debut on, Dec. 26 at 9:00 p.m. on WOUB-TV.

    Second Chances: One Year in Ohio’s Drug Courts” shows the complicated struggle of drug addiction and how courts play a crucial role in the recovery attempts of users, their families and communities.

    The one-hour film was produced and edited by Anne Fife of Ohio Government Telecommunications under contract to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information.

    For television listings, click here.

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