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  • 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.

  • 23 Dec 2019 3:03 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Elizabeth Miceli joins Ice Miller as a Municipal Finance Group attorney. She serves as bond counsel, bank/purchaser’s counsel and underwriter’s counsel on various types of tax-exempt financing transactions for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, including charter schools, independent schools, hospitals and colleges and universities.

    In addition to her public finance experience, Elizabeth has an extensive background in real estate related financing transactions. She has served as lender’s counsel and borrower’s counsel for multi-million dollar real estate projects; handled a variety of financing vehicles for affordable housing developers; and negotiated, analyzed and drafted a wide variety of contracts, leases and purchase and sale agreements for businesses.

    “Elizabeth is adept at leveraging her real estate financing experience for the public finance sector,” said Steve Humke, chief managing partner of Ice Miller. “Her background provides an extremely advantageous perspective to the team and our clients.”

    Elizabeth obtained her juris doctor, magna cum laude, from Notre Dame Law School and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, summa cum laude, from The Ohio State University.


    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.

  • 20 Dec 2019 3:00 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    It’s been a busy 12 months at the Ohio Supreme Court. New justices stepped onto the bench, and former justices reminisced. More legal help became available to those in need. And public education about the courts was at the heart of numerous activities.

    Compiled by Kathleen Maloney | December 19, 2019

    Image of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. Below is '2019' with each number cut out to reveal a partial image beneath

    Also in 2019: A documentary produced by the Supreme Court gave a revealing look inside the state’s drug courts, and an interactive, public resource brimming with statewide court data debuted. As the year comes to a close, here’s an assortment of the many highlights.

    Court Welcomes New Justices, Key Hires

    Two new justices, elected in November 2018, joined the Ohio Supreme Court in January of this year. Justice Michael P. Donnelly, the 160th justice on the Supreme Court, served the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for 14 years. Justice Donnelly said he wanted to work on broader issues in the justice system and is enjoying the move from trial court to the state’s premier bench. (Justice Donnelly Relishing Jump from Trial Court to Supreme Court)

    Justice Melody J. Stewart’s election marked a Supreme Court milestone: She is the first African-American woman elected to the state’s highest court and only the second to serve on the high bench. Justice Stewart, Ohio’s 161st justice, served on the Eighth District Court of Appeals from 2006 to 2018. The 12th woman to sit on the Court, her election also kept the Court’s female majority from the previous term. With more than 30 years of combined administrative, legal, and academic experience, Justice Stewart, who describes herself as a lifelong student, said she approaches each case with curiosity. (Justice Stewart Starts Tenure as First African-American Woman Elected to Supreme Court)

    Image of, from top left: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael P. Donnelly, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody J. Stewart, Ohio Supreme Court Administrative Director Jeffrey C. Hagler, and Ohio Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions Douglas M. NelsonIn April, retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey C. Hagler was named the Court’s administrative director, a position required by the Ohio Constitution. Hagler, who began the job in July, originally hails from Ohio’s own Greene County. He most recently served as a judge with the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, which conducts appellate reviews of Army court-martial convictions. He also was the primary legal adviser to the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the most populous military installation in the United States. He deployed from 2015 to 2016 as the primary legal adviser for Operation Inherent Resolve, the 70-nation counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait. (Leadership and Legal Lineage: Court Administrative Director’s Perfect Pairing)

    The Court filled another critical staff position in July – the reporter of decisions. The justices chose Douglas M. Nelson, who had worked as an assistant reporter with the Court since 2015, to lead the Office of the Reporter. The office edits, reports, and oversees the print publication of the Supreme Court’s opinions, rulings on motions, miscellaneous orders, and rule amendments. The Reporter’s Office also publishes Supreme Court opinions, along with decisions from the state’s appellate courts and Ohio Court of Claims, on the Court’s website. In addition, Nelson manages the process for reporting the justices’ votes in individual cases. (Supreme Court Hires Reporter of Decisions)

    Film Follows Individuals through Ohio Drug Courts

    While a federal court in Cleveland considered lawsuits from across the country about the lives lost in the opioid crisis, a one-hour, Court-produced documentary released in May presented a gripping, up-close view of 19 Ohioans struggling with drug addiction. As they participate in specialized programs established by courts in Medina, Marion, and Hocking counties, the individuals are seen combatting their substance use and other obstacles, and celebrating their successes.

    The film – “Second Chances: One Year in Ohio’s Drug Courts” – reflects the crucial role courts are playing in the complicated recovery process for drug users, their families, and their communities.

    “Most Americans are familiar with the tragic data generated by our nation’s drug epidemic. But this film takes a very deep look into the human side of drug use, by the users and from the bench,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said.

    Free, public screenings took place in August in Marion County and in Medina County. A screening in southeast Ohio is expected in early 2020.

    Supreme Court Decisions Address Searches, Secret Ballots, Forgery, and More

    The Court’s main role is to review and rule on important legal issues in the state. Here’s a roundup of several of its significant case opinions from this year:

    Search of Man Walking Near Where Gunshots Heard Was Constitutional

    Court Must Reconsider Guilty Plea Withdrawal by Immigrant Facing Deportation

    Electric Grid Modernization Charge Improperly Imposed

    Law Limits Time to File Breach-of-Contract Lawsuits for Faulty Construction

    Public Bodies Cannot Use Secret Ballots to Take Official Action

    Judge Cannot Impose Community Controls to be Served After Prison Sentence

    Grocer Not Responsible for Motorized Cart Collision that Injured Shopper

    Court Upholds Statute Eliminating Residency Quotas in Cleveland’s Public Construction Contracts

    Cincinnati Must Pay Newspaper’s Legal Bill for Withholding Arrest Videos

    Double Jeopardy Protections Do Not Bar Prosecuting Man Who Changed Story about Son’s Death

    Township Cannot Be Sued based on Hiring and Supervision of Officer Who Injured Motorist

    Banks Entitled to Restitution for Forged Checks

    Dog's History of Biting Can Be Used to Convict Owner of Crime

    New Tools for Teachers Delivered, Educational Events Held

    Images including (top left) Ohio Supreme Court Justices listening to an attorney present oral arguments during Off-Site Court at Montpelier High School in Williams County, Ohio; (top right) an image of a white board with two documents displayed with magnets; and (bottom) an image of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center with the words 'How Does Ohio's Court System Work?' superimposed on top of it

    As part of its commitment to fostering the public’s understanding of the state justice system, the Court launched a multi-faceted course for high school students this year called “Under Advisement: Ohio Supreme Court Cases on Demand.” The curriculum, designed for three or four class days, follows real and relatable cases through Ohio’s courts. State courts nationwide handle nearly all – 96 percent – of U.S. court proceedings.

    Tailored to the state’s high-school learning standards, the detailed and visually compelling materials include:

    • each case’s background
    • key moments in the trial and appellate courts
    • arguments made in each side’s briefs to the Court
    • video of oral argument before the Court
    • article summarizing the Court’s decision in each case.

    A special teacher packet includes a lesson plan with a timeline, discussion topics, and homework, as well as an annotated guide to the oral argument video. Teachers shared their professional insights about the course in “Out of the Courtroom, Into the Classroom.” “Under Advisement” is the work of the Court’s Civic Education Section and the Office of Public Information.

    In other 2019 outreach efforts, the civic education staff unveiled a video titled “How Does Ohio's Court System Work?” The lively, entertaining take on the judicial branch explains the differences between the various types of courts in the state and importance of the justice system and the rule of law.

    Also this year, approximately 1,000 high school students had the opportunity to see the Court in action in their counties. The Court held oral arguments in Ashtabula County in April and Williams County in October. At other public, educational events, the Court welcomed the CEO of the Center of Science and Industry and more than 100 students in February to honor Black History Month and an Ohio State University professor in October for a Forum on the Law about an 18th century Italian philosopher who influenced the U.S. justice system.

    Former Justices Go On the Record in Video Series

    “Reflections from the Bench,” a collection of in-depth interviews with former Ohio Supreme Court justices, continued this year with four more episodes. Justice Patrick F. Fischer, who had the inspiration for the program and hosts it, spoke with former Justices Yvette McGee BrownHerb BrownEvelyn Lundberg Stratton, and Andy Douglas.

    Public, Online Tracking Tool Crunches Data about Courts

    The Court debuted an interactive, real-time dashboard in February for researching the state’s case statistics. The data – submitted at regular intervals by Ohio’s trial courts (common pleas general, domestic relations, probate, and juvenile courts, as well as county and municipal courts) – can be broken down by several criteria, such as year, county, judge, and case type.

    The dashboard was created to assist the public, media, and courts in accessing and using case statistics. It’s intended as a resource to increase court transparency and accessibility for the media and the public and to provide local courts with a new way to monitor and improve case management processes. The dashboard homepage offers instructional videos.

    Supreme Court and Partners Continue Focus on Broadening Access to Justice

    Images including (top) a woman and a man standing in front of the Ohio Justice Bus; (bottom left) a screen shot of the Ohio Legal Help website; and (bottom right) an infographic showing that Ohio attorneys are doing more pro bono work

    The public now can turn to a powerful, plain-language website for free information about common legal problems. Ohio Legal Help, which went live in August, takes visitors through a simple, step-by-step guide that directs them to helpful and appropriate resources and identifies next steps. The site, developed by the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (formerly the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation) and several partners, also offers legal forms, attorney referrals, and court details. The Ohio Supreme Court sponsors the foundation.

    “The Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice recommended that Ohio develop a statewide website that provides free and accurate legal information and standardized forms,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “Ohio Legal Help is that website and will increase access to justice for all Ohioans.”

    As data indicates that a greater number of Ohio attorneys are giving free legal assistance to low-income individuals and donating more of their time to do so, attorneys across the state talked about the people they help pro bono in “Giving Back.” These attorneys help to balance the scales by tackling basic, yet essential, needs both during tragedies, such as the May tornadoes in Dayton, and other life crises. Also expanding access to justice this year is the Ohio Justice Bus, spearheaded by the foundation, which travels the state delivering pro bono legal guidance directly to people in underserved areas.Images including (top left) historic image of women protesting for their right to vote; (top right) image of an astronaut on the moon; and (bottom) an image of the Hamilton County, Ohio courthouse

    Honoring Ohio and U.S. History, with Legal Twists

    The state and the country began a yearlong celebration this summer of the 100th anniversary of women securing the right to vote through the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment. In “A More Perfect Union,” women on the Ohio bench, including the Court’s four female justices, shared their personal stories about the first time they cast a ballot, why they vote, and what it was like to win an election.

    Also recognized nationally and statewide was that small step Ohio astronaut Neil Armstrong took 50 years ago into the vast universe. “How Neil Armstrong Leaned on Law after Historic Moonwalk” looks at Armstrong’s legal battles over the years to preserve the integrity of his image, quotes, and name.

    In another centennial celebration, state officials rededicated the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati. The storied history of the site’s fifth courthouse and highlights from the October event, which was attended by two Supreme Court justices, are featured in “Hamilton County Courthouse 100 Years Old and Counting.”

    Task Forces Release Reports

    Two task forces convened by Chief Justice O’Connor issued reports this year.

    The 25-page July report from the Task Force to Examine the Ohio Bail System included nine recommendations to the Supreme Court. The task force examined the current criminal rule on bail, compared Ohio’s bail and pretrial systems with those in other states, and analyzed state and federal litigation regarding cash bail.

    In September, the Task Force on the Ohio Disciplinary System published a 117-page final report. Charged with examining the state’s system for disciplining judges and attorneys, the task force compiled recommendations for the Court aimed at strengthening public trust and confidence in the disciplinary system.


    Design: Ely Margolis

    Web: Erika Lemke

    Video Stories/Editing: Anne Fife, Csaba Sukosd, Anne Yeager

  • 13 Dec 2019 9:05 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Edna Smith Primus in 2009. Barely a year after graduating from law school, she was professionally reprimanded for offering to represent a woman who had been involuntarily sterilized by a doctor.She successfully challenged a professional reprimand and in the process helped redefine free speech rights for lawyers and advocacy groups.

    Edna Smith Primus in 2009. Barely a year after graduating from law school, she was professionally reprimanded for offering to represent a woman who had been involuntarily sterilized by a doctor.

    Credit...via South Carolina Access to Justice

    Edna Smith Primus had graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law — the first black woman to do so, in 1972 — when barely one year later she was assigned a case that could have jeopardized her career.

    She had been working at the time for the South Carolina Council on Human Rights as a volunteer lawyer when it dispatched her to Aiken, S.C., where an obstetrician had refused to deliver babies to women on welfare with two or more children unless they agreed to be sterilized.

    The doctor’s refusal came amid a national public outcry over reports in The New York Times and elsewhere in the early 1970s that poor women, most of them black, were being involuntarily sterilized in the South.

    Ms. Primus, who died on Nov. 29 at 75, was sent to Aiken to talk to mothers involved in the controversy there, some of whom had consented to sterilization. She told one woman who had undergone the procedure that the American Civil Liberties Union, for which Ms. Primus also volunteered at its South Carolina office, would represent the woman free of charge if she filed a lawsuit against the doctor.

    Instead, Ms. Primus became a target of legal action herself.

    The doctor not only dissuaded the woman from suing but also complained to the state bar association that Ms. Primus had violated professional ethics by directly soliciting potential clients for personal financial gain, although she was not being compensated for her work. She was cited by both the bar association and the South Carolina Supreme Court for what amounted to ambulance-chasing — soliciting law clients for private gain.

    The A.C.L.U., in turn, challenged those public reprimands, taking Ms. Primus’s case, under her name, all the way to the United States Supreme Court. It won. In a decision handed down in 1978, the court overturned the legal foundation for the reprimand, affirming the First Amendment right of advocacy groups to advance their political agendas through litigation.

    The sterilization dispute erupted in the early 1970s after a 20-year-old white woman on welfare publicly complained that Dr. Clovis H. Pierce had refused to deliver her fifth child unless she agreed either to have her fallopian tubes cut and tied or to pay a $100 down payment on his $250 fee.

    Dr. Pierce — the only obstetrician in Aiken County who would accept patients on welfare — made sterilization a condition of her continuing to receive welfare benefits through Medicaid. The woman had started receiving public assistance after her husband was sentenced to prison for grand larceny.

    Ms. Primus’s soliciting the woman was brought to the attention of the state Supreme Court’s Board of Grievances and Discipline (now the Office of Disciplinary Counsel), which accused her of violating an ethics provision intended to protect unsophisticated plaintiffs from high-pressure sales pitches by lawyers who would benefit if their clients eventually sued and won money damages.

    The board’s censure was upgraded to a public reprimand by the state Supreme Court. It rejected Ms. Primus’s argument that her motivation for soliciting a lawsuit — to advance a civil liberties political agenda — was protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech and free association.

    But the United States Supreme Court disagreed with that lower court decision. It ruled, 7 to 1, that the civil liberties union was a “bona fide, nonprofit organization that pursues litigation as a vehicle for effective political expression and association, as well as a means of communicating useful information to the public.”

    The ruling, written by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., concluded that efforts to reach out to the potential client “were undertaken to express personal political beliefs and to advance the civil liberties objectives of the A.C.L.U. rather than to derive financial gain.”

    The case has since been taught in law school professional responsibility courses, said Robert Wilcox, the dean of the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia. Speaking of Ms. Primus, he said in an email:

    “I think her legacy was her steady commitment to helping people who had no other voice to advocate for them. As a very young lawyer, she had made clear that she had the courage to fight for clients and for change, even when it might come at a cost to her career.”

    Ms. Primus’s successful challenge of her reprimand affirmed the First Amendment right of advocacy groups to advance their political agendas through litigation.

    Ms. Primus’s successful challenge of her reprimand affirmed the First Amendment right of advocacy groups to advance their political agendas through litigation.Credit...via Primus family

    Edna Smith was born on June 27, 1944, in Yemassee, S.C., a tiny town in the state’s Lowcountry, the daughter of sharecroppers. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 1966 before enrolling in its law school.

    She retired in 2006 from Palmetto Legal Services in Columbia, S.C., where she had been managing attorney.

    Her marriage to Marcellous Alphonzo Primus ended in divorce.

    Ms. Primus died at her home in Columbia, her daughter, LaCelle Primus, said. In addition to her, she is survived by three grandchildren. Her niece Tina Herbert is a lawyer, and a grandniece is graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Law on Dec. 14.

    Ms. Primus once recalled that as a young, newly minted lawyer she had not been prepared to be thrust into a public controversy.

    “We were scarce then, black women lawyers,” Ms. Primus told the Columbia newspaper The State in 1989. “A public reprimand splashed all over the papers, that was totally demoralizing.”

    But she expressed no regrets about getting involved on behalf of women who were being involuntarily sterilized. “I really felt they were being victimized,” she told the newspaper. “I thought it was important for people with little resources to be informed of their rights.”

    Marietta Williams, the woman whom Ms. Primus approached as a potential client, was informed of her right to sue only after the sterilization. Dr. Pierce had persuaded her to sign a release freeing him of liability.

    “I wouldn’t marry again,” Ms. Williams told The Times in 1973. “Who would want me, knowing I cannot have any children?”

    The Times reported that 18 of the 34 Medicaid-funded deliveries in Aiken County Hospital in 1972 included sterilization. Of those, 16 were performed on black women, all by Dr. Pierce, a former Army doctor.

    “People with three children — three already or two with one on the way who are on Medicaid — are required to voluntarily submit to sterilization,” Dr. Pierce told The Aiken Standard in 1973. “In a sense, it isn’t really voluntary, because no other obstetrician will see a Medicaid patient.”

    He added: “I feel that if I’m paying for them as a taxpayer, I want to put an end to their reproduction. If I control my own family size so that I can provide for them, then I don’t want to have to pay for others.”

    Dr. Pierce was charged with malpractice but acquitted. He was later sued in federal court by two women, one who had undergone sterilization at his insistence; the other said he had prematurely discharged her from a hospital, a day after she gave birth to her third child, because she had refused to undergo a tubal ligation, or sterilization. A jury awarded the first woman $5 in damages, finding that Dr. Pierce had violated her rights, but it awarded nothing to the second. The verdict against Dr. Pierce was later reversed by a federal appeals court.

    Information about Dr. Pierce’s practice remains on health care websites in South Carolina, but calls to his listed office phone numbers went unanswered.

    Article by: Sam Roberts, an obituaries reporter, was previously The Times’s urban affairs correspondent and is the host of “The New York Times Close Up,” a weekly news and interview program on CUNY-TV.

  • 02 Dec 2019 11:00 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Ice Miller LLP is pleased to announce the arrival of a new attorney in the Firm’s Columbus office.

    Kishala Srivastava is an attorney in Ice Miller’s Litigation Practice. Kishala first joined Ice Miller as a summer associate, where she drafted memoranda and court documents for the Firm’s Litigation and Labor & Employment Groups. She earned her juris doctor from The Ohio State Moritz College of Law. During law school, Kishala was an advisory board member for the Program on Law and Leadership, a co-chair of the diversity and inclusion committee for the Student Bar Association and a member of the Moritz’s Justice for Children Clinic. Kishala also served as editor-in-chief of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution.

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