Alumni, legal community help high school students get practical experience in the Summer Law & Trial Institute


Twenty high school students from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania got the chance to attempt legal careers at the Summer Law & Trial Institute at Ohio University in 2021, completing a mock trial that their friends and family could view online.

More than two dozen OHIO alumni, attorneys, and judges – including the Chief Justice of Ohio, Maureen O’Connor – shared their wisdom, experience, and career advice, helping students get new perspectives on the law and focus on their bogus trial through the Prepare institute that was hosted on June 13-21 by the Center for Law, Justice and Culture.

The institute was founded in 2016 by CLJC Pre-Law Advisor and Alumnus Larry Hayman, Esq (’03 BA Political Science) and was held virtually for the second year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The quality of the students who apply for the Summer Law & Trial Institute impresses me year after year,” said Hayman. “We had 70 applications for 20 vacancies. Although we couldn’t be on the Ohio University campus this year, the students selected for the program excelled. They were challenged to be critical of the law and justice challenges of the 21st century.” Experience learning, and they learned college majors and co-curricular experiences available at OHIO for those interested in law school. They also met with dozens of attorneys and judges, as well as current and past Ohio University law students .

Chyane Sims, an aspiring senior at Lincoln Park Performing High School in Midland, Pennsylvania, applied for the program because she was attracted to the mock trial. “The mock process at the end of the program was the icing on the cake for me,” she said. “I appreciate that the program wasn’t limited to just discussing the law, but that it answered all of my questions about Ohio University and college in general.”

Courtroom viewing and interactive experiences

The program was able to recreate several of the on-site visits students typically make, including observing a hearing in the Ohio Supreme Court, meeting with Chief Justice O’Connor, and a virtual visit to the Athens County Court of Common Pleas.

Students took rigorous courses on law and the American legal system, including learning the access gap to justice, negotiating pretenses, and the practice of professionalism and ethics. The sessions included interactive text analysis exercises, case briefings and negotiation. They also learned professionalism, courtroom decency, and collaboration.

Hayman led the program with two current OHIO students, Ellen Gill-Franks and Daniela Grijalva, who served as program assistants.

Grijalva, an MA in Law, Justice & Culture PhD candidate, applied to be a program assistant because she saw this as an excellent opportunity to work with emerging young people in the Appalachians and help shape the changes they are making in the world around them.

“My favorite part of this position was working with the great attendees to navigate, understand, and critically analyze the issues raised by each of the various presenters throughout the program,” she said. “I feel that my own understanding of the justice system has been tremendously improved and I have a much clearer picture of the many different opportunities I might pursue as a young professional in this field and how I can combine my passions, skills and interests a way that really benefits the world around me. “

Gill-Franks, a senior citizen studying English franchise and sociology and criminology while pursuing a certificate in law, justice and culture, completed the program herself as a high school student in 2016. It introduced her to the legal and judicial community at Ohio University. including leadership roles in the OHIO Mock Trial Team, Students Defending Students and many others. This was her second year as a program assistant.

Networking with OHIO alumni and friends in legal areas

As in previous years, dozens of alumni and friends in legal professions have joined the institute to work with students. The Athens City Prosecutor, Tracy Meek, Esq. (’03 Political Communications) and Defense Attorney Margaret “Peggy” Smith Replogle, Esq. (’93 Political Science) taught students about their respective roles in the criminal justice system.

Similarly, students were able to learn about plea negotiations from Athens District Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Pepper. Esq. (’03 story) and Attorney Karyn Justice, Esq. a Portsmouth criminal defense attorney. The students were then divided into groups of prosecutors and defense lawyers, each with their own confidential “customer information” and involved in negotiations and pleadings.

Students also had the opportunity to meet with various representatives from organizations across Ohio including:

  • • J. Bennet Guess, Celina Coming, Elizabeth Hopkins, Jocelyn Rosnick, and Jeff Miller of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio
  • • Kate Mozynski, Esq. and Kim Burroughs, Esq. from equality ohio
  • • Peggy Lee, Esq. and Lucy Schwallie, Esq. of Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
  • • Pierce Reed, Esq. (’86, Psychology) from the Ohio Innocence Project

In addition to researching a wide variety of legal and judicial issues, students learned how to conduct a virtual mock trial. After watching demonstrations by the Ohio University Mock Trial Team, the students learned about the components of a process. Columbus Chief City Prosecutor Joseph M. Gibson (Political Science ’05) taught students the difference between direct examination and cross-examination and how to do them. Amy Flowers, Esq. (’05 Political Science) taught Trial Decorum, while Justice in the Juvenile and Probate Department of the Athens County Court of Common Pleas, Zachary Saunders (’08 Political Science) taught the rules of evidence and objection. Athens Public Prosecutor Lisa Eliason (’76 Education) completed the trial portion of the program by teaching students how to write and providing a closing argument.

“Although it was virtual, the program was inclusive and kept us busy,” said participant Sims. “The highlight of my experience was the exchange with my colleagues in the program and the discussion of topics with our special guests.” She found Flower’s presentation particularly eye-opening. “I realized the importance of some details when I was presented in a mock process, such as the use of integrative language.”

Capstone trial experience

At the end of the first week of the program, students tried different roles for the keystone mock experiment experience. Ultimately, the students were split into four teams, two prosecution teams and two defense teams, with two lawyers and three witnesses per team. Then they spent the weekend bringing their cases up for trial in the case of. to formulate New Columbia versus Chris Archerwho presented them in a virtual courtroom on Monday June 21st to Judges George McCarthy and Saunders in Athens County.

The court hearings were broadcast live on YouTube and can be viewed online:

Judge Saunders (’08 Political Science) served as judge during the second of the two trials. This was his third year on the program.

“I was honored once again to be part of this program,” said Saunders. “It’s one of the highlights of my year. I was very impressed with the performance of the students in the rehearsal process. They were prepared, motivated, and made use of the knowledge they gained during the program at the exam. … I just wish a program like this existed when I was in high school. SLTI, especially for Appalachian students, gives them much-needed advice regarding college majors and legal careers, while also giving them a well-deserved opportunity to demonstrate their skills when the opportunity presents itself. “

Both judges gave feedback to the student attorneys and witnesses after both sides suspended their cases.

After both cases were closed, the matter was then referred to a virtual jury. The first trial resulted in a vacant jury on all points, which meant that the jury could not come to a unanimous result. In the second trial, the jury was hung for second degree murder, but the defendant Chris Archer was convicted of harassment offenses.

Educational and professional exploration

The students’ experiences also included discussions about educational and career opportunities. Dr. Smoki Musaraj, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Law, Justice and Culture, joined the students to speak to them about various bachelor and master degrees through the center. The students also took part in panel discussions with current lawyers and law students.

The first panel “What can I do with a law degree?” featured Robert Foehl, Esq., (’91 Business), Barbara Nalazak, Esq. and reed. Panellists shared their diverse experiences including their time as prosecutors, corporate attorneys, lobbyists, prosecutors, in academia, as lawyers, and more.

The second panel included current Ohio University graduates currently studying law. The law students gave insights to program participants interested in pursuing pretrial opportunities at OHIO, including the Ohio University Mock Trial Team, various student organizations, the Center for Law, Justice & Culture, internship experiences, and others. The panel included Ryan Crowley (’19 History), an aspiring third-year law student at Delaware Law School; Taryn Osborne (’19 Political Science Pre-Law, Spanish Minor, LJC Certificate), an aspiring sophomore at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and Lydia Wendel (’20 Political Science Pre-Law, Anthropology Minor, LJC Certificate) an aspiring sophomore at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

Participants in the program were able to meet with the Athens District Court Judge Patrick Lang (’99 Political Science) who came out of his courtroom to explain the role of a judge and answer questions. They were also able to learn about the role of legal counsel from current MA in Law, Justice and Culture, Miranda West (’18 Law).

At the end of the program, the students had to take part in a follow-up survey. They had overwhelmingly positive feedback on their experience with the program and collectively expressed an increased interest in pursuing a legal career and attending Ohio University because of their experience.

The Summer Law & Trial Institute was free for all students and was made possible by generous donations from OHIO alumni.

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