UC Law Women: Back In Action.

Nikita Srivastava (’19)

logo squareThe University of Cincinnati was one of the first law schools to develop a joint degree in Women’s Studies and Law. In addition, the number of women applicants and law students has steadily increased over the years; women now comprise about half of every entering class. Despite these rising numbers, women in the law continue to face issues that merit special attention – issues such as pay equity, networking, promotions, etc. Fortunately, the College of Law has several centers and student groups that address issues faced by women in the law. These include the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, Out and Allies, and If/When/How. However, over the past several years, a student group devoted solely to women in the law was non-existent.

UC Law Women, a student group formed in the 1980s, was founded to raise awareness of the unique issues faced by women in the legal community but, for a variety of reasons, faded away in the mid-2000s. Then, in the fall of 2016, Maria Catrina Castro, a current 2L, saw Law Women listed on UC’s organization page; she asked how to join and discovered the organization did not exist anymore. Disappointed, Maria made a mental note to reboot the organization. She knew it would not be possible in her first semester to create a student organization, so Maria waited until Spring 2017 to start the process. She approached students who took active roles in social and gender issues – and sought out a variety of perspectives to ensure that the club would be an inclusive group.

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President Maria Castro, Professor Lenhart, Secretary Nikita Srivastava, and member Ben Sandlin

The formal process of rebooting Law Women began in February 2017. During a Student Federal Bar Association dinner for Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Donald, Maria asked me if I had ever heard of Law Women – I shook my head no. Maria then asked, “Do you want to start a women’s club with me?” “Absolutely!” I replied. The idea that Maria had carried with her for months was taking shape. Maria informed me that she talked to other 1L students Natalia Trotter, Jessica Nguyen, and Megan Powley about the relaunch. We then approached Professor Betsy Lenhart, who was coincidentally hosting the dinner for Judge Donald, and asked if she would be our faculty advisor. Professor Lenhart agreed, expressing surprise that so many years had passed without an active Law Women student group. She said she had no doubt, especially knowing Maria and me as students, that the new club would succeed.

We got to work on the mission statement right away, stressing the diversity and inclusivity of the new organization. Our mission statement provides:

The mission of UCLW is to provide a diverse and inclusive forum for UC Law students to promote the representation and leadership of women in the legal profession and within the law school community. UCLW advocates for the legal, political, economic, and social equality of all people regardless of sex, gender, race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political ideology, sexual identity, age, disability, class, or socioeconomic status.

Maria continued to reach out to people who were interested in organizing the new group. She held an initial meeting with about 11 people to discuss the organization’s goals for the law school and the legal community. This group drafted the mission statement and constitution, which Professor Lenhart received in late March. Professor Lenhart noted the inclusiveness of the mission statement and the importance of recognizing that women’s experiences in the law are often different than men’s. As faculty advisor, Professor Lenhart said that she was honored to work with a group of students who had restarted an organization by scratch. She added that she wants to be an active advisor, and sees the potential for UC Law Women to play a unique role at the law school.

The goals of UCLW are threefold: (1) to promote representation and leadership of women in the law school and legal community, (2) to contribute to a legal environment that is supportive of women, (3) and, to build a strong network of women in legal community. Moreover, as a new organization, UCLW must also promote the organization within the law school and Cincinnati legal community. As Maria told me:

“I want to make sure that our current and future members take an active role in helping to build this student organization. My hope is that all UCLW members feel committed to the organization and excited about its potential. So ultimately, I hope to avoid a fizzle out by helping to create an organization full of active involved members and leaders who will take over and continue to build on this work.”

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Founding members: Treasurer Natalia Trotter, Vice President Jessica Nguyen, Fundraising Chair Megan Powley, President Maria Castro, and Secretary Nikita Srivastava; with other voting members.

UCLW’s first Fall event is a Meet and Greet with women faculty on September 7 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in the Crow’s Nest. UCLW’s first general informational meeting will be September 20 from 12:15 pm to 1:15 pm, where the founding members will not only address the issues women face within the legal profession, but also possible solutions to these problems. Also, UCLW, recognizing that women are in many different organizations, wants to collaborate with other student organizations. Vice President, Jessica Nguyen, organized a “Trunk N Treat” charity event with South Avondale School on October 28. This event is a great way for the UC community to gather and provide a safe environment for local children to trick and treat!

“Women make up at least 50% of the student population,” Maria noted, “and they are involved with everything across the board. I want to make sure as many different perspectives as possible are represented. And I want to make sure that we built an organization that embraces everyone.”

All events are open to all students!

For more information, email UCLawWomen1@gmail.com

Nikita Srivastava is 2L and Fellow with Ohio Innocence Project. Currently, she is Vice President of Criminal Law Society and Secretary of UCLW.

Friends of the Court: Cincinnati Law students contribute to SCOTUS ruling

By Guest Contributors Francesca Boland(’19), David Wovrosh (’19), and Prof. Janet Moore 

On June 19, 2017, Cincinnati Law students saw their work cited in a 5-4 majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, resolved a lower courtdcsxxa-xoaafsoq split over what the Constitution requires when prosecutors seek to impose the death penalty against defendants who have mental illness, but cannot afford to hire mental health experts to present an effective defense.

First-year students researched the issue during the spring semester for an amicus brief filed by the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD). The Court cited that brief in holding that Alabama courts violated a right that was clearly established in its 1985 decision, Ake v. Oklahoma.  Continue reading “Friends of the Court: Cincinnati Law students contribute to SCOTUS ruling”

OJ Simpson Revisited

OJ Simpson’s parole hearing provides another opportunity to consider race in the criminal justice system.

By Nikita Srivastava

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OJ Simpson

Former football player and Hollywood star, OJ Simpson will have a parole hearing on Thursday, July 20th, 2017. In December 2008, Simpson was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 6 years. This, of course, was not Simpson’s first encounter with the law. In 1994, a jury acquitted Simpson of the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His high profile case sparked a division on race relations in this nation.

Simpson’s parole hearing will occur when race remains a highly contested and hotly debated topic in this nation. As a result, it’s fitting to examine Joe’s Feagin concept of the white racial frame (WRF) helps us understand why Simpson and his legal issues embody issues of race. And, to watch the Oscar-winning documentary, OJ: Made in America, which brings these complicated issues to life. Continue reading “OJ Simpson Revisited”

A Second Look

Here are some items that caught our eye:

2370_regUniversity of Dayton Sociology Professor Dr. Jamie Longazel recently published  Undocumented Fears, which examines immigration and the racialization that occurs in small towns. Berkeley Law Prof. Ian Haney Lopez says

Jamie Longazel brings into sharp focus the anti-Latino racism at the heart of national politics today. Even as we as a society struggle to build solidarity across racial divisions, powerful forces seek advantage in tearing us farther apart. The concentrated focus of Undocumented Fears helps us understand not only why this occurs but also how we might help replace fear with friendship, social division with a sense of shared humanity.


Looking for the next binge-worthy program?  Netflix’s Dear White People is absolutely dearwhitepeoplerelevant and important. And, it’s being renewed for second season!

Speaking of television, BBC just announced that 13 is the charm–the next Dr. Who will be a woman.

 


Does it ever appear that racial vigilantes — for example, George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin–are presumed innocent?  Race and the Law Prof Blog takes on that topic.


And, in the “can’t wait!” category:  

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Director Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters March 9, 2018!  Can’t come soon enough. maxresdefault

Supreme Court: Offensive Speech May be Trademarked

Congress’s 70-year-old ban on registering disparaging terms struck down on free-speech grounds

tim armstrongGuest Contributor: Cincinnati Law Professor Tim Armstrong

An important new Supreme Court decision gives private parties the right to receive federal trademark registration of a term that disparages racial or ethnic minority groups. In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court ruled that part of the federal trademark statute is unconstitutional to the extent that it forbids federal trademark registration for terms “which may disparage … persons, living or dead … or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” To forbid registration of disparaging terms as trademarks, the Court unanimously agreed, violates registrants’ First Amendment rights to free expression even of “ideas that offend.”

At the heart of this case is bass player Simon Tam, a member of a quartet of Asian-American musicians who describe their style as “Chinatown dance rock.” The band chose to name itself “The Slants,” in what the Court described as an attempt to “reclaim … a derogatory term for persons of Asian descent …. and drain its denigrating force.” Continue reading “Supreme Court: Offensive Speech May be Trademarked”

I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things”

Cultural ignorance slows the progress of social justice.

nikkis-photo.jpgGuest Contributor:  Nikita Srivastava, (’19)

As a minority woman in the United States, I am often defined by the color of skin. Although I take pride in my heritage, it is not the only thing that defines who I am. I find myself explaining who I am (or what defines me) more often than my white peers. Not only is this common in social settings, but professional settings as well. What makes matters worse is that my concerns about cultural ignorance are dismissed as “little things.”  Continue reading “I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things””

I’m Back and I’m Proud

I’ve been away from the Blog for too long.  But for good reason.

The University’s Provost appointed me Interim Dean of the College of Law, which, as you can imagine, meant a raft of new responsibilities for me.  The most gratifying thus far was presiding over commencement.  Cincinnati Law graduated 84 students in May, and we were inspired by speeches from alums Rob Richardson (’05)  of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings and the Hon. Marilyn Zayas (’97) of Ohio’s First Appellate District Court,  who received the 2017 Nicholas Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award. I am very proud of our most recent alums and look forward to the significant contributions they will make to the profession and society.

On that note, I recently attended A Celebration of Black Lawyers, hosted by Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession.  This event honored three giants in the legal field:

  • Ken Chenault, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of American Express Company,
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    Ken and Kathyrn Chenault

    who spoke about the important role corporations have to play in the struggle for social justice;

 

  • Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.,
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    Sherrilyn Ifill

    who challenged all lawyers–irrespective of substantive area of expertise–to take get involved in civil rights matters; and

 

  • The Hon. Rob  Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,
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    Hon. Robert L. Wilkins

    who inspired attendees to follow his lead in persisting despite the odds. Judge Wilkins was a primary catalyst in making the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) a reality (it also was the site of the Celebration!).

Perhaps most poignant and moving of all was how Ms. Ifill reminded all of us–many of whom were African American attorneys–of the significant role Black lawyers played in moving this nation closer to the promise of equality set forth in our founding documents.

Her words made me remember that I am part of something larger.  A profession with the power to realize the country’s democratic potential.  A tradition of lawyers that pushed this nation to live up to its creed. A social engineer, to use the term coined by the great Charles Hamilton Houston,

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Charles Hamilton Houston

architect of the strategy that dismantled de jure segregation.

Envisioning myself as descended from such notables as Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley,  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I walked out of the NMAAHC considerably more inspired than when I entered.