News - Capital University Law School

Capital University Law School To Induct 3 into Hall of Honor

9/19/2012  - 

Capital University Law School will induct three alumni who have had a significant impact on the school and the legal profession into its Hall of Honor Oct. 18 at an event at the Law School.

This year’s honorees will be former a former dean, the Hon. John W. McCormac; Professor Emerita Jean A. Mortland; and the Law School’s first female graduate, Esther H. Brocker.

The hall is the highest level of recognition awarded by the Law School. It is housed in a prominent location on the second floor of the building. This year’s induction ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Law School, 303 E. Broad Street, Columbus.

“The Hall of Honor is for those individuals who rose to the top – who have had a truly profound influence on the development and legal success of the Law School,” said Dean Rich Simpson.

Those selected for the Capital University Law School Hall of Honor are individuals who have profoundly influenced the Law School and reached and remained at the pinnacle of their fields for a period of time that demonstrates perseverance and maturation. 

Find out more about the Capital University Law School Hall of Honor.

Esther H. Brocker, L’26
Trail blazer, leader

The path Esther H. Brocker, L’26, created while working to become the Law School’s first female graduate started in Lancaster, Ohio, in the 1920s and was built commuting back and forth to Columbus, three nights a week, over a four-year period. It was followed by a lengthy legal career that extended well into her 80s.

Brocker was born April 21, 1883, in Lancaster, Ohio. By age 17, she was making money as a dressmaker. She married in 1902, and her first child, Mary, was born and died in 1909. Her only living child, John W. Brocker, was born in 1911. By 1916, Brocker was a single mother, working as secretary of the Hermann Manufacturing Company in Lancaster and assistant treasurer of the Hermann Tire Building and Machine Co. She then worked as secretary in the Deffenbaugh Law Offices in Lancaster. She also worked for the Department of Defense in Cleveland during World War I.

In the early 1920s, Brocker made a bold choice for a woman and single mother of that time: She decided to go to law school.

So, from 1922 to 1926, she made a 30-mile drive and took the interurban trolley to attend classes at Columbus School of Law, a predecessor of Capital University Law School. After 664 trips and nearly 40,000 miles. She became the Law School’s first female graduate on June 9, 1926 at age 42.

After graduating, Brocker opened a successful private law practice in Lancaster, handling criminal cases and probate work. Her first office was above a bank in Lancaster; later, she would move her law offices to one-half of the house in which she had lived with her parents. She served two terms as Lancaster’s city solicitor, and was elected vice president of the Fairfield County Bar Association in 1960.

She worked as an attorney until age 83, and died in 1972 at age 88.

Brocker was not the first woman to attend Columbus School of Law. Other women had taken classes starting in 1918, 15 years after the YMCA opened the school in 1903 with a mission of making a legal education available to everyone, regardless of race, gender or background. But Brocker was the first woman to finish her classes and earn a law school diploma, along with nine male classmates.

Esther Brocker’s legacy lives on at Capital University Law School in the form of a new endowed fund at the Law School, the Esther H. Brocker Scholarship Fund. The initial goal for the fund, started with a $4,660 donation from alumnae Jane L. Miller, L’76, is to raise $25,000 by 2017 to fund scholarships for upper-class female students based on merit and demonstrated need. Until then, the school’s Women’s Law Association plans to provide funding to award modest scholarships.

In addition, Law School alumnae and member of the Board of Counselors Georgeann G. Peters, L’83, has approved the creation of a significant scholarship fund in support of the Brocker Fund. The Georgann G. Peters Women’s Law Scholarship, established with the commitment of a $5,000 contribution during each of the next five years.

The Hon. John W. McCormac
Franklin University Law School, 1961
Law School Dean, 1966-71
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Capital University, 1986

John W. McCormac came from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential people in the history of Capital University Law School and a highly regarded member of the legal community.

He was born and raised in rural Muskingum County. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 as a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class on the amphibious transport craft US Thurston, participating in the invasions of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines. He graduated from Muskingum College in 1951, majoring in math and physics, then worked as a fire protection engineer from 1951 to 1960.

McCormac graduated from Franklin University Law School (a precursor of Capital University Law School) in 1961, attaining the highest grade point average in the school’s history. He then spent five years working as an attorney with the law firm of Schwenker, Teaford, Brothers & Bernard, specializing in trials and appeals.

After five years of private practice and some part-time teaching at Franklin, he joined the full-time faculty in the fall of 1965 with the understanding that he would assume the dean’s role after the retirement of Dean Ralph H. Klapp.

The dean’s position was split for one year in 1965-66 between McCormac as administrative dean and Professor Emeritus John E. Sullivan as academic dean. In 1966, Sullivan returned to the classroom and McCormac became the sole dean for the Law School.

McCormac was dean for five years, during which tremendous developments occurred, not the least of which was Capital University’s acquisition of the Law School from Franklin University in 1966. McCormac had his hands full working to bring the school into compliance with American Bar Association accreditation guidelines. One of his first priorities was securing Capital University’s permission to grant its law school graduates juris doctor degrees rather than bachelor of laws degrees, which had been the previous practice.

Converting to the JD degree brought the Law School in line with other Ohio schools – and made Capital’s graduates more competitive in the job market.

McCormac also led the Law School in its efforts to get ABA approval to launch a full-time day program. The process to receive approval for the program began in 1966, with the first class graduating in 1972. The addition required additional space and faculty.

Other programs inaugurated under McCormac’s term as dean included development of the paralegal program, the Law Review and the Night Prosecutor program, which was the foundation for the eventual creation of the Center for Dispute Mediation.

McCormac became judge of the 10th District Court of Appeals in 1975 and served until 1993, including serving as Chief Justice from 1990-91. He then served as retired judge by assignment of the Ohio Supreme Court in various appellate and common pleas courts, as well as the Court of Claims. He was an adjunct professor of law at the Moritz School of Law at The Ohio State University from 1993-2001.

McCormac was active in the legal community. He served on the Ohio Civil and Appellate Rules Committees from 1968-72; was a consultant to the Ohio Supreme Court in formulating The Ohio Civil Rules from 1969-70; and authored various staff notes to the Ohio Civil Rules Chair of the Supreme Court Committee to suggest amendments to their administrative rules.

He was president of the League of Ohio Law Schools from 1970-71, president of the Columbus Bar Association from 1975-76, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Ohio State Bar Association from 1977-80. He was chairman of the Ohio Judicial Conference from 1980-82.

In 1984, McCormac received the OSBA’s highest honor, the Outstanding Service in Law and Government Award. He received the CBA’s highest honor, the Bar Service Medal, in 1992.

He was a consultant to the Supreme and Constitutional Courts of the Ukraine to help formulate appellate Procedure from 1998-2000.

He authored many works, most notably the first and second editions of the Ohio Civil Rules Practice in 1970 and 1992. He also authored the first three volumes of Ohio Civil Procedure from 1972-75 and Wrongful Deaths in Ohio in 1982, among many other scholarly and professional works.

He also has been a frequent instructor for the OSBA, the Ohio Judicial Conference and other continuing education programs.

He currently lives in Worthington, Ohio, with his wife of 60 years, Martha.

Jean A. Mortland
B.S., The Ohio State University, 1952
J.D., Franklin University Law School, 1964
LL.M., New York University, 1969

Professor Emerita Jean A. Mortland is remembered as much for her reputation within the national and regional legal community as she is for her work in the classroom. She paved the way for women in the legal profession and served as a role model to future female students, attorneys and faculty members.

She received her bachelor’s degree in 1952 from Ohio State University and returned to Law School at Franklin University to earn her JD in 1964. She also received her LL.M. from New York University Law School in 1969.

She was admitted to the bar in 1964, passing the exam with the highest score that year. As one of the first female attorneys working for Nationwide Insurance, she practiced in the area of group contracts before returning to the Law School to begin her teaching career. She joined the Franklin Law School faculty in 1965 at a time there were few women in the legal profession or in law school. She taught Property, Insurance Law, Indian Law and Conflicts of Laws. At the time, she also served as the Law School’s first librarian. In 1998, she assumed the status of Professor Emeritus.

Professor Mortland’s greatest legacy may be her scholarly work. She published extensively in the areas of real property, insurance, land transactions, and conflicts of laws. From 1982-87 she was editor of the ABA Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal, a nationally recognized publication.

“During the years when there was not that much active (faculty) scholarship at the Law School, Jean was the editor, year after year, of the American Bar Association’s Real Property Journal, a nationally recognized journal,” Professor Mike Distelhorst said in his nomination of Professor Mortland. “That indicates that the national real property bar recognized her as one of their top academic authorities.”

Mortland was an active member of the bar and the community. She was chair of the Uniform State Laws Committee of the Ohio State Bar Association; chair of the Capital Significant Probate Trust Decisions Committee; and vice chair of the Brokers and Brokerage Committee of the ABA.

She received the Nettie Cronise Lutes Award from the Ohio State Bar Association in 1998. The award, named for the first woman to practice law in Ohio, honors women who improve the legal profession through their own professional achievement and who have been instrumental in opening the door to other women to join and excel in the profession.

“She was very much beloved by former students and local lawyers for the one-on-one kindness and brilliance of her help,” Distelhorst said.

Professor Mortland died in April 2006.