News - Capital University Law School

CapLaw’s Criminal Law Track Earns Top Ranking from preLaw Magazine

2/24/2020  - 

United States Attorney David DeVillers, L ‘92, was not at all surprised to hear that preLaw magazine ranked Capital University Law School as a Top School for Criminal Law in its Fall 2019 issue.

DeVillers recently was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to serve as the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Ohio, overseeing a staff of approximately 70 assistant U.S. attorneys who handle cases from offices in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.

He noted that two other CapLaw graduates – Hon. Matthew W. McFarland, L ’92, and Hon. Sarah D. Morrison, L ’97 – recently became U.S. district judges. (They join U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson, L’ 87, and Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers, L’ 94, as CapLaw alumns on the federal bench in the Southern District of Ohio).

“The best defense attorneys and prosecutors are Capital grads,” DeVillers says. “Clearly, Capital is doing something right.”

preLaw graded law schools “based on the breadth of their curricular offerings.” Weighted scores were given for concentration, clinics, centers, externships, journals, student groups, and certificates. An added value was awarded for other offerings.

Samuel H. Shamansky, L ’85, who is recognized as a top criminal defense attorney, says that CapLaw’s emphasis on the clinic program helped propel his career. Shamansky worked in the Franklin County public defender’s office before opening his own practice, where he has handled numerous high-profile criminal defense cases.

The clinics help “to train young lawyers, not only defending cases, but also prosecuting cases,” Shamansky says. “I had already tried a jury trial while I was in law school through the clinic. It’s the clinic that actually represents people. It was a golden opportunity to be a lawyer.”

He says clinics help law students to see exactly what the profession entails, including the downsides. “To me, it was super important,” Shamansky says. “I was lucky to be in an environment where I was exposed to professors who cared enough about shaping young minds. For those of us who wanted to be in a courtroom, the program was just outstanding.”

CapLaw offers a variety of avenues for students interested in exploring the area of criminal law practice, beyond the basic courses and cursory exposure, says Professor of Clinical Studies Lorie L. McCaughan, L’ 96.

“With respect to clinic, ours is live-client representation, as opposed to simulation,” she says. “In clinic, legal interns are assigned to represent criminal defendants in at least one misdemeanor criminal case from start (the arraignment) to finish (the sentencing) and in many cases through the expungement process as well.”

Professor of Legal Research and Writing Scott Anderson says CapLaw’s curriculum and community are two of its strongest assets.

“Our school has a broad and deep criminal law curriculum,” Anderson says. “Beyond our standard criminal law and criminal procedure courses, we offer specialized courses in trial advocacy, including our general litigation clinics and courses on forensic and expert witness testimony.

“Our students have opportunities – through our externship program – to engage with local practitioners on the job,” says Professor Anderson. “Our externs are immersed in criminal law advocacy for an entire semester, working with prosecutors, defense counsel, courts, legislators and local agencies to serve clients in the criminal justice system.”

Professor Anderson continues: “Our school also has partnered with the Wrongful Conviction Program of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office – an agency that argues, based on non-DNA evidence, that long-time prisoners should be granted a new trial.”

Capital is also home to a student organization – the Criminal Law Association – that sponsors panel discussions on hot topics in criminal law and visits prisons to speak with inmates and administrators, Anderson says.

The Gary M. Schweickart Lecture in Criminal Defense brought criminal defense attorney Brian, McMonagle, L ’84, to campus this year to share the story of his successful defense of rapper Meek Mill. McMonagle, who has represented comedian Bill Cosby and other high-profile defendants, cited CapLaw’s moot court as “the greatest experiences of my law school life.”

Fairfield County (Ohio) Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Darcy T. Cook, L ’11, says her moot court experience helps her when she is arguing appellate cases today. In fact, much of what Cook, who graduated with a concentration in criminal litigation, learned in her law school classes applies to her work in the prosecutor’s office. “There are two that really stand out: a class regarding the theories of punishment that has been a critical foundation to my practice as an assistant prosecutor,” she says, “ and an interviewing class where we learned skills and tools that I use every time I prep witnesses for trial or other hearings still to this day.

“CapLaw excels in criminal law by providing just so many opportunities for us to learn and grow within the criminal law realm – both inside and outside the courtroom.”

Other highlights of Capital University Law School’s Criminal Law offerings include:

  • A criminal litigation concentration that gives students practical experience in trial preparation through coursework in criminal procedure, legal drafting for criminal litigation and evidence. Combined with a litigation clinic, externship program, moot court and mock trial programs, the criminal litigation concentration provides hands-on experience to prepare students for the rigors of the criminal justice system.
  • An expert witness experience in which juris doctorate students and Columbus police officers mastered the skills of working with and serving as expert witnesses.
  • Restorative justice circles, which serve as an alternative to adjudication for first-time juvenile offenders charged with misdemeanors and are administered by Capital’s Family & Youth Law Center in conjunction with the county juvenile court.
  • Presentations, such as “Medical Marijuana and Child Welfare,” where social workers, counselors and attorneys receive practical guidance on the effects of the sanctioned use of cannabis, parenting and a child’s best interests.
  • Conferences, featuring keynote speakers like former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton who spoke on “A Place of My Own: Opportunities to Address the Housing Needs of Columbus’ Vulnerable Populations.”
  • Lectures, which brought New York Times Magazine writer and senior research fellow at Yale Law School Emily Bazelon, who shared, “Prosecutors and the New Movement to End Mass Incarceration.”
  • Criminal procedure classes like one in which 20 students argued motions to suppress before former U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Kemp.
  • “Fresh start” clinics offering students pro bono opportunities to help previously incarcerated individuals manage collateral consequences of their convictions.