Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students Lauren Holler and Melissa Bilancini participated in the process of revising Ohio’s Criminal Rules through a Pop-Up Practicum developed by C|M|LAW Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich. The C|M|LAW students attended meetings of the Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure in Ohio Courts, held at the Supreme Court of Ohio building in Columbus, along with Witmer-Rich, who serves as counsel to the Criminal Rules sub-committee of the Rules Commission.
“Researching the topics and attending the commission meetings has been engaging because grand jury reform is a very hot topic and so relevant right now,” said Holler.
The students attended three in-person Commission meetings and sat on a pair of related conference calls, listening and taking notes as 19 commission members – a collection of judges, magistrates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law directors, legal scholars and public safety representatives – discussed proposed amendments and public comments on criminal procedure, as well as rules of evidence, juvenile procedure, appellate procedure, civil procedure, and traffic laws, in order to submits recommended amendments to the Ohio Supreme Court.
“Watching the discussions among the commission members has been interesting because they come from such different perspectives, yet they are able to have respectful discord and constructive discussion which you don’t often see in practice,” said Bilancini.
The students’ work consisted of researching potential changes, drafting memoranda and drafting revised language for specific rules on grand juries. They conducted research related to a rule the commission put forth for public notice and comment that would allow a member designated by the legislature to petition for release grand jury records in instances where no indictment was put forth. They completed a 50-state survey of grand jury secrecy looking at both the statutory and the state rules to be able to present how other states conduct such procedures.
The students also had the opportunity to watch commission members work through real-life applications of the type of regulations they have studied in class.
“This practicum was like a real-life Legislation & Regulatory State course and similar to some other regulatory classes,” said Bilancini. “It’s valuable to know that as an attorney and that there are mechanisms such as this commission for changing issues that you experience in practice.”
In addition to the substantive work for the Commission, both students found the individual work and meetings with their professor to be beneficial.
“Getting to work closely with Professor Witmer-Rich was really invaluable,” said Holler. “Our discussions with Professor Witmer-Rich have been engaging and he encourages us to think critically, which is my favorite part.”