Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Linda Ammons '87: A Study in Unwavering Faith in the Nobility of the Law

Linda was raised to believe "if you sent the right people to the courts, chaos would cease, justice would prevail, and oppression would end because people had respect for and would honor just laws." Two careers, and years later, Linda would test this wisdom.

Linda Ammons
Linda is also an award-winning photographer who has exhibited nationally

Linda pursued her undergraduate degree in a South rife with racial tension. She majored in English at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. Following graduation, she found a job in broadcasting there, initially as a talk show host, news anchor, field reporter and producer, and later as a news publications specialist at Alabama A & M University.

Throughout the 70's in Alabama, Linda says, "There was an ongoing debate about who ran the state - George Wallace or the federal government." These arguments about states' rights made their way into the federal courts where, as a reporter, Linda often found herself assigned. Her fascination with lawyering deepened into respect. Linda recalls, "I had a friend in law school who persuaded me that this is what I should do. 'Quit fooling around and do what you are supposed to do,' she said, so I did it."

She entered Ohio State in 1984 and left three years later with a suitcase full of awards, including an Ohio General Assembly Commendation, the Dean's Special Award, the Black Student Leadership Award, the Ohio State University Distinguished Affirmative Action Award, the Leadership Service Award from the Office of Minority Affairs, and many others. She participated in moot court competitions, was president of the Black Law Student Association, and served as an officer of the Women's Law Caucus.

Following graduation, Linda worked for half a year as a special assistant to the Director of the Department of Administrative Services for the State of Ohio before being named Executive Assistant to Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste in January 1988. Among her many projects was an investigation into the cases of scores of women incarcerated for murdering or arranging for the murder of a spouse or companion. What Linda was looking for was indication of extreme provocation and evidence that the courts would not have dealt so harshly with them had the law allowed evidence of battering at the time they stood trial.

Linda Ammons
Linda is a long-term member of the Moritz National Alumni Council.
In March 1990 the Supreme Court of Ohio (and subsequently the Ohio Legislature) recognized the validity of battered woman syndrome and ruled it could be admitted as evidence in defending women brought to trial for killing an abusive husband or lover. The lives of 28 women were changed by Linda's research when the Governor commuted their sentences in an act of clemency. Linda was quoted on the front pages of papers around the country, defending the Governor's act and the women who had been victimized. Of battering, Linda says, "When we didn't explicitly condone it, we denied that it was going on and then when we were not denying it, we blamed the victim for it. On any given day, half of humanity can be victimized in this way, and we don't respond appropriately."

The story did not end in Ohio. Eventually Florida, Maryland, Illinois, and California followed Ohio's lead in enacting legislation that resulted in clemency for women brought to trial without regard for the circumstances surrounding their acts of desperation.

The commutations that cast Linda into the national spotlight occurred during the end of Governor Celeste's final term. When the Governor left office, so did Linda. Coming full circle, Linda returned to Cleveland and began a fourth career as a law professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.

Remembering those whose battered lives had redirected the course of her own life, Linda became a vocal and effective spokesperson for battered women. She initiated and chaired for two consecutive years the first ABA National Institute on Defending Women in Criminal Cases and edited a book of course materials, Defending Battered Women in Criminal Cases. She has addressed the California legislature on the battered woman syndrome and has lectured internationally on the subject of intimate partner violence. In the years since she began teaching, she has traveled throughout the United States urging advocates to lobby their own state governments on behalf of battered women. Recognized as well for her expertise in regulatory law, Linda teaches Advanced Administrative Law at the National Judicial College.

In addition to teaching and advocacy, Linda's administrative responsibilities have grown to include programming to enrich the intellectual life of Cleveland-Marshall's faculty. As the newly appointed Associate Dean for Faculty Development, she will encourage faculty teaching and scholarship.

Have time and tribulations altered Linda's homegrown belief in the nobility of her calling? She says it best, "The law is crafted by human hands and it reflects the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Still, I do believe that the law can provide and protect freedom. However, we have not reached our zenith as a society until there is truly liberty and justice for all. Until then, we, including lawyers, who believe in freedom cannot rest." Her mother is, understandably, proud.

Excerpted from an article that first appeared in Law Notes, a publication of Cleveland-Marshall Law Alumni Association and printed with permission of the Editor, Louise F. Mooney.