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Susan Tobin ’81 Receives Moritz 2010 Public Service Award

September 2, 2010 | Alumni

Susan G. Tobin ’81 is the 2010 recipient of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Public Service Award for commitment to promoting and providing access to the justice system. Tobin is the chief legal counsel for the Ohio Legal Rights Service, Ohio’s system to protect and advocate the rights of people with disabilities.

“The Public Service Award was envisioned to recognize graduates like Sue Tobin,” Dean Alan Michaels said when recently presenting Tobin the award. “For 29 years, Sue has tirelessly, effectively, and passionately advocated for the most vulnerable children, those with disabilities. In the process, she has changed lives, changed laws, and changed attitudes.”

Early in her career, Tobin represented children who were institutionalized in Ohio because of a lack of a comprehensive service system. Her work in one case resulted in the first cross-disciplinary planning councils in the state. She also represented children on cases that led to significant reforms in one of the state’s psychiatric hospitals and insistently battled to ensure adequate funding for special education services in Ohio.

Fellow Moritz alumna and mentee Vanessa K. Coterel ’02 described the essence of Tobin’s commitment in her nomination letter. “In a multitude of ways, Sue showed through example that working hard and persevering in an individual child’s case could change a child’s life: she never underestimated the impact that an education could have on a child’s sacred right to someday lead as independent life as possible,” Coterel said. “With Sue as a mentor, I have learned that the practice of special education law literally has the power to change individual lives.”

Michael Kirkman, executive director of the Ohio Legal Rights Service, also praised Tobin for her lengthy list of successes. “Sue’s accomplishments are many, but one should not otherwise overlook the strong compassion that fuels her efforts on behalf of children in Ohio,” he said.

The award, which was established in 2000 and is presented by the Moritz College of Law Alumni Society, is given to an alumna/us whose public interest career exemplifies a commitment to promote and provide access to the legal system.