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Prof. Merritt named Morgan E. Shipman Outstanding Professor

May 14, 2010 | Faculty

The 2009-10 school year will likely be a memorable one for Deborah Jones Merritt, the John Deaver Drinko-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law. In October, Professor Merritt stood before the U.S. Supreme Court admirably arguing her first case to the Court. And, today, the Class of 2010 honors her with her first Morgan E. Shipman Outstanding Professor Award.

“I was thrilled to argue before the Supreme Court,” Merritt said, “but the classroom is my favorite place. Teaching is a two-way connection to the future. As professors, we help shape tomorrow’s counselors, policymakers, and judges. At the same time, students channel the future back to us: They offer a constant stream of new technologies, ideas, and experiences.”

Professor Merritt graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in 1977 and from Columbia Law School in 1980. After graduation, Professor Merritt clerked for Judge (now Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Professor Merritt practiced law in Atlanta, Ga., and joined the law faculty at the University of Illinois in 1985. Ten years later, she joined the Ohio State faculty as the Drinko Chair. “My husband and I both have roots in Ohio,” Merritt reflects, “so coming to Ohio State was a homecoming for us.”

Professor Merritt has published widely on issues of equality, affirmative action, federalism, health and technology, tort reform, and legal education. Much of her work has focused on public policy issues, and she has made numerous presentations to judges, legislators, and other policymakers. Professor Merritt has also co-taught courses in Europe with both Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor.

In December 2008, Professor Merritt and her Moritz colleague Associate Professor Ric Simmons published Learning Evidence: From the Federal Rules to the Courtroom, a text that offers a novel approach to the basic Evidence course. Students call the book an “uncasebook” because it omits the appellate opinions that dominate other texts. “In the Evidence course,” Merritt explains, “cases just weighed us down. We have much livelier discussions with this text.”

Professor Merritt has been honored as an Ohio State University Distinguished Lecturer (1999), University Distinguished Scholar (2002), and Distinguished Teacher (2009), awards conferred on the University’s most outstanding professors. In 2004, the University recognized her work promoting diversity with one of its Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Awards. She also served as the University’s general commencement speaker for the Autumn 2004 commencement. From 2000-05, Merritt directed the John Glenn Institute, a University-wide institute devoted to encouraging public service and informing public policy.