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2L Seeks Greater Understanding of Relationship Between Law, History with Joint-Degree Program

August 28, 2015 | Students

After discovering a passion for both history and the criminal justice system during her undergraduate studies, 2L Sarah Paxton says she decided to gain a better understanding of their relationship and all of its intricacies by pursuing a J.D. and a Ph.D in history.

“I’m actually a joint degree candidate – I’m getting my Ph.D. in history, I study violence and legal history, and my J.D. I decided to pursue a law degree on the advice of my dissertation advisor who said it would help me better understand the law than those who haven’t received a J.D.,” she said. “I went here for undergrad and my dissertation advisor taught a class on the history of the American criminal justice system – at the time I was already thinking about law school because it was an area I had always been interested in, but I just latched on to that type of history and didn’t let go.”

Continuing to seek new levels of understanding of the criminal justice system, Paxton had the opportunity to gain real world experience at both the federal and state levels over the summer through two very different internships.

For her first foray into the field she traveled to Washington, D.C., with several of her fellow classmates as part of the College’s Washington, D.C., Summer Program, where she interned for the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee of the Homeland Securities and Government Affairs Senate Committee. There she dove headfirst into administrative law, a field she learned about during her time in Professor Christopher Walker’s Legislation course, helping conduct in-depth research on D.C. circuit judicial candidates.

“It was really interesting, it was a very small office and I think everyone working there, save maybe two people, were J.D.s, so it was very interesting to get their take on law in Washington,” she said.

After spending seven weeks there, she returned home to central Ohio to begin an internship with the Fairfield County Prosecutor’s office.

There she was tasked again with a research-heavy role, writing numerous memos and an appellate responsive brief for the department.

“They started me right off the bat writing an appellate responsive brief and I’ve also worked on a lot of memos. The Fairfield County Prosecutor’s office is very, very good at mentoring their interns. Prosecutor Gregg Marx is amazing, he will sit there with you and go through your writing…all of the other prosecutors there are just amazing. It’s been really helpful in understanding the minor intricacies of criminal law that you don’t really get learning about it in a broad sweep,” she said.

Paxton says she plans to remain at the Fairfield County Prosecutor’s office on a part-time basis through December, before beginning an internship with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the spring.

Those experiences, as well as her historical studies, have helped affirm Paxton’s desire to practice criminal law after graduation, she said. With degrees in both history and the law, it seems like the right fit for both her interests and background.