The Law School Magazine  ·  Spring 2010 : Features

Ohio State Law Journal Celebrates 75th Anniversary

By - Spring 2010
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In 1933, Maudine Ormsby, a cow, was elected Homecoming Queen at The Ohio State University. The hilarity that filled the campus led a law student named “Johnny Walker” to enter the “Queen of Sheepa” as the Page Hall contribution to the homecoming. The law students humored-filled  protest of campus politics followed. By the spring of 1934, the shenanigans led to a serious discussion of creating a Student Bar Association, according to a lengthy description in the first-edition of Ohio State Law Journal. One of the Student Bar Association’s first acts was to levy a $1 per quarter fee on students to start a law journal, set to be published in 1935. So, yes, the Ohio State Law Journal owes its beginnings, in part, to a cow named Maudine.

In 2010, the Ohio State Law Journal (OSLJ) celebrates its 75th anniversary. Over those 75 years, thousands of students have spent a significant portion of their law school careers slaving over footnotes and novel legal theories that define the law review experience. In its initial dedication, Dean H.W. Arant wrote in a forward:

“This is eloquent evidence of the beginning of a significant era in Ohio State University’s College of Law … It evidences the important fact that the student body as a whole is devoting itself much more exclusively and intelligently to the task of becoming legal craftsmen. It testifies convincingly to an interest of a student body in matters which promises contributions to leadership along lines where interested and intelligent leadership is needed. Most significantly of all, however, is the fact that the whole enterprise has originated and taken form among students.”

In total, 70 volumes have been published and the only event to stop the presses was World War II.

“It was the first time since managing a two-person paper route that I had any management experience,” said Martin Coyle ’66, editor-in-chief in 1966 and now retired in Sonoma, Calif., and Chautauqua, N.Y., after working at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and TRW, Inc. “The editorial team was top notch and prepared me for dealing with people smarter than I – something I have gotten used to through the years. We all became quickly aware that thoroughness, imagination, and hard work were keys to preparing the issues. Everyone on the team contributed 110 percent. All these lessons remained with me throughout my career. But for the journal experience and the recommendation of David Cupps, the previous editor-in-chief, I would not have been offered my first job in New York. I am thankful to David and the journal.”

Many have taken the skills they learned working on OSLJ into the work place upon graduation.

“The experience taught me that there are no shortcuts to the desired result,” said Kenneth Millisor ’60, editor-in-chief in 1960 who went on to start his own labor and employment firm in Cleveland. “Hard work and attention to detail were and remain the primary ingredients for success. Editing the articles of students and outside contributors also taught me the importance of and the ability to clearly and concisely state a position.”

Through the years, OSLJ has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court 41 times. The first time the Court cited an OSLJ article was in 1952, when an article from the 10th volume, printed in 1949, entitled Statistics in Federal Habeas Corpus was cited. The journal’s next big moment came in 1966 when the Court relied heavily on an article entitled The Supreme Court and Restrictions on Police Interrogation by Lawrence Herman, now the President’s Club Emeritus Professor of Law, in its landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In 1972, the Court reached all the way back to the eighth volume of OSLJ, printed in 1941, and cited the article The Warrant of an Attorney to Confess Judgment. In recent years, the Court relied on the OSLJ article Delegate Death: The Troubling Paradox Behind State Uses of Electrocution and Lethal Injection and What It Says About Us, printed in 2002, when deciding the Baze v. Rees in 2008, which reviewed lethal injection protocols. The Court also relied on an OSLJ article – Diversity Effects on Student Outcomes: Social Science Evidence, published in 1998 – in 2007 when deciding Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1.

“I think OSLJ is consistently one of the best law journals in the country,” said Professor Stanley K. Laughlin, Jr. ’60, who served as editor-in-chief in 1960 and today serves as faculty advisor to the journal.

Exact citation numbers for lower courts are hard to determine, but estimates show OSLJ being cited by federal courts more than 500 times and by state courts more than 1,000 times. In total, articles appearing in other law journals have looked to the text of OSLJ more than 15,000 times.

“The strength of the OSLJ is that it is a student-edited journal in both name and fact,” Laughlin said. “Some may argue that it is a weakness that the students are not experienced, but it is a strength and they bring a fresh view and perspective to articles. They are willing to take chances with publishing articles and viewpoints that faculty are not.”

Prior to 1960, a faculty member was required to sign off on every article published in the OSLJ. Former Editor-in-Chief Irwin F. Woodlawn (“Woody”) planted the seed that this rule was an infringement and Laughlin completed the task of abolishing it.

“The students make choices about what articles to accept and reject. They aren’t always good choices, but that is part of the learning process,” Laughlin said. Laughlin today views his main job as advisor to protect student autonomy and give the student editors advice when they want it.

“When they are struggling with a controversial submission, I usually ask them: Is it well-written, well-documented, and have they made their case,” Laughlin said. “And, secondly, is there academic merit to the piece, or are they just considering publishing it because it is controversial? It is up to them to make those judgments.”

And, for many former editors-in-chief, the back-and-forth between author and student-editor is a valuable part of the experience.

“Editing faculty can be tough and they certainly did not like being edited,” said Melodee Kornacker ’79, a former editor-in-chief who practiced litigation in Columbus after completing a clerkship. “But, that happens to every one who has ever worked on a student-run journal. My law journal experience really taught me a lot about working with people.”

According to Laughlin, in the past, an issue of the Ohio State Law Journal focused on one topic – a “paper symposium.”  Under the encouragement of former Dean Greg Williams in the 1980s, live symposiums began to be held annually, a practice that is still in place today. In 2009, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia visited Moritz as part of OSLJ symposiums. In 1960, OSLJ published Chief Justice Earl Warren’s dedication speech of the new law building at Ohio State. Another notable symposium occurred in 1958, when a symposium on damages in personal injury litigation led the issue to be sold-out in weeks, dozens of reprints and citations, and a short course in the topic being created for over 500 practicing attorneys. OSLJ followed that year’s symposium up with one on “damages in contract” which is one of the most well-cited in the journal’s history. In 1982, a symposium on “Origins and Evolution: Drafters Reflect upon the Uniform Commercial Code” was extremely well-received.

“We asked people to write for a symposium a year or two in advance because it was harder to say they couldn’t because they were too busy,” Laughlin said.

In the past, drumming up content was more of an issue. Laughlin, who served as notes editor, personally read every transcript submitted. Transcripts were submitted one at a time to law reviews around the country. Starting in the 1970s, with the advent of more copier machines, authors begin submitting transcripts simultaneously to multiple law reviews, which increased the number of submissions greatly. Today, with the click of a button, authors can submit to nearly every journal in the country at one time. As a result, the ranks of OSLJ members reviewing submissions have grown to near a dozen and the OSLJ receives more than 500 submissions each year.

“I really enjoyed my experience working on the law journal,” said Dean Pacific ’96, editor-in-chief in 1996 and today a partner focusing on labor and employment law at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP in Grand Rapids, Mich. “In hindsight, the supervisory experience is great for a person going in to private practice.”

And, of course, law journal students themselves still have the opportunity to submit articles for publication.

“Between college and law school, I served over 5 ½ years in the Navy. My first writing assignment was flag desecration statutes and cases,” said Lee McCorkle ’72, editor-in-chief in 1972 who followed more than 26 years of law firm practice with a decade as general counsel for a Fortune 500 company and who today is a Uniform Laws commissioner. “Ultimately, my analysis and conclusions differed from my preconceptions.”

Throughout most of the 1950s, when Ohio State had an accelerated law school program many students graduated at times other than in the spring and there were multiple editors in a year. In total, there have been 83 editors-in-chief. While the law journal started with less than a dozen members, today more than 50 students participate.

“The role of a law journal has been to suggest changes when necessary to the law, or oppose changes in the law,” Laughlin said. “It is designed to be a detached, intellectual and long-term view of law that practitioners do not have time to do. Authors should take a long, scholarly look at an issue and make proposals. Academia is a place for independent thinkers and that is what the law journal is for.”


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