They are journalists with J.D. degrees. Our graduates put their legal education to use in a variety of careers, and in this issue of All Rise, we talk with 10 alumni who have combined their law degree with the power of the press.
Clarence M. Dass ’10
Former Weekly Radio Guest, WDVD 96.3, and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
Oakland County (Mich.) Prosecutor’s Office
How I got this job: For nearly a year and a half after I graduated law school, I hosted a weekly segment, “Swift Justice with Attorney Clarence Dass,” for a Detroit radio station. Each Friday morning, I aimed to teach listeners a different area of the law by using a controversial story or case in the spotlight. Our topics ranged from the legality of posting mugshots on Facebook to suing over a broken heart. Over time, listeners began calling in with their own problems. Listening to their stories and frustrations motivated me to use what I learned on the radio show and in practice and become a prosecutor.
How I use my J.D.: With changes in technology, the economy, and the nature of our profession, practicing law is not limited to the courtroom anymore. Lawyers must think outside the box. I launched “Swift Justice” because the clients I had in private practice often complained the media didn’t cover their cases accurately or discuss a legal issue appropriately. The radio show allowed me to highlight different areas of the law each week, bring attention to important issues, and, most importantly, bring the practice of law to the public.
My most interesting interview: The most impactful “Swift Justice” we did was a story involving a victim of childhood bullying. Many states’ laws were just beginning to adapt to the new types of bullying, and this story highlighted the victim’s frustration in getting adequate legal relief for his injury. Doing that segment compelled me to look into anti-bullying laws in my own state and explore ways to provide victims proper representation. And that begins the story of why I became a prosecutor.
Erin Moriarty ’77
How I got this job: I was covering legal and consumer issues for the NBC station in Chicago. I would often show up on the Today Show. In 1986, CBS asked me to move to New York to work for their morning show, CBS Morning News, and then 48 Hours came along. I now cover trials and legal issues for 48 Hours, CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood and CBS This Morning.
How I use my J.D.: I couldn’t do this job without my law degree. I cover trials regularly and am often asked at the last minute to explain or report on legal issues for other CBS News programs.
My most interesting interview: Hillary Clinton would certainly rank up there, but reporting in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 as the war began was most memorable.
Steve Roach ’06
How I got this job: I helped support myself as an undergrad and in law school by being a coin grader and dealer. At the end of 2005, I joined Coin World – the world’s largest coin publication – as a freelance columnist. When the longstanding editor retired last year, I was named editor.
How I use my J.D.: There’s a certain exactness in language I learned from law school and a certain ability to handle tedious tasks that I learned from studying for the bar exam. Both skills have served me well in my current job.
My most interesting story: There have been some exciting events in numismatics (the study of coins, medals, and paper money) in the past few years. During the summer of 2011, I spent two weeks in Philadelphia, providing daily coverage of a federal jury trial involving ten 1933 gold $20 double eagle coins that were allegedly stolen from the Philadelphia Mint in the 1930s and turned up in a Philadelphia family’s safe deposit box. The government confiscated the coins, claiming that they were stolen government property. The government eventually won the case. The coins were significant because of their value. An example – the only one which can be legally owned privately – realized nearly $7.6 million at a 2002 auction. That auction record stood for more than a decade. It was just surpassed by a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar that realized more than $10 million at a Jan. 24 auction in New York.
Claudia E. Cruz ’07
Mountain View (Calif.) Patch
How I got this job: I learned about the position from my graduate school, CUNY School of Journalism, where I graduated from in 2008.
How I use my J.D.: A J.D. comes in handy in writing about violations to the municipal code; the application of state and federal legislation locally; arrests and criminal trials; labor negotiations; and, because I work in Silicon Valley, securities and issues of intellectual property (in particular, patent law).
My most interesting interview: I’ve had many interesting interviews, but the people who are most fascinating include: Soledad O’Brien, Alex Trebek, the astronauts on Space Shuttle Atlantis, and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, among others.
Tom Bowlus ’94
Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine, Ltd.
Managing Member, The Bowlus Law Firm, Ltd.
How I got this job: After working for the Ohio EPA, I joined my father in the practice of law back in my hometown of Fremont, Ohio. My father is now retired, and I am running the firm. I formed Bass Gear Magazine after Guitar World closed up the magazine I used to write for, Bass Guitar Magazine.
How I use my J.D.: As a practicing attorney, the J.D. is, of course, essential. With regard to my role with Bass Gear Magazine, my J.D. was helpful in setting up the company, and the legal writing/review skills are especially helpful in my role as editor.
My most interesting interview: That would be Will Lee (best known for his work on The Late Show with David Letterman). Will is an interesting cat with a deep and varied musical career.
Jon Christensen ’81
Restaurant and Wine Reviewer, The Columbus Dispatch
Principal, Christensen Law Office LLC
How I got this job: I actually started my career in journalism before law school. I was assignment editor, producer, and chief photographer for Channel 10 news in Columbus before starting a career in government relations for the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Ohio Department of Health. In 1975, I started writing food and wine pieces for Columbus Monthly, starting with its first issue.
How I use my J.D.: Outside of examining Ohio’s tortured laws governing the way consumers are charged for alcohol, I do find that my training in journalism and law has benefited my writing. Getting as much information into an understandable idiom with the fewest words is always difficult to do. I’d like to think I’ve been trained in the best of both worlds – the plain writing we do for readers and the precise writing we all learn to care about in law school.
My most interesting interview: At Channel 10, I had the opportunities to interview Richard Nixon and composer Aaron Copland. My very first story for the debut issue of Columbus Monthly was my most controversial. It was an exposition on the legalized price-fixing of wine in Ohio. People in the wine business were furious with the magazine for publishing it, even though it’s right there in the Ohio Administrative Code for everyone to see. The publisher was very happy with it, though, because it got attention.
Chris Geidner ’05
Senior Political and Legal Reporter
How I got this job: In 2009, I moved back to Washington, D.C., where I worked for D.C.’s LGBT magazine, Metro Weekly, through the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and more. In June 2012, BuzzFeed’s editor in chief, Ben Smith, asked me to bring my reporting to BuzzFeed for the election, the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage cases, and beyond.
How I use my J.D.: I use my degree daily, from analyzing briefs and opinions in the Supreme Court and other cases to examining pending legislation and explaining regulatory changes. I could not do my job without the understanding of the legal world I gained through law school at Moritz.
My most interesting interview: I’m going with two interviews. I sat down with Larry Kramer, the author of The Normal Heart, to talk about the LGBT world today. More than a year later, I returned to the same apartment building in New York City to interview Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. I love my job.
Jonathan Peters ’10
University of Dayton
How I got this job: Most recently, I was the Frank Martin Fellow at the Missouri School of Journalism. I got the fellowship as a Ph.D. student at the school. I start teaching journalism and law in the fall of 2013 in Dayton, in the journalism program and law school. I got that position by combining my J.D. with a Ph.D. in journalism. My focus is media law.
How I use my J.D.: I practice law part-time by representing journalists and news outlets, and I write on legal issues for newspapers and magazines, most recently The Atlantic, Slate, The Nation, Wired, etc. I also blog about free expression for the Harvard Law & Policy Review.
My most interesting interview: Putting aside celebrities, who are usually more famous than interesting, I’d say Floyd Abrams, the attorney who won the Pentagon Papers case, or Lord Anthony Lester, the member of Parliament and knight in the French Legion of Honor, who was the architect of Britain’s civil rights laws.
Thomas Hodson ’73
Director/General Manager, WOUB Public Media
Joe Berman Professor of Communication, Ohio University
How I got this job: I was appointed as director of Ohio University’s public media operations after I served as director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism for seven years. Before that, I was a trial attorney in Ohio and both a municipal and common pleas judge. I also served as a judicial fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States. I still act as a visiting judge in Ohio.
How I use my J.D.: I use it to review contracts and to approve news copy and broadcast material. I also use it to mediate employee disputes and to follow human resources regulations.
My most interesting interview: Some of the more interesting interviews I have conducted as a journalist have been of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, and CNN’s Candy Crowley.
James Oliphant ’92
How I got this job: I have been a journalist for the last 15 years, specializing in legal affairs but also venturing into politics and policy. I’m a former editor in chief of Legal Times in Washington, D.C. and covered legal affairs and politics for the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times before this job.
How I use my J.D.: I like to think I use it every day. Not only because of my familiarity with legal and constitutional issues, but because my legal education has given me a framework for analyzing problems. More pragmatically, I think it gives an edge in the marketplace.
My most interesting interview: I spent a lot of time with Joe Biden in 2008 before he was the vice presidential nominee. We had a long talk about the death of his first wife while flying in small private plane. In a legal context, I’d say Justice Stevens, who talked about being at the game at Wrigley Field when Babe Ruth called his shot.