Login | August 22, 2019

Akron Law student gets experience handling low-level felonies

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 11, 2019

As the daughter of a Wisconsin police officer, Ashley Lanz said she was committed to a career in public service from the time she was 13.

“I was initially planning to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said Lanz, now a 3L at The University of Akron School of Law.

But the Monroe, Wisconsin native said she began re-evaluating her career goal after going on a ride-along with a police officer during her final year as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

“The ride-along was with a Verona, Wisconsin police officer and we were on the highway doing traffic patrol when we saw a truck pulling a boat trailer that had debris flying out of the trailer.

“The gentleman we pulled over asked if it was ‘take your daughter to work day.’ The incident made me realize I needed to re-think my plans to become a police officer because I looked a bit too young for people to take me seriously.

“Family members had suggested I consider law school and I decided they might be on to something,” said Lanz, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

It was while working toward her master’s degree in project management at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville that she decided to take the LSAT and apply to law school.

She got into all 12 of the schools she applied to but chose Akron Law after visiting the campus.

Dana Cole, associate professor at Akron Law, first met Lanz when she attended an open house.

“She was very enthusiastic,” said Cole, who also serves as the director of the Summer Trial Academy. “She has since taken my Comparative Criminal Law, Evidence and Trial Advocacy classes. Her enthusiasm has never waned but has only increased.

“There are so many things you can do with a law degree,” said Cole. “Many of our students come to law school undecided about what area of law they want to practice. The various courses in law school allow them to explore those options. But Ashley came to law school confident she wanted to be a trial lawyer. She has pursued that goal relentlessly.”

In fact, Lanz is moving full speed ahead on her plans to become a prosecutor.

In the spring of 2017, Lanz began an internship at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, where she was assigned to assistant prosecutor Teri Burnside.

“I helped her with research and motions,” said Lanz.

Lanz remained at the prosecutor’s office until the beginning of the summer of 2018, when she left to work as a law clerk at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

When Lanz returned from Wisconsin she applied for a legal intern certificate, which allows qualified law students who are employed by or associated with a public service organization to handle cases while being supervised by a licensed attorney.

Lanz wanted to use her certificate to work on felony-level cases, something that she believed no other legal interns in Summit County had done before.

“I had studied Rule II Section 5 (C) very closely and I noticed that it said a legal intern was allowed to represent clients in misdemeanor and felony cases,” she said.

“As I researched the matter more, I found out that in 2009 the Ohio Supreme Court had changed the rules to allow legal interns to handle felony matters, but no one seemed to know about it.

“I looked into other county prosecutors in Ohio and I was told they had not allowed legal interns to handle lower-level felony cases,” she said. “I was determined to be the first or one of the first.”

Her persistence paid off, with the prosecutor’s office allowing her to begin working on low-level felony cases with limited supervision when she returned in September 2018.

In an emailed statement Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said, “Since the Ohio State Supreme Court changed the rules in 2009, we believe Ashley is the first intern at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office to handle, with supervision, cases where a defendant is charged with a felony of the 5th degree.”

According to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office Lanz handled about 50 cases where the main charge was a felony of the 5th degree, helping to resolve 15 of them. In all instances, she was supervised by one of the assistant prosecutors or by one of the supervising prosecutors.

“Ashley is very smart and has tremendous insight. Her direct supervisor tells me Ashley also has an excellent demeanor in the courtroom and was all around one of our best interns,” said Bevan Walsh.

While Lanz said she was very happy at the prosecutor’s office and learned a great deal, the position was unpaid and she said financial constraints forced her to leave the job on Dec. 3, 2018.

“I hope what I did will encourage other students to use their legal intern certificates to get experience handling felony-level matters,” said Lanz.

Toward the end of last year, Lanz started a new position as a law clerk in the criminal division of the Akron City Prosecutor’s Office.

“I am still using my legal intern certificate,” she said. “I am handling traffic court cases and doing intake.

“I absolutely love litigation and my mission once I graduate and pass the bar will be to secure a position in a prosecutor’s office in the state of Ohio.”