Alumni Juggles Career as Staff Counsel for California State Controller with Duties as a Deputy Commander in the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps

Charles Taylor smiles at the camera

Charles Taylor L’96 was working on his bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Southern California (USC) in the early ‘90s when he went to a law school forum and spoke to a representative from the Syracuse University College of Law. His interest in law started around the time of the beating of Rodney King by four Los Angeles police officers and the subsequent riots when those officers were acquitted by a jury. Then, Taylor was also an enlisted sailor assigned as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He was weighing a career in aviation and aerospace, “But,” he says, “law school was a rare opportunity, and I wanted to help make the world a better place.”

Taylor was invited to a six-week pre-law program at Syracuse Law, which gave him a first-hand experience of what law school would be like. It made a positive impression, and he decided that law school would be his next step. So, the native Californian moved across the country to attend Syracuse Law.

Charles Taylor's photo on the Class of 1996 graduation composite in Dineen Hall

He recalls several mentors at the law school, including the late Professor C. Roderick Surratt, who taught contracts law; then-Dean Daan Braveman, a distinguished lecturer who was instrumental in teaching him constitutional law; and Professor of Law Paula C. Johnson, who taught criminal law.

“The breadth of the faculty had a positive impact on me, and it kept me interested in pursuing the law,” he explains.

Taylor also participated in the Black Law Students Association and worked at the Housing and Finance Clinic, which gave him an opportunity to help those from the local community with issues related to housing and finance.

After graduating with a law degree, Taylor worked in insurance and finance, while also continuing his commitment to the U.S. Navy Reserves for a time. In addition, he earned an LL.M. in taxation from the University of San Diego School of Law, which led him to a position as tax counsel for the California State Board of Equalization. In 2008, he became a staff counsel for the Office of the State Controller. In his current role, he works for State Controller Malia M. Cohen, who is the chief fiscal officer for the state of California. His responsibilities are primarily focused on unclaimed property issues, where constituents are trying to claim funds from bank accounts or insurance policies, for example, that have somehow been lost and turned over to the state. His job is to work to return money that belongs to the proper owners.

Charles Taylor addressing students and alumni at the NVRC in 2022
Charles Taylor L’96 addressing students and alumni at the NVRC in 2022

As his career grew, he also stayed true to his military roots. In 2003, Taylor left the U.S. Navy Reserves and joined the U.S. Army Reserves, as part of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, where he remains today as a lieutenant colonel and deputy commander of the Army Reserves 4th Legal Operations Detachment based at Fort Totten in New York. As deputy commander, Taylor executes the unit commander’s vision and guidance, and provides training and legal services in support of a ready, responsive and globally engaged Army and Joint Force, while also working on the legal needs of soldiers, civilian military employees and military families.

His involvement with the Army is part-time, requiring him to travel cross country once a month and two full weeks a year, but he remains committed to his military service.

“It’s a balancing act,” he says of his parallel careers. “My role with the Army is now more of a management function, but managing people is one of the biggest effects that the military has,” he says, noting that his skills learned in the military have helped him be a better attorney in his role with the controller’s office.

Charles Taylor addressing students and alumni at the NVRC in 2022

Being stationed with the Army in New York State gives Taylor the opportunity to visit Syracuse University on occasion. He has visited campus twice in the past few years, once for a Syracuse Alumni Law Association meeting, and another, last year, for a career program with the University’s Office of Veterans Affairs, talking about the JAG Corps. In March, Taylor also had the opportunity to interact with some of Syracuse Law’s alumni and JDinteractive (JDi) students who were attending a residency on bankruptcy law in Los Angeles. He hopes to look for more chances to keep his connection with Syracuse Law going strong.

Taylor is pleased that he made the decision to take his career in the direction of the law and encourages others to do the same.

“If you’re interested in the law, pursue your dreams,” he says. “Talk to other people who you can identify as mentors and who can help you get through the rigors of law school. And, finally, remember to build relationships—and maintain those relationships to the best of your ability as you progress in your legal career.”

Distinguished Visiting Lecturer David Cay Johnston Interviewed by Salon on Donald Trump

Distinguished Visiting Lecturer David Cay Johnston was recently interviewed by Salon about the verdict in the Donald Trump business fraud case, his sentencing, and the upcoming election, among other related topics.

Regarding sentencing, Johnston says:

“Donald Trump can bring his lawyers and they can certainly try to moderate what he says in the pre-sentencing interview. But the pre-sentencing report prepared by a probation officer will likely not contain anything new in terms of who Donald is or anything the judge doesn’t know. What it will provide the probation officers with is opportunity to judge whether he can even fake contrition, and that’s where Trump has an irresolvable problem. Roy Cohn taught him that if law enforcement comes after you then you attack them. They are corrupt. They are dishonest. You are as pure as the fresh fallen snow. Never, ever give an inch. You are perfect. Well, that’s not going to work with the probation officer and Judge Merchan. But that approach will work with Trump cult followers and too many other members of the public.

I think the meeting with the pre-sentencing probation officer is an opportunity for Trump to manipulate, but it’s also a high risk that he will just dig himself further. At the sentencing hearing, if the judge calls on Trump to speak, I think there’ll be a real crisis for him. He will know that he can’t apologize. Trump cannot say “I was wrong.” All he can do is attack the judge, and that’s an invitation to a longer sentence. That’s how the system is supposed to work. If you refuse to acknowledge and take responsibility for wrongdoing, you’re sure to get a longer tougher sentence than somebody who says, “Yeah, I screwed up, and I recognize that now.”

I will be surprised if Judge Merchan does not give Trump some time behind bars. That could be the absolute minimum of 30 days. More likely, it may be much longer up to the four-year maximum.”

Third-Generation Law Student Co-Founds Environmental Law Association, Looks to Positively Impact the Syracuse Community

Luke sits on a knee wall and smiles with Dineen Hall behind him

Syracuse native and first-year law student Luke Overdyk ’22 (FALK), L’26, has had an appreciation for the environment for as long as he can remember. He attributes that to his parents taking him and his three brothers on hikes, enjoying nature documentaries on family movie nights and instilling an appreciation of the beauty of Central New York.

He first started considering a career related to the environment while earning a bachelor’s degree in sports management at the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University with a minor in environment policy and communications from nearby State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF).

Luke sits on a knee wall and smiles with Falk behind him

“Although I was interested in sports, I found myself more excited about my environmental classes,” he says. Overdyk met Payton Sorci L’22, who was studying at Syracuse University College of Law at the time. Both had common interests in sports and giving back to the community, and soon Sorci became a friend and mentor who further encouraged Overdyk to study law as a way to combine his interests.

Overdyk took a sports law class at Falk and later merged his interests in the environment for his senior Capstone, working at Syracuse University’s Sustainability Office as an intern for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Sports Sustainability Team. There, he worked with other ACC schools to learn how they developed processes to reduce emissions and limit waste for their athletic programs.

Luke walking on campus
Luke walks on campus in a vintage Syracuse University sweater that once belonged to his grandfather and College of Law alumnus, Bernard Mahoney L’69.

Ultimately, he decided he wanted to go to law school, but not just any law school—Syracuse University College of Law. It was the only place he applied to, and he is proud to be the third generation of his family to attend.

”I wanted to be like my mom, and a law degree resonated with me,” he says. “And, of course, my dad, who is an engineer, has also been tremendously supportive of my career decisions.” (Overdyk’s mom, Joanie Mahoney ’87 (WSM), L’90, is president of SUNY ESF and a former Onondaga County executive. His late grandfather, Bernard Mahoney L’69, was a Syracuse Common Councilor and member of the New York State Assembly.)

Luke and mom, Joanie Mahoney during orientation at the College of Law
Luke poses proudly with his mom, Joanie Mahoney ’87, L’90 during orientation at the College of Law.

“My mom taught me to have the confidence to just ‘go for’ things…She credits Syracuse Law with teaching her to problem solve throughout her career, and I know that wherever I end up, law school will have taught me relevant skills.”

Luke Overdyk ’22 (FALK), L’26

Luke finds his mom on the composite images during admitted students day when he first came to visit the College of Law
On his first official visit to the College of Law as an admitted student, Luke hangs back from the building tour to snap a photo of his mom from one of the graduation composites hanging on the walls of the second floor of Dineen Hall.

“My mom taught me to have the confidence to just ‘go for’ things. And, she has taken a lot of the heaviness out of the parts of law school that can be daunting, starting with taking the LSATs,” Overdyk says. “She credits Syracuse Law with teaching her to problem solve throughout her career, and I know that wherever I end up, law school will have taught me relevant skills.”

On Overdyk’s first day of law school orientation, he sat next to Austin Dewey L’26. “We talked about how we both loved pick-up basketball and were interested in environmental law, and we quickly decided to create a club for other law students who cared about the planet,” he explains. “While we were a bit overwhelmed during our first semester as 1Ls, we hit the ground running the second semester, and the Environmental Law Student Association (ELSA) recently had its first meeting. We are fortunate to have Professor David Dreisen as the club’s faculty advisor, as he is a distinguished environmental law expert.

Luke and other Syracuse Law students meet about the Environmental Law Student Association

“Our region’s challenges actually create very positive opportunities for change, which is so important as they pertain to the environment, economic interests and the people who live here.”

Luke Overdyk ’22 (FALK), L’26

Both Overdyk and Dewey want it to be “the coolest club on campus,” and an inclusive organization that can closely examine issues through discussions with government leaders, scientists and others who can speak on the many ways our society interacts with our natural environment,  particularly within the Syracuse community. Overdyk is well aware that his hometown of Syracuse has some unique environmental challenges, including a history of pollution in nearby Onondaga Lake, ongoing lead abatement problems in the community and issues surrounding the environmental impact of the reconstruction of Route 81, which intersects the city.

“Our region’s challenges actually create very positive opportunities for change, which is so important as they pertain to the environment, economic interests and the people who live here,” he explains.

Luke meets up with Professor David Driesen on campus
Luke and Professor David Driesen stop to greet each other as they pass on campus.

As his first year of law school draws to a close, Overdyk is confident in his decisions to pursue the law and co-found a new club on campus. This summer, he will work at the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, while also training for the New York City Marathon in November to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund.

Luke and Austin Dewey competed in a marathon together
Luke and classmate, Austin Dewey L’26 take a photo together after running a marathon in Philidelphia.

“Syracuse University has an important role to play in the greater community, and I try to be a positive advocate for that. I have made so many great friends in law school, and I like introducing them to all that our city has to offer, as well as the natural beauty around us. I’m hoping they’ll see it the same way I do,” he says. “In the meantime, I’m going to pursue my interests and take advantage of all that the law school has to offer, while taking the next two years to figure out where my career path might lead. I’ve been lucky to grow up in Syracuse— and grateful to attend Syracuse University and Syracuse Law.”

Luke poses with friends in the College of Law

Second Edition of Disability Law and Policy Released for the Upcoming 34th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act

Burton Blatt Institute Chairman and University Professor Peter Blanck’s 2nd edition of “Disability Law and Policy” was released in honor of the 34th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “Disability Law and Policy provides an overview of the themes and insights in disability law. It is a compelling compendium of stories about how our legal system has responded to the needs of impacted individuals.

The year 2025 marks the 35th anniversary of the ADA, celebrated on July 26. During the past three decades, disability law and policy have evolved dramatically in the United States and internationally. “Walls of inaccessibility, exclusion, segregation, and discrimination have been torn down, often brick by brick. But the work continues, many times led by advocates who have never known a world without the ADA and are now building on the efforts of those who came before them,” says Blanck, a professor at the College of Law.

Lex Frieden, an internationally distinguished disability rights scholar and advocate and former Chairperson of the U.S. National Council on Disability, writes in the Foreword to Blanck’s book: “In 1967, I survived a head-on car crash. When I woke up, I was paralyzed from the shoulders down. . . . My story is one of many in the modern disability rights movement. In ‘Disability Law and Policy,’ Peter Blanck retells my story, and the personal experiences of many others living with disabilities, in a master tour of the area. Peter is a world-renowned teacher, researcher, lawyer, and advocate. He has been central to the modern sea change in disability civil rights . . . ‘Disability Law and Policy’ should be read by all of us—people with the lived experience of disability and their advocates, parents, family members, and friends.”

Blanck says that “a new generation of people with disabilities, building on the efforts of Lex Frieden and many others, families, friends, advocates, and supporters, is stepping forward. As a guiding beacon, disability law and policy offer hope of a future in which all people, regardless of individual difference, will be welcomed as full and equal members of society.”

“Disability Law and Policy” is published by Foundation Press and is available from West Academic.

Professor Roy Gutterman L’00 Discusses the First Amendment Rights of College Students on the ABA Law Student Podcast

A recent American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Podcast featured Professor Roy Gutterman L’00 discussing the First Amendment rights of college students. Gutterman was interviewed by Professor Todd Berger, the podcast host, along with current student hosts Leah Haberman and Chay Rodrigues.

Gutterman, the director of Syracuse University Newhouse School’s Tully Center for Free Speech, discussed the history of free speech law, different aspects of free speech, and what law students should know about current campus events as interpreted through the existing legal frameworks.

Syracuse Law Introduces Certificate of Advanced Study in National Security and Counterterrorism Law for JDinteractive Students

The Syracuse University College of Law is proud to announce that the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in National Security and Counterterrorism Law is now available to students enrolled in the hybrid/online JDinteractive program.  Administered through the Institute for Security Policy and Law (SPL), this innovative program offers an interdisciplinary approach to critical issues in national security, counterterrorism, and related fields. 

Man sits at desk and types on his laptop computer, wearing a business suit

The CAS in National Security and Counterterrorism Law offers numerous benefits to students interested in pursuing careers in national security and counterterrorism. The interdisciplinary curriculum spans multiple disciplines, equipping students with the skills to determine applicable legal rules, locate and evaluate research materials specific to national security, and solve security problems requiring cross-disciplinary solutions. The program covers a broad range of subjects, including:

  • National Security: Federal law, international law, operational law, geopolitics, foreign policy, defense strategy, humanitarian interventions, and emerging technologies.
  • Counterterrorism: Legal definitions of terrorism, intelligence collection, surveillance, privacy, prosecution of terrorists, and countering violent extremism.
  • Homeland Security: Civil-military relations, emergency management, disaster response, and immigration law.
  • Cybersecurity: Legal, policy, and technical aspects of cybersecurity, cyber espionage, computer crimes, countering cyber threats, critical infrastructure, and artificial intelligence.
  • Humanitarian Law: International law, human rights law, laws of war, refugee law, postconflict reconstruction, special courts, and alternative justice.

Professor Shannon Gardner, associate dean of online education, says “This certificate program underscores our commitment to providing comprehensive and flexible legal education to our JDinteractive students. It equips them with specialized knowledge and skills essential for careers in national security and counterterrorism along with an advanced credential that gives them an advantage in this job market. Syracuse Law continues to lead the way in online legal education, preparing students for the demands of 21st-century lawyering.”

For more information on the Certificate of Advanced Study in National Security and Counterterrorism Law, please visit the SPL website.

Professor Gregory Germain Speaks With Wallet Hub on Student Checking Accounts

Professor Gregory Germain recently provided information on student checking accounts to Wallet Hub. He provided guidance on the different types of accounts, what students should look for in a checking account, and advice on alternatives.

In summary, Germain says “It is all about fees and charges, and convenience. Nothing else really matters. That is why I recommend a free checking account at an institution nearby to keep very small balances linked to an online institution that pays higher rates. But in all cases, you have to understand what is free and what you will be charged for. Annual fees, ATM charges, and high check printing costs should be avoided.”

Professor Gregory Germain Discusses Trump Criminal Trial Developments with the Media

To arrange an interview with Professor Germain, please email Rob Conrad, College of Law Director of Communications and Media Relations.

Professor Gregory Germain recently spoke with several media outlets about the Trump criminal trial and the guilty verdict.

After conviction, Trump questioned the New York statute of limitations. Here are the facts

USA Today, June 5

Germain said he wondered whether the statute of limitations might apply to the underlying – and uncharged – crimes that made falsifying business records a felony.

“I could imagine a court saying that you can’t put together two or three” misdemeanors that are beyond the statute of limitations and turn them into a felony that hasn’t reached that time limit, he said.

Legal Face-Off

WGN 720, June 5

“It’s such a complex, convoluted case I think he has good grounds for appeal which is not to say I think what he did here was moral or ethical…but whether he broke the law in a way that isn’t barred by the statute of limitations, its very hard to find that,” says Germain.

When asked about the possibility of the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court, Germain said “I think if the judge sentences him to prison, it might get to the Supreme Court. Imprisoning one of the major candidates during an election raises difficult questions.”

Germain’s interview starts at the 1-minute mark.

Donald Trump Prison Sentence Would Create Constitutional Chaos: Experts

Newsweek, June 6

“I don’t think Trump will be given a prison sentence, because that would create a constitutional crisis and a slew of appeals and habeas corpus challenges, and a mess for the judicial system in trying to deal with prisoner Trump,” he said.

Professor Lauryn Gouldin Discusses Hunter Bident Felony Gun Charges

Professor Lauryn Gouldin recently spoke with KNX Radio (Los Angeles, CA) on the federal charges against Hunter Biden. He faces two false statement changes and a possession charge in violation of a federal statute that forbids drug users or people with addiction from possessing firearms.

“One of the things that make this an easy case for prosecutors is that there is a signed form that they want to use to prosecute him. When I think of the strategies for the defense, I see that Biden’s defense attorneys seem to be raising questions about who had actually filled out the form in question. I am not sure where that will go,” says Gouldin. “Some of it may turn on what it means under the statute to be an addict or user so there may be some effort to argue that he didn’t know that he would fit those definitions. His memoir and text messages are part of the prosecution’s case against him. I think it’s an uphill battle for the defense.”

Listen to Professor Gouldin’s interview.