Sometimes the institution that starts your career in a certain field may also later become your home again. This is what criminal justice instructor Christopher Tucci found out for himself.
Originally from Chardon, Ohio, Tucci earned his B.S. with a major in legal studies from Lake Erie College and then continued on to acquire his J.D. degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Soon afterwards he was appointed Assistant Lake County, Ohio Prosecuting Attorney, and from 2006 to 2012 he worked in the private practice of law. It was during that time that he also made his return to the LEC campus, this time as a professor.
"I always had a desire to teach,” he said, "and in Spring 2004 [Associate Professor of Legal Studies] Professor Joanne Gurley gave me an opportunity to teach a legal studies class [at Lake Erie College].
At that time, I was excited to rejoin the LEC family, as I had a fantastic all-around experience here as a student. I still continue to feel that excitement through teaching.”
Law has been a lifelong passion for Chris Tucci. "Since high school, I knew I wanted to be an attorney,” he said. During his college career at LEC this goal was solidified and gained a more specific dimension. "At LEC, I knew I wanted to be an attorney [who] practiced in criminal law, either prosecution or criminal defense. Since
I’ve been an attorney, I’ve practiced both prosecution and criminal defense within the criminal justice system, and now I’m a magistrate,” he said. As a prosecutor turned defense attorney and then appointed magistrate in the Lake County Juvenile Court, Tucci has seen many sides of the justice system, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. "I’m living the dream,” he said.
Even though teaching was not his original plan, Tucci enjoys being in the classroom as much as being in the courtroom, and he often uses his own professional experience and cites specific cases he has worked on to enrich the classroom curriculum.
"The law is fascinating, but the practice of law is not always fascinating,” he said. "Teaching allows me to explore the law with students who are eager and interested in the law—this is why I believe teaching is one of the most fulfilling professional experiences.”
Currently Tucci is teaching classes covering introduction to criminal justice, constitutional law and business law, both on the undergraduate and the graduate level at LEC as part of the criminal justice and MBA programs. He also works with students who are interested in conducting a senior practicum as part of their curriculum.
"Persons from all different background seem to have a genuine interest in the law,” he said. "When your passion generates that kind of ‘across the board’ interest, it’s hard not to love teaching law.”
As someone who has extensive experience practicing in the field he is teaching, Tucci also sees the many real-world applications of his classes. "I could write you a multi-volume series on this,” he said, "as the law is a practical topic—it’s everywhere.”
A good example, he says, is criminal procedure, which is based on the United States Constitution. "In my introduction to criminal justice class, students learn that every professional within the criminal justice system, from law enforcement to corrections, must follow proper procedures in accordance with our Constitution.”
When asked what his favorite thing about LEC is, Tucci’s answer is "the students.”
"Overall, the students I encounter in my classes are passionate, opinionated, and eager to learn,” he said. "I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to engaging in dialogue with my students in class.”
And then there are the students who really stand out. Tucci remembers fondly working with a student who was a criminal justice major, but struggled with a negative opinion of the U.S. criminal justice system due, in large part, to the student’s personal experience with the system.
"As this student progressed at LEC and completed a practical, real-life internship, I noticed that the student’s opinion had changed,” Tucci said. "Around the time of graduation, this student had a newly found respect for our country’s criminal justice system, declaring it to me as ‘the greatest system in the world.’ This student works in the criminal justice system today and still believes in our justice system.”