CSU-NLG Symposium: Beyond Black Letter Law

Monday, March 28, 2022 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: 1801 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44115 (Moot Court Room)

Watch Video - Day 1   Watch Video - Day 2   Watch Video - Day 3

March 28 - March 30, 2022

Cleveland State University National Lawyers Guild will present a three-day symposium discussing the topic of movement lawyering, covering a range of topics discussed by attorneys and community members.

Day One:  Reimagining Policing

Over the last decade with the advancement of cell phone technology, the conversation around U.S. policing has once again become a major issue. Instances of violence, primarily against Black and people of color, have not increased but are for the first time in history being recorded and put out to the public. Few debate that the system of policing needs improved; police are asked to be society's first responders to everything from violent crimes, mental health crises, elder and juvenile care, social workers, and drug overdoses. However, thoughtful discussions around solutions are getting drowned out by polarizing politics. What does "defund the police," actually mean, and how does that differ from "police reform?" Today's panel will focus on speakers doing the real work in Cleveland of untangling these questions. Find out for yourself what alternatives exist, and if we should be using them. 


Kareem Henton

Josiah Quarles



See also:

Day Two: Movement Lawyering - Tuesday, March 29th, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m

Day Three:  Law for the People – Wednesday, March 30th, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

Event Speakers:

Anthony Alto

 Owner at Alto Law, LLC.  Anthony is a criminal defense and family law attorney who provides a client focused experience. He understands how confusing and gut wrenching a criminal case can be. He also understands how upsetting and emotional a family law case can turn into. Anthony prides himself on walking with his clients from the very beginning to the bitter end.  
Aside from assisting clients in their most troubling times, Anthony enjoys helping clients set up "mom-n-pop" shops and small non-profits.  Anthony spent close to a decade at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Well versed in Election Law, he can assist candidates with all their election related needs. A native of Cleveland, Anthony focuses on empowerment and leadership development in the community. Anthony has an unyielding passion for improving the Cleveland community and fights daily for inclusion, empowerment, and development. He works to educate the population on civic issues, and helps develop leaders as a member of the Hispanic Roundtable’s Empowerment Committee. 

Emily Collins

Hailing from southern Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Emily has spent her 18-year legal career in environmental law practice and teaching. Kicking off her practice as a student at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic in 2003, she then became an Assistant Public Interest Counsel at the Office of Public Interest Counsel in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In 2008, she took the helm of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law's Environmental Law Clinic as a Clinical Assistant Professor. In 2014, she became the Executive Director and Managing Attorney of Fair Shake ELS. Emily received her B.A. in 2001 from New York University's Gallatin School. She earned her J.D. from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in 2004. She is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas (inactive), the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Emily has published in law journals and is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship in legal practice, water law, oil and gas law, underground injection of wastewater, public participation in environmental decision-making, and environmental permitting and enforcement. Her Amicus Curiae Brief in Group Against Smog and Pollution, Inc., v. Shenango, Inc., resulted in a precedent-setting decision in the Third Circuit.  

Sarah Gelsimino

From her time clerking in the public defender’s office in one of the largest counties in the nation to private practice where she prosecutes police misconduct, Gelsomino fights fiercely to win justice for her clients.After graduating cum laude from DePaul University Law School in Chicago, she practiced for many years at People’s Law Office, one of the nation’s top civil rights firms. There she worked with some of the most experienced and successful civil rights lawyers in the country. She also spent significant time with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association, and worked extensively with the Chicago Chapter’s Mass Defense Committee. Gelsomino’s start at People’s Law Office was baptism by fire. She immediately began working around the clock on a class action case on behalf of people detained and arrested at a 2003 anti-war protest in Chicago. Many of these people were also prosecuted and forced to defend themselves against bogus criminal charges.  After nearly a decade of intensive ligation, the case settled for $10 million. Gelsomino has consistently worked to defend those who dissent. Among her most influential work was coordinating the criminal defense of more than 100 Occupy Chicago activists arrested in Chicago’s Grant Park and, along with other National Lawyers Guild and People’s Law Office lawyers, successfully defeating terrorism charges at a jury trial against the “NATO 3” activists during the 2012 NATO summit.She shared her passion for civil rights law as an adjunct professor in the Civil Rights Clinic at the DePaul University College of Law. There she taught future lawyers the fundamentals of the law and the nuances of how to effectively advocate for people injured by police and prisons. This broad base of experience positioned her to come home to Cleveland and join the influential civil rights firm of Friedman and Gilbert as a partner in 2016. 

Terry Gilbert

 An attorney for almost 50 years, Terry Gilbert (CM Law Class of `73) has represented clients in many high-profile criminal defense and civil rights cases. He is an active member in the National Lawyers Guild and other progressive organizations such as the ACLU. Terry's knack as a zealous advocate for his clients and their Constitutional rights finds its origins in his formative years witnessing and taking part in the anti-war and civil rights movements of the late 60s and early 70s. At the start of his career, Terry represented anti-war protesters and those seeking to assert their civil rights in a variety of contexts. He represented activists of the American Indian Movement who partook in the occupation of wounded knee, South Dakota in 1973. In the 90s, Terry reopened the 1954 case of Sam Sheppard in an effort to clear his name and hold the justice system accountable for the botched trial and wrongful imprisonment of Sheppard. In 2014, he represented the Family of Timothy Russel in their civil suit seeking to hold the Cleveland police department accountable for their actions, which resulted in Russel's death, during the events leading to what is now known as the "137 Shots" case. Terry and his firm were pioneers in using the legal system to address issues such as police brutality, the death penalty, wrongful incarceration, prison reform, and free speech, to name a few. In 2014, Terry was able to secure the exoneration of Kwame Ajamu after serving 27 years in prison for a wrongful conviction. He has worked on a litany of case involving the release, exoneration, and in the acquiring of civil redress for those wrongful incarcerated. Terry is a fervent believer in the use of the law for progressive change and in the lawyer's role in supporting and empowering social movements and activists. 

Kareem Henton

Kareem Henton, Vice President of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, describes himself as a "bail disrupter", organizer, and is "all about networking to achieve liberation and empowerment."  Kareem was compelled to be an advocate after two notorious shootings by Cleveland police, and comes to the bail reform movement after working as an advocate for police reform.  He feels fortunate for the opportunity to work with the Bail Project and effect the change his community desperately needs.

Leslie Johns

 Leslie Johns (she/her/hers) is a criminal defense attorney practicing at Ashley Jones Law in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to her criminal defense practice, Leslie is the Intake Specialist in the Equality Ohio Legal Clinic and a Magistrate at Shaker Heights Municipal Court. Leslie was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio and now resides just down the road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Leslie attended Bowling Green State University, where she earned her degree in Criminal Justice in 2011. Leslie returned to Cleveland after completing her undergraduate degree and attended Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Marshall College of Law where she graduated in 2014. When Leslie is not working and serving on boards and committees, she is soaking up precious time with her family and friends. 

Josiah Quarles

Josiah Quarles is currently a full-time Housing Justice Community Organizer at NorthEast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). He is also a lead organizer with Tamir’s Campaign for Justice, the Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition and Black Spring Cleveland, and an unabashed abolitionist. Over the past two years, Josiah has worked to meet with mutual aid the needs of community members, facilitate art workshops with justice impacted youth, shed light on the layered overlapping police forces that obscure transparency, over police Black and brown bodies, waste public funds. He continues to desperately seek avenues of justice for the murder of Tamir Rice. Another focus has been to bring alternative response models to Cleveland. This pursuit eventually led to the formation of R.E.A.C.H (Responding with Empathy, Access and Community Healing). Together with other organizers, advocates, service providers, and administrators, he attended an 8-week intensive training put on by CAHOOTS (the longest-running Care response model in the US) and has pushed to have these non-police response models applied to our schools, transit, and emergency dispatch systems. Currently, they have teamed with Policy Matters for a series of dialogs, while also engaging both city and county officials. It is now time to move beyond these small rooms and engage the public at large. He views two-way education, community-based solutions, and decentralized power building as fundamentally essential to challenging the politics and policies that have codified the oppression and disenfranchisement of so many. All the Power to All the People!

Kevin Truitt

 Kevin Truitt is an attorney in Columbus, Ohio and the legal advocacy director for Disability Rights Ohio, a nonprofit civil rights organization for people with disabilities. He has been licensed to practice law since 2004 and attended Capital University Law School.  He is also a board member for the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The NLG— lawyers, law students, others in the legal field—supports progressive social movements that seek to bring about fundamental changes in our society and to undo centuries of harm and oppression against Black and other communities of color, workers, women, LGTBQ people, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and other marginalized people. 


This is a live event, but for those who can't attend in person, we invite you to watch the live streamed event here.  Please note, those attendees seeking CLE credit must attend in person for credit.




CLE credit: 2.0 Hours

Category: CLE Programs, General, Public Lectures, Student

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