Police Power & Accountability: A Conversation on the State of the Cleveland Division of Police Before & After the Consent Decree

Course Description

Approved for 1.25 Ohio & 1.5 Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours.

Our panelists will discuss the past, present, and future of the Cleveland Division of Police relating to police misconduct and the selective use of police power and excessive use of force within the City of Cleveland. Panelists will address the challenges in seeking accountability for police misconduct through the legal system and the department’s internal investigation and disciplinary systems, both historically and in the present moment, as well as ways that the community can demand accountability in the wake of the Consent Decree. Discussion will include police use of force, selective use of arrest powers, and excessive force against communities of color, and protestor’s rights and police posturing in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Speaker Bios

Terry Gilbert, Partner, Friedman & Gilbert

Terry H. Gilbert has been in private law practice since 1973, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights litigation.

At the start of his legal career in the 1970’s, Terry represented American Indians in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee confrontation in South Dakota, and numerous anti-war and civil rights activists. Over the years, Terry has handled a variety of government misconduct cases involving police abuse, violations of free speech, prisoners’ rights, and victims of all forms of discrimination.

In 1991, he joined the investigative team to re-open the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case, serving as the attorney for the Sheppard family in successfully obtaining the release of previously undisclosed records, and using new DNA evidence to mount a wrongful imprisonment action to demonstrate Dr. Sheppard’s innocence.

Among his important cases, he has obtained one of the largest police misconduct verdicts in Ohio history, was a member of the legal team which successfully challenged the constitutionality of Ohio’s supermax prison in a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and successfully convinced the Ohio Supreme Court to throw out the case of a protester who burned an American Flag to express opposition to the Gulf War.

In recent years, Terry has defended two young men charged with crimes of terrorism, highlighting overzealous and questionable FBI conduct. He also successfully sought compensation for two Ohio men convicted on false forensic testimony and wrongfully imprisoned for thirteen years. This past year Terry worked with the Innocence Project to obtain the release of two brothers who were convicted in 1975 of a murder they did not commit. He has also been active in the anti-death penalty movement over the years. Currently he is working on the civil wrongful imprisonment case of Joe D’Ambrosio who was on death row for over 20 years, then released because the State failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.

Terry has lectured widely on civil rights practice at both CWRU and CSU School of Law, as well as conducting numerous seminars on civil rights litigation, criminal defense, and media and the law at Continuing Legal Education seminars. He is admitted to practice in Federal Courts around the country, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. He has appeared on local and national TV as a legal commentator.

In May 2014, Terry H. Gilbert was named the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law 2014 Alumni of the Year honor. In 2015, he received the Rescuer of Humanity Award from Project Love, a local organization which helps troubled youth. In 2002, Terry H. Gilbert received the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association Litigation Section.

Anthony Zakharia, Law Clerk, ACLU of Ohio

Anthony Zakharia is a student at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a law clerk at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. Anthony researches complex legal issues that play an integral roll in the ACLU’s legal and advocacy efforts. A major focus of his research has been the Cleveland Consent Decree, where he has closely tracked the City’s implementation of the agreement since its effective date.

Anthony was raised in Cleveland and attended Cleveland State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Political Science. Apart from his work with the ACLU, Anthony is interested in issues concerning workers’ rights and labor unionism. 

Julia Shearson, Executive Director, CAIR-Cleveland

Julia Shearson has been serving for the past twelve years as the Executive Director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights advocacy organization in the United States. Shearson received her Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University in New York City, a Master’s in Linguistics from Ohio University, and a Master’s in Middle East Studies from Harvard University.

While at CAIR, Shearson’s work has centered on civil rights advocacy, educational outreach, and media and public relations. She helps ensure that Muslims exercise their civil rights, and that their voices are heard on important social and political matters. Her goal is to help dispel stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and to bring together people of all faiths to work for the common good.

A vocal critic of post-9/11 policies that have eroded civil liberties, Shearson has fought against excessive government secrecy, unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling, and other abridgements of the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Her seven year legal battle against the Department of Homeland Security over the terrorist watchlist in Shearson v. DHS helped advance the fundamental right of privacy for all Americans. The case, which started when Shearson was handcuffed and detained at the US Canadian Border in 2006, set legal precedent in the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals under the Privacy Act of 1974.

Shearson has also worked to challenge Islamophobia, a form of racism and xenophobia that uses the demonization of Muslims to promote imperialism, unending war, war profiteering, and abusive resource exploitation.

Shearson has worked on many projects to unite diverse communities, including efforts under the auspices of the Rights Working Group and the Greater Cleveland Civil and Human Rights Coalition. She has worked for many years to help improve police-community relations among diverse populations and she is actively engaged in the current police reform effort in Cleveland. Shearson is a founding member of the Collaborative for a Safe, Fair and Just Cleveland and the Cleveland 8.

In 2013, Shearson served as the co-chair of an event called “Women of Faith: Voices Against Violence”, a collaboration of more than 50 organizations working to raise awareness about violence against women. She has delivered hundreds of lectures and trainings on Islam and Muslims, civil and human rights, diversity, Islamophobia, immigration justice, and many other topics.

Ms. Shearson has won awards and recognitions for her work to promote diversity and mutual understanding. She was named by Cleveland Magazine as one of the area’s “Most Interesting People” for her work to help immigrant victims of domestic violence. She was recently honored together with 22 area women for their leadership, activism, and community service in an art exhibit entitled “Reflections: The Many Faces of Stephanie Tubbs Jones” installed at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in memory of the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Before joining CAIR, Shearson served in the field of education for over 10 years, teaching at Ohio University, Jewish Vocational Services in Boston and at the Summer School and Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University. She has spent many years working in the cross-cultural and interfaith arena and has traveled extensively in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East.