Protester Criminal Defense 101

Course Description

Approved for 2.0 Ohio & Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours.

Throughout history, criminal prosecutions have been used to prevent and punish First Amendment activity and the expression of dissenting views. The National Lawyers Guild has worked for nearly 70 years to challenge governmental infringement of the rights of individuals and to combat tactics that are calculated to stifle dissent and silence voices for change. One of the most important avenues for protecting First Amendment and expressive activity is through rigorous criminal defense.

This CLE will provide an overview of the process of defending protesters and political defendants from start to finish, with a focus on legal and political approaches to criminal defense of political activists and strategies to protect the rights of demonstrators before, during, and after arrest.

This CLE will cover the following topics:

  • Working with Activists and Political Lawyering: Understanding Your Client’s Goals
    • Not a Typical Criminal Case: Political Context behind Protester/Political Arrests.
    • Understanding Your Client’s Goals for Outcomes and Resolution May Be Different than You Might Assume.
    • Giving Clients Power to Participate in Their Own Defense: the Criminal Case as a Political Act.
  • Taking on a Protester Criminal Defense Case:
    • Goal Number 1: Getting activists out of jail
      • Getting Bond Set So Your Client Can Get Out of Jail and Get Back to (Activism) Work
      • There May Be a Bail Fund!
      • How to Get Connected to Activists Who Support Your Client (and Why You Should Try to Talk to Them)
  • Most Commonly Charged Crimes
  • Discovery, Investigation, and Evidentiary Issues
    • Police Reports, Video, and Witnesses May Not All Tell the Same Story
    • Sourcing evidence from Activists and NLG Legal Observers
  • Creative and Political Criminal Defense Strategies
  • Developing a Legal Strategy
    • Power in Numbers: Whether the Client Was Charged as a Codefendant or in an Individual Case, Sometimes Activists Call for a Group Defense Approach
    • Political Defense Strategies
    • Pretrial Motions
    • Pleas:
      • Negotiating a Political Case with the Prosecutor
      • Collective Plea Bargains: Ethics and Practical Issues
      • Consequences for Pleas – The Necessity of Knowing Whether Your Client Has or Wants to Pursue a Civil Rights Case
  • Trial Issues:
    • Voir Dire: Selecting a Jury in a Political Defendant’s Case
    • Trial Strategies
    • Presenting the Political Defendant at Trial
  • Appeals
  • Political Cases Attract the Media: How to Handle Media Attention

Speaker Bios

A respected trial attorney, adjunct law professor and author, Julie Hurwitz is President and Partner at Goodman & Hurwitz, P.C. Julie received her undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley (with honors) before attending the University of Michigan Law School, where she was a member of the student senate and participated in the NLG Unemployment Compensation Clinic.

After law school, Julie practiced in the areas of personal injury and civil rights, with a primary focus on §1983 litigation. Thereafter, she was the Founding Executive Director for the NLG/Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice. This national public interest litigation center established a national reputation as leading law experts in environmental justice, plant closing notification law (WARN Act) on behalf of dislocated workers and economic justice/living wage issues.

Julie has paved the way for significant changes to our legal system, leading the first successful environmental justice §1983 action in the country, involving the construction of a public elementary school on contaminated industrial waste site in a predominantly Hispanic/African American community (Lucero v. Detroit Public Schools); she litigated/settled first successful living wage enforcement action in country; and she tried first successful federal jury WARN Act trial in country(Wallace v. Detroit Coke).

Julie has testified has testified before House and Senate subcommittees on the need to enforce civil rights laws on behalf of environmental justice litigants, on the need to strengthen WARN Act legislation, and in support of passing and strengthening local living wage laws. 

Since 2007, Julie, with her partner Bill Goodman and Senior Associate Kathryn James, has represented victims of police, government, and corporate misconduct. She has also, over the years, litigated several cases resulting in jury verdicts or settlements exceeding $1 million.

Prior to teaming with Bill Goodman to create the powerhouse team of Goodman & Hurwitz, PC, Julie spent twenty-four years in private practice as a sole practitioner. Public service is at the heart of Julie’s career and she participates in many community and volunteer activities. Throughout her career, Julie has provided representation to activists and protesters in both criminal and civil cases connected to activism and First Amendment activities.

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. 

James L. Hardiman is a civil rights attorney and educator that has dedicated his life to improving the communities within Ohio. A graduate of John Hay High School in the Cleveland Public School System during the 1950s, James Hardiman went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin Wallace College and a Juris Doctorate from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.

 Early in his legal career, James Hardiman became an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case of Robert Anthony Reed v. James A. Rhodes, a pinnacle case focused on the desegregation of the Cleveland Public Schools. A celebrated civil rights attorney, James Hardiman is most well-known for his involvement in this case and other school desegregation initiatives across the country.

James Hardiman continued to focus his career on civil rights, criminal justice, and criminal defense through private practice and as Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio from 2010 to 2014. James Hardiman’s passion for civil rights can also be seen in the classroom where he educates students at Baldwin Wallace College on topics of civil rights and in the nonprofit board room of the Cleveland Branch NAACP. 

James Hardiman has also been deeply involved in the Collaborative for a Safe, Fair, and Just Cleveland, a group of community leaders, activists, academics, and others who advocated for respect for civil rights and the mandated inclusion and use of best practices by the Cleveland Division of Police in the Consent Decree between the City of Cleveland and Department of Justice. As a representative of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, James Hardiman has also worked to provide legal support to the Movement for Black Lives by recruiting pro bono defense attorneys and representing protesters himself who have been charged in relation to protest activity.

Allison L. Kriger is a criminal defense attorney at Detroit firm LaRene & Kriger. Practicing since 2012, Allison’s criminal practice has recently expanded to political criminal defense. Allison is also the co-founder of Vote Detroit, a non-partisan initiative aimed at raising awareness and increasing civic participation amongst city residents.

Allison, a Detroit native earned dual B.A. in Public Policy and Public Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science with a concentration in Economics from Michigan State University. Upon graduating in 2007, she accepted a position as a Legislative Analyst with State Senator Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit). In 2009, she enrolled in Wayne State University Law School as a Dean’s Scholar. While at Wayne, Allison worked as a law Clerk for Goodman and Hurwitz, P.C., a Detroit-based civil rights firm founded by William Goodman, the former Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and long-time civil rights activist and attorney Julie Hurwitz. Allison also worked for the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, where she did appeals for indigent convicted criminals, and the United States House of Representatives.

As a Wayne Law student, Allison was the recipient of the Eugene Driker Endowed Scholarship, Wade McCree Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Weiss Memorial Endowed Scholarship and three-time recipient of the Ken Cockrel, Sr., Memorial Endowed Scholarship.

Jacqueline C. Greene is an attorney at Cleveland firm of Friedman & Gilbert and is Co-Coordinator for the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Jacqueline joined Friedman & Gilbert as an associate attorney in February 2014. Her practice focuses primarily on civil rights cases, including police and other government misconduct, as well as criminal defense.

In her capacity as Ohio NLG Co-Coordinator, Jacqueline recruits and organizes pro bono criminal defense attorneys for protester criminal cases in the Greater Cleveland area, defends protesters herself, and represents the NLG in civil rights litigation. Jacqueline also trains and organizes NLG Legal Observers (who observe law enforcement conduct at protests) in Northeast Ohio.

Prior to joining Friedman & Gilbert, Jacqueline worked internationally in the fields of criminal law, human rights law, and humanitarian law. She was a Human Rights Fellow at the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative in 2013 and a Researcher for the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute in 2011 and 2012. 

Jacqueline has worked on international criminal trials, as a member of the Nuon Chea defense team in the Khmer Rouge Trials in Cambodia, and as part of the prosecution team in the trial of warlord and Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Jacqueline has also worked in public health law and advocacy in South Africa. 

Jacqueline has been engaged for many years in social justice activism and advocacy, including civil rights and criminal justice issues.