John Arthur, James Obergefell, David Michener, and Robert Grunn have sued the State of Ohio claiming that Ohio violates the constitutional rights of same-sex couples legally married in other states when it refuses to recognize those marriages on death certificates. Major updates in this case will be posted here. If you would like more information about the case read our Frequently Asked Questions and review the documents in our Case Library.
Cincinnati, Ohio. July 22, 2013. Today U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black issued a Decision and Temporary Restraining Order enjoining defendants from enforcing Ohio’s DOMA laws against Plaintiffs. The decisions can be found here. Judge Black required state and local officials “not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse.’”
Cleveland, Ohio July 10, 2013. The City of Cleveland will pay $600,000.00 to Edward Henderson for injuries sustained when he was kicked in the head by Cleveland police officers on January 1, 2011. He was handcuffed and not resisting when he was kicked. The case was challenging because many of the officers at the scene refused to testify, asserting their 5th Amendment Rights. Much of the evidence could only be secured under a protective order. A redacted, public copy of the most recent complaint is here.
The attack was captured on video by a police helicopter. None of the officers have been disciplined yet. The United States Department of Justice is investigating the case for possible federal civil rights criminal violations. Mr. Henderson led police on a chase earlier in the day. He stopped his van and submitted to the police by lying face down with his arms out. He was then handcuffed behind his back. After he was cuffed officers ran up to him and kicked him several times. He suffered a blow out fracture of his orbital bone, permanent vision impairment, and other injuries.
Attorneys for Henderson are partner Al Gerhardstein and two attorneys from Cleveland, David Malik and Daniel Chaplin. They have retained a police practices expert, Lou Reiter, who has identified a number of policies and practices that contribute to excessive force by Cleveland Police Officers and a lack of officer accountability. As part of the settlement Mr. Reiter will provide to Cleveland model policies in several areas. A separate review of the Cleveland Police is underway by the United States Department of Justice.
Mr. Gerhardstein was lead counsel in Cincinnati in a police reform effort that lasted eight years. An effort is underway to start a collaborative for police reform in Cleveland. The attorneys noted that this substantial settlement is an important first step toward reform. The topics covered by the policies they will provide to the City of Cleveland are: (1) Taking statements from officers accused of misconduct; (2) Recording of witness interviews during Internal Affairs and Office of Professional Standards (OPS) investigations; (3) Early Intervention program for officers; (4) Data analysis following use of force investigations;(5) Citizen Complaints and related OPS investigations;(6) Radio Communications, Cruiser cams and body cameras. The attorneys state that clear policies and practices on these topics are critical to holding accountable all officers who violate the rights of citizens.
Cincinnati. June 19, 2013. Today the family of Corey McGinnis Sr. filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death suit against Sgt. Ryan Schrand and The City of North College Hill. The suit alleges that Mr. McGinnis was unreasonably tased in the chest by Sgt. Schrand on June 26, 2012 following an altercation during a basketball game. At the time of the tasing Mr. McGinnis was not armed and posed no serious threat to Sgt. Schrand or anyone else.
The family seeks compensation for the eight children of Mr. McGinnis and they hope the lawsuit will help reform taser policies. The tasing occurred more than two years after manufacturer, Taser International, Inc., warned law enforcement agencies to avoid tasing the upper chest. North College Hill is one of many local law enforcement agencies that permit dangerous taser chest shots in situations where deadly force is not authorized. The suit also alleges that the taser unit operated by Sgt. Schrand was not properly maintained. The voltage and current output for the unit exceeded manufacturer specifications
The family is part of a citizen group supporting recommendations for taser reform that were issued last Fall by one of the family’s attorneys, Al Gerhardstein, who stated: “We hope agencies across the region will recognize the dangers posed by chest shots and stop this dangerous practice immediately. Chest shots should not be used for ordinary arrests. They should be permitted only when deadly force is authorized.” The family is also represented by attorneys Konrad Kircher, Michael Arnold, and Clyde Bennett.
Parents and Milford Schools had agreed to send a disabled student to the Langsford Center in Blue Ash, Ohio to learn to read. After several years of slow but steady progress at the Langsford Center, Milford Schools proposed to change the students reading placement from the private center back to the public school. When the parents disagreed Milford Schools filed due process against the parents. The parents lost both administrative decisions and filed a complaint in U.S. District Court, where Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled Milford Schools had violated the parents’ due process rights by pre-determining the reading placement. This important decision is now on appeal.
Al Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch have negotiated a settlement for the family of Everette Howard Jr. He was tased and died at the University of Cincinnati on August 6, 2011. After his death the UC police withdrew all of their tasers from service. The settlement provides that:
- Compensation. The University will pay two million dollars plus provide an undergraduate education free of tuition and instructional fees for the two siblings of Everette Jr.
- Taser Policy. Before tasers are reissued to officers in the UC Police Department the public and the Howard family will be notified and UC will receive suggestions from them on taser training and use;
- Expert Reports. UC has received and read detailed reports from experts retained by the Howard family including electro physiologist Dr. Douglas Zipes, M.D. and police training and taser expert, Dr. Ronald Martinelli, Ph D. These reports provide the response of the family to conclusions reached in the University and BCI investigations;
- Memorial. UC will install a memorial bench and plaque at the site where Everette Howard Jr. died;
- Statement by UC President. UC President Santa J. Ono has issued a statement to the Howard family expressing the “deepest regrets” on the loss of Everette Jr;
The family is part of a group that is monitoring taser policies in law enforcement agencies throughout Hamilton County. They will continue to press all local agencies for taser reform. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who along with Jennifer Branch has filed numerous cases across the State involving tasers, stated, “Everette’s death was unjustified and unnecessary. Through this case the family is helping reform taser use throughout the region. Hopefully their investigation and advocacy for their son will prevent more taser deaths.” The settlement was mediated by Saul Green, who is a former U.S. Attorney and former Deputy Mayor of the City of Detroit. He also served as the lead monitor for the United States District Court here in Cincinnati helping implement the Cincinnati police reforms through Collaborative Agreement.
Since May 20, 2008 the Ohio Department of Youth Services has been implementing a Stipulation requiring extensive reforms to Ohio’s juvenile corrections system. As a result of ongoing progress the terms of that stipulation have now been reduced. Many areas are in compliance and no longer subject to court monitoring. Other areas will only be reviewed for quality assurance. In the areas of mental health and special management units direct court monitoring will continue until the Department achieves substantial compliance, which should be within six months to a year. During the implementation of the Stipulation the number of youth locked in DYS facilities has been cut from 2000 to approximately 600 while community based treatment options have greatly expanded. Al Gerhardstein is lead counsel on the class action. Co Counsel Kim Tandy of the Children’s Law Center and Cincinnati Attorney Jennifer Kinsley.
Keith Cockrell has settled his claim of excessive force against the Cincinnati Police for $60,000.00. Since the lawsuit was settled the Cincinnati police have modified their taser policy consistent with his claims. That is, he claimed that the policy permitted officers to tase persons who were fleeing from jaywalking. The Sixth Circuit held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity on the claim but agreed with the district court that the challenge to the policy could go to trial. The City settled before trial. Mr. Cockrell suffered severe scrapes, bruises and scarring. Al Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch represented the Plaintiff.
The family of Kelly Brinson Jr. has settled its claims against The University of Cincinnati Police and University Hospital for $638,000.00 and reforms. Mr. Brinson was a patient on the psych ward at the Hospital. Even though he was in a seclusion room the police applied force, including a taser, on January 20, 2010, resulting in his death. The use of force was videotaped. After the lawsuit the Hospital stopped using UC police for security on the psych ward. Moreover, the settlement calls for the establishment of an advisory panel with the members appointed by NAMI of Hamilton County to provide quarterly feedback on the treatment of mental health patients at the hospital. Finally the case generated a very significant ruling by United States District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel that The University Hospital was acting sufficiently under color of law to be held liable under the federal civil rights law, overruling the hospital’s claim that they were exempt as a private non-profit institution. This important precedent will be very helpful to future litigants facing similar claims. Al Gerhardstein represented the plaintiffs. Co counsel was Don Moore of the Moore Law Firm in Cincinnati.
United States District Judge Sara Lioi has denied a motion for summary judgment by Dr. Malvasi and one of his staff members. Her Order was issued on August 8, 2012. They were sued for failing to provide adequate medical care to Kurt Platzer who experienced severe alcohol withdrawal at the Trumbull County Jail in Warren, Ohio. He experienced delirium and seizures and died as a result of his injuries at a local hospital on June 28, 2009. This is a significant ruling because the Court has stated that the facts, if accepted by a jury, would support a determination that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need of the Mr. Platzer, which is a very high standard to achieve. Claims against Trumbull County and its employees were previously settled for $250,000.00 . Al Gerhardstein served as lead counsel. Also representing the plaintiff were Cleveland attorneys David Malik and Sam Riotte and Youngstown attorney Dan Keating.
Cincinnati, Ohio. The federal lawsuit against the Sycamore School District for sex harassment has been settled. On July 3, 2008, 18 year old Jessica Logan tragically took her own life after suffering unrelenting peer abuse by students at Sycamore High School. In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled the parents had submitted sufficient evidence against the school district that the case could proceed to a jury trial. Recently Jessica’s family and Sycamore School District settled the case that accused the school of not protecting Jessica from sexual harassment, as all public schools are required to do under Title IX. The parties have agreed not to disclose the terms of the settlement.
The case against Sycamore School District set an important legal precedent. ”This case established that School Districts can be liable if they fail to protect students from sexual harassment at school. If they know a student is being harassed and do nothing to stop it, they can be sued for the injuries the student suffers as a result,” warned Logan attorney Jennifer Branch.
Jessica’s tragic death has also sparked legislative reform. Jessica’s parents ceaselessly pursued changes to strengthen Ohio law and were pleased when Ohio Governor Kasich signed the Jessica Logan Act, House Bill Number 116, which goes into effect November 4, 2012. One of the main provisions of the Jessica Logan Act is to require schools to prohibit cyber bullying, which is bullying by electronic means. Jessica’s mother, Cynthia Logan, was pleased Ohio passed the Jessica Logan Act but will never be satisfied that peer abuse will end in Ohio schools until every parent, student, and teacher stands up to each act of bullying, intimidation, and harassment.
STUDY OF 33 POLICE AGENCIES IN HAMILTON COUNTY
COMMUNITY MEETING AT NEW PROSPECT BAPTIST CHURCH 1829 ELM STREET
October 1, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.
Cincinnati, Ohio. Today community members eager to reduce deaths and needless injuries from improper Taser use by law enforcement agencies will meet and discuss the results of a survey of more than 30 law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County, Ohio. The survey was compiled by the Law Firm of Gerhardstein & Branch LPA based on public record requests to all law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County Ohio. The 18 page report includes a detailed spreadsheet summarizing all of the policies. Serious problems include:
- 94% of agencies’ materials do not adequately warn that Tasers can capture the heart rhythm of the subject, possibly leading to death.
- 67% of policies permit upper chest shots despite the manufacturer’s warning moving the preferred target zone away from the upper chest.
- 70% of policies do not instruct officers to consider the seriousness of the crime before deciding whether or not to use the Taser.
- 33% policies do not specifically instruct officers to consider the risk of secondary impact of falling from an elevated surface subsequent to Taser use.
- 27% of policies do not restrict Taser use on vulnerable populations such as juveniles, elderly individuals, or the visibly pregnant
- 100% of policies fail to require that Taser output be tested to ensure that the actual performance of the device is within manufacturer’s specifications.
- 73% of policies do not require an investigation that includes a data download from the Taser’s memory chip after use to independently verify the number and duration of shocks delivered to the subject.
- 15% of policies explicitly authorize officers to use their Taser on a fleeing subject, regardless of the crime or the threat to the public.
Study author, civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, states that, “We have had four taser related deaths in four years in Hamilton County and we need to reform these policies now in order to protect our residents.” For further information, please attend the community meeting held today at 4:30 p.m. at Prospect Baptist church, 829 Elm Street, or read the report.
Columbus, Ohio. The victims of a police shooting have filed a federal civil rights suit against Drug Task Force officers Kevin Starrett and Sky Wilson, Perry County, Perry County Sheriff William Barker and New Lexington, Ohio. The victims, Dustin Dugan and Kenneth Helwig, were not armed and were under surveillance for allegedly possessing Mr. Dugan’s girlfriend’s car. Their vehicle was boxed in between two unmarked police cars on February 27, 2012 in New Junction, Ohio and immediately fired upon by the officers.
Civil Rights Attorney Al Gerhardstein of Cincinnati stated, “In my 36 years of protecting citizens from police violence this is one of the worst shootings I have ever litigated. These men were suspected only of a property crime and should have received a knock on the door or a phone call and not subjected to an assault with these guns.” Co-counsel Michael Cox of Columbus added, “Mr. Dugan has undergone 11 surgeries, lost over 80 pounds and is literally still fighting for his life and this is seven months later. He has three young children and worries he will never be able to be a real dad to them again.”
On Friday August 17, 2012, the family of Timothy Conwell filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lawrence County, Ohio, Sheriff Lawless, Dr. Rodolfo Canos and several jail employees. Mr. Conwell was admitted to the Lawrence County Jail on October 14, 2011 while suffering from an oxycodone overdose. His vital signs were not taken and he was provided no treatment. He was placed in the drunk tank and died that night. Through this case the family will secure a full explanation of the events of that night and impose accountability on those responsible for Timothy’s suffering and death.
Civil rights attorneys Al Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch of Cincinnati have filed the lawsuit. They have filed numerous cases across the state challenging inadequate medical care in prisons and jails. “Oxycodone is a huge problem in Southern Ohio,” stated Gerhardstein. “Jail medical programs need to identify the symptoms and provide proper treatment. Timothy Conwell would be alive today if a few simple steps had just been followed. This must not be allowed to happen again.” “The Conwell family hopes through this case to trigger reforms that will prevent the deaths of future inmates suffering from drug overdoses” stated co-counsel Jennifer Branch.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Cincinnati, alleging federal civil rights as well as state law claims.
Cincinnati, Ohio. The family of Everette Howard has filed a federal civil rights suit against UC police officer Richard Haas. He tased and killed Everette Howard on August 6, 2011. The tasing was unjustified but there have been no criminal charges and no discipline. Through this case the family will secure a full explanation of the events of that night and impose accountability on those responsible for their son’s suffering and death.
The family is part of a group of concerned citizens who have filed public record requests with all of the law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County seeking their taser policies. They will use this case and what they learn from other agencies to prevent needless deaths due to the improper use of tasers.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has filed numerous cases across the State involving tasers, stated, “Everette Howard should be in college today enjoying his wrestling scholarship. His death was unjustified and unnecessary. Through this case the family will help reform taser use throughout the region and hopefully prevent more taser deaths.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Cincinnati. The family is gradually receiving the numerous documents that make up the criminal investigation. When all of that information is processed there may be additional defendants added to the case. Jennifer Branch is co-counsel on the lawsuit. For further information, please read the Complaint.
Federal Judge Susan J. Dlott has ordered the Hamilton County Board of Elections to count all of the provisional ballots that were cast in the right location but wrong precinct as part of its vote tally in the November 2010 Juvenile Court election. “We are thrilled with this ruling,” said attorney Jennifer Branch, counsel for Juvenile Judge Candidate Tracie Hunter. The ruling will add over 300 votes to the tally. Judge Dlott found that the Board violated right to equal protection and due process and rejected all of the defenses posed by the Board in her 93 page opinion. The case was tried over three weeks in July and August, 2011. Tracie Hunter stated that the ruling, “Protects rights of the voters and that was our major goal. Many of those votes come from African American precincts so receiving this ruling during Black History Month is very fitting. The right to vote is a major accomplishment of the civil rights struggle and we have solidified that right with this case.” The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Denied a Motion to Stay implementation of the Order. Other Pleadings can be read here.
A class action settlement that was filed on October 10, 2011 secures over $400,000 in damages for youth who were held in detention cells at the Washington County Juvenile Center in Marietta, Ohio. The settlement also requires changes in Center operations including ending the use of the detention cells for holding youth longer than 24 hours. The proposed settlement must still be approved by the federal court. The case was filed in December, 2010 and co-counsel Al Gerhardstein complimented the County for its response, “I commend Washington County for addressing our concerns promptly and working with us to remedy the problems at the Center. We are hopeful that Judge Sargus will approve the settlement and that we can start making distributions early next year.” For further Information, see the press release; Motion to Approve the Settlement; the Proposed Class Action Consent Decree; and the Class Notice. Questions about the settlement should be directed to co-counsel Jennifer Branch at 513.621.9100.
James Gray was shot in the face after he was stopped by Middleport Officer Steve Koebel. Mr. Gray was unarmed. He filed a civil rights case challenging the shooting as excessive force and claiming that the Village of Middleport failed to adequately train and supervise Mr. Koebel. The case was settled in August, 2011 for the sum of $450,000.00. Several problems with officer selection, training and supervision were identified during the litigation and The Village of Middleport has taken significant steps to fix those problems. A letter summarizing the screening, supervision and training reforms was sent to Plaintiff’s counsel Al Gerhardstein. Co-counsel on the case was Trenton Cleland of Pomeroy, Ohio.
The Village of Middleport, Ohio has entered into a consent decree reforming the procedures used in its Mayor’s Court. Tammy Thomas challenged the Court procedures when she was unable to present witnesses in her traffic case. She also claimed that the Mayor was not a neutral decision maker since he had an incentive to collect fines to fund city services. The case was settled with a consent decree. Damages were also paid to Ms. Thomas. Pomeroy attorney Trenton Cleland was co-counsel with Al Gerhardstein on the case.
A class action civil rights complaint was filed December 7, 2010, alleging unconstitutional conditions at the Washington County Juvenile Center in Marietta, Ohio. Eight plaintiffs make allegations touching every aspect of facility life including,
- locking youth in cells for 23 hours per day;
- denying outdoor recreation to youth in detention;
- forcing many youth to wear leg shackles when they receive indoor recreation;
- requiring youth to wear suicide smocks as punishment;
- imposing punishment without due process;
- forcing youth to work at for profit businesses in the community without pay;
- arbitrarily extending program time for youth;
- requiring youth to engage in degrading activities such as cleaning an entire gymnasium with toothbrushes;
- ignoring, delaying and providing inappropriate treatment for medical conditions.
Plaintiffs seek damages and reforms at the Center. Attorney Al Gerhardstein states that, “These are very serious allegations made only after extensive interviews with youth who have served time in the Center and after reviewing their files. We have shared our concerns with the County representatives and we are encouraged by their commitment to promptly investigate the facts with us and determine if the claims can be resolved.” The case is filed in federal court in Columbus. The Plaintiffs and Defense counsel have joined in a request to the Court to assist the parties with expedited review of the facts and, if possible, an early mediation of the case.
Tracie Hunter, candidate for Hamilton County Juvenile Court, has sued the Hamilton County Board of Elections for equal protection and due process violations. Tracie Hunter was 2,800 votes behind her opponent after the unofficial results on Election night. After provisional ballots were counted, she closed the gap to just 23 votes. Ms. Hunter filed this case in U.S. District court seeking an injunction ordering the Board of Elections to treat all provisional ballots the same. The Board has counted some faulty provisional ballots if the fault was due to poll worker error. Ms. Hunter sought an order requiring that no provisional ballots be rejected because of poll worker error. U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott granted Ms. Hunter’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and ordered the Board of Elections to investigate provisional ballots that were cast in the right voting location but at the wrong precinct, and if poll worker error is found, to count the ballots. There are 289 ballots that were cast in the right location but in the wrong precinct. The Sixth Circuit Affirmed the injunction. Tracie Hunter’s opponent appealed the Injunction. On February 8, 2012, Judge Susan Dlott ordered the Hamilton County Board of Elections to count all of the provisional ballots that were cast in the right location but wrong precinct as part of its vote tally in the November 2010 Juvenile Court election. To see pleadings in the case, click here.
Columbus, Ohio. Matthew T. Hook, a citizen tased by police and suffering a severe brain injury, filed a civil rights case on November 30, 2010, alleging excessive force. On August 8, 2010, Mr. Hook was wanted for alleged property crimes. He scaled an eight foot fence as Perry Township police officers approached him. He was tased as he stood at the top of the fence. The taser probes struck his back, paralyzing all of his muscles and causing him to fall forward, head first, to the concrete below. He suffered massive brain injuries and remains hospitalized. Mr. Hook was unarmed and the alleged underlying crimes were nonviolent. Manufacturer Taser International warns officers that “death or serious injury” can result if the taser is deployed against a person on an “elevated surface.” The suit alleges that Defendant officer Shawn Bean ignored that warning when he used the taser while Mr. Hook was on top of the fence. The tasing was captured on a police video.
Columbus attorneys William Lamkin and Tim Van Eman of Columbus are also representing the family of Mr. Hook.
A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on July 28, 2010, challenging Ohio judicial election laws. Targeted in the case was Ohio’s system of selecting judicial candidates through elections in a partisan political primary but then requiring the primary winners to appear without party labels on the general election ballot. Also challenged in the case were the Judicial Code of Conduct rules which prohibit judicial candidates from advertising his/her party affiliation after the primary and prohibits a judicial candidate from soliciting or receiving campaign contributions. Identical Kentucky rules were held unconstitutional on July 13, 2010 in Carey v. Wolnitzek, 2010 WL 2771866 (6th Cir July 14, 2010).
After hearing arguments from all parties, U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott rejected the First Amendment challenge to Ohio Judicial Election Laws. Plaintiffs’ attorney Al Gerhardstein was disappointed with the ruling but noted that the lawsuit did result in reforms,
“The day before the hearing the Ohio Supreme Court repealed the rule that prohibited a candidate for judicial office from advertising her political party affiliation. On that same day the Ohio Supreme Court also modified the rule restricting campaign fundraising. Those reforms show how the case has had a positive impact on free speech.”
Left intact by Judge Dlott is Ohio’s system of selecting judicial candidates through elections in a partisan political primary but then requiring the primary winners to appear without party labels on the general election ballot. The plaintiffs wanted to force the State to list the party labels of the primary winners on the general election ballot. Also approved was the amended judicial rule on campaign fundraising. Gerhardstein stated that Judge Dlott’s ruling is being studied and a decision on appealing will be made soon.
Relevant pleadings and the decision by Judge Dlott can be viewed here.
Cincinnati, Ohio. The families of three murdered women have sued Hamilton County Ohio following revelations that their deceased loved ones were sexually abused at the Hamilton County Morgue. The perpetrator, Kenneth Douglas, was a morgue attendant who was regularly high on drugs and alcohol and who had intercourse with women visitors – all while on duty. The abuse occurred between 1982 and February 6, 1992. Mr. Douglas was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse and is presently in state prison. DNA testing linked Douglas to the bodies of the deceased victims.
The families learned of this abuse when Douglas was criminally charged in 2008 and 2009. Defendants include Douglas’s supervisor, Bernard Kersker, former Coroner Dr. Frank Cleveland, and Hamilton County, Ohio. The current coroner is not sued and was not in office during the abuse. Civil Rights Attorney, Al Gerhardstein, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff families, states that,
“The extreme abuse by Douglas is matched only by his supervisors. They permitted staff members who were high on drugs and alcohol to handle the loved ones of these families. These deceased women had no protection from the abusive staff. Reopening the grief surrounding these deaths is devastating for these families.”
The families are also represented by attorney Arthur W. Harmon, Jr., and attorneys from Cohen, Todd, Kite & Stanford, LLC, all of Cincinnati.
The Sixth Circuit ruled an arrestee was protected by the 4th Amendment, not the 14th Amendment, when he was viciously beaten at the Montgomery County, Ohio Jail during the booking process. For the first time, the Court made clear that the 4th Amendment not only applies through the booking process, but extends until a judicial determination of probable cause occurs (e.g., arraignment, warrant). The 14th Amendment protections begin after the judicial determination and until conviction. The District Court properly denied Qualified Immunity to one defendant but the case was remanded for decision regarding the remaining defendants under the more lenient 4th Amendment reasonableness standard. The decision and other pleadings can be viewed here.
Michael Jackson is a former inmate at the Hamilton County, Ohio Jail. From April 8, 2007, until August 10, 2007, he was housed in the administrative segregation unit at the jail. On August 10, 2007, Hamilton County deputies forcibly removed him from his cell and placed him in a restraint chair. Even though he was fully under the control of several officers, one officer shot Mr. Jackson in the chest with pepper balls at point blank range. The use of the pepper ball launcher was gratuitous and cruel. Jackson sued Hamilton County and the deputy alleging a civil rights violation. United States District Judge J. Michael Barrett and a panel of judges from the Sixth Circuit rejected efforts to dismiss the case and ruled that it should be tried. At that point the County settled with Mr. Jackson for $30,000.00. Jackson’s attorney, Al Gerhardstein, stated that,
“Through cases like this government is held accountable for abuses of power. Hopefully this settlement will cause Hamilton County, Ohio deputies to respect the rights of inmates in their custody.”
Pleadings can be viewed here.
Federal Judge Solomon Oliver has appointed Attorneys Al Gerhardstein and Andrea Reino to represent a potential class of “old law” inmates. These are offenders sentenced before the effective date of Senate Bill 2, July 1, 1996. The old law inmates claim that the parole board changes its guidelines and in effect lengthened their sentences in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. On April 10, 2010, The Parole Board withdrew its current guidelines and then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit claiming it is moot. We have filed a memo saying that the practices causing unfair longer sentences endure and the case is not moot. No rulings on the merits have been made. If the court agrees that the case is not moot we will then enter the discovery period when we gather all of the relevant facts in preparation for trial. Inmates need not do anything to benefit from this case. If the court grants our motion to certify the class, the inmates affected will be automatically in the class. For more information, please see our Frequently Asked Questions Page. Relevant Pleadings can be viewed Here.
April 29, 2010. A race discrimination and retaliation civil rights lawsuit was filed today by African American Judith Edwards against the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services (formerly MRDD). Ms. Edwards was hired by the independent Hamilton County agency to recruit and retain African Americans and others in leadership positions. Instead she became a casualty of discrimination herself. The agency is largely taxpayer funded but is run by an independent Board. Ms. Edwards worked at the agency for approximately nine months. Before she was terminated she was offered a severance package worth approximately $90,000.00. She turned it down choosing instead to fight for justice.
April 29, 2010. A lady convicted of traffic violations is challenging the very constitutionality of the Mayor’s Court that heard her case. Tammy Thomas has filed for a federal court injunction to stop the Middleport Mayor’s Court from hearing cases.
She says the Mayor denies everyone due process. He refuses to hear from witnesses and relies on the traffic ticket as evidence without permitting the charging officer to be questioned. She also says that the Mayor has a conflict of interest since he is the boss over the police officers who write the tickets and responsible for raising money through fines to fund the Village. Her claims are based on the Mayor’s own sworn deposition. See her pleadings here.
April 29, 2010. A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging the Cincinnati policy of using the Taser to stop nonviolent persons who are running. Plaintiff Keith Cockrell was suspected of jay walking when he was Tased in the back by Defendant police officer David Hall. Mr. Cockrell was not suspected of any violence and at no time was Defendant Hall in any fear for his safety.
Mr. Cockrell was running when shot and immediately collapsed onto the pavement without breaking his fall in any manner. He suffered severe lacerations and abrasions to his face and across the front of his body. Well before the Taser deployment in this case, Taser International had issued a product warning indicating that the device can cause “serious injury or death… especially at risk are persons…who are running.” Police agencies and other organizations who have studied Tasers have recommended that the device not be used against nonviolent persons suspected of minor crimes who are running. Cincinnati is not following that trend. The lawsuit seeks damages and reform. The case is pending in federal court in Cincinnati.
April 29, 2009. A police K-9 deployed off leash attacked two women and a child in Cincinnati. The police dog was supposed to be looking for a lost article. The police procedure manual does not permit off lead deployment for this purpose. The dog became distracted and ran into the apartment of Plaintiffs, injuring a young child in the process. The complaint can be viewed here.
A June 2010 civil rights trial is set for a Jackson County resident suing a deputy sheriff. On May 27, 2007, Shane Maynard was riding his ATV in rural Jackson County, Ohio. Sheriff Deputy Conley claims that he intended to warn Shane not to ride on the pavement. In fact what Conley did was pull his cruiser across the center line and completely block the path of the oncoming ATV. Shane was forced to swerve to the right to avoid a collision and he crashed into an embankment. He suffered severe injuries.
Al Gerhardstein and attorney Richard Topper of Columbus represent Shane. Magistrate Judge Terrance Kemp of the Federal Court in Columbus recently denied the motions for summary judgment by Jackson County and Deputy Conley. The case will be tried in June. See the complaint and the decision denying summary judgment here.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is famous for his opposition to undocumented workers. Now one of his victims has fought back and won $100,000.00!
Luis Rodriguez was hanging drywall at a construction site in Butler County when Sheriff staff members entered the work site as part of an “immigration investigation” and rounded up over 20 Hispanic workers. Twelve workers were fired after questioning by the sheriff staff. Mr. Rodriguez was arrested based on documents that he possessed. Attorney George Fee vigorously represented Mr. Rodriguez in the criminal case and won an acquittal. But once in custody, Mr. Rodriguez was removed from the country along with his wife and two children. They had lived in Southern Ohio for eleven years working, paying taxes, and attending a local Christian Church. They are now living in poverty in Mexico.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein sued Sheriff Jones on behalf of Mr. Rodriguez. He claimed that Mr. Rodriguez was “seized” when he was taken to the construction trailer at the worksite for interrogation in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He also alleged a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In addition, Gerhardstein argued that the Sheriff did not have power to enforce the federal civil immigration law. The case was pending on motions for summary judgment and only weeks away from trial when the County agreed to pay $100,000 in settlement of the claims. Pleadings can be viewed here.
There are 12 million undocumented persons living in the United States. Many, like Luis, are simply moms and dads trying to feed their children. Focusing harsh enforcement on these working parents and letting employers use their labor without suffering any consequence underscores how distorted our immigration enforcement has become. This case demonstrates that the Constitution protects “all persons” – regardless of citizenship and it shows that law enforcement can be held accountable.
On April 14, 2010, an appeal was filed on behalf of City of Cincinnati workers and retirees challenging Judge Spiegel’s ruling in favor of Anthem Insurance. Through the appeal the plaintiffs hope to reinstate their claim for the $55,000,000 the City received from Anthem when Anthem demutualized in 2001.
On March 3, 2010 Federal Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled in favor of Anthem and the City and against the class of Cincinnati workers and retirees. He held that when Anthem demutualized in 2001, the $55,000,000 in demutualization proceeds properly belonged to the City and not the workers and retirees. We disagree and we will take steps to reverse this decision. A copy of judge Spiegel’s decision is available here.
We received hundreds of responses to the class notice and we thank all of you who helped by searching for documents, providing documents, and submitting to depositions. If we are able to reverse the decision, class members will be notified and we will post it on this website.
Judge S. Arthur Spiegel has certified a class of approximately 2600 current and former City of Cincinnati workers. The members of the class claim that they were covered by certain Anthem Insurance policies and that the workers were entitled to compensation when Anthem converted from a mutual company to a stock company in 2001. At that time the City of Cincinnati received the mutual compensation (approximately $55 million in stock) and the workers received nothing. Al Gerhardstein is one of the Class Counsel for the class. Other class counsel are Eric Zagrans and Michael Becker of Cleveland and Dennis Barron of Cincinnati. Please read the Notice to Class Members. You may also view a Sample Certificate of Membership here. Click here to view selected Mell v. Anthem litigation documents.
No ruling on the merits of the case has been made at this time. On December 2, 2009, Judge Spiegel ordered Anthem and the City to provide the names and contact information of the class members to Class Counsel. Current and Former City workers who participated in specific health coverage are in the class.
Are you a class member? Class members will be contacted and asked to provide any Anthem-related documentation that you have. This documentation may help prove the claim by the class that the workers and not the City were entitled to the demutualization proceeds. If you think you are in the class or if you have questions you can call Jennifer Thompson or Laura Sinclair at the office at 513.621.9100.
Family of Tarika Wilson, woman shot and killed on 1/4/08 by Lima Ohio SWAT team, settles lawsuit against Sgt. Joseph Chavalia and Lima, Ohio. Settlement was for $2.5 million plus continuing work with the City on police reforms. Al Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch of G & B served as co-counsel with Derek Sells of the Cochran Firm in New York City. Click here to read a copy of the Amended Complaint in Jennings v. City Of Lima, Ohio.
Al Gerhardstein and his daughter Jessica Gingold accomplished their goal of biking across the south for civil rights! Their trip from Mobile, Alabama to Cincinnati, Ohio traversed the path of the Underground Railroad to raise money for the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. You can learn more about their adventures at www.civilrightsbikeride.blogspot.com. To learn more about their cause or to make a donation, please go to www.ohiojpc.org.
It is an exciting time and significant changes in how systems and communities respond to youth in Ohio are on the horizon. We want to hear from professionals who work on juvenile justice issues and family and youth who have experienced the system about what is working and what improvements need to be made. What are the opportunities?
- Participate in discipline-specific or community focus groups to discuss issues that impact your profession;
- Capture your story via video, audio, or in writing so that it can be shared with the media, lawmakers, and others interested in juvenile justice public policy reform;
- Show support by joining the Facebook group called Partners for Youth Justice: Ohioans United for System Reform; or
- Request a presenter to come train at a conference or local event about the efforts in Ohio and across the country.
If you would like to participate in any of the above activities or want more information about what reforms are happening in Ohio contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Class action lawsuit against Hamilton County, Ohio Morgue for unauthorized photographs settles for $8 million. Read the Joint press release from Al Gerhardstein, Stan Chesley, and Hamilton County announcing the $8 million settlement. Click here to read all of the documents in the case.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer
After thirty years of working in the Enquirer Building we have moves. All of our contact information remains the same, only our address has changed. Visit our contact us page for directions and parking options.
GERHARDSTEIN & BRANCH CO. LPA
432 Walnut Street, Suite 400
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Jennifer Branch and Andrea Reino won an almost $400,000 verdict against the U.S. Post Office August 14, 2008. The jury found the Post Office discriminated against Joan Fredericks, a clerk at the Bulk Mail Center, over the last five years. The jury found her knee condition was a disability and that the Post Office failed to accommodate her need to sit down and avoid steps. Ms. Fredericks is seeking reinstatement with accommodations. Click here to see the documents in the case.
The State of Ohio and Al Gerhardstein, Lead Counsel for the youth in Ohio’s juvenile facilities, have announced a settlement that will implement $20-$30 million annually in reforms. The agreement must be approved by federal judge Algenon Marbley. The fairness hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. on May 21, 2008. It is open to the public. The class action settlement resolves issues of overcrowding, understaffing, violence, education services, as well as mental health, physical health and other programming issues. Click here to read the Notice to the Class, the joint Press Release announcing the settlement, and other Documents in S.H. v. Stickrath.
Jury selection was underway on February 8, 2008 when the City of Cleveland decided to pay the family of Ricardo Mason one million dollars to settle the case. Ricardo was a 16 year old passenger in a car that the police stopped on August 27, 2002. Ricardo was unarmed and had his hands in the air when the shooting occurred. Lead attorney Al Gerhardstein co-counseled the case with David Malik and Dennis Niermann of Cleveland. They were prepared to prove that the defendant police officers moved the suspect car after the shooting and before the investigation in order to support their version of events. The settlement ended the trial. Click here to read the Sixth Circuit decision in the case.
On November 15, 2007, the Fossyl family won a $1 million verdict against Thomas Watson and Michael Milligan for the death of their sister in June 1977. Click here to see the verdict and other documents in the case.