J. Bennett Guess
Ben Guess is a prominent civil liberties activist and minister and comes to the ACLU of Ohio with outstanding civil liberties and non-profit management credentials. During the past 17 years, he has held a number of high-level positions with the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) national headquarters, based in Cleveland. Formerly the vice president of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, Guess previously served on the UCC’s Collegium of Officers as one of the denomination’s top elected executives. He also served for many years as the UCC’s director of communications and news director.
Guess is a board member of the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Cleveland.
Most importantly, Guess brings a life-long commitment to civil liberties and social justice. Early in his career, he served as a pastor to a progressive congregation in Henderson, Kentucky, that established an on-site Planned Parenthood clinic and founded Matthew 25 AIDS Services, which remains one of Kentucky’s largest health providers for low-income HIV-infected patients. Guess is a founding co-chair of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, that state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization which continues today as the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, and he served on the board of directors of the ACLU of Kentucky. More recently, Guess was significantly involved in UCC v. Cooper, the federal lawsuit that helped bring marriage equality to North Carolina.
Guess is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in journalism. He completed graduate studies in public administration at Murray State University, and earned a Master of Divinity at Vanderbilt University and a Doctor of Ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary.
“I am tremendously excited to be joining the ACLU of Ohio,” Guess said. “The ACLU’s mission has been urgently relevant in each generation and that urgency, today, is as clear and compelling as ever. The ACLU of Ohio is a courageous defender of civil liberties, a relentless advocate for racial, social and economic justice, and a fierce defender of the Bill of Rights. This represents, for me, the essence of what it means to safeguard and advance our democratic society.”
“By the book” could be the guiding principle of Ann Rowlett’s life. In her youth, Ann developed a strong sense of fairness – rules and rights should apply to everyone, no exceptions.
Working at the ACLU of Ohio has provided Ann the opportunity to advance the Bill of Rights in her day-to-day work. As Deputy Director, Ann manages internal operations by the book, ensuring sound financial practices and reporting, supporting the board of directors in their oversight duties, providing a safe, supportive environment for employees, and maintaining compliance with state and federal laws. She also oversees the organization’s records management and archives program.
Ann’s educational path may at first seem an unlikely grounding for this career. She has a Master’s degree in English from The Ohio State University. In focusing her coursework on women’s issues and literature, however, her passion for equality was ignited, and the communications, critical thinking and analytical skills she developed in pursuit of the degree have served her well in supporting civil liberties. She admires Gloria Steinem as a captivating storyteller and a courageous pivotal leader in the fight for women’s equality.
After some years on the ACLU staff, Ann earned a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Kent State University. She applied her new skills when she spent a month at Yale University organizing the ACLU of Ohio Kent State Project Records. These litigation files were amassed in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings in 1970.
Before joining the ACLU, Ann worked for organizations focused on individuals’ rights in welfare, labor, and law. She also spent two years managing communications for a political campaign. She has volunteered her time to enhance opportunities for women, for disabled people, and for artists. She served on the board of directors of Greater Cleveland Community Shares and Cleveland Public Theatre.
Ann is a member of three book groups, and appreciates the stimulating, challenging conversations that grow out of a shared reading experience. She also tends her neighborhood Little Free Library.
Elizabeth loves civil rights litigation and is committed to leveraging the legal system to dismantle institutionalized oppression. As Staff Attorney, she plans and litigates impact cases, manages our student law clerk program, and works with our policy and legislative teams in integrated advocacy efforts. Since joining the ACLU of Ohio she has been involved in litigating major cases including defending free speech in Citizens for Trump v. Cleveland, and voting rights in APRI v. Husted. She is particularly interested in advocating against mass incarceration and abuses in the prison industrial complex.
Elizabeth received her B.A. from Warren Wilson College in 2011. She later moved home to attend Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2015 as the Dean’s Learn Law, Live Justice scholar. Elizabeth was selected as her graduating class’s commencement speaker because of her contributions to improving access to justice in the community.
Outside of her work at the ACLU, Elizabeth is an urban farmer in Cleveland, serves on the boards of the New Agrarian Center and of LegalWorks, and is a proud member of the National Lawyers Guild. In her copious spare time, she rides bikes.
In June 2017, Elizabeth was selected to be in Crain’s Cleveland Business’ Top Twenty In Their 20’s — an annual article about up and coming Clevelanders! Read her feature article.
senior policy director
After studying the U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the ACLU at the Junior Statesmen of America program at Northwestern University in high school, Mike was inspired to work at the ACLU. He has dedicated his career as Senior Policy Director to mass incarceration issues, particularly the intersection between criminal justice and poverty and the treatment of people in prisons and jail.
During his tenure at the ACLU, Mike has worked on a variety of critical civil liberties movements. These include coordinating campaigns to expand and protect the right to vote, combating privatization of prisons, and promoting reforms to Ohio’s criminal justice system.
In 2013, Mike co-authored two reports focusing on the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system. The Outskirts of Hope: How Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities chronicled how courts were illegally imprisoning low-income Ohioans because they could not afford to pay their fines. The report culminated in the Ohio Supreme Court increasing education and training for court personnel and issuing bench cards with clear rules for collecting fines and court costs. The second 2013 report, Adding It Up: The Financial Realities of Ohio’s Pay-to-Stay Policies examined the burden placed on incarcerated people and their families by exorbitant jail fees.
Mike is a nationally recognized expert on prison privatization. In 2013, he created a timeline documenting the rapid decline of Ohio-based Lake Erie Correctional Institution, the first state prison sold outright to a private company in the nation. He also co-authored and designed the ACLU’s April 2011 report, Prisons for Profit: A Look at Private Prisons. The report highlights the problems faced by other states who have privatized prisons, including: increased costs, safety problems, a lack of transparency, and increased recidivism. Mike is most proud of his debtors’ prison work and seeing the documentary Prisons for Profit through from beginning to end.
Mike is an Eagle Scout and enjoys a nice dinner out.
Celina Coming believes that defending civil liberties is humanistic, not partisan; inclusive, not selective; and consistent, not convenient. She believes that the ACLU is the most dedicated non-profit organization when it comes to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The ACLU’s mission can be understood through one of Celina’s favorite political theorists, Thomas Paine: “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression, for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
In her capacity of Communications Associate, Celina manages the social media platforms for the ACLU of Ohio, coordinates the communications calendar, and serves as a liaison to local, state, and national media outlets. Additionally, Celina facilitates presentations and speaking engagements throughout the state, to spread the ACLU’s mission and educate Ohioans on relevant civil liberties issues.
In 2015, Celina graduated magna cum laude from John Carroll University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and an emphasis on political philosophy. Outside of her work at the ACLU, Celina loves to travel and is an avid trivia enthusiast. Celina has an undying love for Northeast Ohio and is devoted to making Cleveland great again.
Gary Daniels is the chief lobbyist of the ACLU of Ohio and works in the ACLU of Ohio regional office in Columbus, where he has lived since February 2008. Gary has worked for the ACLU of Ohio for 15 years, from 1995-2000 and 2003-present. Before becoming chief lobbyist, he worked for the ACLU of Ohio in the position of litigation coordinator.
Gary works with local and statewide elected and government officials to further the ACLU’s mission. He is a frequent commentator on civil liberties issues in local, statewide and national print, TV and online media.
During the time he lived in New York City, Gary was the Cuba Travel Project coordinator for the Center for Constitutional Rights and later the media affairs coordinator for the National Coalition Against Censorship. He currently serves on the boards of the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, Community Shares of Mid Ohio, and Healthy Families Ohio. Gary is also a two-time past board member for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
A 1994 graduate of Kent State University, Gary graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He is originally from Youngstown, Ohio.
Listen to an oral history interview with Gary conducted in 2012.
Emma Keeshin began as Legal Assistant in 2016. Emma graduated from Oberlin College in 2015, where she majored in Politics and Law & Society. She also did extensive teaching and tutoring work in the Oberlin public schools, and led a group for aspiring educators. It was largely through this work that Emma learned about many social justice issues and learned to speak out against them. She is grateful to be at the ACLU, which she has long admired for its unwavering commitment to justice. Emma hails from Vermont but is loving her new home in Cleveland.
Freda J. Levenson
Freda Levenson is the legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. Her major responsibilities include litigation, management of the legal team, and legal analysis of pending legislation and other emerging civil liberties issues.
Freda has litigated several major cases for the ACLU of Ohio, including: in the area of voting rights, APRI, et al. v. Husted, challenging Ohio’s practice of purging infrequent voters; NAACP, et al. v Husted et al., restoring early voting opportunities; and Libertarian Party of Ohio, et al., v. Husted, protecting ballot access. She also litigates to uphold expressive rights under the First Amendment, including Citizens for Trump, et al. v. Cleveland et al., successfully challenging restrictions on public expression at Cleveland’s Republican National Convention. In Maudlin v. Inside Out, Inc, and other cases, Freda has fought against sex discrimination in the workplace. She also litigates and develops strategies to defend the civil rights of transgender individuals, people who have disabilities, and people in the criminal justice system, including children.
A graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts and the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Mich., Freda was a litigation partner at a large commercial law firm in Chicago until moving back to her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. There, she served on the Shaker Heights Board of Education for 16 years, including four years as its president.
A long-time adjunct law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Freda taught in both the master of laws (LL.M.) and in the juris doctor (J.D.) programs. She is also an avid yoga practitioner and a certified instructor.
Jeff follows in the footsteps of his great-great grandfather, “General” Jacob Coxey, who led what is considered to be the first march on Washington in 1894, advocating for public investment to ease the plight of the nation’s unemployed, with the conviction that citizens had the right to voice their demands in the nation’s capital. As a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, advocator for animal rights, participant in the sanctuary movement and supporter of Central American refugees, Jeff has been involved in social justice issues for most of his life. He considers Gandhi, Jesus and Martin Luther King as inspirational activists.
Jeff considers freedom of speech one of the most important civil liberties because when you have a voice, you can advocate for yourself or others. He is also passionate about criminal justice because due to inequality, some people are harmed by the criminal justice system before they enter it, while they are in it, and after they leave it. This harm begins with selective prosecution and continues with inadequate representation, racial and economic disparities in sentencing, imprisonment for the inability to pay fines, and collateral sanctions after a person has served their sentence, thus hindering their ability to reenter society.
Jeff serves as technology director of the ACLU of Ohio, providing technology support and training for staff and volunteers in the Cleveland and Columbus offices and overseeing the ACLU of Ohio’s online presence. Jeff maintains the donor, member, and activist databases and works closely with the development director, providing analysis and reporting. He worked on the development of the ACLU of Ohio’s strategic plan, has led meetings with legislators, crafted web and other messaging for volunteer advocates and works to provide technology support in the organization of those efforts. He was vital in the shepherding of the ACLU’s web design, which enhanced our site as an information and activist resource for members, supporters, the media, students, and anyone else interested.
Before joining the ACLU in 2006, Jeff operated a small furniture making and restoration business in Wooster, Ohio for 20 years. After closing his business in 2002, he decided to devote his career to social justice issues. He enrolled at the University of Akron, where he received a degree in Philosophy/Political Science/Economics in 2005. He also made a living as a professional drummer for many years.
In his free time, Jeff has served on the board and as president of the Wayne Center for the Arts. He has also been a member of the WKSU-FM Community Advisory Council. Jeff enjoys being with his family, listening to music and working in a group effort to make this world a better place.
assistant policy director
When Jocelyn was 9, she petitioned her own local city council to refrain from changing the trick-or-treat hours, and by age 13, she was attending anti-war demonstrations with her family. She became most passionate about the 1st Amendment/Free Speech rights after listening to her mother’s experiences as an activist in high school, wearing a black armband in protest of the Vietnam War. When Jocelyn learned about the ACLU from her sister in middle school, she knew that if she wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives, she had to work at the ACLU. William Kunstler, a lawyer known for his defense of the “Chicago Seven,” American Indian Movement and Martin Luther King, reminds Jocelyn to never give up, to think outside the box, and to not shy away from hard issues or causes.
Jocelyn Rosnick is the Assistant Policy Director for the ACLU of Ohio. She joined the ACLU of Ohio staff in 2012, where she has used her legal, communications, and organizing skills to move between departments and work on a variety of high-level projects.
Jocelyn develops and executes a variety of policy campaigns. During her time, she has collaborated on a number of criminal justice programs, including those related to debtors’ prison, solitary confinement, prison privatization, and collateral sanctions. She co-authored the 2013 report, “The Outskirts of Hope,” which details unconstitutional debtors’ prison practices across Ohio. She also co-authored the essay, The Ohio Model for Combatting Debtors’ Prisons, which has been published in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law at the University of Michigan Law School.
Jocelyn has stewarded a variety of volunteer-based projects, including the ACLU of Ohio’s “SLAPPed: A Tool for Activists” and weekly membership mailings. Additionally, she previously coordinated membership and donor events, and handled the day-to-day operations of development department.
Before joining staff, Jocelyn was a law clerk for Towards Employment Ohio and a Summer Associate at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Through these efforts, Jocelyn worked to remove the legal barriers faced by individuals re-entering society from the criminal justice system. Jocelyn received the 2011 Equal Justice Works Summer Corps Standout award related to this work.
A true activist, Jocelyn is passionate about protecting protestor’s rights. In addition to her work with the ACLU, she coordinates the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild which trains individuals to be legal observers at demonstrations in order to safeguard protestor’s constitutional rights.
Jocelyn received her B.A. in sociology with an emphasis on social inequality from West Virginia University. Although a Mountaineer at heart, Jocelyn moved to Cleveland to attend Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where she received her Juris Doctor in 2012. Jocelyn is a vegan baker, couponer, Steelers fan and traveler.