Speaker Biographies


Opening Plenary Session Keynote

Tim Young

Tim Young has been the Ohio Public Defender since January 1, 2008 after serving as a county public defender for 14 years. He has led reform efforts for indigent defense in Ohio, and he started the Ohio Wrongful Conviction Project, a non-DNA exoneration project. Mr. Young has served on numerous boards and committees including the American Council of Chief Defenders, the Committee on the Appointment of Counsel for Indigent Defendants in Capital Cases, and the Ohio Sentencing Commission. He has tried numerous cases throughout his career ranging from misdemeanors to homicide cases. Mr. Young received his B.A. and his J.D. from the University of Dayton. He has devoted his career to serving the indigent population of our society.

Lunch Plenary Session Keynote

Christopher Soghoian

Chris Soghoian is a champion of digital privacy rights. As the principal technologist with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, he works at the intersection of technology, law, and policy. Between 2009 and 2010, he was the first ever in-house technologist at the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, where he worked on investigations of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Netflix. Prior to joining the FTC, he co-created the Do Not Track privacy anti-tracking mechanism now adopted by all of the major web browsers.

In 2006, in an effort to highlight the security vulnerabilities associated with boarding pass modification, Mr. Soghoian created a website that allowed visitors to generate fake boarding passes for Northwest Airlines. This activism led to his home being raided by FBI agents. The FBI later closed the criminal investigation without filing charges.

Conference Workshop Speakers

Dennis Anderson, concerned citizen, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
A Cleveland native, Dennis L. Anderson graduated from John F. Kennedy High School and Cuyahoga Community College with concentrations in government and law enforcement. Mr. Anderson has 11 years with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Community Outreach Department, where he currently serves as community outreach manager.

Jill Beeler, chief counsel, Juvenile Division, Office of the Ohio Public Defender
Jill Beeler is chief counsel for the Juvenile Division in the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. The Juvenile Division represents children in the Ohio Department of Youth Services on post-disposition issues including conditions of confinement. Ms. Beeler is a member of the Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice and the Ohio Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative State Steering Committee.

Melissa Bilancini, privacy and technology consultant
Melissa Bilancini analyzes legislation and helps direct legislative and policy strategy. She specializes in the intersection of privacy and technology and is working to increase privacy protections in Ohio. Ms. Bilancini is a licensed social worker and earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in social science administration from Case Western Reserve University.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director, ACLU of Ohio
During his tenure at the ACLU, Mike Brickner has worked on a variety of critical civil liberties movements and has become a nationally recognized expert on voting rights, prison privatization, and debtors’ prisons. He has co-authored numerous ACLU reports, including The Outskirts of Hope: How Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities; Adding It Up: The Financial Realities of Ohio’s Pay-to-Stay Policies; and Prisons for Profit: A Look at Private Prisons. Mr. Brickner frequently provides commentary to members of the media on core ACLU issues.

Jim Ciocia, activist
Jim Ciocia is a lifelong labor and political activist. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Jim graduated form the University of Dayton and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. During his 40 years as an attorney Jim practiced with the Legal Aid Society, Workers Compensation Section for the Ohio Assistant Attorney General, and served as counsel for Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO and Cleveland Teachers Union. He and his spouse are currently defendants in a SLAPP suit filed against them for protesting activities of a local coal mining company.

Phyllis Crocker, professor of law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Phyllis Crocker has been a professor for 20 years at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. As of June 30, 2014, she will be dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She chaired the American Bar Association’s Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team and served on the Ohio Supreme Court/Ohio State Bar Association joint task force to review the administration of Ohio’s death penalty.

Drew Dennis, staff attorney and litigation coordinator, ACLU of Ohio
Drew Dennis litigates complex cases concerning a wide variety of civil liberties issues, coordinates the organization’s legal research for policy, litigation, and legislative initiatives, and supervises clerks in the legal department. Since joining the ACLU of Ohio in 2010, he has researched and drafted two reports, including Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs and the updates to the second edition of Evaluating Juvenile Justice in Ohio: A Report Card. Mr. Dennis received his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University and his B.A. in Political Science from Wright State University.

Shakyra Diaz, policy director, ACLU of Ohio
Shakyra Diaz works on public policy campaigns, legislative advocacy, coalition building initiatives, and impact programming. She has worked on initiatives that have brought about reforms in drug law policies, selective enforcement, youth and police relations, school-to-prison pipeline, anti-immigrant policies, juvenile access to counsel, juvenile shackling, sentencing, seclusion and restraints in schools, collateral sanctions, and voting rights for currently and formerly incarcerated people. Ms. Diaz holds a BA in communication sciences and sociology with a concentration on social inequity from Case Western Reserve University.

Danielle Doza, policy counsel, ACLU of Ohio
Danielle Doza’s work focuses on religious liberty and LGBT issues. She previously worked as a staff attorney at Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center to serve people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Doza, who attended Ohio State University and received her JD from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, has been involved with LGBT organizations such as Human Rights Campaign Cleveland, Gay Games 9, and the first ever LGBT conference in El Salvador in March 2013.

Terri Enns, clinical professor of law, Moritz College of Law
Terri Enns is a clinical professor of law at OSU’s Moritz College of Law. She was a member of the ACLU of Ohio board for over a decade. In addition to teaching in the Legislation Clinic, she is a senior fellow with the Election Law @ Moritz project. She was recently appointed to the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway Advisory Committee, where she helps develop policies governing law enforcement’s use of criminal justice databases.

Jeff Gamso, assistant public defender, Cuyahoga County
After many years in private practice, and after serving as legal director of the ACLU of Ohio for five years, Jeff Gamso is now an assistant Cuyahoga County public defender. He has been involved in the representation of more than 25 men and women in their capital cases, ranging from trial work through last stage litigation before execution. Mr. Gamso is currently the president-elect of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Adrienne Gavula, associate director, ACLU of Ohio
Adrienne Gavula guides and sustains community organizing in central and southern Ohio for the ACLU of Ohio office in Columbus. Her passion is advancing reproductive freedom in Ohio; she serves on the Freedom of Choice Ohio Coalition and as vice-chair for Women Have Options, Ohio’s abortion access fund. Ms. Gavula holds a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ohio University, a Master of Social Work from Ohio State University, and is a licensed independent social worker.

Kristen Henry, attorney at law, Disability Rights Ohio
Kristen Henry is an attorney with Disability Rights Ohio, the state’s protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities. She leads the Abuse and Neglect Team, which investigates abuse, neglect, and rights violations in institutions and community settings, and advocates for changes in state law and policy to protect and empower individuals with disabilities.

Dennis D. Hirsch, professor of law, Capital University Law School
Dennis D. Hirsch is the Geraldine W. Howell Professor of Law at Capital University Law School. In 2010 he served as a Fulbright Senior Professor at the University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law (IViR), where he conducted research on Dutch data protection regulation and taught a course on comparative information privacy law. Professor Hirsch is the author of numerous articles and a prize-winning textbook and has lectured nationally and internationally. He currently serves as Counsel to the Firm at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, LLP.

Elyzabeth Holford, executive director, Equality Ohio
Elyzabeth Holford began her career as a trial attorney with Ohio State Legal Services Association. She served a twelve year career in academics with Virginia Tech as a tenured associate professor, director of the office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, and director of two separate campuses. Ms. Holford left academics to pursue international organizational consulting in both the nonprofit and profit sectors. In addition to leading Equality Ohio, Ms. Holford serves on the leadership council for Gay Games 9 and is the board chair of Why Marriage Matters Ohio.

Wilson Huhn, professor of law, Akron School of Law
Will Huhn is a distinguished professor and C. Blake McDowell, Jr., Professor of Law at the University of Akron School of Law. He has taught constitutional law since 1984. He is the author of many books and articles on constitutional law and jurisprudence, including the popular textbook The Five Kinds of Legal Arguments. He has been designated “Outstanding Professor” by the graduating class on six occasions.

Betsy Johnson, associate executive director, National Alliance on Mental Illness in Ohio
Betsy Johnson is associate executive director of NAMI Ohio (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio) where she is manages legislative advocacy, criminal justice activities, and communications. Prior to joining NAMI Ohio, Ms. Johnson served as the associate CEO of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, and chief of the Adoption Section at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). Ms. Johnson worked for six years in Washington D.C. for a Member of Congress prior to moving to Columbus in 1992. She currently serves as the board president of the Ohio Family Care Association.

Kenneth Kochevar, director of corrections, Cuyahoga County
Kenneth Kochevar began his career with the Cuyahoga County Sherriff’s Department in 1972 and currently serves as the jail administrator. Mr. Kochevar sees emphasizing that the jail is a social institution and part of the greater community as a key role in the life of the progressive jail administrator today.

Karla M. Lortz, disability rights advocate
Karla Lortz is the retired director of the Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities. She is a nationally known advocate on the rights of people with disabilities and has been instrumental in the passage and implementation of both state and federal legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Ralph Mackey, security consultant
Ralph Mackey is a corporate security consultant for public law enforcement and the private sector. Now retired, he served as president of Interactive Research Services, and vice president of International Data Executives. He also worked as an investigator for the Ohio State University Police and Ohio Attorney General. Mr. Mackey is the parent of a child in the privately owned Lake Erie Correctional Institute.

Jeffrey Nye, attorney at law, Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson
Jeff Nye is an attorney based in Cincinnati. His pro bono practice includes representation of defendants in frivolous defamation cases, known as strategic lawsuits against public participation. His clients have include blogger Alexandra Goddard, who was sued for defamation for her coverage of the 2012 rape of a 16 year-old girl by two members of the Steubenville High School football team, as well as other individuals who have been sued for publishing true but unflattering statements. His primary practice is in commercial litigation.

Vernellia Ruth Randall, emeritus professor of law, University of Dayton
Vernellia Ruth Randall is an emeritus professor of law at the University of Dayton, and founder of Racial Justice Now! She taught for 24 years at the University of Dayton, and directed the academic support program for 10 years. Professor Randall has published widely, and is a recipient of the Chairman’s Award from the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and has been honored by a Commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives. Racial Justice Now! is currently conducting a state and local campaign to end school push-outs.

William Paul Reynolds, former correctional officer, Lake Erie Correctional Institution
William Paul Reynolds experienced first-hand the effects of prison privatization at Lake Erie Correctional Institution during its transition to a privately owned facility. Inspired by his parents, who were both officers with the city of Columbus, Mr. Reynolds earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2001. He was inducted into the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society, completed an internship with the City of Richmond Police Department, and is an alumnus of Delta Chi Fraternity.

Beth W. Root, president, Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio
Beth W. Root serves as judge for the Fairborn Municipal County Court and is the current president of the Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio. She contributed to the Supreme Court of Ohio’s benchcard on the collection of fines and costs. She has also presented on the topic of collection of fines and costs at the Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio summer conference.

Jocelyn Rosnick, policy researcher and staff attorney, ACLU of Ohio
Jocelyn Rosnick’s work focuses primarily on criminal justice issues. For the past two years, she has investigated debtors’ prison practices throughout Ohio by sending public records requests and analyzing the data, engaging in court watching, and interviewing debtors’ prison victims. In April 2013, Ms. Rosnick co-authored the ACLU of Ohio report Outskirts of Hope, which details debtors’ prison practices across the state of Ohio and highlights personal stories of those whose lives have been affected by these unconstitutional practices.

Julia A. Shearson, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations Cleveland Chapter
Julia A. Shearson has been serving for the past ten years as the executive director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). She has fought against excessive government secrecy, unwarranted surveillance, and other abridgements of civil liberties. Before joining CAIR, Shearson taught for 10 years, and has traveled extensively in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East. She received her BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia, a Master’s in Linguistics from Ohio University, and a Master’s in Middle East Studies from Harvard University.

Helena Stephenson, disability rights advocate
Helena Stephenson, a restraint and seclusion survivor, is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: Restraint and Seclusion in America’s Schools. As a disability rights advocate, Ms. Stephenson has testified before Congress, has appeared in numerous media outlets, and has spoken at conferences across the country.

Michael Uth, board member, ACLU of Ohio
Michael Uth is an attorney, ethicist, civic activist and board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. He is also a volunteer speaker for the ACLU of Ohio on the subject of drug policy and is passionately committed to its reform based on reason, science, compassion, and respect for human rights. A graduate of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Uth has practiced law in various capacities since 1979. He currently serves as corporate compliance and ethics officer for The Progressive Corporation.

Kevin Werner, executive director, Ohioans to Stop Executions
Kevin Werner is a leading expert on the administration and implementation of Ohio’s death penalty system. His non-profit education and advocacy organization, Ohioans to Stop Executions, is at the forefront of efforts to reform Ohio’s death penalty system.