Staff Profiles

Executive Director

 

Ben Guess

J. Bennett Guess
executive director
pronouns: he/him/his

 

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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.”

12 Things to Know About Ben Guess.

Administrative

 

Ann Rowlett

Ann Rowlett
deputy director
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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“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.

 

James Kosmatka

James Kosmatka
executive associate
pronouns: he/him/his

 

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James Kosmatka came to the ACLU of Ohio by way of nonprofit management. His background is in theatre and he continues to work as an audio artist. He previously served as Assistant General Manager at Cleveland Public Theatre, Assistant to the Director of the Cleveland State University Department of Theatre, and Assistant to the Chair of the CSU School of Social Work.

He believes that the ACLU is an insurance policy for America’s future, working hard today to create a better tomorrow.

 

Keely Buckley

Keely Buckley
program associate
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Beginning with her sorority’s efforts to raise money for a local Domestic Violence shelter, Keely saw the need and benefits there were to supporting local nonprofits. From there, she sparked a passion for community involvement and developed a desire to work in the non-profit sector. Keely is an eternal optimist and believes that through education and dedication, the ACLU of Ohio’s work can be accomplished.

In her role as Program Associate, Keely coordinates the front desk in our Columbus office, assists the development team, and helps organize our programming events. Keely also manages the Speakers’ Bureau, a program designed to send our team of staff and volunteers to give presentations, lead discussions and sit on panels across the state to educate and uplift civil liberties issues.

Keely graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and minors in Non-Profit Studies and History from The Ohio State University. She is also an ambassador for Organ Donation through Lifeline of Ohio. In her free time, Keely can be found listening to podcasts and knitting, watching Jeopardy, or attempting to rollerblade down the Olentangy Bike Trail.

Technology & Communications

 

Celina Coming

Celina Coming
communications manager
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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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.

 

Dan Rogan

Dan Rogan
communications associate
pronouns: he/him/his

 

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In high school Dan marched in an anti-war protest on the mall in Washington D.C. It is here, with his Grandmother, Mother, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, that Dan first understood the importance of activism. With a constant eye on the mistreatment of the marginalized, Dan is always quick to call-out injustice when he sees it.

A graduate of Cleveland State University’s College of Urban Affairs, Dan earned a BA in Non-profit Administration. While interning in the ACLU of Ohio’s development department in 2015, he earned the George S. Dively Prize from CSU for outstanding performance as a community intern. Dan has worn many hats at the ACLU of Ohio, working on print and digital media, web design, messaging, storytelling, and donor relations.

He is dedicated to the mission of the ACLU, and feels that defending civil liberties has no place for partisan politics. One of Dan’s favorite quotes is from activist and revolutionary Fred Hampton. “You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot kill a revolution.”

Development

 

Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller
interim development director, technology director
pronouns: he/him/his

 

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Jeff follows in the footsteps of his great-great grandfather, “General” Jacob S. 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 draws inspiration from the activism of Gandhi, Jesus, and Martin Luther King.

Jeff considers freedom of speech one of the most important civil liberties, as this allows a person to advocate not only for themselves, but also for others. He is also passionate about inequities in the criminal justice system; because of race, many people are harmed before they enter it, while they are in it, and after they leave it. This harm begins with disparities in arrest rates, and continues with selective prosecution, 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 is the technology director of the ACLU of Ohio, and is also currently serving as our interim development director. In his technology role he provides support and training for staff and volunteers in the Cleveland and Columbus offices on matters of computers, software, security, and online presence. In his development role, Jeff coordinates the activities of the department in its relationships with donors, members, and activists, and oversees the use of our database, providing analysis and reporting. Jeff worked on the development of the ACLU of Ohio’s strategic plan, has led meetings with legislators, and has crafted web and other messaging for volunteer advocates. 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 everyone interested in civil liberties.

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 with others to make this world a better place.

 

Emily Korona-Luscher

Emily Korona-Luscher
devlopment officer
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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As a graduate of a public Montessori school, the ideals of equality and social justice were instilled in Emily Korona-Luscher from an early age. Those ideals became a passion through her education as a Cultural Anthropologist. Emily is thrilled to have found her place as Development Officer at the ACLU where she can spend every day working with ACLU supporters to protect and expand civil liberties in Ohio.

Emily received her B.A. from State University of New York, New Paltz in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies, and a M.A. from State University of New York, University at Buffalo in Cultural Anthropology. Prior to joining the ACLU, Emily worked at a refugee resettlement agency in Buffalo, NY, and at University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH. She is a current member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

When not at the ACLU, Emily enjoys reading and spending time with her daughter.

 

Ann Ruege

Ann Ruege
development officer
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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The ACLU is a perfect fit for Ann because growing up in southeastern Ohio, she realized the importance of economic justice at an early age. She was raised with a guiding principle that each person in our society deserves dignity and fairness.

Ann is a proud graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in English. Prior to joining the ACLU, Ann worked for several years in corporate sales and training, however Ann was inspired to turn her activism into a career by her friend, Adrienne Gavula. As Development Officer, she is focused on community engagement, donor cultivation, and overall departmental leadership.

Ann has earned her Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership certifications from Toastmasters International, and previously held the offices of President and Vice President of Public Relations of the City of Columbus chapter. She is also a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Ann spends her free time volunteering in the Columbus community, spending time with her dog, and learning to play the drums.

 

Alice Hirsh

Alice Hirsh
development associate
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Alice discovered her passion for halting injustice through doing social actions and organizing fundraisers with her high-school youth group. She believes that together we can create a society where everyone is treated with dignity. Alice is thrilled to be a part of making wide-reaching strides towards equality and justice with the ACLU of Ohio. At local Columbus organizations Alice has written and reported on grants, planned events, and overseen donor stewardship. She loves talking with supporters at every level and sharing the impact they are having on their neighbors. At the ACLU of Ohio Alice manages our donor database and keeps the Development Department running smoothly.

Before Alice fell in love with development work she graduated from The Ohio State University. She majored in International Studies and Economics because she is fascinated by other cultures and the way government policy can impact the economy and subsequently, a family’s quality of life.

While not at work Alice uses her development experience in volunteering at the Worthington Resource Pantry and has taught U.S. government and history to immigrants going through the naturalization process. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and spends far too much of her free time binge-watching Netflix.

Legal

 

Freda J. Levenson

Freda J. Levenson
legal director
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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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.

 

Elizabeth Bonham

Elizabeth Bonham
staff attorney
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Elizabeth loves civil rights litigation. As Staff Attorney, she plans and litigates impact cases, manages our student law clerk program, and works with our policy and legislative teams on long-term advocacy campaigns. Since joining the ACLU of Ohio she has been involved in litigating major cases including defending voting rights in APRI v. Husted and protestor rights in Abdur-Rahim v. Columbus. Her current work focuses on ending mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty and working to abolish the prison industrial complex.

Elizabeth received her B.A. from Warren Wilson College in 2011. She graduated magna cum laude from Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2015 as the Dean’s Learn Law, Live Justice scholar. She was selected as her 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. She serves on the boards of the New Agrarian Center, The Fair Housing Center, and LegalWorks Clinic, and is a proud member of the National Lawyers Guild. She is part-time faculty at Cleveland State University.

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.

Publications:

Our moment in history: Protesting and Censorship, Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly Winter 2018 (page 20)

Who is a Nuisance? Criminal Activity Nuisances Ordinances in Ohio, November 2017

 

Emma Keeshin

Emma Keeshin
legal assistant
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Since she was young Emma has had a strong sense of fairness and what is right. It first manifested when she forced her family to recycle and would argue with her parents about why kids can’t do whatever they want. Luckily, her understanding of inequality and justice has evolved a bit.

Emma is now grateful to be at the ACLU, which she has long admired for its bold stances on issues that matter. As legal assistant, Emma handles fact investigations, plaintiff searches, and the intake process for the legal department. She also contributes to policy work around policing, including tracking progress in the Cleveland consent decree. She is particularly interested in criminal and racial justice issues including the school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile justice, and mass incarceration.

Emma studied Politics and Law & Society at Oberlin College. She also taught and tutored in the Oberlin public schools, and led a student group for aspiring educators that explored issues like school privatization and discriminatory discipline practices. It was largely through this work that Emma came to understand the nature of structural inequality and how to speak out against it. Accordingly, Emma brings with her a strong appreciation for educators and community organizing. She also has experience as a mediator.

Emma hails from Vermont but is loving her new home in Cleveland.

Policy

 

 

Jocelyn Rosnick

Jocelyn Rosnick
acting policy director
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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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.

 

Gary Daniels

Gary Daniels
chief lobbyist
pronouns: he/him/his

 

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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 nearly 20 years, from 1995-2000 and 2003-present. Before becoming chief lobbyist, he worked for the ACLU of Ohio in the positions of associate director, litigation coordinator, and legal assistant.

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 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. 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.

 

Caitlin Hill

Caitlin Hill
policy counsel
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Caitlin Hill is an attorney acting as policy counsel. She primarily focuses on supporting the ACLU’s statewide criminal justice and racial justice campaigns through her work on pretrial reform and bail reform. She believes that the current justice system would be better styled as the “injustice” system given its tendency to prey upon low income individuals, dole out harsh punishments for low-level crimes, and its willingness to put up with racial profiling at every level of the system.

Prior to joining the ACLU of Ohio, Caitlin served for two years as a judicial attorney for the Honorable Melody J. Stewart at the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.

Caitlin has several publications on Cleveland.com, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Columbus Dispatch, and on the ACLU of Ohio website.

 

Sri Thakkilapati

Sri Thakkilapati, PhD
policy researcher
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Sri Devi Thakkilapati is a sociologist and policy researcher at the ACLU of Ohio. Sri strives to advance social policies that support the vulnerable among us and dismantle those that enrich the powerful. Her research at the ACLU focuses on analyzing how racial and economic inequities are perpetuated by Ohio’s mayor’s court system. Sri approaches her work at the ACLU with the conviction that thoughtful and meticulous research is fundamental to the goals of achieving justice.

Before coming to the ACLU, Sri completed a doctorate in sociology at the Ohio State University. This work taught her that something can be simultaneously grueling and fun. In addition to her academic work, Sri has developed policy with non-profit organizations in the US and in India that promote gender, race, and class equity. Sri’s academic training and sociological perspective inform her research and advocacy efforts.

 

Ashley Braxton

Ashley Braxton
policy strategist
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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Ashley Braxton is committed to cultivating a future in which Black people are free. She believes that all oppression is intersected and that none of us is free until all of us are free.

Ashley graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in 2012, and from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2016. She has been a participant in the Columbus activist community since 2015 as a legal observer with the National Lawyers’ Guild. Her experience includes a legal internship with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, canvassing with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and freelance research for various attorneys in the Columbus community.

She enjoys reading, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, writing, and ceramics in her spare time.

 

Melekte Melaku

Melekte Melaku
policy associate
pronouns: she/her/hers

 

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We do not live in isolation. The health of one community interacts with the pulse of another, an interdependent web of relationships fostered between the people and the public sphere. When structures exist, perpetuating and enforcing exclusion of marginalized identities, we are obligated to subvert them. ACLU’s historic legacy blossomed from the community to the nation, catering to the democratic health at the pulse of America’s future.

She believes any pursuit of justice begins by cultivating deep connections to the people directly impacted, coupled to advocacy and potential for policy change. After graduating from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Melekte devoted a year serving with the educational non-profit CityYear. There she provided individual and group coursework interventions, socio-emotional coaching, and coordinated programming for a multidisciplinary arts after-school curriculum. She developed a school-wide attendance awareness initiative with school administration contributing to the rise of average daily attendance by over 10% by end of year. She also has extensive experience canvassing and organizing on behalf of issues related to environmental justice, mass incarceration, voter rights, and access to quality education.