Society of Benchers 2020 Inductees

Photo of the 2019 Society of Benchers induction ceremony

Every year, Case Western Reserve University School of Law honors the achievements of distinguished alumni, faculty and prominent members of the legal community by inducting new members to the Society of Benchers – the law school’s Hall of Fame. 

Established in 1962, the Society of Benchers inducts new members on the basis of extraordinary achievement and dedication to the highest principles of the legal profession, as voted on by their peers.

This year, we celebrate 11 new members of the Society of Benchers.

Nan Aron

Nan Aron is the founder and president of Alliance for Justice (AFJ), the leading progressive advocacy organization on justice issues since its inception in 1979. Under Nan’s leadership, AFJ has grown to become a national association of more than 130 groups representing a variety of progressive constituencies. At present, AFJ comprises two main programs, the Justice Program and the Bolder Advocacy initiative.Nan’s guidance of AFJ has spanned administrations and Congresses led by both parties. Two of AFJ’s earliest, high-profile engagements in Supreme Court nominations came with the successful defeat of Robert Bork in 1987, and the contentious battle over Clarence Thomas’s nomination in 1991.

Nan was instrumental in bringing Anita Hill’s reports of sexual harassment by Thomas to the attention of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which subsequently called Hill to testify.

Nan continues to ensure that one of the highest priorities of AFJ’s Justice Program is to help create and sustain a fair-minded, highly qualified federal judiciary that reflects the diversity of the legal profession and the American people. Her extensive knowledge of the federal judicial nominations process has made AFJ a leader in identifying and recruiting many outstanding candidates for federal judgeships over the years. Nan’s vision for the future of AFJ encompasses an even more robust recruitment program, to counter the influence of ultraconservative special interests that are focused on pushing the courts to the right.

Recently, Nan has led AFJ as it rises to multiple challenges created by the Trump Administration and its aggressive strategy to pack the courts with judges from the far-right fringes of the ideological spectrum. AFJ is recognized as the foremost progressive organization providing research and resources on federal judicial nominees, and Nan is a sought-after thought leader and commentator who has appeared in multiple media outlets online, in print and in broadcast. AFJ is proud to work in partnership with national and regional progressive advocacy organizations to oppose –and defeat –unqualified and unsuitable judicial nominees.

Nan’s strong belief in the importance of building capacity across the progressive nonprofit spectrum is reflected in her creation of AFJ’s thriving Bolder Advocacy program. Bolder Advocacy is dedicated to the principle that nonprofits can and must play an activerole in advocating for their causes within our democratic system. The program has helped thousands of nonprofits and foundations understand the IRS and FEC rules governing lobbying and advocacy. Nan has led this unique and valuable program as it has expanded and opened additional offices in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

Prior to founding Alliance for Justice, Nan was a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, where she challenged conditions in state prison systems through lawsuits in federal and state courts. As a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she litigated race and sex discrimination cases against companies and unions in federal and district courts. She holds a BA from Oberlin College and a JD from Case Western Reserve.

John Duff Brown

John Duff Brown is a retired partner from the Cleveland office of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. Prior to that time he was a partner in the firm of Kelley, McCann & Livingstone LLP, which merged with TAFT in January of 2001. He was AV PeerReview Rated (LexisNexis/Martindale-Hubbell) and he practiced environmental law, administrative and public law, zoning and real estate law and trial and appellate litigation at all levels, both state and federal.

John received his BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1966 and his Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University Law School in 1969. He is proud to say that his father, William H. Brown, graduated with an LLB from the very same building on Adelbert 1938, at what was then the Western Reserve University Law School.  He is also proud to say that the fine faculty which Dean Louis A. Toepfer first put together in 1966 provided a quality of legal education, personal interaction and sage advice that enabled John to confidently take the somewhat unique step of starting his practice of law as a sole practitioner. This enabled John to be able to pursue his passion of environmental law, where he advocated and litigated early generation environmental cases for national, state and local environmental organizations.

John is appreciative for the visionary leadership of Fred Wiseman, President of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association, under which John was the founder and first chairman of the Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee, which assisted then State Senator Ralph Regula as he was creating the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in 1972. John was appointed as an OEPA hearing examiner by the Ohio Attorney General to hear adjudication matters before the new agency. Environmental law from the early 1970’s became evermore regulatory and much of John’s practice thereon involved advocacy before various agencies, including the OEPA, The Environmental Board of Review and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also represented the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste Management District in their early recycling efforts.

John was able to advance his environmental practice by melding it with his administrative and municipal law expertise. John’s 36-year tenure as the Law Director for the Village of Glenwillow utilized such hybrid abilities, thereby helping the Village to navigate through great and innovative change, both environmentally and economically. The close and trusting relationship he enjoyed with the leadership and citizens in helping to guide the Village was awarded in 2010by the Village naming its much-used multipurpose trail in his honor. 

John resides in Lakewood, Ohio, and spends much of his time and resources involved in the conservation of natural resources. He enjoys world travel, outdoor sports and visiting his children and grandchildren in Phoenix, Arizona, and Charleston, South Carolina. John is committed to continuing to support the Professor Lew Katz Scholarship Endowment and the law school. He expresses great appreciation for the priceless relationships with classmates and faculty that were forged in law school over 50 years ago. John is committed to honoring those relationships and keeping them intact and alive.


JusticeRebecca Frank Dallet

Justice Rebecca Frank Dallet was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2018. Before joining the Supreme Court, she was elected as a judge to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2008 and was re-elected in 2014. Prior to being elected to the judiciary, Justice Dallet served as a state and federal prosecutor from 1996-2007. She was appointed the first female presiding court commissioner for Milwaukee County in 2007.

Justice Dallet taught trial advocacy as an adjunct law professor at Marquette University Law School from 2005-2008 and was an associate dean to the Wisconsin Judicial College from 2015-2018. Immediately after law school, she clerked for U.S. Magistrate Aaron Goodstein in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

A native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Justice Dalletreceived her B.A. summa cum laude with honors from The Ohio State University in 1991 and her J.D. summa cum laude from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1994. She was a contributing editor of Case Western Reserve Law Review. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and The Order of the Coif. Justice Dallet currently serves as the chair of the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission and the Judicial Education Committee and was a recent board member for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and Association of Women Lawyers. She served as a longtime youth leader for Congregation Shalom. Justice Dallet and her husband Brad ('94) have three daughters.

Rhonda Smith Ferguson

Rhonda S. Ferguson is Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer at UnionPacific (NYSE: UNP), Fortune 130, and one of America’s most recognized companies, connecting 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail, providing a critical link in the global supply chain.

Ms. Ferguson is a member of Union Pacific’s executive committee, comprising the senior-most company leaders who establish policy and strategy. Ms. Ferguson reports to the Chairman and CEO, and oversees all aspects of the company’s legal affairs including commercial transactions and litigation, regulatory matters, labor and employment.

Ms. Ferguson also leads the company’s compliance and ethics program, and risk management initiatives. Prior to joining Union Pacific, Ms. Ferguson served as Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Ethics Officer of FirstEnergy Corp., a $15B Fortune 200, diversified energy company, and a member of the Leadership Council since 2007. In this role, Ms. Ferguson led the Corporate, Real Estate and Information Compliance departments and was the primary liaison to the Board of Directors.

Prior to 2007, Ms. Ferguson was Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Secretary for Ferro Corporation, a publicly-traded international chemical manufacturing company. From 1997 to 2003, Ms. Ferguson practiced at national law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP, where she was a Litigation Partner. Ms. Ferguson has been active in the community as a board member of United Way of Greater Cleveland; Advisory Committee for the Knight Foundation; Achievement Centers for Children, Hathaway Brown School, Northwestern University Alumni Association; the Association of Corporate Counsel; Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals; Case Western Reserve University Corporate Visiting Committee; and Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

Ms. Ferguson received her J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University.

Ayesha Bell Hardaway

Ayesha Bell Hardaway is an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the Director of the Criminal Clinic in the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic.

As a member of the faculty, Hardaway has taught as a clinician in the areas of health law, civil litigation and criminal justice. Her research and scholarship interests include the intersection of race and the law, constitutional law, criminal law, policing and civil litigation.

Prior to joining the law school faculty, Hardaway practiced in the Litigation Department of Tucker Ellis LLP. Her six years at the firm were devoted to defending major electrical, automotive and pharmaceutical manufacturers during all phases of litigation as trial counsel and National Coordinating Counsel. Hardaway represented those clients in state and federal courts throughout the country.

Before her time at Tucker Ellis, Hardaway was an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Cuyahoga County and handled a variety of criminal matters, including juvenile delinquencies and general felonies. Hardaway serves as the Deputy Monitor on the Independent Monitoring Team appointed to evaluate police reforms implemented by the Cleveland Police Department under a federal consent decree

James T. Lang

Jim Lang was the “Student of the Year” when he graduated from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1989. He is now a shareholder and the Chief Operating Officer of the 40 attorney Pender & Coward law firm, headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Jim also leads the four-attorney Waterfront Property Law Practice Group at the firm. During the time between law school graduation in 1989, and of the start of private practice, Jim completed a 25-year career in the U.S. Navy, earned an LL.M. in environmental law (with honors) from George Washington University School of Law, and served as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia.

Highlights of his service as a Navy JAG include negotiating the insurance coverage that cleared the way for a private group of antique aircraft enthusiasts in 1992 to launch a vintage B-25 bomber off of an active U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the Pacific Fleet, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, the first air operation to strike Japan during World War II. During a tour as an admiralty attorney, Jim was recognized by the Secretary of the Navy and others for recovering record-setting amounts of money to reimburse the Navy for damages arising from collisions involving destroyers, cruisers and, in one instance, a special warfare vessel. In another assignment he was second in command of the Navy legal office in Washington DC during the court-martial proceedings involving a defendant who was selected for promotion to the rank of admiral, making this defendant the highest-ranking officer to be tried for a criminal offense since World War II, a case that caused a sensation in the national media.

Jim served as the Environmental Counsel to the four-star admiral who commanded the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. There, he was a key player in developing the first-ever policy document addressing environmental compliance for U.S. Navy warships operating at-sea. Jim also led the Navy/DOJ team that designed and implemented the environmental legal strategy for re-opening the Navy’s bombing range in Puerto Rico after President Clinton allowed it to be closed following occupation by protestors. Reopening of the bombing range triggered a wave of environmental citizen-suit litigation designed to block training exercises that were essential to military preparedness in President Bush’s War on Terror. The Navy/DOJ litigation team persuaded four different federal courts, between 2000 and 2002, to reject twenty legal challenges, clearing the way for uninterrupted use of the bombing range to prepare hundreds of Navy ships and aircraft, and tens of thousands of military personnel, for wartime duty.

Since moving to the private sector in 2003, Jim established a legal practice in Virginia that combines environmental law, admiralty law and riparian property rights to serve the needs of waterfront property owners and those who operate on the water. A published author whose numerous articles cover a variety of waterfront law topics, Jim is also a frequent guest speaker at legal and business conferences and seminars on environmental law issues.

Jim encourages the law firm to join with nonprofit partners to carry out service activities that benefit the community and have resulted in the law firm receiving numerous awards. For the last eight years, Jim and his wife, Susan, have mentored two at-risk youth through a social services program, one of whom is about to graduate from high school.

In 2017 Jim was inducted into the “Hall of Fame” at the high school in California from which he graduated in 1976 and in 2017 was also recognized by Virginia Lawyers Weekly as a “Leader in the Law”.

James Levin

James Levin is an experienced criminal defense attorney with trial experience in cases ranging from Aggravated Murder to misdemeanors. He has practiced in every court in Cuyahoga County, from the 6th district federal court to every mayor’s court and municipal court in Northeast Ohio.

In 2014 he launched LegalWorks, with the Famicos Foundation, to provide services to the indigent focusing on the removal of obstructions that block someone’s ability to move forward in life. In the area of civil rights, he has successfully represented the American Indian Movement, the Northeast Ohio Greens, Cleveland Homeless Coalition and plaintiffs in police brutality cases.

Outside the courtroom he has served many roles: Community Activist, Festival Director, Stage Director and Producer, Professor, Playwright, Lyricist, and Impresario. James founded and then directed Cleveland Public Theatre in 1981, the Gordon Square Arts District in 2004, the Ingenuity Festival in 2005, Cleveland World Festival in 2013 and Lorain’s FireFish Festival in 2015. He served as a professor and director of the center for entrepreneurship at the College of Wooster from 2009 to 2012.

Hon. Benita Y. Pearson

Judge Pearson was appointed to serve as United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio by President Barack Obama on December 27, 2010, making her the first African American female to serve as a United States District Judge in the State of Ohio.

Prior to her appointment as District Judge, Judge Pearson served the Northern District of Ohio as a Magistrate Judge following her appointment on August 29, 2008. Judge Pearson’s service as a judicial officer was preceded by an eight-year tenure as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, litigation in private practice, and service as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable John M. Manos. As an Assistant United States Attorney, Judge Pearson distinguished herself while prosecuting several high-profile cases, including United States v. Emmanuel Onunwor (prosecution of former sitting mayor of City of East Cleveland, Ohio, 2004), United States v. Nate Gray (prosecution of several public officials, including Chief of Staff and Director of Building Services, City of Houston, 2005), United States v. Norman Gore (prosecution of former supervisor, City of Cleveland, Water Division, 2005), United States v. Terrence Gasper (prosecution of former Chief Financial Officer, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, 2006), and United States v. Mark Lay (prosecution of an investment advisor whose fraudulent activities caused the loss of over $200 million dollars held in trust for injured Ohio workers, 2007).

Judge Pearson earned her Juris Doctorate at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. At her alma mater, she has taught Animal Law and Advanced Brief Writing. Prior to earning a law degree, Judge Pearson worked as an accountant and remains a certified public accountant for the state of Ohio.

Judge Pearson’s professional and community activities have included serving on the Boards of Trustees for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation, and the Eliza Bryant Village. She is President and founding member of the newly formed Nathaniel R. Jones Inn of Court. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Judge Pearson graduated from Hathaway Brown School, Cum Laude, and Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

Suzanne E. Walsh

Suzanne Elise Walsh, MSSA 1994, JD 1997, was appointed president of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina—the 19th president for the historically black, women’s only private college. An education innovator who began her new position on August 1, Walsh formerly held leadership roles with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and The Heinz Endowments.

She got her start in community college working as the Coordinator of Special Projects at Cuyahoga Community College.

“Bennett College sought a new president to embrace and champion innovative ideas that ensure our long-term viability. We were committed to having an exceptional leader in place when our students returned for the 2019-2020 academic year,” said Dr. Gladys A. Robinson, chair of the Bennett College Board of Trustees. “Suzanne Walsh has the experience, passion, fundraising expertise and personal qualities that will ensure she is embraced by our students, faculty, staff, alumnae and community."

Walsh earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Cornell University and her associate’s degree in human services from Hudson Valley Community College. She received her Master of Science in Social Administration from the Mandel School in 1994 and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1997. Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte awarded her an honorary doctorate when she spoke at the school's commencement in 2017.

In January 2019, she was named to the board of the Trellis Foundation, a Texas foundation that focuses on improving education attainment for low-to moderate-income students. Walsh is also a board member of Carey Institute for Global Good, the Harwood Institute, Global Learning Council and the advisory board for Roadtrip Nation. Additionally, she is a proud judge for Dance Your PhD.

Walsh is a member of the Ohio Bar, and has received national recognition for her portfolio of work with organizations at the intersection of innovation, technology and learning. At Lumina, she worked on an initiative to make college more affordable. At the Gates Foundation, where she was a deputy director of Postsecondary Success, she led the foundation's efforts in institutional transformation strategies, Completion by Design and was integrally involved in the viability and sustainability of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) in the current postsecondary education environment.

Education leaders who have worked with Walsh over the past 20 years express strong praise for her work and thoughtful leadership. Daniel Greenstein, Chancellor of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and former director of the Postsecondary Success Strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, credited her ability to create and work with cross-functional teams as a key driver in affecting flexible, personalized and affordable approaches to higher education.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Suzanne Walsh on a number of initiatives related to the viability and sustainability of HBCUs in the current education environment,” said Dr. James A. Anderson, former Chancellor of Fayetteville State University. “I am deeply impressed with her ability to analyze complex situations, develop innovative action plans to address challenges and motivate teams to work closely together.”

Kevin Young

Kevin Young has more than 30 years of experience defending clients in complex insurance coverage cases, class actions, product liability defense, and contract disputes. As Tucker Ellis Insurance Group Chair, Kevin leads an active practice representing both large and small companies in extra-contractual matters and coverage issues.

He has successfully resolved a myriad of coverage cases arising from issues such as the interpretation of commercial general liability policies, director and officer policies, professional liability policies, employment practices liability and errors and omissions policies, as well as various specialty policies, including malicious product tampering/accidental product contamination, kidnap and ransom, and non-trucking liability.

Also experienced in defending class actions, Kevin has successfully resolved suits involving insurance issues and numerous claims arising from allegations of defective product manufacture. He has litigated construction and business contract claims involving Cleveland’s sports stadiums and schools, as well as other public and private construction projects. Kevin also has tried or resolved a host of commercial contract issues, including his high-profile role in coordinating and managing the defense of more than 90 lawsuits arising from a concrete terrace collapse in Ohio.

Kevin has tried many cases to verdict, arbitrated numerous disputes, and successfully participated in other alternative dispute mechanisms that help our clients reach favorable resolution.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Kevin has lived and worked in Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Cleveland, Ohio. His practice has taken him to an international arbitration in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as coast to coast across the United States, including Ohio, California, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and New York.

A regular faculty member at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Kevin instructs and lectures on topics including the taking and defending of depositions and general trial skills. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Case Western Reserve School of Law where his courses have included trial tactics and client counseling and representation. Ranked in Chambers USA 2019 in Litigation: General Commercial (Ohio), Kevin is described as "extremely knowledgeable and has a great way of explaining complex issues in layman’s terms."

William Talley has been a public defender in Massachusetts for nearly 20 years. He started his legal career in the Boston Office of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) as a staff attorney. He worked in that capacity until he went to work as a clinical teacher at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. During his tenure at Harvard, Mr. Talley helped author a book on police misconduct, Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities. Mr. Talley then returned to the CPCS as a supervising attorney in the Fall River Superior & District Court Office.