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 12 new members of the Society of Benchers.
Alumni Member Justin M. Bibb is the 58th Mayor of Cleveland, working to improve public safety, invest in neighborhoods and modernize City Hall. On January 3, 2022, Mayor Bibb took the oath of office as the city's first millennial mayor.
Mayor Bibb was born and raised on Cleveland's southeast side in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Over the past 15 years, Mayor Bibb has worked in government, business and the nonprofit sector as an executive and nonprofit leader. He started his career in public service working for President Obama when he was in the U.S. Senate and later at Cuyahoga County as a Special Assistant advising on education and economic development policies. He led the Global Cities Practice at global research firm Gallup, served as Vice President at KeyBank, and most recently as Chief Strategy Officer at Urbanova, a startup focused on improving cities.
Mayor Bibb is a proud American University alumnus with an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies. He completed the General Course Programme with an emphasis in Social Policy and Economics from the London School of Economics and is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Doctor of Law (JD).
Mayor Bibb serves as an Advisory Board Member for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is the Vice Chair for Climate & Resilience on the Environment Committee. Mayor Bibb's vision for Cleveland is to become a national model for city management, police reform and neighborhood revitalization.
Nancy Canary is a 1963 Flora Stone Mather College alumna with a BA in Psychology and her JD from Cleveland-Marshall School of Law of Cleveland State University. She joined McDonald, Hopkins & Hardy in Cleveland in 1968, where she practiced in the estate planning field for two decades. In 1986, at the request of Thompson, Hine & Flory, Nancy established a branch office in Palm Beach, Florida. As Managing Partner of the office, she practiced estate planning, during which time she represented several European clients including residents of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Lithuania. She continues her Florida practice currently as a sole practitioner.
In 1979, Mrs. Canary established the Sumner Canary Memorial Lectureship program at Case Western Reserve University School of Law to honor the work and memory of her late husband, Judge Summer Canary. Mrs. Canary's tireless efforts and devotion have allowed for the growth and sustained success of the Canary Lecture. The lectureship program has featured numerous federal judges, scholars, academics and six sitting or future United States Supreme Court Justices.
Nancy Canary maintains residence in Lakewood, Ohio and Delray Beach, Florida. She continues to offer tremendous support to Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the Canary lectureship program.
David is the Senior Partner of Elk + Elk in Cleveland, Ohio. As an Ohio personal injury lawyer, he has represented thousands of medical malpractice, wrongful death and injury victims throughout the state for over 57 years. He has devoted his entire professional life to helping injured people receive the compensation they deserve.
David began his professional career with one of the largest and most prestigious personal injury law firms in Ohio and spent his first seven years under the wing of Ohio's best. After practicing on his own for several years, his entrepreneurial spirit got the better of him. He ventured into practice with his brother Art and built geographically one of the largest injury practices in Ohio. He believes that quality legal representation allows all people to level the playing field against the big insurance companies.
David has received the following honors and awards: Million Dollar Advocate, Multi-Million Dollar Advocate, Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating -4.9/5.0 AVI Preeminent and Who's Who Top 10 Members in Law. His professional associations and memberships include: The Ohio, Summit, Lake and Cuyahoga County Trial Lawyers Associations, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), The Ohio State Bar Association and American Association for Justice (AAJ).
When David isn't representing the rights of injury victims, he spends his time as an active husband to his wife, Marilyn, father to three children, and grandfather to Meredith, Madison, Celia, Dylan and Skye. David is also a lifelong Cleveland baseball fan and frequently attends games with family and friends.
Jonathan Gordon is a Professor of Lawyering Skills and the Director of the law school's SJD Program. He spent several years in private practice and as a trial attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prior to joining the full-time faculty in
1989. Since then, Jonathan has taught Legal Analysis and Writing to thousands of JD and international LLM students, including most recently to Chinese students at Southwest University of Politics and Law (SWUPL) in Chongqing, China. He also teaches Professional Responsibility to ID, LLM and SJD students. Over the years, he has taught other courses such as Conflicts Resolution, Lawyering Process and Pretrial Practice. He spent the '02-03 academic year in Chicago as a Visiting Associate Professor of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University's School of Law. While administering the SJD Program, he leads several graduate research seminars for students pursuing an SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science), a research-focused degree which is comparable to a PhD. Working together with their faculty advisors, Jonathan guides students over several years in writing and ultimately defending their dissertations.
He has been one of the longest-serving faculty mentors in the university's Provost Scholars Program, a mentoring program for teenagers primarily from neighboring East Cleveland, Jonathan was one of the co-founders of the law school's summer program, now known as the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy, for Northeast Ohio minority high school students who are interested in law. A member of the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors, he has been active in the broader legal writing and global legal skills community. He recently served as a co-chair of the LWI's Global Legal Writing Skills Committee and as a member of the Leadership and Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Global Engagement.
Students recognized Jonathan in 2003, when he became the first Lawyering Skills Professor to be awarded "First Year Professor of the Year." In 2018, he was also the first recipient of the "LLM Teacher of the Year" award, which he received again in 2019. Last year, the Law Alumni Association selected Gordon as the recipient of the "2021 Distinguished Teacher Award," which recognizes "a member of the faculty whose commitment to education and pursuit of knowledge has enriched the personal and professional lives of students."
Professor Gordon received his Juris Doctorate from Columbia University in 1985 and his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College in 1981.
Mark Griffin is the Law Director and Chief Legal Counsel of the City of Cleveland. As Law Director he provides legal advice to Mayor Bibb and to Cleveland City Council. His office of 80 lawyers prosecutes crimes, defends the City in civil litigation, drafts contracts, represents Cleveland Hopkins Airport, advises Cleveland Public Power and helps oversee local tax collections.
Mark previously served for nearly seven years as the Chief Ethics Officer and Inspector General for Cuyahoga County where he and his agency investigated public corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. Under his leadership, Cuyahoga County became a frequent case study for international delegations sponsored by the U.S. State Department, which serves as an example of American responses to public corruption. He was named Citizen Diplomat of the Year by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. Prior to his public service, Griffin designed and organized local and state voter protection programs and was honored jointly as the Ohio Democrat of the Year for his efforts to assure that every vote is counted.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa, he was the first American volunteer in the traditional kingdom of Rey Bouba. He organized women's economic development cooperatives, built schools and led health education initiatives.
Mark is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and holds a master's in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He earned his law degree from Case Western Reserve School of Law where he was summa cum laude and a law review editor. He won a silver medal at the 1986 U.S. National Fencing Championship and represented the U.S. at the 1983 U-20 World Fencing Championships.
Marie received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, her JD from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and her Master's in Organization Development and Analysis from Weatherhead School of Business at CWRU.
After graduating from Duke, Marie moved to the Boston area and taught elementary school while tutoring at-risk children in South Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. While living in Boston, she marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. to protest the city's segregated schools. After spending several years in Boston, Marie moved to the Greater Cleveland area and continued to teach elementary school in Cleveland's inner-city neighborhoods. Disenchanted by the school system's bureaucracy, Marie concluded that as a teacher, she would not be able to make a significant impact on the problems facing her students and their parents. Marie thought that a law school education would give her the necessary tools to be an agent for change. In 1968, Marie was one of six female students enrolled in CWRU's first year law class, part of the first wave of women to seek careers in law.
Marie graduated from law school in 1971 and began working as an associate at Jones Day law firm in Cleveland. After working at Jones Day for seven years, Marie was recruited to work in the legal department at Cleveland Trust Bank (which later became Ameritrust). She soon became Manager of Salary in Human Resources at Cleveland Trust. Marie left Ameritrust in 1987 and began working for Preferred Healthcare. She was charged with developing a network of mental health providers in the Greater Cleveland area. On December 11, 1987, Marie's life was irrevocably altered when she was victimized by a random point-blank shooting during an attempted carjacking. She has been resilient through the face of incredible adversity. The Edge of Malice: The Marie Grossman Story is a book that chronicles Marie's struggles and perseverance.
Kimya leads Jackson Lewis' diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts as the firm's chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, in the Philadelphia office. She also provides advice and counsel to clients as a principal in the Corporate Diversity Counseling practice group.
With her career-long passion for, and experience in organizational DEI, Kimya leads the implementation of Jackson Lewis' firm wide DEl efforts in alignment with the firm's strategic plan and in realization of DEI as a core firm value. Leading a team of fully-dedicated DEl professionals and collaborating with leadership, key stakeholders, multiple departments and communities across Jackson Lewis' 63 offices, Kimya works to ensure DEI's core pillars of focus - culture, colleagues, clients and communities - translate. She seeks to promote the firm's positive work culture and ensure those who join the firm's workplace - regardless of background or identity - can be successful and experience inclusion and belonging throughout the arc of their career.
Kimya often advises and counsels clients on the range of DEl matters impacting their workplaces. Having built and chaired a DEl legal practice of over 30 attorneys, trainers and analysts for a national labor and employment law firm, she is well-practiced in conducting DEI assessments, building organizational DEI structures, creating DEI strategic action plans, understanding demographic data collection issues, DEI program creation and management, and communicating the legal and compliance risks inherent in devising and executing a comprehensive DEl strategy. Kimya is a sought-after speaker and thought leader on a host of subjects involving Del law and practice.
Kimya has been directly engaged with a host of community, educational, political and social service endeavors. More recently, she served as campaign manager for a candidate for U.S. Congress. Kimya, also known affectionately as "First Lady," has first-hand experience with non-profit incorporation, management, and governance through, among others, Dare to imagine, an organization that began in her home in 2014 and has since grown to over 1,200 members with a campus in East Mount Airy, Philadelphia. Before practicing law, Kimya was a public elementary school teacher in South Bronx, New York through the Teach for America program where she received the Sallie Mae "Excellence in Teaching" award. She remains committed to lifelong teaching and learning.
Alumni Member Arjun Kampani is the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (NASDAQ: RKLB), leading Rocket Lab's legal and regulatory affairs and guiding the Company on all legal, governance, ethics and compliance matters.
Kampani has over two decades of experience advising and leading public and private businesses, including more than eighteen years of experience in the aerospace industry. Mr Kampani joined Rocket Lab from his most recent role at Aerojet Rocketdyne, where he served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary managing and advising on a broad range of issues including all aspects of corporate law, corporate governance, securities law, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, international transactions, and legal, ethics, and compliance issues.
Prior to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Kampani spent ten years at General Dynamics Corporation where he was its top mergers and acquisitions lawyer, completing over thirty acquisitions and divestitures, before going on to serve as Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary for General Dynamics Land Systems, a $4 billion international business.
Kampani began his career in New York at an AM Law 100 firm. His educational background includes a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan. He is also a member of the New York State Bar and California Bar.
Chief Judge William C. McConico is a lifelong Detroit resident and graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He attended Morehouse College where he received a four-year United Negro College Fund Scholarship, and graduated Cum Laude with a BA in History. He went on to study law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. While in law school, Judge McConico was the National Attorney General for the Black Law Students of America.
Judge McConico was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000, at the age of 27. He served three terms as a State Representative, representing the 5th House District. Over his three terms in office, Judge McConico served as Vice Chair of both the Energy and Technology and Criminal Justice Committees. In addition to his committee assignments, Judge McConico was Chair of the Detroit Caucus, a twelve member body of elected officials whose districts comprise the City of Detroit. His greatest points of pride as a member of the legislature were leading the democratic effort to stop laws enacting the death penalty in Michigan, and the passage of a bill eliminating mandatory minimums in drug sentencing.
Judge McConico previously served as Chief of Staff/City Attorney for the City of Highland Park, and the City Prosecutor for the City of Hamtramck. He is also currently a faculty member at Wayne County Community College District as a professor in both the Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies departments.
In 2019, Judge McConico received the Catalyst Award from Equality Michigan for his efforts in fighting for the civil rights of marginalized people. In 2010, he was selected for the Proclamation of Excellence Award by the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys for his service to local government. He is also a 2022 recipient of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association's Trailblazer Award.
Judge McConico was appointed to the 36th District Court by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm on July 12, 2010. He was then appointed to the position of Chief Judge by the Michigan Supreme Court on January 1, 2020. He is the ninth Chief Judge to serve since the creation of the Court by the Michigan Legislature in 1985.
John A. Pendergrass is the Vice President for Programs and Publications at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), since 1988. John began his career in the Solicitor's Office of the Department of the Interior, first as an Honors Attorney and then as an attorney in the Division of Surface Mining. He practiced environmental law with the Madison, Wisconsin firm of DeWitt, Sundby, Huggett, Schumacher, and Morgan from 1984 to 1986. From 1986 to 1988, Mr. Pendergrass was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he taught Administrative Law, Scientific Analysis of Environmental Problems, and Legal Research and Writing. From 2010 to 2018, he taught International Environmental Law at the George Washington University School of Law.
As Vice President of ELI, he oversees all programmatic activities, including leading the Research and Policy Division, which conducts legal and policy research and analyses of pressing environmental and natural resource issues in the U.S. and globally. He also leads the Institute's Educational Programs, numbering more than 100 each year, and the Institute's Publications Division, which produces the "Environmental Law Reporter," the "Environmental Forum," and books. He manages a staff of more than 35 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, plus visiting scholars, and other volunteers.
Before becoming Vice President, Mr. Pendergrass was a Senior Attorney, Director of the Center for State, Local, and Regional Environmental Programs, Judicial Education and Climate and Energy Programs, and Co-Director of International Programs at ELI. Mr. Pendergrass works with judges, NGOs, environmental agencies, academic institutions, the private sector, and international organizations to draft laws and regulations, conduct research, make policy and institutional recommendations and conduct capacity building programs throughout the U.S. and the developing world. He has thirty years of experience training judges, inspectors, prosecutors, agency staff, business leaders, and citizens on environmental and natural resources law, compliance, enforcement, and public participation.
He was an Honors graduate of Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University and an inaugural recipient of the college's Distinguished Alumni Award. He received his JD from Case Western Reserve University in 1979.
An attorney by trade, Ron Rakowsky has a remarkable record of public service. He served twenty-four years in the United States Air Force. Staff Judge Advocate for the Air Reserve Personnel Center at the time of his 1994 retirement, his command included almost 900 reserve attorneys and paralegals. Previously, Ron worked at the Pentagon where he provided significant input concerning the development of Department of Defense policy on AIDS and drug testing for THC.
After Air Force retirement, Ron served as an executive and lobbyist for the Colorado Credit Union League. In 2003, he was elected Mayor of Greenwood Village, serving from 2011 to 2019. Mayor Rakowsky had a pivotal role in the Denver Regional Council of Governments. He was a director of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership and the Transportation Management Agency Board of Directors, creating a vibrant community for both economic development and transportation. Ron was instrumental in development near and widening of 1-25 which supported economic growth in the region and transporting connectivity to RTD light rail.
Joseph M. Sellers is a Partner at Cohen Milstein, Co-Chair of the firm's Civil Rights & Employment Practice Group, a practice he founded, and the former Chair of the firm's Executive Committee. In a career spanning nearly four decades, Mr. Sellers has represented victims of discrimination and other illegal employment practices individually and through class actions. He brings to his practice a deep commitment and broad background in fighting discrimination in all its forms. That experience includes decades of representing clients in litigation to enforce their civil rights, participating in drafting and efforts to pass landmark civil rights legislation, testifying before Congress on various civil rights issues, training government lawyers on the trial of civil rights cases, teaching civil rights law at various law schools and lecturing extensively on civil rights and employment matters.
Mr. Sellers has tried to judgment before courts and juries, several civil rights class actions and a number of individual cases and has argued more than 30 appeals in the federal and state appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He has served as class counsel, and typically lead counsel, in more than 75 civil rights and employment class actions.
His clients have included persons denied the rights and opportunities of employment because of race, national origin, religion, age, disability and gender, including sexual orientation and identity. He has represented victims of race discrimination in the denial of equal access to credit, in the rates charged for insurance and in the equal access to health clubs, retail stores, restaurants and other public places. Mr. Sellers has challenged housing discrimination on the basis of race and the denial of housing and public accommodations to people with disabilities.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Mr. Sellers served for over 15 years as the Director of the Employment Discrimination Project of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. He was a member of the transition teams of Obama/Biden in 2008 and Clinton/Gore in 1992 and 1993. Mr. Sellers has testified more than 20 times before committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on various civil rights and employment matters.