Society of Benchers 2023 Inductees

2023 Bencher Induction

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 13 new members of the Society of Benchers.

Joseph Allotta headshot

Allotta was born to second-generation Sicilian immigrants and spent his formative years in a low-income Italian ghetto in Rochester, New York. His parents worked in factories and died young resulting from the hazards of their employment. Although his parents had little formal education, they encouraged their children to remain in school. Allotta entered the workforce at eleven years old, persuading a newspaper company to hire him a year earlier than their regulations stated. He has been employed continuously since then. 

Allotta saved enough money working a variety of jobs, including those in factories, to attend American University where he was active in student government and worked in his congressman's Washington, DC office. Wanting to pursue a career in government, he observed that individuals with law degrees populated the most interesting positions, motivating him to attend law school. A small scholarship, a student loan, and being employed as a dormitory adviser enabled Allotta to attend Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 

After the first few weeks of law school, Allotta realized how intelligent his classmates were and recognized that to succeed he had to do what he always did - work extremely hard. He was selected as an editor of both the Law Review and the International Law Journal. He was fortunate to serve as a law clerk for a United States District judge in Toledo, Ohio. 

With a family and personal history of working in factories and being in unions, after completing his clerkship and employment in private practice, on September 1, 1979, Allotta founded a law firm in Toledo that concentrated in representing unions and their retirement and health plans. The firm's scope has expanded, and Allotta is Of Counsel to Allotta | Farley. 

Allotta is proud he assisted unions and their members to improve their working and retirement lives. Wanting to encourage others to pursue a public interest legal career, he and his wife created a scholarship fund. Since 2008 the fund has provided financial assistance to those pursuing public interest careers. Allotta volunteers in several capacities at the law school. His most cherished accomplishment is raising three wonderful children and having seven exemplary grandchildren. 

Ann Amer Brennan headshot

Ann Amer Brennan attended Our Lady of the Elms and Catholic University and received a teaching degree from the University of Akron. Ann taught social studies for one year in the Akron Public School system. She married the late David Brennan in 1957, and was a homemaker for many years. 

After her four children were grown, Brennan returned to school to earn a law degree at the University of Akron. She worked several years for the law firm founded by her late father, Bernard J. Amer, before devoting herself full time to community service. 

A longtime community activist, Brennan served as a board member and chair for a long list of charitable organizations. She was chair of the Summa Health System board of trustees and Foundation. She served on the boards of the University of Akron and Hiram College and was chair of the University of Akron for two years. Mrs. Brennan founded the Akron Area Arts Alliance in 1991. That same year she became the first woman chair of Akron Community Foundation. 

Brennan was a major force in fundraising for many Akron area nonprofits. She chaired capital campaigns for many organizations, most notably Summa Health Systems capital campaigns for the Critical Care Center, and the "Then, Now, and Always" campaign. 

Brennan was the recipient of numerous awards. The awards include the Polsky Award in 2000, the Saint Thomas More Award in 2012 and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Akron. Most recently, she was awarded the Spirit of Saint Julie from the Julie Billiart Schools. 

Brennan divided her time between Akron, Ohio and Naples, Florida. The proud grandmother of 10, she passed away in July of 2023. 

Nicole Braden Lewis

Nicole Braden Lewis, a Cleveland native, is a Partner at Tucker Ellis LLP and President of the Case Western Reserve University Law Alumni Association Board. In her practice, Lewis specializes in product and premises liability cases, with a focus on asbestos litigation, where she co-leads a national counsel team defending a major product manufacturer in cases throughout the nation. 

Her commitment to the law school is evidenced by her more than a dozen years on the Alumni Association Board, serving as development chair, secretary, and vice president until her election as president in 2022. Lewis has played and continues to play a pivotal role in guiding Tucker Ellis to achieve 100% participation in the Law Firm Giving Challenge for more than a decade. 

Lewis serves on the Board of Directors for Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, having completed her term as chair in 2022. This social services agency provides innovative and effective services in the areas of guardianship, housing and shelter, workforce development and youth resiliency. As chair, Lewis led the organization in setting priorities, developing staff leadership and ensuring financial stability. 

Lewis is committed to empowering women in the legal profession and fostering their advancement. She served ten years as a founding co-chair of the Tucker Ellis Women's Initiative inclusion resource group until 2023. 

Her diverse background and experiences, including her emotional intelligence training with the Weatherhead School of Management, form the foundation for her unique ability to consistently foster positive relationships and provide effective leadership within the legal community and beyond. 

Douglas W. Charnas headshot

Douglas Charnas, a native Clevelander, is a member of the McGlinchey Stafford law firm in its Washington, D.C. office. Upon graduating from law school, Charnas joined the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in its national office. During his six-year tenure, he served as the IRS's lead lawyer for the Windfall Profit Tax and as an Assistant to the Chief Counsel. He entered private practice in 1984 and has spent the last 39 years counseling clients on a wide-range of corporate and tax issues. For more than 30 years, Charnas has taught at Georgetown Law School in its LL.M. tax program. 

He has been involved in several non-profit organizations. In 1984, Congress created the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Charnas worked on the formation and operation of the charitable organization needed to carry out the mission of the Commission. In 2011, the Delegation of the European Union to the United States asked Douglas to create the European-American Cultural Foundation (E-ACF) to strengthen cultural bonds and collaboration between the European Union and the United States. Charnas is a founding board member and Secretary/Treasurer of the E-ACF. For the last twenty years, he has served as a board member and Secretary/Treasurer of S&R Evermay Foundation. 

In connection with the United States Tax Court, Charnas runs the J. Edgar Murdock Inn of Court, which is the only Inn in the United States that focuses on tax. At the request of the Chief Judge of the Tax Court in 2019, Charnas formed the United States Tax Court Historical Society and is a founding board member and its President. 

From 1989 to 2005, Charnas served as a Regional Vice President for Alumni Affairs for the law school. 

Charnas is grateful to the Society of Benchers for not including "liking law school" as a criterion for membership. Law school was not his most enjoyable years, but he knew then how important they were and how well they would serve him in the future. He is indebted to the law school for his professional success. 

Charles E. Fleming headshot

Charles Esque Fleming was recommended for nomination for the position of U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman on July 2, 2021. He was later nominated for the position by President Joseph Biden on September 30, 2021. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 1, 2022. 

Prior to that, Fleming served as a criminal defense attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Ohio from 1991 to 2021. In that capacity, he also served as the Investigative and Paralegal Staff Supervisor from 2010 to 2016. He was the Cleveland Trial Team Supervisor from 2016 to 2021. 

Fleming was an adjunct professor of Trial Advocacy at Cleveland State University School of Law from 2007 to 2018. He was engaged in civil practice as an associate attorney with the Forbes, Forbes & Associates law firm in Cleveland from 1990 to 1991. 

He received his Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1990 and his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kent State University in 1986. 

Fleming is an avid cook and has received several awards for his ribs. 

Margaret J. Grover headshot

Margaret Grover began practicing in California in 1984. She has been active in bar association activities throughout her career. She chaired the San Francisco Barrister's Club, an association for new lawyers, and was a member of the Board of Directors for the Bar Association of San Francisco. She has also chaired the Employment and Alternative Dispute Resolution sections of the Contra Costa County Bar Association and served on the steering committee for the Alameda County Bar Association's Wellness Section. 

In 2011 and 2012, Grover served as chair of the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA), a statewide association of attorney volunteers who work to improve the laws of California by drafting, debating and promoting creative, non-partisan changes to the law. In 2022, Grover was honored to receive the CCBA's Pfeiffer Award, given annually to a person of the highest integrity and professional excellence, with a passion for giving and service for a more just society through the law. 

Grover is on the board of the Northern California Employment Roundtable, a group composed of volunteers from businesses, public and private employers, and labor organizations, which was formed to educate employers about workplace discrimination, harassment and to promote equal employment opportunity. She was an active participant in the San Francisco Mayor's Task Force on Sexual Harassment, crafting the city's first harassment prevention policy and training program. In 1994, she was a Bar Association of San Francisco delegate to the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization forum in Beijing, where she led training sessions on preventing workplace harassment. 

She enjoys speaking and writing. Grover has authored chapters in books published by the American Bar Association and California Continuing Education of the Bar covering a variety of topics, including employment policies, workplace investigations, harassment prevention and privacy. 

Grover currently coaches for Oakland United Rowing, which supports athletes from multiple Oakland, California high schools. She has also coached adult cyclists riding for Team in Training, which raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

She and her late husband, Gerry Roybal, raised two wonderful children, Christina and John Grover-Roybal, and one grandchild. 

S. Michael Lear headshot

Michael Lear is a Partner of Zukerman, Lear & Murray Co., L.P.A., where he has practiced since 1996. Previously, he was employed at Bernard, Haffey & Bohnert Co., L.P.A. For over three decades, he has focused his practice on defending the constitutional rights of those accused of criminal offenses in local, state, and federal courts, as well as defending the professional licensure of doctors, lawyers and other licensed professionals, and aggressively seeking compensation for deprivations of constitutional rights. 

During the course of his career, Lear has tried numerous local, state and federal cases throughout the State of Ohio. He has handled various professional licensure defense matters and has argued appellate matters in numerous Ohio appellate districts, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Ohio. 

Lear has been an active member of the William K. Thomas Inn of Court since 2013, and has previously served on grievance committees of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, as well as the Geauga County Bar Association. 

In 2009, as chair of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL) Publications Committee, Lear successfully resurrected the then defunct OACDL publication known as The Vindicator, which is still in regular publication today. In 2015, he served as the President of the OACDL. 

Since 2016, Lear has been an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he teaches Criminal Pretrial Practice. 

Lear is a 1985 graduate of The Ohio State University with a BA in Criminology. He earned his Juris Doctorate degree from Case Western Reserve School of Law in 1988. 

Laura E. McNally headshot

Laura E. McNally is the Associate Dean for Experiential Education and the Director of the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center. She brings a wealth of experience to this position based on her work in clinical legal education. 

Prior to joining the law faculty in 2005, McNally taught in the Clinical Programs at Suffolk University Law School and The University of Alabama School of Law. During her time at the University of Alabama, McNally was a staff attorney with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), Alabama's Protection and Advocacy Organization. 

McNally has focused her practice and research in the areas of poverty law, disability rights, children's rights, health law and interdisciplinary education. 

In her role as director of the Health Law Clinic, McNally established interdisciplinary collaborations with local hospitals, medical centers, and community organizations to provide legal representation and engage in systemic advocacy regarding legal issues that impact community health. Currently, she is teaching in the law school's field placement program which includes our robust externship and semester-in-practice programs. 

McNally is committed to experiential education and enjoys mentoring folks who are new to clinical teaching. She has held positions with the Clinical Legal Education Association and the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education. 

Thomas Mester headshot

Thomas Mester graduated from Cleveland Heights High and attended John Carroll University where he graduated Cum Laude. In 1969, Thomas graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He was employed with the law firm of Nurenberg, Paris, Heller and McCarthy LLC (NPHM) for more than 50 years. 

Mester was a litigator who primarily handled catastrophic injuries, such as infant cerebral palsy. Many of his cases included medical malpractice, products liability, employment injuries and intentional tortes. In these cases, Mester was able to win numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements. He's appeared before the Ohio Supreme Court, Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals and is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Ohio Association of Justice, the United States Court of Federal Claims and Delegate, the Eighth District Court of Appeals Judicial Conference and has been admitted to the U.S. Northern Court of Ohio. Presently, Mester is Of Counsel with the NPHM Law Firm. He's been honored as a Super Lawyer for multiple years and has served on the Alumni Board of Directors where he mentored several law students. 

Mester also assisted teaching undergraduate courses at CWRU, with his wife of 54 years, Dr. Terri Mester. Thomas has two sons, who practice law, and six grandchildren, one of whom is attending Ohio State Moritz School of Law this fall. 

Mester is proud of his life's work, protecting individuals and obtaining just compensation for their injuries. 

Deborah Pergament headshot

Deborah Pergament has devoted her legal career to advocating on behalf of children with special needs and their families. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with high honors in history and holds masters' degrees in history and library science from Indiana University. Prior to attending CWRU, Pergament was a reference librarian for a large insurance defense firm in Chicago. 

After graduating from CWRU, Ms. Pergament served for four years as an Assistant Public Guardian in the Cook County, Illinois Office of the Public Guardian. She then co-founded Children's Law Group in Chicago. As a member of Children's Law Group, Pergament represented parents of students seeking appropriate educational placements and services from school districts. Her practice focused on children with complex genetic conditions, children on the autism spectrum, those with learning difficulties or mental health challenges, and students with hearing loss. She also directed the DePaul University College of Law Special Education Advocacy Clinic from 2009-2014. She retired from practice in 2021. 

Pergament has served on the boards of several organizations dedicated to the promotion of access to legal services for families and the provision of quality educational and social services for children with special needs. These included the Family Defense Center (an organization focused on direct representation and advocating for systemic change in child protection agencies), Child's Voice (an early intervention and school program for young children with hearing loss) and One In A Hundred Summer Camp (a day camp for children with social-emotional challenges). 

She also served for several years on the Board of Managers of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers and volunteered on behalf of her alma maters with service on the CWRU Law Alumni Association Board and the board of the Mount Holyoke College Club of Chicago. 

Pergament continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of Roycemore School (Evanston, Illinois) and dedicates her time to international philanthropic activities on behalf of children with hearing loss. 

Christoper M. Rassi headshot

Christopher Rassi is currently Chief of Staff and Director, Office of the Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), a position he has held since 2020. He is a member of the Senior Leadership Team, the executive committee that supports the Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General in the overall management of the IFRC. He is also a member of the Global Leadership Team, which formulates policies and ensures effective management and accountability in worldwide operations. 

Rassi has worked in various roles with the IFRC, including most recently as Head of Delegation based in Bangkok, Thailand and Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific. In this capacity, Rassi led the IFRC in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and worked with Red Cross and Red Crescent leadership throughout Southeast Asia. He was previously Head of Delegation in Jakarta covering Indonesia and Timor-Leste and serving as Representative to ASEAN. He has also managed teams in Lebanon and Yemen. Rassi originally joined the IFRC in 2012 in the General Counsel's office, before moving to his first management role in 2015 as Senior Executive Officer and Deputy to the Chief of Staff. 

Before joining the IFRC, Rassi worked both with the United Nations and in private practice. He worked with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and with the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in The Hague, Netherlands and Arusha, Tanzania. He was also a foreign law clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg. Chris spent several years with Thompson Hine LLP, practicing in their international trade and finance practice groups. 

He is active on several boards and committees, including on the Board of the Jean-Pictet Competition in International Humanitarian Law and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, and as a member of the Dean's Cabinet for Global Legal Studies. 

Rassi enjoys serving as an adjunct professor and being a lecturer at law and business schools around the world. 
Rassi received his joint BA and MA (Political Science) degrees in 2000, and joint JD and MBA degrees in 2003, all from Case Western Reserve University. He lives in Geneva, Switzerland with his wife and two children. 

William P. Rogers, Jr. headshot

William P. Rogers, Jr. (Bud) retired from Cravath's Corporate Department in December 2015. He joined Cravath in 1979 and became a partner in 1985. From 1998 to 2001 he served as the Managing Partner of the Corporate Department and from 2001 to 2007 headed the Firm's London office. He most recently served on the Firm's Strategy Board. His practice encompassed the representation of both corporate and financial institution clients in a wide variety of matters, including international securities offerings, corporate governance and SEC compliance matters, mergers and acquisitions and derivative financial products. 

Rogers regularly advised Cravath's corporate clients on derivatives matters, including the implications of the new Dodd Frank swaps regulation. He was involved in the formation of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and, prior to his move to London, regularly represented ISDA on legislative, regulatory and documentation matters. He advised a wide variety of corporations, including Bacardi Limited, Time Warner Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation, CBS Corporation, Incorporated, and FactSet Research Systems Inc. 

Rogers has been repeatedly recognized as one of the country's leading practitioners in capital markets by, among others, Chambers USA, Chambers Global, The Legal 500 US and IFLR1000. 

Rogers was born in Bronxville, New York. He received a B.A. from Union College in 1972 and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law in 1978. An avid sailor, he continues to race and currently serves as the Commodore of the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor, New York. 

Lewis I. Winarsky headshot

Lew Winarsky is Managing Partner of Sky Properties LLC, which owns and manages commercial real estate properties. 

Winarsky retired as counsel to Washington Gas Light Company (WGL), the gas public utility serving the greater DC metro area. Prior to WGL, Winarsky served as an Administrative Judge for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio; Senior Attorney with the Consumer's Counsel in Ohio (representing the interests of residential utility consumers before the Ohio Public Utilities Commission), Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio (Consumer Frauds Section and as staff member to the Attorney General's Committee examining juvenile justice reform.). He is admitted to practice law in Maryland, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Ohio, the Supreme Court of the United States and related Federal District courts. 

Winarsky has been involved with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) well beyond his time as a student, serving as a member of the Visitors Committee for University Internationalization, as well as the Dean's Cabinet on Global Legal Studies of the School of Law. In addition, he is a board member of the American Associates of Ben Gurion University (BGU) and has worked to create academic and institutional relationships between CWRU and BGU. He is also a board member of Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies and a member of the Legacy Leadership Institute on Public Policy, School of Public Health, University of Maryland. 

Winarsky's service extends beyond the academic. He served in the Office of Delegate Talmadge Branch, Majority Whip, Maryland House of Delegates as well as a Democratic precinct chair. He was a board member of the non-profit District of Columbia Apartment Improvement Project and Chair of its project review committee. He also served on the board of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, the Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, and the Fessenden Chamber Music Ensemble. Winarsky is a 1972 graduate of the CWRU Law School and a former member of The Journal of International Law. His BA is from Beloit College (1969). Winarsky and his wife Susan, reside in Sarasota, Florida. He no longer eats pears after an undergrad summer picking them on Kibbutz Sarid, Israel while on break from Robert College, Istanbul, Turkey.