CATA and EndDD Community Outreach

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, I traveled to Shaker Heights, Ohio to discuss the dangers of distracted driving with 235 Laurel School students.  The Cleveland Academy of Trail Attorneys CATA and its Community Outreach Committee partnered up with the Casey Feldman Foundation and the End Distracted Driving Program over 2 years ago because it is CATA’s mission to educate as many people as possible about the choices we make every day when driving.

Today’s presentation to these 7th-11th grade students was well received.  These students learned that although we may never have been in a car accident, if we drive distracted, we are merely lucky drivers.  The audience was also impressed with the concept that they can help change their friends’ behavior by engaging in discussions about their driving habits.  Also, as a passenger, you possess the power to affect another person’s driving behavior.  Two students assisted me in a “role playing” exercise where one student took on the role of the distracted driver, and the other student was the passenger, trying to effectively change the dangerous driving habits of her friend.

The demonstration was a wonderful illustration and reminder that we are confronted with these behaviors every day and it is time to stand up and choose to not permit someone to drive you distracted.  In the end, the students left with a lot of information and statistics to digest.  They promised to take the Family Safe Driving Agreement home to discuss with their families.

Over these past 2 years, CATA has been responsible for more than 20 presentations, and will continue to sponsor these presentations.  It is our belief that we can make a difference and change people’s attitudes toward driving and make them safe drivers, not just lucky drivers!

CATA Annual Dinner 2016 with Professor Jelani Cobb

William Jelani Cobb on Feb. 13, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

William Jelani Cobb on Feb. 13, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Join us for the Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys in celebrating the installation of its new officers and enjoying a thoughtful conversation given by acclaimed writer and speaker, Professor Jelani Cobb.

Hailing from the University of Connecticut, Professor Cobb has provided engaging and meaningful contributions to the topic of race relations within his New Yorker columns and other publications including the Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.  His scholarly work has earned him Fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations as well as the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism in 2015.   As an engaging speaker, he has been invited to speak on National Public Radio and various news media outlets.

His topic, The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today, is both timely and important within our Cleveland Community.

RSVP today!


Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys

Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner


Friday, June 24, 2016

Key Note Speaker


Professor Jelani Cobb: University of Connecticut

The Half Life of Freedom:

Race and Justice in America Today


The Club at

Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

127 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44114


Reception:  5:30 P.M.

Dinner: 6:30 P.M.

Program: 7:30 P.M.


Make checks payable to: CATA

Remit to:

Rhonda Baker Debevec, Esq.

The Debevec Law Firm

700 W. Saint Clair Ave., Suite 214

Cleveland, Ohio   44113

Questions?   Email or call 216-331-0953

Please reply by June 6, 2016

CATA Members Make Another End Distracted Driving Presentation, to St. Ignatius High School Students

On Friday, April 22, 2016, Paul Grieco and I traveled to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland to discuss the dangers of distracted driving with 375 seniors. The End Distracted Driving presentation––was sponsored by The Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys and their Community Outreach Committee.

The young men were impacted by the message that the many deaths and injuries attributable to distracted driving are preventable. They understand that we each need to make safer choices about how we drive and how we permit others to drive when we are traveling as a passenger.

The students also received a copy of the Family Safe Driving Agreement, which they will take home to discuss with their families.

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We CAN make a difference about the choices people make when driving. Together we can prevent further injuries and deaths.

Please comment below, or check out this post on Facebook, to let us know what you think, or if you would like more information:

Ken Levinson Presents on Focus Groups

On March 9, Chicago attorney and focus-group impresario Ken Levinson presented to the CATA membership at our periodic luncheon CLE on using focus groups to maximize case value.

As an attorney who regularly uses focus groups, I found Ken’s presentation to be enlightening. Ken obviously knows how to manage a group–including ours!–in a way that opens them up to providing candid feedback.  He gave away valuable tips from his own experience, as well as examples of how they have gone form focus-group gold to trial wins.

Recognized by Super Lawyers as one of the top 100 lawyers in Illinois, Ken is a graduate of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, and a member of the Trial Lawyers College Alumni Board and The American Trial Lawyers Association. He is the author of the latest edition of Litigating Major Automobile Injury and Death Cases, published by AAJ Press/Thomson Reuters, and has been invited to speak by the American Association for Justice and multiple state bar and trial lawyer associations. In addition to representing clients, Ken is often retained to create focus groups and assist lawyers in the presentation of their case.

Thanks to CATA Secretary Cathy Bolek for putting the presentation together for our members.

Please take a moment to give Ken some feedback, or even ask questions.  I’ll let him know we’re using this post for that purpose so he can respond.


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CATA Hofbrauhaus Social with CM Law Moot Court

Yesterday CATA co-sponsored a social event with the Cleveland Marshall College of Law Moot Court Team at Hofbrauhaus Cleveland. Over 50 CATA members, judges and law students gathered to meet new friends and share their tales from the courtroom and classroom.

The CMCL students were provided with a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into how trial attorneys go about representing families and vigilantly pursuing justice in the courtroom. Many CMCL students already are clerking at firms around town and were grateful to meet attorneys and judges to supplement their exposure to opportunities in the NE legal community. The CMCL students were invited to join CATA as student members.

We look forward to welcoming them into our organization!

Some pictures from the event:

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CATA Hofbrauhaus Social 2

CATA Hofbrauhaus Social 3

CATA Hofbrauhaus Social 4

More EndDD Presentations by CATA

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Ellen Hobbs Hirshman and Susan Petersen, both trustees with The Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys (CATA), travelled to Notre Dame Cathedral Latin (NDCL) on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, for two End Distracted Driving (EndDD) presentations. Both the Sophomore and Junior classes were attentive and engaged in many discussions about the dangers of distracted driving. The 365 NDCL students and teachers were impressed with the statistical data and testimonials of families that have suffered a loss because of distracted driving. The EndDD Family Safe Driving Agreement was handed out to all NDCL students to take home and discuss with their families. These NDCL students are “passing it forward” and helping to educate others about how to make smarter and safer choices when driving and being driven in a car. Together, through education, we can make our roads a lot safer.

Shoes and Clothes for Cleveland’s Kids

Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys partnered with Shoes and Clothes for Kids (SC4K) on Monday, December 14, 2015, to donate 100 pairs of shoes and boots to children at Payless Shoes Steelyard Commons. CATA is an organization dedicated to assisting its members in furthering their education and skills so they may better represent their clients in the courtroom. CATA members are also dedicated to assisting those in need outside of the court room.

An astonishing 54% of kids in greater Cleveland live in poverty, the second highest amount of any big city. CATA knows that reaching out and helping these children is just one way to make a difference and assist those in need. In fact, one of the teachers at the event on Monday thanked CATA for appreciating the fact that every day there are families in Cleveland struggling to make ends meet. Juggling their limited funds is especially difficult during this holiday season. We were reminded that providing these children with brand new shoes, boots and socks is not only appreciated, but necessary. One of the moms in attendance at the event thanked CATA personally telling us that her children were in desperate need of new boots. The smiles on the faces of the children is thanks enough!

I, along with CATA President Kathy St. John, and CATA board member Todd Gurney, had a blast assisting all the children as they were measured for the correct shoe size, picked out a pair of shoes or boots that appealed to them (action figures were in high demand) and tried on their new shoes and boots. The children were also given new pairs of socks, followed by a snack. CATA will be sponsoring a 2nd giveaway event during the Christmas break at which time they will be providing new shoes and boots for another 50 school-aged children. It is so rewarding to give back to our community.

Below are just a few of the photos from the event.  Check out the CATA Facebook Page for the rest!

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CATA and EndDD: a Safety Partnership

Over the past 2 years, the Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys (CATA) along with their Community Outreach Committee, have partnered with The Casey Feldman Foundation and End Distracted Driving,  reaching out to high schools throughout Northeast Ohio to try and change attitudes toward distracted driving.  I have personally presented at Hawken School, Fuchs Mizrachi, Beaumont School for Girls, Gilmour Academy, Padua High School, Our Lady of the Elms, West Geauga High School and the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools, with many more presentations to be scheduled.

It is a powerful and effective presentation that moves me every time I present.  I start the presentation by telling the students that I am not here to TELL them how to drive.  I do not like it when people tell me what to do and I am not doing that.  I explain that I am providing them with information so they may make informed choices the next time they drive.  I also will start my presentation by telling the students that distracted driving is NOT a teen problem.  It’s an adult problem.  We, as parents/adults have set a poor example.  We have been poor role models in this regard and we need to start making smarter, safer choices when driving. I also admit to the students that I also was a distracted driver and set a poor example for my 3 sons; and I explain how I changed the way I approach driving.

It is an interactive program that was designed along with child psychologists from CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) with the goal of reaching out to students and capturing their attention. The power point has been revised numerous times based on pre and post presentation surveys received from more than 2500 teens.   It is a science–based presentation designed to engage teens and maximize the likelihood of changing attitudes and behaviors. The presentation is based on health communication and behavior change theory and incorporates teen messaging concepts to engage and appeal to teens in a non-confrontational manner.

I toss out wristbands to the students as they participate to encourage participation.  The presentation itself combines scientific data, testimonials and a little humor (in appropriate places).  At the end of the presentation, I usually discuss a Family Safe Driving Agreement (attached hereto) and ask the schools to discuss the issue with their students in smaller groups and have them take home the agreement to share with their families.  You see, we educate the students not only that they may make safer driving choices, but as a passenger, they do not have to let people drive them distracted!

And the students have been very receptive to the program.  Karen Roxbury from Gilmour Academy wrote to me recently to let me know that the dialogue is ongoing at the Gilmour community.  I was moved by her note:

Gilmour Academy - Roxbury Thank You

Heather Giel at Our Lady of the Elms emailed me today and said the program “WAS A HIT!”  Their students liked the fact that I did not “speak down to them”, but rather spoke honestly about my history of distracted driving and the lengths I had to go through to change my approach to driving.   Even their faculty is reevaluating how they drive.

Together, we can change the way we drive and create a safer community!

Here is the EndDD Safe Driving Agreement we use: EndDD Safe Driving Agreement

CATA Member Presents EndDD to Our Lady of the Elms in Akron, Ohio


The Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys and I were invited to present the End Distracted Driving program at Our Lady of the Elms in Akron, Ohio yesterday afternoon, October 27, 2015.  The 200 students (7th graders through 12th graders) and faculty were profoundly moved by the testimonials and data contained in the presentation.

The students will be taking home the Family Safe Driving Agreement to discuss safer choices to make when driving and when being driven.

CATA is making a difference and changing the way people drive!

To see all the photos of the event, visit the CATA Facebook Page.

Members Present End Distracted Driving to Padua Franciscan in Parma

This morning CATA member Frank Bolmeyer and I traveled to Padua Franciscan High School in Parma and addressed over 750 students and faculty with the End Distracted Driving ( presentation. The students were quite receptive and moved by the scientific data and testimonials contained in the presentation. Their Principal, David Stec, thanked CATA for its commitment to making a difference and changing people’s attitudes toward driving. The school is distributing the Family Safe Driving Agreement to their students to take home and share with their families. Together WE CAN change the face of driving in our community!

See photos from the presentation on the CATA Facebook Page.