Posted August 5, 202210:10 am
Gerry enlisted in the Air Force soon after graduating from Berea High School in 1975. While in the military, Gerry earned his law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law and his Master of Laws from Georgetown, where he studied international law. After retiring from the military as an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Judge Advocate, Gerry began a second career in the federal civil service. Then in 2016, “I retired without a plan,” Gerry says.
He was looking for ways to give back through volunteering when he realized he could use his law degree to best help those in need. “So, I got my license to practice law in Ohio and knocked on the door of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland,” Gerry says.
His question of “Do you need help?” was quickly answered by Ann McGowan Porath, who managed the Volunteer Lawyers Program at that time. Ann directed his help towards elder law, and then focused his research skills on expungement work.
Lauren Gilbride, Legal Aid’s current managing attorney of Intake and the Volunteer Lawyers Program, says the Legal Aid practice around expungements is what it is because of Gerry. “Since 2012, expungement rules in Ohio have grown wider, and Legal Aid’s need for resources grew with an increased demand for services,” Lauren explains. “Gerry has become the resident expert on record sealing; he stays on top of any related laws and updates Legal Aid brochures. Our staff use his expertise when reviewing client eligibility.” Gerry also frequently attends expungement clinics and helps other volunteer attorneys.
When clients are not eligible to expunge a record, Gerry prepares an advice letter explaining why they are not eligible and potential steps they may take. “I want people to know their options,” Gerry says, adding that helping people get back on their feet gives him a feeling of fulfillment.
Gerry spends almost all of his time helping others and giving back to his community. When he’s not volunteering with Legal Aid or caring for family members, Gerry can often be spotted around Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland, where he is a volunteer Red Coat (usher) and part-time House Manager.
This article was published in Legal Aid's "Poetic Justice" newsletter, Volume 19 Issue 2 in August 2022. See full issue at this link: “Poetic Justice” Volume 19 Issue 2.