Firm Honored for Achieving One of the Most Significant Civil Rights Verdicts in History
CLEVELAND —The DiCello Levitt Gutzler trial team, led by Robert “Bobby” DiCello, Mark DiCello, and Justin Hawal, was awarded Public Justice’s prestigious 2021 Trial Lawyer of the Year award for its successful prosecution and trial of the landmark Black v. Hicks verdict –a case of police brutality and corruption in the City of East Cleveland.
(l to r): Robert F. “Bobby” DiCello, Mark A. DiCello, and Justin J. Hawal
Public Justice presents its Trial Lawyer of the Year award to the attorney or attorneys who made the greatest contribution to the public interest within the past year by trying a precedent-setting, socially significant case. DiCello Levitt was a co-winner for the prestigious award, presented at Public Justice’s 2021 Virtual Gala and Awards Presentation, held the evening of Wednesday, July 21.
According to Bobby DiCello on the impact of the Black v. Hicks verdict, “Unless we all realize that what we do as trial lawyers is the last hope for an orderly society, things will not change. We have to take seriously the idea that we serve.” In accepting the award, Bobby told the virtual audience, “Arnold Black, thank you for your courage with us, and thank you for fighting with us to preserve your dignity.”
Arnold Black was pulled over without probable cause by City of East Cleveland police officers in 2012. He was then beaten, arrested without probable cause, locked in a room without being formally booked, and held for four days without access to bedding, a toilet, or food. The only food that he was given during that entire time was a single carton of milk. All police reports, evidence, internal affairs documents, and dashboard camera video of these events were lost or destroyed by the City of East Cleveland. The DiCello Levitt legal team filed a civil suit against the City, chief of police, and arresting officers, culminating in a trial where a Cuyahoga County jury awarded Black $50 million—$20 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damage, a judgment that has since been affirmed at all levels.
During the trials, police officers’ testimony revealed that many of them felt powerless in holding Hicks accountable. There were three infamous approaches to police work in East Cleveland: the right way, the wrong way, and “The East Cleveland Way.” In his testimony during the second trial, Hicks revealed his participation, along with other officers, in a group of officers called the “Jump-Out Boys,” in which they would ride together in the back of an unmarked vehicle looking for “possible drug dealers,” targeting young men, old men, some women—almost always black people—without probable cause. Hicks testified that he would never become a supervisor if he did not follow along with “The East Cleveland Way.”
Black’s unbelievable story of abusive confinement and his perseverance in obtaining accountability for himself and all others who had been impacted by the police force’s corrupt ways captured the nation’s attention, cementing this case as one of the most significant civil rights verdicts in U.S. history and the catalyst for much-needed change. DiCello Levitt continues to work with community leaders within the City of East Cleveland to drive police reform and improve the relationship between police and the community.
“We’re a trial firm. With our in-house focus group and mock trial practice, we work cases up from a ‘trial first’ perspective from the outset. This approach enables us to quickly identify and analyze problems and to immediately mobilize our team and other resources to begin commencing actions to protect our clients and to solve these problems. Overall, DiCello Levitt’s ongoing focus grouping and mock jury practice enables us to perpetually refine the art of messaging and the neuroscience of communicating critical concepts to judges and juries,” Co-Founding firm Partner Mark A. DiCello added.
Associate Justin J. Hawal remarked, “As a DiCello Levitt associate, to not only have served as a vital member of the trial team, but to have achieved justice for Arnold Black and the greater community that have resulted in tremendous societal impact, is such an honor. To know that this is one of the most significant civil rights verdicts in history so early in my career is humbling.”
To watch Bobby DiCello’s recount of the Black v. Hicks matter, view here.
About Public Justice
Public Justice’s primary mission is to pursue high-impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.
Learn more about Public Justice: https://www.publicjustice.net/
About DiCello Levitt Gutzler
At DiCello Levitt Gutzler, we’re dedicated to achieving justice for our clients through class action, business-to-business, public client, whistleblower, and personal injury litigation. Our lawyers are highly respected for their ability to litigate and win cases – whether by trial, settlement, or otherwise—for people who have suffered harm, global corporations that have sustained significant economic losses, and public clients seeking to protect their citizens’ rights and interests. Every day, we put our reputations—and our capital—on the line for our clients.
For more, visit our website: https://dicellolevitt.com/