Prominent civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein donates papers to the University of Cincinnati

Papers document his nearly 50-year career in Cincinnati

Al Gerhardstein, noted Cincinnati civil rights attorney, has donated to the University of Cincinnati Libraries’ Archives and Rare Books Library, papers documenting his nearly 50-year career in civil rights litigation and advocacy, with focuses in reproductive rights, prisoner’s rights, policing, employment discrimination, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

letter notifying case was entered into Supreme Court

Letter notifying Mr. Gerhardstein that his case was entered into the Supreme Court.

Material to be found in the extensive collection includes briefs, pleadings, depositions, trial transcriptions, newspaper, magazine and journal articles, as well as correspondence and speeches spanning Gerhardstein’s career and notable legal cases. There are 184 boxes available for research, with 45 more boxes sealed under court order.  

Prominent cases in the collection include:

  • Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case establishing marriage equality for same-sex couples in all 50 states. Gerhardstein represented Jim Obergefell in this fight to be recognized as the husband of John Arthur.
  • Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati v. Project Jericho, et al., which was a lawsuit against anti-abortion groups for their continued harassment of women seeking abortion and their providers, after a member of one of the groups firebombed the Margaret Sanger Center abortion clinic in 1985.
  • Prisoner rights lawsuit in response to the 1993 Lucasville Prison riots, where Gerhardstein represented inmates against prison officials for failure to protect them during the riot and the forces that caused the riot. 
  • Litigation to declare unconstitutional Article XII, which was voted into the Cincinnati City Charter in 1993 and actively prohibited Cincinnati from protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
  • Creation of the Collaborative Agreement as a partnership between the ACLU, Black United Front, the city of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police, which re-oriented the philosophy of policing in Cincinnati towards a Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP) model. It was the result of a civil rights action filed on behalf of a class of African American citizens of Cincinnati based on discriminatory policing including racial profiling, excessive force and disproportionate arrests of African Americans. The success of the Collaborative Agreement made Cincinnati a national role model for police reform.

Gerhardstein is the founder of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, a nonprofit agency that advocates and litigates for criminal justice reform. Gerhardstein is a partner at Friedman, Gilbert + Gerhardstein, an Ohio civil rights law firm. On the firm’s website, Gerhardstein has the following description: 

For more than 40 years, Alphonse (Al) Gerhardstein has litigated causes, not just cases, in all of his civil rights practice areas, including police abuse, wrongful conviction, prisoner rights, gay rights and more.

"Central to his work is the pursuit of meaningful, lasting reforms. For Gerhardstein, it’s not just about seeking and getting monetary damages or settlements for clients. The further goal is to leave a defendant’s city or government agency better off than before, to seek true reforms by looking at the source of the problem and working to remediate that problem so the next person is less likely to be abused," Friedman, Gilbert + Gerhardstein.

“Mr. Gerhardstein spent his career working for meaningful change to improve the civil rights of people. He chose Cincinnati as a place to find plenty of work as a civil rights lawyer, and he certainly left his mark,” said Alex Temple, archivist in the Archives and Rare Books Library who is working to process the collection. “It’s fascinating to go over the collection and to see all of the causes he has advocated for.”

The Al (Alphonse A.) Gerhardstein Collection is available for research and study in the Archives and Rare Books Library. A finding aid listing the items in the collection is available via the library’s website for searching the collection.

“This monumental collection documenting groundbreaking causes and issues that impact the lives of not only people in Cincinnati, but throughout the country, will be of great value to researchers, scholars and students of law, history, civil rights and social justice among other disciplines,” said Lori Harris, interim dean and university librarian. “We are honored that Mr. Gerhardstein chose the University of Cincinnati to serve as stewards of his collection.”

Al Gerhardstein said, “Civil rights law is a public practice. I hope people can learn about the issues we have pursued and the principles we have upheld by accessing this collection. Many of the issues I litigated decades ago are still challenging us as a society. I know at UC these materials are in great hands.”

Those interested in researching the Al Gerhardstein Collection should contact the Archives and Rare Books Library at or (513)556-1959.

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