Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. to receive the 2020 Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation Richard W. Pogue Award

Cleveland Legal Pioneer Receives CMBA Award for Excellence In Community Leadership and Engagement


CLEVELAND - December 12, 2019 - Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. has built a long and distinguished career by opening doors and helping others to follow. The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation (CMBF) is honored to announce Judge Oliver as the recipient of our 2020 Richard W. Pogue Award for Excellence in Community Leadership and Engagement.

Judge Oliver was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in 1994. In 2010, he became Chief Judge, a position he held for seven years. Judge Oliver continues to serve on the Court, where he has built a reputation for excellence, hard work and trailblazing.

Together with his five brothers and four sisters, Judge Oliver was raised in Bessemer, Alabama. As a student in the segregated public schools, Judge Oliver did not envision a future as a federal judge. “I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and society was segregated from top to bottom. During that time, there was no job I could have if there was a white person who wanted that job,” he recalls.

Notwithstanding these obstacles, Judge Oliver was determined to change his own life through education and the law. He earned a B.A. from the College of Wooster, an M.A. in political science from Case Western Reserve University, and finally a J.D. from New York University School of Law. After completing his formal education, he clerked for Judge William H. Hastie of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and then returned to Cleveland where, prior to his appointment to the bench, he held a variety of positions including Assistant United States Attorney, as well as Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Faculty and Administration for Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

 “Judge Oliver is widely respected by so many professionals in our community, for both his impeccable reputation on the bench, and also his service as a world-class mentor,” said Patrick J. Krebs, 2019-2020 CMBF President. “His work for our organization and this community has been truly outstanding.”

Judge Oliver’s many contributions include working with a variety of Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association programs funded by the CMBF, including several pipeline programs designed to connect students to mentors, resources and practical experiences that will help them succeed in achieving their education and career goals.

  • The Louis Stokes Scholars Program enables college students interested in careers in the law to participate in paid summer legal internships with Cleveland courts, law firms and legal nonprofits. Each year, Judge Oliver invites Stokes Scholars to his courtroom to observe proceedings, and then to spend time engaged in discussions about the justice system, the path to becoming a federal judge, and the individual students’ goals for the future. He also serves as a mentor to several Stokes Scholar Alumni.
  • The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy introduces high school students to the legal profession through hands-on experiences. Judge Oliver has regularly served as a guest faculty member, sharing his insights and wisdom, challenging and inspiring students to take an aggressive role in charting their future career paths.
  • The 3Rs Program – Rights, Realities and Responsibilities – connects lawyers, judges, law students, and paralegals with 11th grade high school students in Cleveland and East Cleveland schools through a series of six in-person lessons designed to help foster an understanding and appreciation of the U.S. Constitution, as well as share important information about how students can achieve their goals beyond high school. For more than a decade, Judge Oliver has welcomed 3Rs students into the U.S. Courthouse for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet with and hear from Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Federal Public Defenders and special agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI. Following mock charges and an arrest by the respective agencies, students put on a mock suppression hearing before Judge Oliver, who issues rulings and provides a judicial perspective of what is involved in reaching a decision. He also spends time talking with the students about the importance of education and working diligently in pursuit of their individual goals.

Judge Oliver will receive the 2020 Richard W. Pogue Award on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at CMBF’s 15th annual Rock The Foundation gala. CMBF CEO Rebecca Ruppert McMahon noted, “The Pogue Award recognizes excellence in community leadership and engagement. Judge Oliver is a shining example of excellence within both our Bar and our region.”

For more information about CMBF’s Rock15 gala, visit clemetrobar.org/rockfoundation.