June 23, 2021

June 2021: Pierce Reed

Pierce Reed, Executive Board, ACS Cincinnati Lawyer Chapter Former President and Board Member, ACS Columbus Lawyer Chapter

Pierce Reed (he/him)
Executive Board, ACS Cincinnati Lawyer Chapter
Former President and Board Member, ACS Columbus Lawyer Chapter

Some people are called to the law.  Others are not so much called to the law as they are conscripted into it.  For them, it is less of a following and more of a compulsion.

I became a lawyer so that people with AIDS and those that survived them could do things like pick out caskets and funereal flower arrangements and have those choices respected – and enforced by law if need be.  But I also became a lawyer so that sick people could stay employed and housed and cared for in hospitals, so they could protect themselves against the hatred and ignorance of the world even if they couldn’t protect themselves from Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.  I later found that the same tools could be used to protect a woman’s access to reproductive services, argue against exiling state prisoners to private prisons thousands of miles away, defend a corporation’s interest in its product design and reputation for quality, and help judges find the right words and legal theories to convey their opinions and decisions.

When I did that work in Boston, I never felt alone as a lawyer or as a citizen.  Regardless of where I worked, I had colleagues and mentors that were smart and capable attorneys, and with whom I shared personal and political values.

Then I moved to Ohio.

It was soon after the 2004 elections, and the inauguration of George W. Bush.  I worked for the Ohio Supreme Court, to which justices are elected – elected – to make judicial decisions.  At the time, Ohio was one of the nation’s leading executioners, voting rights were under siege, and political scandals were more common than “go Bucks!” cheers on autumn Saturdays.  I spent most of the next couple of years wondering what the hell I had done with my life.

Even educated people back east still can’t remember if I live in Ohio or Iowa.  (For the record, peeps, it is Ohio - the state that gave you everything from the music you’re listening to the soybeans and Jeni’s ice cream you’re eating to the KitchenAid stand-alone mixer that got your privileged selves through the pandemic.)   But Ohio is a great place if you give it a chance.  And ACS was my medium.

The founding of the Columbus Lawyer Chapter almost 15 years ago was a sign of hope, especially for those of us working in Capitol Square.  Kim Jolson, Mike Meuti, Dan Roth, and Lisa Whittaker, all of whom worked for then-Attorney General Rich Cordray, helped bring the chapter forth.  Kim is now on to the federal bench in Columbus, Mike is one of the most successful lawyers in the state, Dan does amazing work in Oakland, and Lisa navigates the corporate world while continuing to mentor youth and new lawyers.  Subsequent chapter president Kristin Boggs is now a leader in Ohio’s General Assembly, where another early leader, Kathleen Clyde, served and launched her campaign to be our secretary of state. Our Board of Advisors included pioneering advocates like Judge Robert Duncan, Sally Bloomfield, Ben Espy, Yvette McGee Brown, and Kathleen Trafford, who invested not just in the chapter but in its members, including me, who came from all areas of practice – government service, public interest organizations, law firms of all sizes.

The collective work of this progressive posse helped establish one of the most vibrant ACS chapters in the country, one that worked closely with affinity bars and civil rights and liberties organizations to organize and educate, to share celebrations and sorrows.  But more than that, the chapter brought the hope of change to the community.

In a town where everyone and everything is transactional, ACS helped us lead in an honest, smart, and ethical way, and reinforced reaching back to give a hand to the next group of new leaders so that they could win every good fight possible.  Those leaders did just that, not just in Columbus, but from Cincinnati to San Francisco.  Regardless of practice area or employer, the leaders and members of the chapter supported one another and worked for a common good – protecting and expanding the rights of all Ohioans.

Their successes are testaments to their skill and dedication, and to the incredible value of ACS, an organization that continues to bring the hope of change in the places where it is most important to have it, including Ohio.  (And Iowa.)

Pierce Reed is a lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he directs legislative, policy, and education initiatives.  He previously served as the senior judicial attorney to Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court, career law clerk to retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander Ford of the District of Massachusetts, associate at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak and Cohen, P.C. in Boston, and as an Echoing Green Foundation graduate fellow.

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