March 18, 2023
March 2023: Mary Hanna-Weir
Mary Hanna-Weir (she/her)
Chair, ACS Bay Area Lawyer Chapter Deputy County Counsel, County of Santa Clara
Growing up, I was obsessed with fairness—for myself and for others. Maybe that was mostly because I’m a middle child, but I like to think that drive was deeper and a sign of more profound moral compass. By the time I was finishing high school, that passion became a drive to dedicate my career and my life to civil rights activism. But it wasn’t until a few years into graduate school for sociology, where I studied social movements and social inequality, that I finally realized that so many of the people I admired throughout the history of civil rights activism and whose careers I wanted to emulate were lawyers. So off to law school I went.
In 2010, when I landed a position at the Program Legal Group for the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, I thought to myself, “I have arrived. I am doing what I always wanted.” Working at OCR was the greatest honor of my life and an opportunity to do incredible and impactful work. But as our national politics began to turn in the ramp up to the 2016 election, I realized that I needed to get more involved locally. I managed a friend’s local re-election campaign, which led me to volunteering with a statewide organization in California that seeks to recruit progressive women to the state legislature. I joined the board for California Common Cause. That was also when I applied to join the Bay Area Lawyer Chapter Board for ACS.
The network of ACS had already supported me throughout my career, mostly through the friendships I made and sustained by attending National Convention. But through BALC, I have deepened my network and had so many amazing opportunities to put together interesting programming and events. We are a geographically large chapter, with board members from Marin to San Jose, but we strive to be a strong support network nonetheless. Through BALC, I learned about and eventually landed in mid-2018 at the Office of the County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara. I still do civil rights and education work for that office, but I have the opportunity to make a deeper local impact as counsel for our county elections official.
But more importantly, through BALC I have been more connected to ACS National as well. We have sometimes been a bit of a rabble-rousing chapter, pushing the organization to do more and say more about the progressive values we share. Through those efforts, and in partnership with so many across the country, ACS is living into its mission more and more each day. I am energized by ACS’ increasing commitment to racial justice and to leadership in the profession on diversity, equity, and inclusion especially in the judiciary. As a member of ACS’ #MeToo Task Force, I have partnered with leaders across the country to host listening sessions, gather best practices, and plan programming for National Convention to continue to address the problem of sexual harassment in the legal profession. I am excited about all we can do together.
In the end, being obsessed with fairness is just right for a civil rights lawyer and is at the core of ACS as well. We can do so much more together to support the progressive mission of ACS and the promise of a multi-racial, representative democracy.