Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Brian Shinn '96: Dignity's Defender

As Mayor Coleman's official liaison to the Columbus Community Relations Commission, Brian represents the Mayor at community meetings and serves as a conduit between the Mayor and various constituency groups. The Columbus Community Relations Commission was established in 1990 to help bring civic leaders, business leaders, citizens and elected officials together on issues of ethnic, racial and cultural diversity. Unofficially, Brian is the Mayor's ombudsman to Columbus' gay and lesbian community - a volunteer position for which he is particularly well qualified.

Brian Shinn
Brian at graduation in 1996

Brian served on the National Stonewall Democrats board and is a founder and former president of the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio. In addition, he is a member of the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association.

Brian is also active in Democratic politics at the local, state, and national levels and works as a litigator in the Dublin firm of Mowery & Youell, Ltd. focusing primarily on family and employment law. Dealing in this plaintiffs' practice with people under the considerable emotional strain of employment discrimination and domestic relations disputes has heightened his sensitivity to issues of respect and self esteem.

That sensitivity has been well utilized as the Mayor's official liaison to the Community Relations Commission. Brian works to guarantee that the City's human rights ordinance is enforced when race, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation issues arise. He is frequently called upon to utilize the dispute resolution skills he developed at Moritz to solve particularly complex problems.

Among the more complex disputes is the ongoing tension between Somali immigrant and the African-American communities in the North Linden neighborhood. "The problems are exacerbated by differences in language, culture, and religion," says Brian. True to form, Brian is effectively de-escalating tensions. Working with Community Relations Commission Executive Director James L. Stowe, Brian has pushed to train mediators to preemptively solve problems. He has advocated for sensitivity training for police and for the creation of a youth commission. These efforts are showing success and building greater understanding within the neighborhood.

Brian's greatest challenge is "balancing multiple interests." He must maintain credibility with the Mayor and other community constituencies when they disagree. To that end, he is working to get to know the leaders of Columbus' Hispanic, Muslim, African-American, and Somali communities better

Within the gay and lesbian community, Brian has developed a reputation for identifying and mentoring the next generation of leaders in the tradition of the mentoring he received at Moritz. Brian chose Moritz so that he could study with then-professor Rhonda Rivera whose legal research he encountered while an undergraduate at West Virginia University. Her scholarship and reputation as an advocate for equal rights combined with the overall quality of the faculty drew Brian to Ohio State.

Following graduation, Brian clerked for Judge Katherine S. Lias of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and then for Judge John P. Kennedy of the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals. Working behind the scenes by day for more than five years as a law clerk and assuming more responsibility in various community organizations by night positioned Brian for increased responsibility as a private sector attorney and as a community activist.

What's next? Although the specifics are not yet apparent, Brian says he wants to take his community activities and advocacy to the next level. Be it advocating for recognition of domestic partnership or fighting employment discrimination for his clients, one thing is clear. Brian will advocate exactly as he lives his life - with dignity for all.