Moritz to Honor Niki Z. Schwartz '64 on May 13 in Cleveland
|Niki '64 and Jennifer Schwartz Weisner '91|
The son of two OSU-trained social workers, Niki's passion for justice is in his blood. Growing up in Bexley, Ohio in the 1950s, Niki was ahead of the curve when it came to free speech. When the principal of Bexley High School pulled two of Niki's editorials prior to publication, a civil libertarian was born.
As an undergraduate student senator at Ohio State, Niki worked to remove discriminatory landlords' properties from the University's approved off-campus housing list. During law school, he challenged OSU's president to rescind a ban on political candidates speaking on campus and won. He was also the student plaintiff in a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of the University's guest speaker rule.
The late Hon. Jack Day '38, the ACLU lawyer who handled the case, became a friend and lifelong mentor to Niki. Another lifelong partnership forged at Ohio State was with the beautiful fellow baseball junkie Bobbie Hornstein. Four decades later, Bobbie Schwartz is still at his side planning family vacations to coincide with spring training or her passion and profession -- gardening.
A 1964 summa cum laude graduate of Moritz law, Niki began teaching at the University of Toledo College of Law where he remained until 1968. Although he enjoyed teaching, Niki felt he might have missed an essential part of his own legal education by not practicing. Niki entered private practice in Cleveland where he remained despite several offers to return to academia.
Niki quickly established a reputation for taking and winning a broad range of the toughest cases. His credentials as a criminal defense attorney are unparalleled and his clients include both the powerful and the powerless. The Ohio Super Lawyers 2004 issue ranked Niki second among Ohio's top ten lawyers.
Although it is less well known, Niki is a premier business litigator. He has mediated the settlement of innumerable high-end business litigation cases. As reported by Lori Valyko Weber in Inside Business, "He's worked on both sides of the fence, having represented large companies including Ohio Savings Bank, Revco, RTA and Roadway Corp. Conversely, he's worked cases against big business. TRW Inc. was so impressed
by Schwartz's work when he handled a case against them that the company later hired him to represent it on another case."
The case that would define Niki's career was his successful resolution of the Lucasville prison riot in 1993. One week into the siege in which half of Lucasville was occupied by 400 prisoners who had taken nine hostages and killed one, the prisoners called for an attorney to negotiate. The Ohio Department of Corrections chose Niki who first met with the prisoners on Sunday. By Wednesday, the settlement and surrender was in progress.
Niki worked closely with then-Governor George V. Voinovich '61, and
prison officials throughout the siege. Their painstaking patience is widely credited with avoiding more loss of life. A similar 1971 uprising at Attica, New York ended when troops stormed the facility killing two guard hostages with friendly fire. Niki received a Commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives and Distinguished Service Awards from the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Cuyahoga County Bar Association for his role in facilitating the settlement.
A less public affirmation comes from daughter Jennifer, who chose to follow in Niki's footsteps. She graduated from Moritz in 1991, and then clerked for the Hon. Thomas Lambros of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio before becoming a public defender. Today she practices with Niki at Schwartz, Kushner & Rendon.
Dean Nancy H. Rogers invites all Ohio alumni to be her guest at a reception honoring Niki Schwartz to be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 13 at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. RSVP by May 7 to Assistant Dean Pam Lombardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.