JOHN OWENS JR. – FELLOWS SPOTLIGHT

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?

I currently serve as a Principal Court Attorney to an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, in New York County. A high school debate class ignited my passion for the practice of law. I began my legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, where I prosecuted and tried felony and misdemeanor cases. After serving as an Assistant District Attorney, I worked as counsel to the New York City Board of Elections. At the Board of Elections, I provided legal advice to the Commissioners and senior agency officials on matters related to ballot access and the administration of elections. My experience at the Board of Elections taught me the nuts and bolts of politics, particularly state and local politics – and, critically, the impact of voter registration and actual voting on communities of color.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The biggest challenge of my work is assisting the Justice in managing a docket of over 700 often complex commercial litigation matters and overseeing and mediating disputes in such cases. Our inventory includes matters as diverse as breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, commercial landlord-tenant disputes, commercial insurance coverage, and personal injury. On a daily basis I am called upon to review the steady stream of motions that arise in such cases, draft decisions and orders addressed to those motions, offer counsel to the Justice regarding oral arguments upon such motions and, wherever appropriate and practicable, use a diplomatic approach to encourage voluntary resolution of such motions.  When you are a Principal Court Attorney, you often do not have the luxury of more time, resources, or information when making decisions. While challenging, this work has contributed to me becoming a more versatile attorney.

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement is fulfilling my dream of becoming an attorney.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?

There are many incredible leaders, thinkers and doers that have and continue to inspire me. The thinker I admire the most is Susan Cain. Reading Ms. Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” has been a transformative experience for me. Her work inspires me professionally every day.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

In ten years I see myself working in the private sector utilizing my public sector experience and my political experience to build partnerships to address social, political and economic issues in traditionally underrepresented and under-served communities. I plan on serving in a role that will allow me to create corporate programs that support civic and community engagement. I plan on continuing to pursue my interest in law, politics, and voting rights.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?

I have several mentors who offer advice, guide me, and train me as a lawyer.  Through their leadership I have learned that I possess the skills and knowledge necessary to serve as a mentor.

What do you hope to gain from your CUP Fellows Program experience to help you make a significant and positive impact in your community?

The CUP Fellows Program will afford me the opportunity to connect with the next generation of diverse business and civic leaders. I hope to use the skill-based training to position myself to bring about social change. I plan on using CUP’s Board Matching Program to secure a non-profit board placement.