Q&A with a Lawyer and Town Justice

A former MP, Jennifer Nunnery graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She now practices law in Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties, and serves as a town justice in Darien.

By any measurement, Jennifer Bryant Nunnery ’11 succeeds at everything she attempts: military career, higher education, law practice, and serving as a town judge. She acknowledges her accomplishments and quickly points out that support from her family, faculty, and friends have made her achievements possible.

Crediting her Brockport faculty with expanding her goals, she enjoys her law practice, representing children and adults in family, criminal, and county courts in western New York.

Why did you decide to enter the military after high school?

No one in my immediate family had gone to college, and I did not feel ready. I wanted to see the world, and I knew the military would help with my education. It seemed like a good option.

How would you describe your military career?

Before joining the U.S. Army, the farthest I had been from home was Niagara Falls. With the military I went to Germany for a few months and then to my first combat deployment in Iraq. During that tour, I heard some small arms fire on patrol as an MP (Military Police). That was it. When I went back to Germany for my second posting there, I spent my off time traveling to see as much as I could. I even visited Paris twice. My second tour in Iraq was more combat-intensive and involved patrols with Iraqi soldiers. I was one of the first women to receive the combat action badge. After two tours in Iraq, I received an honorable discharge and returned home.

What did you do when you returned from the military?

I enrolled at Genesee Community College. I knew I had to support my daughter so I took classes to become a paralegal. I believed I could always find work in a law office. One of my teachers encouraged me to continue my education. I received a Coca-Cola Gold Scholarship that covered two years of tuition at a SUNY school. I chose SUNY Brockport because it was close to my home. It seemed so much bigger than GCC, and I worried about fitting in.

What did you like about Brockport?

I was a member of the Honors College and was elected to the president-elect/president position for my cohort. I was active with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and I always felt I could bring my daughter Paige along on service projects. There also were family events like ice-skating at Tuttle.

I was president of Tau Sigma and a transfer Peer Mentor. I received the Honors College Outstanding Senior Award. I was also active with the Veterans Club. In fact, that’s where I met my husband Brandon Nunnery. Like me, he was student returned from military service.

Who were your favorite faculty?

Dr. Mark Chadsey, professor, who had gone to law school, encouraged me to do so as well. He was always approachable and had an open-door policy toward students. I appreciated Dr. Andrea Rubery, professor of political science, for her Early American history class, where I learned things I had never heard before in an interesting way. Dr. Steven Jurek, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, explained theories that proved helpful during law school. Dr. Mark Wirtz, my Senior Honors Thesis advisor, supported me as well.

What helped you decide to go to law school?

I actually was not 100 percent sure I really wanted to go to law school, thinking it was selfish to spend another three years in school, but then I had an internship in the Rochester Public Defender’s office and felt I could make a difference. I also thought graduating from law school would give my daughter more to look up to.

What can you say about your law school experience?

When I attended the University at Buffalo Law School, I became active with moot courts. [Moot courts involve arguments on hypothetical legal issues, using procedures similar to those used in actual court situations with students competing within their schools, regions, states, or beyond. When I competed in the Niagara Moot Court, an international completion, in 2013, my team won the Niagara Cup for the United States for the first time in 40 years. In 2014, my team and I won second-place honors in the Peter James Johnson ’49 National Civil Rights Trial Competition.

During law school, I interned at the Genesee County Public Defender’s Office and the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office, gaining valuable experience and mentorship from some of the most experienced public defenders in Western New York. I also clerked at the Buffalo law firm of Harrington and Mahoney.

What made it possible for you to go to law school?

Both my husband and mother made it possible for me to focus on my law school studies and on taking the bar exam. That’s the fourth year of law school no one tells you about

After you learned you passed the bar exam, what did you do?

I hung up my shingle, going into solo practice in Genesee County. I let the courts know I was available for assignment. Now I represent clients in Orleans and Wyoming counties as well. After two-plus years in family and criminal court, I became an Attorney for Children (AFC). My first case as an AFC was representing three-month-old twins in a custody dispute.

Since then, I have represented children in custody, divorce, visitation, abuse, and neglect cases. When I was in law school, I did not know that being an attorney for children was even a thing. Now a large part of my work is in Family Court. As an AFC, I also represent children in PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) and juvenile delinquency. My work includes representing adults in family court matters as well as representing misdemeanor and felony clients in local criminal and county courts.

I enjoy the pace and congeniality of practice in my communities. Lawyers here refer cases to each other and take part in pre-trial conferences. I can always go to someone with questions.

Why did you decide to run for town justice?

Serving as town justice in Darien is a chance to make another type of positive impact on my community. Campaigning in fall 2019, I knocked on many doors, meeting wonderful members of my community who gave me their support. I learned a lot from the experience of campaigning.

Being a judge is different from being a lawyer. It involves far more listening skills. I am surprised at how much of a judge’s work takes place outside the courtroom. Seeing things from the perspective of a judge is a challenging and rewarding experience that makes me a better attorney.

What is the key to your success?

Support from my family and friends is everything.

Back to Brockport Today



Posted: July 25, 2023