Adventurous civil rights lawyer takes the road less traveled

 By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News
Ann Warner recalls many highlights during her legal career: getting published in the Wayne Law Review on civil rights; traveling the state to teach businesses and organizations about employment law, fair housing, and general civil rights when she was employed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for almost 10 years; and arguing cases before the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
“Litigating a case on behalf of a deaf child; his parents and the experts I worked with taught me so much. That may be the most emotional case for me,” says Warner, administrative law specialist for the State of Michigan, Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs in Detroit.

For most of her career, the Wayne State University Law School graduate specialized in civil rights, constitutional, and employment law before doing labor relations for the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.    

“I chose civil rights and constitutional law because I wanted to advocate on behalf of those who have historically struggled for fair and equal treatment under the law – minorities, women, the disabled and the LGBT community,” she says.  

“Among the challenges were deciding that I would accept less money in order to have balance. I did not want to spend so much time working that there was little time left to enjoy life.” 

Government work, teaching, clerking for a judge, and acting as Assistant Dean for Career Services and Alumni Relations allowed her to find that balance.  

Warner has done extensive community service and volunteer work including several political campaigns – for mostly local candidates, ballot measures and local human rights ordinances. She served on several boards and commissions for the city of Ferndale where she lived for more than 20 years.

She also served on the Constitutional Law Committee and the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Committees of the State Bar of Michigan.     

But it might be a more recent development that brings her the most joy. After years of being told she had a good eye, Warner realized she was drawn to photography at art fairs, which she began collecting before pursuing the path herself. 

“I decided that if I was ever going to do anything with it, now was the time because I was not getting any younger and my desire to use any talent I might have should be fulfilled,” she says. 

She bought the equipment, taught herself with classes and books, and a side business was born ( Her subjects include landscapes, architecture, street photography, and nature.   

Photography is a natural extension of her travels. 

“Traveling is one of those things that make life worth living,” says Warner, who does most of hers alone in order to wander off the beaten path. “I want to discover. That is why I don’t limit myself to big cities, but make sure to visit small towns in every state or country I visit – it is in the small towns and the countryside that you really get to know a place and meet some of the more interesting people.”  
She has visited courtrooms and spoken to lawyers throughout Europe. And she often buys photography from the locals.   

Warner has been moved to tears by notable art and architecture, like Michelangelo’s David in Florence and the inside of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. After an emotional response to a local photographer’s work, she wondered if her own would ever have the same effect. 

When Warner was selling her work at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale, a woman saw her photo of a homeless beggar in Paris holding two dogs and burst into tears. She would later return to purchase the image and offer words of encouragement. 

“It was an amazing moment,” Warner says.            

Nicole Rafaill, co-owner of State of the Art Framing in Ferndale, who has sold Warner’s work, recognized her talent right away. 

“It really captures that slice of life moment. A lot of people can capture a nice flower, but she captures a moment in time. It’s more than aesthetically pleasing,” she says. “Even though digital photography gives a lot more people access, she has an inherent talent for it. It doesn’t need a lot of enhancing because she caught it the first time, like an old-fashioned photo.”