Meet Rickell Howard Smith

Rickell is an experienced civil rights attorney, child advocate, and juvenile law expert.  She uses her fierce legal and advocacy skills to address injustice in the criminal legal system and change systems that drive inequities for children and families.  She’s litigated Federal civil rights suits on behalf of children and adults involved with the juvenile and criminal systems and is a community leader with deep connections to communities impacted by the justice system.

She began her legal career as a Legal Aid attorney representing clients in eviction, housing discrimination and subsidized housing matters.  Rickell went on to become the Director for the Human Rights in Prison Litigation project at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, where she represented incarcerated persons in Federal civil rights cases.  She further developed her expertise in juvenile law as Director of Litigation and Policy at Children’s Law Center, where she spearheaded policy initiatives aimed at improving the lives of young people involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Her expertise and balanced perspective made her a highly-demanded juvenile law expert locally and nationally. Rickell has trained community members, students, law enforcement, attorneys and policymakers across the country.  Locally, Rickell built a successful track record for leading cross-system collaborations to build youth-focused reentry programs, improve youth-police relations, provide legal representation for youth aging out of foster care and to provide supports to homeless youth in our region.  Rickell understands the long-term impact of the Juvenile Court’s decisions on children, families and communities.  Her experience taught her that youth interventions must center the voices and solutions developed by youth and their support systems.

Rickell lives in Cincinnati with her husband, two children and fur babies – Andre and Ziva.

Rickell’s Foundation

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rickell attended Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy in the West End and graduated from Walnut Hills High School.  Rickell is a “union baby” as both her mother and father were active union members (CWA and UAW).  She credits her early experience watching her parents participate in union strikes for her fierce commitment to advocate for the collective good of local communities.

As a first-generation college student, Rickell pursued her degree at Howard University.  She received the coveted Patricia Roberts Harris Public Affairs Fellowship-interning in the office of Marian Wright Edelman, Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.  The prestigious internship catalyzed Rickell’s career as an advocate for children’s rights. 

After Howard, Rickell pursued her law degree at Temple University’s School of Law. She gave birth to her first child while pursuing her law degree and experienced the joys and challenges that come with single parenthood.  With the help of her support system of family, friends, and classmates she finished law school and started her legal career in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rickell’s Commitment to Service

Rickell’s service demonstrates her commitment to strengthening communities and supports for families in Hamilton County.  She is currently a member of the Cincinnati City Manager’s Advisory Group (MAG), providing oversight and guidance on Cincinnati’s Community-Police Collaborative Agreement.  Her board service is extensive.  Most notably, Rickell served on the Lighthouse Community School Board, Central Community Health Board, All-In Cincinnati Racial Equity Coalition Core Team, Board of Trustees of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, Women’s Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation Leadership Council, is co-chair of the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Criminal and Social Justice Committee and recently joined Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Community Advisory Board for Adolescent Medicine.  

Rickell’s commitment to justice and leadership expands beyond our region.  Notably, she served on a national school-to-prison pipeline taskforce that included other legal experts from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, Juvenile Law Center and ACLU.  Rickell is also an alumn of the prestigious Youth Justice Leadership Initiative Fellowship and is currently a member of the inaugural Leaders in Light cohort hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council. 

Paid For by Committee to Elect Rickell Howard Smith

Stacey Roper, Treasurer
PO Box 37292
Cincinnati, Ohio 45222