On the morning of December 1, 2023, Jennifer Rierson was sworn in as Chief Public Defender for the new 24th Defender District (formerly 18th), by the Senior Resident of the 18th Superior Court District, the Honorable Judge R. Stuart Albright.
She took the oath of office in the judge’s chambers with husband Evan Smith; her mother, Ann-Marie Rierson; Guilford County Sheriff Deputy Don Taylor; and outgoing Chief Public Defender John Nieman, retired, in attendance. A formal swearing-in ceremony for Rierson will be held in the new year.
Rierson was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. She earned her undergraduate degree in speech communications from Wake Forest in 1989 and her Juris Doctorate from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1994. Prior to going to law school, Rierson had done some contract work on pretrial discovery in the Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice project. When she first started practicing, she began taking on some court appointed work out of her own private law office.
Rierson’s career in public defense began in the Gaston County Public Defender’s Office in January 2006. She became a public defender because she strongly believes that no one should ever be denied good legal representation because of their financial situation. She joined the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office in June 2007.
As an assistant public defender in Guilford County, she represented clients in all types of cases from first-degree murder to possession of cocaine, focusing primarily on clients with substance abuse and mental health issues. She was also the driving force in establishing the Guilford County treatment courts.
Rierson lives in Greensboro with her husband, Evan Smith, who is an investigator in the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office. They have two dogs, Mick, and Cecilia.