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Alexander J. Pires, Jr. (Born 1947) is an American lawyer and entrepreneur. He is married to Diane Cooley, a lawyer, and has two children from a previous marriage, Alexander J. Pires III (“AJ”) and Claire C. Pires.
- 1 Early Family Life and Background
- 2 Education and Military Service
- 3 Legal career
- 4 Other Business Pursuits
- 5 Teaching Positions
- 6 Television Appearances/Newspaper Articles
- 7 Community Involvement/Charitable
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early Family Life and Background
Alexander J. Pires, Jr. was raised in Easton, Massachusetts, the second of five children born to Alexander J. Pires, Sr. and Mary C. Pires (née Barros). Pires parents, both children of Portuguese immigrants, had come of age during the depression and neither finished high school. Pires began working with his father in his stone masonry business at the age of 13.
Education and Military Service
Following his graduation from high school in 1965, Pires attended the University of Miami for one year and then transferred to Boston University, graduating in 1969 with a BA in Business. After college, Pires attended George Washington University Law School on a full scholarship, receiving his JD degree, with honors, in 1972. Pires would later return to GW Law School and receive an advanced law degree (LLM) in taxation. Pires was drafted during the Vietnam War and entered the ROTC program at Georgetown University. After basic training at Fort Knox and later stints at Indian Town Gap and Fort Lee, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1972. Following the Vietnam War, Pires remained in the reserves for eight years and was honorably discharged in 1980. His final rank was Major.
United States Department of Justice and Government Service
Upon graduating from GW Law in 1972, Pires was accepted into the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice where he worked as a trial attorney in the Lands Division until 1977, receiving the Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award for work on complex litigation. Pires then became a senior trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice where he took a lead role on the trial team responsible for the then largest anti-trust case in DOJ history: the breakup of telecommunications giant AT&T. While at the Department of Justice, Pires served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the Federal Justice Credit Union, four as President. This experience set the stage for Pires later decision to start a community bank. In 1980 Pires was appointed by President Carter to serve as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
Pires joined the firm of Barnett & Alagia in 1981. It was here he would begin representing farmers and developing a specialty in agricultural law. After 3 years at Barnett, Pires formed the firm of Scott, Harrison & McLeod, which eventually became McLeod & Pires. In 1991 Pires left McLeod & Pires and joined the firm of Conlon Frantz Phelan & Pires, where he remained for 12 years. Today, Pires has a law practice with his wife, Diane Cooley.
In 1997, Pires and attorney Phil Fraas agreed to take on the case of 11 Black farmers who had been discriminated against by the USDA for years. These farmers had been traveling the country trying to find lawyers to listen to their story. As described by John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers’ Association: “We visited with 14 lawyers, including Johnnie Cochran—all of them turned down the case. Pires and Fraas were the only ones willing to do it.” Pires told the farmers he believed their claims could only succeed if they could get several hundred other farmers with similar claims to join them in a class action. The claims involved were years, and often decades, old and the statute of limitations had long since expired. Pires theorized that if they could show USDA’s discriminatory practices regarding Black farmers was pervasive and longstanding the case would have wide appeal and the statute of limitations problem could be solved somehow. Pires, Fraas, and the farmers began touring the South, holding meetings to discuss and explain the case. Within a year they had far exceeded the goal of finding several hundred farmers who had been discriminated against by USDA. In September 1997 Pires filed Pigford v. Glickman in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, naming hundreds of plaintiffs with claims of discrimination and asking the court to certify a class. Within a few months, noted civil rights leader and attorney J.L. Chestnut of Selma, Alabama joined Pires and Fraas. Battling heavy opposition from the Government, Pires succeeded in getting class certification and in 1999 Pires, Fraas, Chestnut and their colleagues settled the case. Ultimately, over 22,000 people filed claims—a figure ten times higher than projected. By the end of the claims process, over 15,000 claimants would be compensated (an average $50,000 plus $12,500 to pay taxes on the award) for a total payout of over $1 billion —making it one of the largest civil rights cases in history.
The Keepseagle Case
In 1999 Pires and Fraas filed a Pigford-style case on behalf of Native American farmers against USDA. Joseph Sellers of Cohen Millstein and other lawyers took over the lead in the case and settled it in 2010 for $760 million. The lawyers received a fee of 8%.
The DeLoach vs. Philip Morris Case
In 2000 Pires filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 435,000 tobacco farmers against the tobacco industry alleging the defendants violated antitrust laws by bid rigging at tobacco auctions, as well as conspiring to undermine the tobacco quota and price support program administered by the federal government. Due to the heavy demands of the Pigford case, Pires brought in the Washington, DC law firm of Howrey Simon to litigate DeLoach. In 2003 a settlement was reached with all defendants except Reynolds, who subsequently settled in 2004. The combined value of the settlement to the plaintiff class was over $1 billion.
The Love and Garcia Cases
In addition to Keepseagle, Pires filed Pigford-style cases on behalf of women (Love v. Vilsack) and Hispanic (Garcia v. Vilsack) farmers against USDA. Both cases are still pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In the summer of 2012 the USDA announced a voluntary administrative process through which women farmers and Hispanic farmers can apply (up until March 2013) to receive compensation for discrimination by USDA dating back to 1981—in essence validating the claims of the plaintiff in those lawsuits. The total amount of funds available to pay these claims is $1.25 billion.
Other Business Pursuits
Real Estate Investment
After graduating from law school, Pires began investing in real estate in Washington, DC, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Over the years these endeavors became increasingly more sophisticated, ultimately leading to the formation of the Highway One Limited Partnership in which Pires is the general partner.
Highway One Limited Partnership
In 1989 Pires and a close-knit group of friends began purchasing music venues, bars, restaurants and hotels in Delaware. The company now employs, during the season, over 500 employees.
Community Bank Delaware
In 2005 Pires put together a group of investors and started Community Bank Delaware, based in Lewes, Delaware. Since the Bank’s inception, Pires has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Today CBD has assets of $145 million.
In 2009 Pires co-wrote, produced and directed the film Mayor Cupcake starring Lea Thompson, Judd Nelson and Frankie Faison and with cameo appearances by popular FOX News commentator Greta Van Susteren and singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw. The film, which was shot entirely in Delaware, tells the story of an uneducated cupcake baker who becomes the mayor of a small town and employs common sense solutions to solve the town’s budget crisis and root out corruption in the local government. Pires's mother was the inspiration for the cupcake baker. The film was selected by various film festivals and is available on demand at Netflix and Comcast and can also be seen on Showtime.
Pires served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center from 1998-2000 where he co-taught a course in Civil Discovery with his wife, Diane Cooley.From 1976-1979 Pires taught real estate and business law at the University of Maryland.
Television Appearances/Newspaper Articles
Pires has appeared on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 60 Minutes, PBS, The Bill O’Reilly Show, BET, Hannity & Coombs, The Stossel Show, Cavuto and other TV programs. Pires and his cases also have been the subject of nationwide newspaper and magazine articles.In 2001 Pires and Christopher Hitchens debated on the same side of the issue of reparations, before a live audience at Boston University. The debate was later broadcast on CSPAN.
From 2003-2012 Pires served on the Foundation Board of Beebe Hospital, a non-profit in Lewes, Delaware and its finance committees. He was Chairman of the Nursing School Fund. Pires’ company Highway One has sponsored fundraisers for the families of first responders killed on 9/11, breast cancer, melanoma, and the families of Delaware police officers killed in the line of duty.
2012 Senate race
Pires ran as an Independent challenger in the United States Senate election in Delaware, 2012. He appeared in a series of Senatorial debates along with Democratic incumbent Tom Carper and Republican nominee Kevin Wade, including October 17 in Rehoboth, and October 16 in Newark. He lost to incumbent Senator Carper, drawing 3.8 percent of the votes.
- The Deal of the Century, The Breakup of AT&T, Steven Coll (1988). See also United States v. AT&T, 552 F.Supp. 131 (D.D.C. 1982)
- Pigford v. Glickman (now Pigford v. Vilsack), U.S.D.C., District of Columbia, No. 1:97-cv-1978-PLF
- Keepseagle v. Vilsack, 99-cv-3119, U.S.D.C District of Columbia (EGS)
- DeLoach, et al. v. Philip Morris Co., et al., U.S.D.C., Middle District of North Carolina, No. 1:00-cv-01235-WLO
- Love v. Vilsack, U.S.D.C., District of Columbia, No. 1:00-cv-02502
- Garcia v. Vilsack, U.S.D.C., District of Columbia, No. 1:00-cv-02445