The ABA Journal featured former McGuireWoods attorney Melissa Nelson in its June cover story on reform-minded prosecutors who have made marks in their communities by increasing transparency and community engagement.
Nelson was senior counsel in the firm’s Jacksonville, Florida, office before winning election as state attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in 2016. In the ABA Journal story, she described how her office created a Conviction Integrity Review unit to review claims of actual innocence in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.
“We did this because one of the things I ran on was restoring trust in the work that we do,” Nelson said. “If nothing else, we’re willing to take a look at our mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again.”
Nelson also discussed diversion programs and new safeguards for juvenile offenders that she implemented after taking office, as well as efforts to help the public better prosecutors’ decision-making. Nelson, who had been an assistant state attorney before joining McGuireWoods, said she decided to run against her former boss because she was “uncomfortable with the direction things were going.”
“I took a leap of faith, ran a really quick campaign,” she said. “I cared very deeply about the office, I cared very deeply about the justice system, and I wanted to restore the confidence in the work of this office.”