Areas of Expertise
Civil Rights | Criminal Justice Reform | Domestic Violence | Community Prosecution
J.D., Hofstra University (Maurice Dean) School of Law, 1997
CV: Curriculum Vitae
A New York native, Melba Pearson has called Miami home for over 20 years. After receiving her undergraduate degree at New York University, she completed her studies at Hofstra University (now Maurice Dean) School of Law.
Ms. Pearson is a civil rights and criminal law attorney who works in the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University (FIU). She serves as the Director of Prosecution Projects, overseeing technical assistance, training, and community engagement efforts around the field of prosecution. Her primary assignment is as co-manager of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Prosecutorial Performance Indicators' project, which aims to improve prosecutorial offices' efficiency, effectiveness and fairness through data, research, technical assistance, and communications support.
Before joining FIU, she served as the Deputy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida for three years. Ms. Pearson was part of the leadership team who helped pass Amendment 4 in 2018 - the historic voting rights amendment which re-enfranchised people with felony convictions in Florida. Additionally, she worked heavily on criminal justice reform legislation, policing, and expanding voting rights. Prior to the ACLU, Ms. Pearson was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County for 16 years. After prosecuting a variety of crimes, she was selected to join the Domestic Crimes Unit, focusing on serious domestic violence crimes as well as homicides for close to four years. In her next assignment, Ms. Pearson was integral to the re-launch of the Community Prosecution Unit, whose goal is partnering with the community to find creative solutions to prevent crime and provide outreach. She ended her prosecutorial career as the Assistant Chief in the Career Criminal/Robbery Unit, supervising junior attorneys while prosecuting homicides. Ms. Pearson was the progressive candidate for Miami-Dade State Attorney in 2020, garnering close to 155,000 votes as a first time candidate from across party lines.
Ms. Pearson is a frequent guest lecturer on a wide array of law enforcement concerns. She lectured nationwide to prosecutors on behalf of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). She serves as adjunct faculty for FlU Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Phoenix, and Bryant and Stratton College, teaching law to undergraduate as well as master’s students. A prolific writer, she has published numerous popular and scholarly articles on topics including police encounters, domestic violence, crimes against women, criminal trial procedure, along with everyday legal issues. Publications that have profiled, featured or quoted her include The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Essence Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Miami Herald, and Ebony Magazine. In 2020, Ms. Pearson edited and authored the book “Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion”. Lastly, she is the author of a blog on the topics of real life and the law at The Resident Legal Diva.
Ms. Pearson is a highly sought after public speaker known for her lively and engaging speaking style at corporate, industry and academic events. She has spoken on and moderated panels for the American Bar Association, the National Black Prosecutors Association, the (Miami) Dade County Bar Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National District Attorneys Association and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. She has also been a guest on local as well as national media regarding legal trends including CourtTV and Law & Crime.
Ms. Pearson has taken on a leadership/mentoring role in several charity organizations. She is Past President of the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA), and President of the NBPA Foundation; Co-Chair of the Prosecution Function Committee/Vice Chair, Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association; Vice Chair of the Florida Justice Center, as well as Past President of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association in South Florida.