Melba Pearson is a civil rights and criminal law attorney who works in the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy. She serves as the Director of Prosecution Projects, overseeing technical assistance, training, and community engagement efforts. Her primary assignment is the MacArthur Foundation-funded Prosecutorial Performance Indicators' project, which aims to improve prosecutorial offices' efficiency, effectiveness and fairness through research, technical assistance, communications support and community engagement.
Before joining FIU, Melba served as the Deputy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida for three years. She 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. Before joining the ACLU, Melba 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, Melba 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. In 2020, Melba was the progressive candidate for Miami-Dade State Attorney, garnering a strong showing as a first-time candidate from across party lines.
Melba 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 also served as adjunct faculty for the University of Phoenix and Bryant and Stratton College, teaching law to undergraduate as well as master’s students. A prolific writer and blogger, 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 Baltimore Sun, Essence Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Miami Herald, and Ebony Magazine. She has also been a guest on national media regarding legal trends. Melba 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, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. In 2020, Melba edited and authored the book “Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion” (ABA Book Publishing). Lastly, she is the author of a blog on the topics of real life and the law at The Resident Legal Diva.
Melba is extensively involved in various community groups, and has taken every opportunity to spread the messages of the dangers of domestic violence, as well as the importance of self-empowerment. She has taken on a leadership/mentoring role in several charity organizations. She is the Past President of the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA), and President of the NBPA Foundation; First Vice Chair of the Criminal Justice Section Council and Co-Chair of the Prosecution Function Committee of the American Bar Association; as well as Past President of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association in South Florida.
A New York native, Melba has called Miami home for over 20 years. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Metropolitan Studies at New York University, she completed her studies at Hofstra University (now Maurice Dean) School of Law.
Civil Rights | Criminal Justice Policy | Domestic Violence | Community Engagement