A Single Mother's Story
Succeeding Against the Odds
That’s what Melissa Powers was told when she expressed her desire to graduate college, enroll in law school and become an attorney.
As a single mother, the deck seemed stacked against Melissa, but she knew she was on the right track, and she was determined to succeed.
A tough but fair mother and an effective parent, Judge Powers raised a successful child who respects others – and respects the law.
Judge Powers has a firsthand personal perspective on raising children in tough circumstances. She understands the challenges and the crises that many families face.
Most importantly, Judge Powers will apply the lessons she learned succeeding against extreme odds to help juveniles who find themselves in the court system and to help families.
Committed to Justice Being Served
Prosecuting A Racist Murderer
In the late 1990s, the murders of two African-American teenagers were still unsolved. Two young boys – 14-year-old Darrell Lane and 13-year-old Dante Evans Brown – had been gunned down in Cincinnati in the early 1980s.
Prosecutors and investigators believed that Joseph Paul Franklin was responsible, but they had no direct evidence to link him to the murders.
Melissa Powers, then a prosecutor in Hamilton County, believed that she might be able to get a confession from Franklin, who was sitting on Death Row in Missouri for other murders.
Powers wrote Franklin and later visited him on Death Row. After a long process of corresponding, Franklin finally confessed to Powers that he had murdered the two Cincinnati teenagers and that the crime was racially motivated.
Due to Powers’ efforts, Joseph Paul Franklin was successfully prosecuted before his execution in Missouri. This prosecution brought an end to an unsolved cold case and delivered closure to the families of the victims.
Judge Powers is committed to seeing justice served, helping families, and will go above and beyond the call of duty to achieve it.
Compassion in Veterans Treatment Court
Extending a Helping Hand to Veterans
Images of our veterans who return from their tours of duty missing limbs or being wheelchair-bound are heart-wrenching.
Many veterans also return from duty with scars and trauma that cannot be seen. Post traumatic stress and other mental illnesses often go undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or untreated. When this happens, veterans who are suffering these illnesses may turn to self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Some become suicidal.
Most often, these veterans did not have a criminal history before their tour of duty. Most of them served in a combat zone, deployed in multiple tours and received the Purple Heart. Many are now homeless, unemployed and disconnected from family. And many have neither applied for benefit assistance nor sought any form of help through the Cincinnati VA Hospital, even though they are eligible for services.
As Municipal Court Judge, Melissa Powers worked to develop Hamilton County Veterans Court to bring the multitude of the services and resources from our community to the courtroom – to assist veterans with mental health care; drug and alcohol abuse treatment; medical, housing, transportation, educational and employment resources; and veterans’ benefits.
To date, Veterans Treatment Court has helped many veterans. Those who graduate from the program have a significantly lower recidivism rate than those who are untreated. Graduates become productive members of our community and are often grateful that they received the care and attention of the court – the care and attention they deserve for their sacrifice and service.
A New Vision for Juvenile Court
Turning Around Young Lives at Risk
Just as the Veterans Treatment Court demonstrated that the court system can be helpful and positive under the worst circumstances, Judge Melissa Powers believes that Juvenile Court can be a last refuge of hope for young people who are at the tipping point of entering a life of crime.
No one wakes up and decides to be a bad person or that they are going to begin committing crimes. Juveniles who enter the court system are the products of their environment over time.
There is no overnight fix to treat young people in the juvenile court system. Sitting in a detention center for a few months will not suddenly transform a delinquent child into positive force in our community.
Just as Judge Powers helped to turn around the lives of veterans through a treatment program that includes a graduation, she believes that juveniles can benefit from a similar program.
Families often do not know where to turn to find help for their children. Judge Powers will empower families to actively participate in the rehabilitation of juveniles. This will help families and build a stronger community.
As a former Prosecutor, Judge Powers knows that not all criminals can be reached. However, the results in the Veterans Treatment Court have been so successful in reducing repeat offenders that even a small percentage of success in Juvenile Court will have a profound impact on families and neighborhoods.
Safe Neighborhoods, Strong Neighborhoods
Keeping Our Neighborhoods Safe
While remaining firmly committed to justice and fairness, Judge Powers brings compassion, decisiveness and knowledge to the stand. She has gained widespread respect from the community for her judicial temperament, professionalism and efficient resolution of many high-profile cases.
After beginning her legal career in the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Judge Powers gained experience and poise trying hundreds of cases involving crimes ranging from murder, rape and major drug trafficking to minor felonies and misdemeanors. With years of legal experience under her belt, Powers brings both judicial leadership and a strong moral compass to the Cincinnati area.
Her experience includes successful resolution of approximately 600 criminal cases and an average of five civil cases per month. Prior to her appointment to Hamilton County Municipal Court, she had fifteen years of trial experience in criminal, juvenile, appellate, domestic relations, probate and civil courts.
Judge Powers firmly believes that safe neighborhoods are strong neighborhoods, and that strong neighborhoods have healthy families. That’s not only her belief – it’s also her vision of what she can help achieve as a strong and fair-minded public servant committed to helping families.