Nichelle Holmes ’10

Giving Voice to Victims

Deputy District Attorney Nichelle Holmes ’10 uses law as a path to social justice.

Nichelle Holmes takes a hands-on approach to fighting injustices and racial disparities in the justice system. She goes to work.

“Coming to work every day and ensuring that justice is served is my way of protesting,” says Nichelle, a deputy district attorney for Contra Costa County. “Justice does not always mean a prison sentence. Sometimes it means a treatment program, or intensive counseling, and sometimes it means a dismissal.”

“There’s a misconception that you can be more impactful as a defense attorney. I disagree,” says Nichelle. “The victims oftentimes are from the same community as the suspects. They need a voice, also. Navigating through the criminal justice process can be daunting and only add to the stress and trauma of being a crime victim. I choose to advocate for the victims and be their voice to make the process just a little easier. I choose to make my community a safer place for everyone. I choose to ensure that the Constitution is upheld on all sides. I choose to be a part of the solution.”

After I started at USF, I discovered what an amazing program it truly is. The alumni network was invaluable in my law school success. The support of that network was amazing.

Early Struggle

Nichelle draws on her experience growing up amidst hardships in the same county the victims live in.

Nichelle was just 7 years old when her mother died three months shy of graduating from law school. Nichelle moved in with her father, but the death of Nichelle’s mother had taken its toll on him and left him addicted to drugs and without any money for clothes or food for Nichelle. She survived largely on her own, with some support from her mother’s family. When Nichelle started high school, she left her father’s house and moved in with her mother’s family and after high school, she moved east to attend Spelman College.

After college, Nichelle married and focused on raising her twin daughters. When one of her daughters died after a medical misdiagnosis, Nichelle worked through the grieving process and realized she wanted to pursue her long-held dream of attending law school. “I had always wanted to pick up where my mom left off and become a lawyer,” she says. With the help of her family she was able to realize her dreams.

I consider USF to be my family. Everyone from the Dean’s Office down supported me, believed in me, and prepared me for the legal profession. I represent USF proudly and consider myself blessed to be part of the family.

A Warm Welcome

Nichelle was initially drawn to USF for its evening program – she worked full time throughout law school – but she quickly discovered a welcoming, supportive community at the school and beyond.

“Law school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Nichelle says. “After I started at USF, I discovered what an amazing program it truly is. The alumni network was invaluable in my law school success. The support of that network was amazing.”

Nichelle now continues that commitment of supporting others. She is active in professional associations such as the Bay Area Black Prosecutors Association, participates in presentations at high schools throughout the area on knowing one’s rights, and serves on the USF School of Law Board of Governors.

“I consider USF to be my family,” Nichelle says. “Everyone from the Dean’s Office down supported me, believed in me, and prepared me for the legal profession. I represent USF proudly and consider myself blessed to be part of the family.”