The First 100 Days: An Introduction to DeKalb’s New Solicitor General
by Jody L. Peskin
Sherry Boston was appointed January 2011 to the Office of the Solicitor General of DeKalb County. She is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes filed in the State Court. These crimes include domestic violence, elder abuse, cruelty to children, vehicular homicide, drunk driving, harassment and stalking, trespassing, and animal cruelty. At the Solicitor General’s Office, Ms. Boston oversees more than 12,000 cases annually, as well as supervises a staff of attorneys, investigators, victim and witness advocates, community prosecutor, legal secretaries, and public information officer.
Before her appointment, Boston had her own criminal defense practice, and had previously worked at the Bernstein Firm, PC, and the Chestney-Hawkins Law Firm. Boston also served as a pro hac vice judge on the DeKalb Recorder’s Court and the Dunwoody Municipal Court. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and her law degree from Emory University.
Boston acknowledged that her present position is mainly administrative, and she has been busy organizing the office and creating new programs. However, she does not intend to stop litigating and has reserved some cases for herself. She believes that it is not only a morale booster for her office staff to see her in court, but it is also good for the community to see her try cases she feels are important, and that merit a senior prosecutor.
Switching from criminal defense to prosecution has not been Boston’s biggest challenge, as she said law school teaches one to advocate either side of an issue. She admits that her biggest challenge is managing an office of 75 people. In order to create a more organized and efficient office, Boston set up a system whereby she has not only a chief assistant in Jenni Stolarski, but she has also assigned deputy chiefs to the following specialty trial divisions:
Deputy Chief Assistant Jessica Rock – Special Victims Unit
Deputy Chief Assistant Keisha Storey – Diversion and Community Alternative Programs (DCAP)
Deputy Chief Assistant Kelly McMichael – Trial Division
Having additional deputy chiefs allows each unit to have a supervisor, who will have a better understanding of the issues of that particular type of case, allows for quicker responses when there are questions, and offers more opportunity for brainstorming for better ideas on proceeding with a particular type of case. Should more serious issues arise, then the deputies can come to her and her chief assistant for guidance or decisions. Boston believes this offers a more user-friendly system for attorneys and defendants, especially when she or her chief are out at meetings. So far the feedback has been positive.
At present, Boston is working on the creation of a centralized diversion program. She hopes to be able to streamline the caseload as early as the pre-accusation stage. She and Deputy Chief Assistant Keisha Storey have been visiting other Solicitors General’s offices to see how other programs have been set up and how effective they are, so they may determine which style of program will work best in DeKalb. Since such programs are self funded, they won’t add any additional financial burden, and may even provide funding assistance for low income and indigent programs. This is especially important as grant and county funding has been reduced in the present economy.
Boston believes that community outreach work is an essential in crime prevention, and it is best to work at stopping crime at the misdemeanor level, and, where possible, prevent defendants from escalating to the felony level. Such programs as anger management, education (GRE programs), and substance abuse counseling often prevent the need for jail time in the future.