Waterford’s new youth prosecutor where she ‘should be’

Apr. 21—WATERFORD — Glastonbury native Tashia Sowell can trace her love of the law back to at least the age of five, around the time she first started talking about becoming a judge.

Just ask her parents, Sowell said, who took her on personal field trips to the courthouse to attend trials at a young age.

“I always knew what I wanted to do. And my parents know that if I say I want to do it, I’m going to do it,” Sowell said with a smile as she sat in her new office at Superior Court. Youth Affairs in Waterford.

Sowell, 28, started her new job as a deputy assistant district attorney on February 23. She oversees cases in a courthouse where all defendants are under the age of 18. The prosecution of these cases is usually more nuanced than in adult court. The state has 11 juvenile courts statewide. The Waterford District Court covers the 21 towns in New London County.

Juvenile court is where Sowell said she was meant to be and a place where she said she believes justice must be balanced with empathy and compassion.

Sowell’s passion for juvenile justice matters dates back to her law school studies at the University of Arkansas, where she had the opportunity to work in the juvenile division of the criminal court system.

“That internship showed me the path I wanted to take in my legal career,” Sowell says. “While I was most proud of being a voice for my community by helping to right the wrongs children have done to society and others, I was most proud to be part of a justice system that protects children who in most cases are not punished. his children.”

Sowell said she also finds satisfaction in helping youth access “game-changing substances” as a way to avoid further involvement in the criminal justice system. Part of the focus of the juvenile justice system is investigating why a child committed a crime and how to prevent the child from committing another crime, she said.

Sowell graduated from law school in 2022 and before returning to Connecticut, she had moved to New York City to take a job as a corporate attorney in the New York City Law Department, where she worked with youth in family court.

Sowell was hired by the state’s Criminal Justice Commission, a group consisting of the chief prosecutor and six members appointed by the General Assembly, two of whom are superior court judges.

New London County State’s Attorney Paul Narducci, on a panel interviewing Sowell, said Sowell is filling a vacancy on the juvenile court created by the retirement of Lonnie Braxton in 2021. The job has been filled by senior assistant state’s attorney Fran Reese, who split her. time between the juvenile courts in Waterford and Willimantic, and which, Narducci said, has been invaluable to the smooth functioning of the courthouses.

Narducci said it was important to have an attorney like Sowell, who is not only well-versed in juvenile law, but also understands the variables at play — such as family dynamics and age, and has the ability to listen and be empathetic to be.

Sowell was initially hired for a position as a special deputy assistant state’s attorney in Hartford. When she was informed of the opening in juvenile court, she said applying was “a no-brainer.”

Sowell’s path to becoming a lawyer has not been without obstacles.

After a series of seizures in high school, Sowell said doctors discovered what was an inoperable brain tumor. Under certain circumstances the tumor could have left her blind, paralyzed or even dead. As a young teenager, Sowell underwent risky surgery at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to have the tumor removed. The operation was a success, but it left her partially paralyzed on her right side and forced her, among other things, to learn to write with her left hand.

It has taken countless hours of physical therapy, Sowell said, to get through physical limitations. The surgery also left her with a number of problems that lingered throughout her law school studies. She suffered from seizures and sleep comas that led to missed exams and the possibility of never graduating.

She kept her faith and graduated in 2022.

In Waterford, Sowell said she was welcomed with open arms by colleagues who supported me and “showed me the ropes and helped me get acclimated to the youth practice in Connecticut.”

“I’m proud to be part of the great team here,” Sowell said.

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