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Perez-Reyes works to protect children

By: Alex Zank//September 19, 2017//

Perez-Reyes works to protect children

By: Alex Zank//September 19, 2017//

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Describing Nadya Perez-Reyes as a hard worker and role model would be an extreme understatement.

An assistant state public defender in the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Milwaukee juvenile/mental health office, Perez-Reyes works with children in both delinquency and child-in-need-of-protection cases. She also represents parents in termination-of-parental-rights cases.

Nadya Perez-Reyes - State Public Defender’s Office
Nadya Perez-Reyes –
State Public Defender’s Office

Since joining that office, she has made a name for herself by tirelessly pouring over the thousands of pages of text that come with her cases. Even so, Perez-Reyes’s colleagues say she always has her door open to others who need help with their own work.

One reason she’s relied on so much is her ability to, no matter how bad a case seems, find some facts or detail that may have otherwise been overlooked.

“You just think, ‘Wow, how did she come up with that?’” said her fellow assistant state public defender Maura Ross. “She’s just a rock star that way.”

Perez-Reyes admits the amount of work she puts into her cases, as well as the time she spends helping others, means she finds herself working outside the office quite a bit.

“This is not a 40-hour-a-week job,” she said. “We work long nights, we work long weekends, we pull all-nighters because we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect these kids.”

And helping her young clients is one of her primary sources of motivation for putting in all that time and effort.

“That’s why I work so hard, because we’re dealing with kids,” Perez-Reyes said. “I think society in general, we have this notion we need to protect our kids and make sure they’re safe. … I don’t think that’s any different as a public defender.”

Another motivating factor, and one that made her decide to focus on public-defense work rather than something more internationally focused, is being witness to how the criminal justice system can fail to rehabilitate people.

During her first semester of law school, Perez-Reyes’s cousin of the same age was charged with homicide and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

Perez-Reyes noted that her cousin had run-ins with the law before that and had previously served time.

“He got out and I don’t think he had necessarily been rehabilitated,” she said.

From that point on, Perez-Reyes wanted to devote her career to helping others avoid this path.

“I got a personal, first-hand perspective,” she said. “Not only how it affected my cousin but how it affected families.”

Beyond her work as a lawyer, Perez-Reyes also gives back to the community through a number of organizations. She mentored two girls through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and also gives presentations for various classes in the Milwaukee Public Schools system.

Perez-Reyes said she sees this as an extension of the work she does representing kids and adults as a public defender.

“I want to give back to my community in general.”


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