From the February 2020 Desktop News | For Nyya Parson-Hudson, every day in the office is another opportunity to change the lives of people in her community.
As a municipal court judge for the city of Birmingham, the UA alumna spends her time listening to cases that deal with everything from mental health to domestic violence. With each case, she takes the time to balance the costs for all parties involved: the victim, the defendant, and their families who might be affected.
“One of the most important things about this job is helping defendants become better citizens and addressing the underlying issues that may have caused their criminal conduct,” Parson-Hudson said.
The child of a Birmingham criminal defense attorney, Parson-Hudson grew up with a curiosity about the justice system. After graduating with a degree in political science from Howard University, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice at UA to better understand the inner workings of the American justice system. While at UA, she met Dr. Jimmy Williams, a former professor who guided her to her career path, and Dr. Ida Johnson, a professor whose summer class visiting prisons changed Parson-Hudson’s perspective.
“It was extremely powerful because we were actually able to meet and talk to individuals in the prison system,” Parson-Hudson said. “I can remember talking to young woman at Tutwiler prison who was serving over 10 years in prison. We were fairly close in age—she was convicted when she was a college student. And I think, for me, that interaction taught me how much the price of one decision can affect your path for the rest of your life.”
Once she graduated from UA, Parson-Hudson attended Miles Law School, where she was the valedictorian of her class. She then worked for Wal-Mart Corporate Office and eventually established her own firm, Hudson Law Firm.
After working as a criminal defense attorney for several years, Parson-Hudson felt called to serve on the other side of the bench. With the support of her family, she was appointed to be a judge on Birmingham’s municipal court.
“My father died at the age of 47, and while I was deciding whether or not to put myself out there for this position, I thought about what he might have wanted to do with his career,” Parson-Hudson said. “I felt that being able to continue this legacy of love for the justice system in our family was important. I also wanted to serve our community by making sure they had a fair judge who treated them with dignity and respect, no matter who they are.”
Now that she has been a judge for nearly 10 years, Parson-Hudson is full of advice for the next generation of criminal justice practitioners. While participating in a forum for students in UA’s department of criminology and criminal justice, she urged students to explore all of the paths available to them in the field, as well as to be diligent in their education.
“If you’re a person that has always thought you want to be a voice for the voiceless, that you want to help your community, you should do it,” Parson-Hudson said. “I think that takes a very special person. And then, once you’re in your field, treat other people with fairness, dignity, and respect. Really think about all of the parties involved. You have the opportunity to roll up your sleeves and really make a difference in your community.”