PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales is skilled in penning complicated legal pleadings, often hundreds of pages long, that set the legal foundations for her criminal cases.

The 2009 William & Mary Law School graduate this fall penned a different type of pleading titled, The Day I Became a Lawyer!

In her first book, a 32-page children’s book, Morales describes how her mother, Paula Lassiter, set the foundation for the first Black female top prosecutor in Portsmouth.

The Day I Became a Lawyer! is based on her early life in the Truxton section of Portsmouth.

In the book, Morales describes how she is feeling crestfallen after Career Day at Highland-Biltmore Elementary School. The day featured a football player, an accountant, a doctor, and even an astronaut. But, little Stephanie did not like any of those careers!

Her mother, acting on intuition, took Stephanie to the Portsmouth Courts building where she met deputies, attorneys and she was invited to sit in a judge’s chair.

The scene is depicted in the beautiful illustrations created by local artist Yvonne Frederick.

From Portsmouth Public Schools to Norfolk State University, to the College of William and Mary and on to the position of Commonwealth’s Attorney, Morales has paved the way for youth in her hometown to sit in the seat of justice.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see that since then [when I was a child]. I’ve had young people with me and I’ve seen judges go off the bench and allow young people to come up and see what it’s like to look down from the dais and really think about themselves in that position,” said Morales, who is also the mother of four children.

“It’s a special moment for me to be in that courtroom and it’s special that I’ve been part of that experience for other young people as well,” said Morales.

Morales handling evidence during a trial (Photo Courtesy: Luis Morales)

Morales has also made national headlines for her style of law and order that examines how and why young people in her hometown end up behind bars. Her book is an extension of her program “Ctrl+Alt+Del,” which takes aim at systemic problems that create a breeding ground for crime. 

“We can’t think about this criminal legal system and law enforcement and how law enforcement interacts with our community without thinking about the inefficiencies. The structural problems that we have issues with literacy, issues with housing, food insecurity — all of those things tie into one’s ability to thrive and the likelihood that they will interact with the criminal justice system if their basic needs are not met,” said Morales.

The 36-year old has completed two terms as Commonwealth’s Attorney and recently told 10 On Your Side that she will seek re-election next year.