Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Victoria Burton-Harris
Victoria Burton-Harris serves as the Chief Assistant Prosecutor for Washtenaw County. Victoria was appointed to this position January 1st, 2021 by Prosecutor Eli Savit.
Victoria M. Burton-Harris is a native of Flint and a graduate of Flint Southwestern Academy. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and African American Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 2012. During her time at Wayne Law, Victoria taught high school students at Southeastern High School and worked at the Free Legal Aid Clinic as a student advocate for underprivileged families. Passionate about the relationship between law, social justice and equality, she began preparing for a career focused on criminal law and social justice. Victoria served as president of the Black Law Students Association, where she encouraged students to use their legal experience to create positive change for community residents. In 2014, Victoria opened a private firm in the heart of downtown Detroit specializing in family law and criminal defense at the state and federal trial court level. Victoria has represented hundreds of families across Michigan in cases ranging from child custody to murder. Victoria's work has been highlighted on CNN, Democracy Now, The Guardian, Essence, The New York Times, The Appeal, The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and local Detroit news stations FOX 2 Detroit, WDIV and WXYZ Detroit.
When Victoria started her law firm, she had the vision of being a "people's lawyer," and using her law degree to be a vehicle for change. Victoria's passion for justice and equality has led to her involvement with several grassroots organizations as a legal adviser, including We The People-Detroit, Metro Detroit Association for Cab Drivers, BYP-100 and New Era Detroit. Victoria has served on the Legal Services Advisory Committee for HAVEN of Oakland County, developing trauma-informed training criteria and procedures for attorneys handling domestic violence cases. She has served on the New Lawyers Advisory Board for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education, where she has also presented at conferences and seminars. Victoria has also served on the Board of Directors for the National Lawyers Guild Detroit/Michigan chapter. She currently serves as the president of the Washtenaw Justice Project, as well as We The People Opportunity Farm, an Ypsilanti-based organization committed to breaking the cycle of incarceration. Additionally, Victoria serves on the Board of Directors for Covenant House Michigan, a youth homeless shelter where she developed a mentoring program for residents.
Victoria understands the nexus between youth development and criminal justice reform. She has written op-ed articles on criminal justice reform and the intersectionality of criminal justice and poverty. Victoria believes that the core of reform is investment in community. She believes that investment in community is divestment from the criminal justice system. Victoria has spent her career working for children and families, defending them against the brutal system of mass incarceration. Throughout her professional career she has used the law to help members of the most vulnerable communities, and her experiences advocating on behalf of her clients has helped her identify some of the worst inequities of our criminal justice system. It is a system that criminalizes poverty, mental health issues, and substance use disorders.
Victoria takes a holistic approach to her work, helping people build stability in their lives that reaches beyond a courtroom. She has worked with community partners to assist her clients in maintaining stable housing and jobs, as well as accessing community resources for mental health and substance abuse. Victoria can easily be found in the community facilitating community based Know Your Rights training sessions and volunteering at expungement fairs.
After years of witnessing over-charging, requests for excessive bail, and prosecutorial vindictiveness, Victoria realized that her efforts to end mass incarceration as a "people's lawyer" would never be sufficient. Effective change would require a transformation of the gatekeeper to the criminal justice system: the county prosecutor. Victoria believes a progressive prosecutor is one who believes in fair and equal justice for all; a prosecutor who will establish practices that promote the goals of individualized justice without producing unfair disparities among similarly situated defendants and victims of crime; a prosecutor who is transparent and accountable to the people.
Victoria teaches at the University of Michigan as a Lecturer in the Law School.