Debra G. Simms, Esq., migrated to the United States from Jamaica, almost 41 years ago, after graduating from Convent of Mercy Academy, Alpha. As education has always been important to her, she immediately continued her education at Essex County College, where she earned her A.A. in Liberal Arts, William Paterson University, where she earned her B.A. in Communications with a minor in English, and Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where she earned her J.D.
After graduating from law school, she began her legal career as a Deputy Attorney General in the Appellate Bureau of the Division of Criminal Justice. She remained there for approximately three (3) years before leaving to serve the citizens of Essex County for 27 years in the Office of the Essex County Prosecutor. During her legal career, she represented the State in numerous appeals before the appellate courts, including the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the District Court of New Jersey. She has numerous published opinions on various legal issues, some with significant state-wide implications. At the Prosecutor's Office, she steadily rose through the ranks, ultimately attaining the position of Executive Assistant Prosecutor. During her tenure with the Office, she oversaw the Pretrial/Expungement Unit, the Appellate Section (where it is believed that Ms. Simms is the only person of color to have held the position of appellate head in the State of New Jersey), Budget, Administration, Facilities, Human Resources and the Support Staff. She was also the Custodian of Records for the Office, responding to requests for records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), and the common law right of access to records, and was the Office's liaison for civil litigation matters.
On February 1, 2017, Ms. Simms retired from her position as an Executive Assistant Prosecutor in the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. Her legal career as a prosecutor spanned 30 years, and was recognized by the New Jersey Legislature with a Proclamation.
Ms. Simms is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Garden State Bar Association, and the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey. She is admitted to the Bars of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District Court of New Jersey.
Ms. Simms has always been very involved in volunteer and/or community activities. Indeed, in 2016 she was recognized by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office for her commitment to the citizens of Essex County. For the courts, she is a long-standing active member of the Essex Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns where she co-chairs the sub-committee on re-entry matters. In this capacity, she has made presentations to detainees at half-way houses on re-entry matters, including expungements. She is a frequent presenter on expungement matters, including to constituents of local elected leaders, the Clergy Academy at the Prosecutor's Office, students at Berkeley College, and the 2017 Parent/Youth Conferences for the County of Essex.
Ms. Simms is also an active member of St. Agnes and St. Paul's Episcopal (Anglican) Church, East Orange, where she serves on various Guilds and Committees. She was also the superintendent of the Church's Youth Program, has represented the Church at the diocesan convention, and was coordinator of the counter's guild, where she is a current member.
Ms. Simms is a member of the Board of Alpha Tri-State, and has held several leadership positions with the Jamaica Organization of New Jersey (JON-J). She enjoys singing, dancing, reading, and is an avid fan of soccer, and track and field.