Attorney King received theWomen in Leadership Award, Private Sector, from the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches on May 11, 2017, at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. She was honored for her role in President Barack Obama’s historic clemency initiative, which sought to right the wrongs of minimum mandatory sentencing policies.
The Obama Administration announced its intent to balance past sentencing inequities through clemency review after a shift in more recent federal policy lowered sentences for certain drug offenses. Working through Clemency Project 2014, a group including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and defender organizations, Attorney King recruited volunteer lawyers to draft petitions for submission to the White House. In total, 1,715 men and women were granted clemency as a result of this initiative.
(Photo: West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Nellie L. King Honored for Her Role in President Barack Obama’s Historic Clemency Initiative)
“The savings in financial terms is estimated at $427,000,000. More importantly, the human capital savings estimate is the most staggering: considering an 80-year life span, 13,665 years were reduced, allowing these men and women to be reunited with their families. Many of them had been sentenced to life in prison despite having little or no prior criminal history and they simply had no hope.” – Attorney King’s speech sharing the results of Obama’s clemency effort.
In nominating Attorney King for theWomen in Leadership Award, Attorney Eunice Baros stated, “Nellie is a change-maker and her mark on this community is deep… she sincerely believes her job also entails changing the system through passionate advocacy, a commitment to volunteerism, and via mentorship of young lawyers who likewise aspire to facilitate change.”
Even after the success of the initiative, Attorney King called on community leaders to continue to examine policies that result in the mass incarceration of thousands of American citizens for nonviolent drug offenses. She emphasizes in her speech how the “monumental, longstanding injustice of draconian sentencing guidelines and the disparate racial impact of the war on drugs on minority communities” drives her passion and firm belief in the social justice fight.
Nellie L. King has been recognized by her peers as a leader in the criminal defense bar. From 2011-2012, Attorney King was elected President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL). An organization proudly described as “Liberty’s Last Champion,” FACDL is the preeminent voluntary bar association for lawyers practicing criminal defense in the State of Florida. Attorney King is committed to the ideals of liberty and justice espoused by FACDL, which strives to advance the knowledge of criminal defense practitioners, promote the proper administration of criminal justice, and encourage the integrity and independence of the criminal defense bar. In addition to her FACDL presidency, Attorney King is also former President and Board Member of the Palm Beach Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
(Photo: The Honorable Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court Swears Nellie L. King in as President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers)
In 2012, Attorney King was elected to the Board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the nationwide organization dedicated to ensuring justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. In February of 2012, Attorney King testified at a regional hearing of NACDL’s Task Force on Restoration of Rights and Status after Conviction about Florida’s draconian policies on rights restoration. In March 2022, Attorney Nellie King was awarded the ACLU of Florida’s 2022 Harriette S. Glasner Award for her dedication to improving the criminal legal system, fighting for the underserved and defenseless, advocating for open access to public records, and demanding law enforcement transparency and accountability.
Attorney King is also a frequent lecturer on criminal law topics, having presented at NACDL’s 2012 Midwinter Meeting and Seminar on the topic, “Beyond Registration: Collateral Consequences of a Sex Crimes Conviction.” She also spoke at NACDL’s Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference on juvenile sentencing issues.
On August 19, 2020, Attorney Nellie L. King was installed as the First Vice President of Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar.
(Photo: Nellie L. King Addresses the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers After Being Sworn in as FACDL’s 24th President)
Attorney King was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in June 2012 for her significant achievements and contributions to the legal profession and community, as well as for her leadership contributions that inspired the students of UMW. While studying at Mary Washington, Attorney King served as President of the Honor Council, twice receiving a Board of Visitors Citation for her service and leadership to the institution. She currently serves on the Mary Washington Alumni Board of Directors and leads UMW’s South and Central Florida Regional Alumni Network.
Attorney King also believes in giving back to the local community. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Boys’ Town South Florida and is the current Chair of the Court Systems Task Force for the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission. Further, Attorney King is a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County, Class of 2004, and she subsequently was elected to its Board from 2004-2008. She also served on the inaugural Board of the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County, an organization that encourages women and girls to pursue leadership and positively impact their economic, political, and social status. Attorney King actively works with the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, and the Palm Beach County Bar Association.
(Photo: 2012 Univerisity of Mary Washington Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient Nellie L. King)
Attorney King is admitted to practice in the Florida Bar, as well as the United States District Courts for the Southern, Middle and Northern Districts of Florida and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
She received her undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with a degree in International Affairs/Russian Studies. She received her law degree from Nova Southeastern University Law School, where she won the Feinrider Moot Court Competition for her oratory skills, as well as other advocacy awards: