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Extensive and Diverse Legal Experience

Current Work as a Criminal Prosecutor:

Clarissa has performed rigorous work as a Brevard criminal prosecutor representing the People of the State of Florida for nearly 12 years of her 30-year legal career.  For the past five years of that time, she has served in the Career Criminal and Firearms Unit of the State Attorney's Office, handling jury trials and the full gamut of pre-trial litigation related to cases primarily involving Prison Releasee Reoffenders, Habitual Felony Offenders, Violent Felony Offenders of Special Concern / Anti-Murder Act defendants, and offenders who have committed gun crimes including drug trafficking and murder.

The types of trials she handles have included these recent cases:


She has managed challenging case loads of up to 200 cases at a time.  In addition to trials she has argued for the State's interests in a large range of criminal motion hearings on a regular basis, including suppression, adversarial probable cause, "Stand Your Ground," child hearsay, violation of probation, "Williams Rule" evidence, and motion in limine hearings, as well as sentencings.

Clarissa's duties in the Career Criminal Unit include reviewing and approving around-the-clock arrest and search warrants sought by law enforcement officers from all Brevard agencies before the affidavits and warrants are presented to judges for entry.  Legal research and drafting, depositions, Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet preparation, investigative work, victim consultation, witness interviews, and supporting other members of her prosecution team fill out the pressure-packed daily calendar.

The skills involved in this heavy case load work -- prioritization, time management, attention to detail, and the ability to work well with a large number of different personalities -- are very similar to many of the skills required of judges handling large case loads.  Her work as a prosecutor has provided Clarissa with excellent, real-world training for the duties required of a judge.

During her career as a prosecutor Clarissa has twice received the State Attorney's Office Pride in Excellence Attorney Award as well as an award for Outstanding Prosecution of Domestic Violence Cases.

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Swearing In Day with Judge Lober.jpg

Previous Work as a Criminal Prosecutor:

Prior to promotion to the Career Criminal and Firearms Unit, Clarissa served as the Brevard Juvenile Division Chief at the State Attorney's Office.  She managed attorney and non-attorney staff; was responsible for all juvenile delinquency charging decisions, including direct files of qualifying offenders to adult court; and was heavily engaged in ongoing advisory meetings with counterparts in law enforcement, the Department of Juvenile Justice, education and school resource officer groups, and Dependency Court agencies.

During the earlier phase of her prosecutor career, Clarissa was a trial attorney in four other office divisions:  the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Unit, General Felony Crimes, Misdemeanors, and the Juvenile Division.  As with her current position, over that time she handled all aspects of prosecution, from charging decisions and investigative interviews to depositions, pre-trial hearings, jury and non-jury trials, post-conviction relief proceedings, violations of probation, and restitution hearings.

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Five Years of Intense Work in the Brevard Child Welfare System:

Children's issues inspired Clarissa to apply to law school at age 25 after she volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem while working as a bank corporate marketing specialist in Charlotte, North Carolina. One particularly gratifying though emotionally draining career chapter was the five years she spent working in Brevard's Dependency Court system.  

As a Senior Attorney at Children's Legal Services, Clarissa represented the State of Florida's Department of Children and Families in litigation, and in its mission to protect children and strengthen families.  She handled a high case volume on four levels:  near-daily Dependency courtroom proceedings, including termination of parental rights and dependency trials, judicial reviews, and motion practice; routine weekly and on-call staffings with child protective investigators to evaluate risks to children in incoming cases; ongoing multi-disciplinary meetings and case plan conferences with case managers, guardians ad litem, experts, and parents' counsel; and high-volume, sometimes around-the-clock, drafting of petitions (including emergency shelter petitions to take children into protective custody), proposed orders, and internal legal decision memos documenting the basis for every filing decision made.

Prior to transferring over to Children's Legal Services, Clarissa served as a Child's Best Interest Senior Attorney at the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program in Brevard. In that role she advocated for children's best interests in Dependency Court through litigation; collaboration with agency coordinators and community volunteers; participation in inter-agency staffings to identify the best possible services and outcomes for children in State care; and constant communication with medical professionals, prosecutors, educators, and other child welfare professionals.  During this time Clarissa served on the Educational Advocacy Committee working with the local school board, and she conducted legal training of guardian ad litem volunteers.

This five years of exposure to sometimes-extreme child abuse took a toll.  She took a break from law for eight months in the wake of that experience to undertake a bucket-list dream of teaching first grade.  This was a great time in her life, spending every day with loving, bright, and precocious children.  It rejuvenated her for a return to law and work as a state prosecutor. 

Clarissa is pictured above with one of her favorite students from that teaching era, Kendall (displayed with the consent of her parents).  Teaching gave Clarissa a fresh appreciation for the pressures and challenges her mom Betty faced as an elementary school teacher for 38 years, as well as an even more fierce sense of the need for young lives to be cherished and protected.

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Ten Years of Running Her Own Law Firm:

Clarissa has a special appreciation for fellow lawyers who are managing their own businesses -- she has been there and knows the joys and demands of the hung shingle.  For 10 years she operated The Law Office of Clarissa E. Harrell, P.A. in Melbourne.  She built a robust law practice with substantial trial and motion work; she represented over 500 clients over that decade in Brevard County and in eight other counties across the state.  The cases she handled included contested, uncontested, and collaborative divorce; child support establishment, enforcement, and modification in family court and Department of Revenue proceedings; injunctions; child timesharing; paternity; juvenile dependency; modification of final judgments; adoption; replevin; and contract disputes. 

Like many other private attorneys in Brevard, Clarissa was required to balance attention to clients' legal needs with management of all aspects of firm ownership, including personnel, billing, marketing, and administrative tasks.  Routine professional tasks included high-volume, daily client interaction including consultations, mediations, and court appearances, together with a significant quantity of legal document drafting.

During three years of her firm ownership Clarissa also served "Of Counsel" to a law firm in Carmel, New York, providing legal advice and representation to New York clients with litigation in Florida courts.

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Three Other Formative Experiences in Legal Practice:

Three other legal positions that round out Clarissa's 30 years of experience gave her exposure to additional fields of legal practice and great opportunities to be mentored by brilliant minds and buoyant personalities.

The former law firm of O'Brien, Riemenschneider, Kancilia, and Lemonidis, P.A. schooled Clarissa in the fine points of legal research and complex civil and business litigation.  There she consulted with clients; appeared in court; and drafted memoranda of law, appellate briefs, proposed orders, pleadings, settlement agreements, and correspondence related to a wide array of civil litigation cases. She handled cases in areas such as construction lien law, foreclosure, arbitration, dissolution of marriage with international assets, contract disputes, business-related torts, federal wage and hour violations, federal false claim act issues, employment discrimination, domestication of foreign judgments, and covenant enforcement for homeowners' associations.

At Joan Berry Nassar, P.A., Clarissa was welcomed into a boutique family law practice with an emphasis on professionalism and, as with the civil firm, quality work product.  There she handled the full range of tasks including client consultations; preparation of pleadings, financial affidavits, prenuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, and other legal documents; attendance at mediations and depositions; and frequent court appearances for motion hearings and trials.

Finally, during a time when her first child was a baby, Clarissa enjoyed a very special stint as a Trial Court Staff Attorney working primarily for Chief Judge Preston Silvernail and the late Judge Jere Lober.  She drafted court orders, reviewed briefs, and researched substantive and procedural issues for circuit and county court judges across a broad range of civil, criminal, and family court cases.  This position gave her the opportunity to have an up-close look at the way the judges accomplish their work, and the methods that were effective.  The kindness and wisdom imparted by the judges she served made an indelible imprint upon her path as an attorney.

If she is fortunate enough to earn a place on Brevard's judicial bench, Clarissa intends to do her best to follow in the path of her former mentors, and to pay these benefits forward to as many other lawyers as she can reach.

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