Each month, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office highlights one of our standout prosecutors. This month, we would like to introduce you to Assistant District Attorney Jessica Catlin. ADA Catlin was born and raised in Sylvan Springs, Alabama, and moved to Mobile to attend the University of Mobile where she met her husband, Blake. She graduated from Cumberland School of Law in 2016 and started working for the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office in 2017. ADA Catlin is currently the prosecutor for the Child Advocacy Center, and it is her mission to protect and serve victims of childhood sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. When she is not at the office, she enjoys trying new restaurants and exploring the city with her husband and friends.
What is your favorite thing about living on the Gulf Coast?
The Gulf Coast is truly a unique place; an hour in any direction and you could be at the beach, a state park, or downtown. There are very few places that have that ability, and I enjoy the variety.
Do you enjoy any hobbies, sports, or pastimes?
I recently started running. I ran my first 6k on February 8th of this year and finished in under an hour. This new hobby has been amazing for destressing- I get to clear my head and be outdoors. I am also a major beach bum in the summer and will be out sunup to sundown if I can.
Has there been anyone who has influenced you personally or professionally?
Dr. Julie Biskner has been a mentor of mine since I was a student at U of M. She helped set me on the path I took and continues to be there for me, as she does for so many of her students.
Do you volunteer with any civic organizations?
I am the coach and adjunct professor for Mock Trial at the University of Mobile, where my kids and I just completed our fourth season. I do not have biological children but if you ask I will tell you I have 20 kids. I am so thankful to get to pour knowledge and positivity into their lives as people have poured into me.
Tell us about your family and pets.
I have two furry children. Bama (Lhasa Apso Terrier mix) is 7 and Bailey (tabby cat) is 3. Bama is definitely a mama’s girl. We got Bailey for me because I wanted a cat, however she has become more attached to my husband Blake, despite my best efforts. My mom (who is my biggest supporter) and older siblings live in Birmingham and Memphis. My brothers both have a gaggle of children between them, and I absolutely adore my nieces and nephews.
Why did you choose to become a prosecutor for MCDA?
With going to college in Mobile I did most of my “real” growing up here. I fell in love with this place. My husband, Blake, and I knew we wanted to return to Mobile, and I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor. The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office was always the end goal I was working towards. I am just thankful that it came sooner rather than later in life.
What motivates you to come to work each day?
Justice. It’s a bit corny, but fighting for our victims and seeing things through to the end gives me a strong sense of purpose and keeps me motivated. That is doubly true now that I’m at the Child Advocacy Center fighting for our juvenile victims.
What is the most difficult or stressful thing about your job?
Dealing with secondhand trauma from reading and listening to the stories of these kids and parents. I am a big advocate for mental health and going to therapy has really helped not only for me to process but also given me tools to help kids and parents cope during their case.
What is the best piece of professional advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was from a law school professor Lynn Hogewood. “It is better to be kind than to be right.” That has echoed throughout my career.
Is there a particular benchmark or goal in your life that you are proud of accomplishing?
A professional benchmark was being chosen to be the next Child Advocacy ADA back in June 2020 – something when I decided to pursue prosecution as a career I always wanted to do. It is humbling to keep the trust of the community in such a position, and one I have to continue to earn. Personally – has two parts – I have lost over 118 lbs in a year and a half, and I have been able to start running for the first time ever and completed my first 6k in under an hour.
If you could pick one thing to change within our legal system, what would it be?
Re-traumatizing our victims (especially our children) is a severe problem. The system itself is not designed to be victim-centered, and despite our best efforts, our victims are frequently re-traumatized. Be it from testifying in front of a group of strangers to just having to wait for the process to take its course. It is something I try to mitigate in my handling of these cases, but it is still there, just because of how the system goes.
Has there been an influential case you have worked on?
I was honored to work on the Israel Hall case with fellow prosecutor ADA Jennifer Wright. Not only was this case the first murder trial I had worked on, but it was also the first COVID trial. Even during all the chaos with COVID she poured into me and taught me.
What is the most important thing in your life?
My relationships. I believe it is important to be active in the lives of the people I care about. My relationship with my husband has brought so much positivity to my life that I try to reflect that to those around me.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I absolutely love my team at the CAC. Even with what we work with, we find things to laugh about. We support each other professionally and personally. One of our detectives, Det. Caleb Tillman, is why I signed up for the 6K run. He got one of our other team members, Cpl. Dorothea Long, and even some of the MCDA staff to sign up. Then on race day, a miscalculation of time occurred, and he was nowhere to be found. He still called and gave me the pep talk I needed, and we met up after the race. It just shows how much of a joint effort this job can and should be.