Camden, NJ — When Carmen Allen Day was a teenager, she told New Jersey Superior Court Judge Charles Dortch that she regretted her mistake and she wanted to become a lawyer if he reduced her probation sentence. Now, after 12 years, Day is just one semester away from her law school graduation. Day, who was then 17-years old, had plans for college and law school until she got involved in a juvenile offense.
She was so embarrassed and she regretted doing such unwise decision at a young age.
She pleaded with Judge Dortch, who gave her a chance and reduced her probation sentence from 18 months to 6 months.
Now 29 years old, Day is a married woman with 2 daughters and is just one semester away from graduating from Rutgers Law School, which is also Dortch’s alma mater.
Just recently, Day visited the courtroom with other law students. Dortch, who is now the presiding judge of the family division, was surprised to meet Day after 12 years and know that he somehow changed her life. Day said what Dortch did restore her faith in the cr-iminal justice system.
“He didn’t see me as a docket number, or some poor girl from Camden,” Day said. “He saw me as a girl who needed help, who needed a chance.”
Dortch took it as a proud moment. He said, “I could even say it made my career.”
Day’s journey to being a lawyer wasn’t at all easy. After her probation sentence ended when she graduated high school in 2007, she enrolled in college but dropped out twice. She finally graduated in 2015, with a double major in po-litical science and cr-iminal justice.
Afterward, she really wanted to go to law school so she took the Law School Admission Test in 2017. But she didn’t fare well and wasn’t able to initially enter Rutgers. Thankfully, an opportunity of conditional acceptance came and she immediately grabbed it even though it would mean that she had to drive two hours a day to school.
All those times, Day goes back to the moment where Dortch gave her a second chance in her life. She said she had always looked forward to when she could reach back out to him.
“No matter your circumstances, no matter what you are going through, as long as you stay focused, you can make it,” Day said. “You are not what happened to you. You are what you choose to become.”