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Six years ago, Serena Nunn was in the midst of serving a 15-year prison term for drug conspiracy. Next month, she will graduate from one of the top law schools in the country. Set to receive her diploma on May 6 from University of Michigan Law School, Nunn plans to take up public interest work once she gets her license to practice. The former honor student and homecoming queen whose life, at 19, took a wrong turn in 1989, will sit for the Michigan bar in July. After that, she wants to help people. “I’m still in a little bit of disbelief,” she said. Convicted of driving a boyfriend to a drug deal to buy 20 kilos of cocaine, Nunn was sentenced under federal drug laws to 15 years in prison. After serving almost 11 years of that sentence, she got a second chance, thanks to a young lawyer who had obtained his license to practice just one month earlier. An ‘awesome feeling’ The attorney, Sam Sheldon, read about Nunn’s case in a Minneapolis newspaper and, brimming with the enthusiasm of a newly admitted lawyer, decided to write a letter to President Bill Clinton to see if he could win a pardon. He did. With the help of an endorsement from Nunn’s sentencing judge, who wrote that the drug laws applied to her case were unjust, Clinton commuted her sentence in 2000 to time served. Nunn went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University before going to Michigan law school. Today, Sheldon, a former partner at Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor, has a personal injury practice in San Diego. Knowing that Nunn will graduate is “an awesome feeling,” he said. “I didn’t spend all my time going to law school to fight insurance companies,” he said. “I’d like to have this feeling even once a year.” For her part, Nunn is “elated,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m actually going to graduate from law school,” she said. Studying for the bar is her top priority after graduation. Following the exam, she has an interview scheduled with a public defender’s office in Washington. She is also considering a judicial clerkship, she said. In order to become licensed, Nunn must obtain certification of her character and fitness from the State Bar of Michigan. According to Victoria Kremski, deputy director of the professional standards division of the Michigan bar, there is no set standard for judging the character and fitness of convicted felons. Instead, the character and fitness committee looks at the applicant’s current fitness. It considers the time passed since the conduct, mitigating circumstances, whether it is an isolated event and more. Nunn said that she was “naturally concerned” about the certification process. “All I can do is divulge everything I can and leave it up to the character and fitness committee,” she said.

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