Article Courtesy of The Daily Report and Law.Com:

“April Ross is by a wide-margin the greatest person I have ever known,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. “She has overcome obstacles most people could not even imagine.”

By Katheryn Tucker | September 11, 2019 at 10:45 AM

L-R: Hall County Solicitor and Georgia Commission on Family Violence Chairwoman Stephanie Woodard, new Executive Director April Ross, GCV Commissioners Jacqueline Bunn and Michelle Bedingfield. Courtesy photo

A prosecutor shot and paralyzed by her husband after she filed for divorce has become a champion for survivors of intimate partner violence. Now she will lead a statewide effort to end it.

The Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) announced that April Ross will be its new executive director. The news came during the agency’s 25th annual Statewide Family Violence Conference at the Classic Center in Athens this week. She has bipartisan support.

“April Ross is by a wide-margin the greatest person I have ever known,” her current boss, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, a Democrat, said in a news release announcing the new job. “She has overcome obstacles most people could not even imagine. Despite these tremendous challenges, she stands before us all beaming, shining, gleaming—ready to conquer the world. I have been the beneficiary of her presence these many years, and I am delighted she now has the opportunity to spread her brand of professional magic throughout the state.”

Howard offered praise for good judgment to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who interviewed and recommended Ross for the appointment. “Great job, Governor Kemp,” Howard said.

“Ms. Ross brings great legal experience, expert advocacy skills and a unique personal perspective to this role,” Kemp said. “So many Georgia citizens depend on the hard work of the Commission during times of crisis and I am thrilled Ms. Ross will be leading our team.”

Ross will build on the work of Jennifer Thomas, the former executive director. Thomas left in June to join the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, where she is now director of strategic partnership for the victim assistance division.

Ross was already a member of the commission and has been an outspoken voice for survivors of intimate partner violence, as well as an assistant DA. She will start her new job Oct. 1.

“The Commission and the State of Georgia are very fortunate to have benefited from April’s experiences, both professional and personal, for many years,” GCFV Chairwoman and Hall County Solicitor Stephanie Woodard said. “We are particularly honored that she has chosen to take the helm of Georgia’s work to end family violence statewide as the commission’s executive director.”

Woodard added that the choice is noteworthy in many ways.

“She has a unique voice in that she adeptly speaks not only as a leader in the domestic violence movement, but as a survivor and woman of color as well,” Woodard said.

Woodard said Ross will be the first woman of color and the first survivor of intimate partner violence to lead the commission. “It’s historic,” Woodard said.

Ross is a 2011 graduate of Emory University School of Law. After becoming a prosecutor in 2012, Ross was the youngest attorney to serve on the Atlanta Public Schools’ cheating scandal trial team.

In 2014, Ross filed for divorce. The same day, her husband shot her, then killed himself, according to Woodard. She survived, but was paralyzed from the chest down. After extensive rehabilitation, she returned to work in 2015 at the DA’s office, where she joined the Domestic Violence Policy and Trial Unit. She also began to mentor individuals with recent spinal cord injuries at the Shepherd Center, particularly those whose injuries were the result of gun violence.

“I’m honored and humbled not [only] by the esteem of the position I’m assuming, but by the enormous opportunity to enhance and grow our efforts to eliminate the epidemic of family violence,” Ross said. “Ultimately, much great work has been done and there’s much more to do. I look forward to leading the next phase of GCFV’s critical journey to save lives and improve safety for citizens of the State of Georgia.”

Katheryn Tucker

Katheryn Tucker

Katheryn Hayes Tucker is an Atlanta-based reporter covering legal news for the Daily Report and other ALM publications.