Debra M. Nelson has been an appellate attorney with Salt Lake Legal Defender Association since 2004. She practices primarily before the Utah Supreme Court and the Utah Court of Appeals. Debra has represented clients accused of a broad range of offenses including: capital murder, kidnapping, violent sexual assaults, drug possession, theft, probation violations, tax evasion and securities fraud. The numerous cases Debra has managed encompass an extensive array of issues including: evidence, discovery, jury instructions, statutory interpretation, constitutional rights, prosecutorial misconduct, insufficient evidence, sentencing, restitution, criminal and appellate procedure, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Debra has presented continuing legal education seminars on a variety of topics related to criminal procedure and appellate practice. She has served and continues to serve on various committees and sections of the Utah State Bar.
Debra was the recipient of the Utah State Bar’s Mentor of the Year Award (2014) and LDA’s Jimi Mitsunaga Award (2017). The Mitsunaga Award is based on three criteria: outstanding legal achievement, dedication to the cause of providing high-quality defense for all clients, and loyalty to the mission of LDA. The award is given to those attorneys “who have demonstrated these standards of excellence and a commitment to LDA’s mission of providing excellent legal representation.” Debra has also been named among the “Utah Legal Elite” by Utah Business Magazine as well as a Rising Star in the Mountain States Super Lawyers.
Debra received her Juris Doctor from the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2001, where she was a Staff Member for the University of Utah Law Review. During law school, she was a law clerk in LDA’s Appellate Division and a legal intern for the Honorable Lee Dever of the Third District Court. Following graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Pamela T. Greenwood of the Utah Court of Appeals.