Clark County assistant prosecutor Erica Lunderman is the first black woman in her position in the county's history. Michael Nevius
Clark County Assistant Prosecutor Erica Lunderman says her role is as much about persuing justice as it is about building an understanding of the justice system. Michael Nevius
Erica Lunderman loves a good crime show, but she knows firsthand that it doesn’t represent what really happens behind the scenes.
“The system is not what you see on ‘Law and Order,’” she says.
Lunderman wants to make sure that others truly know and trust the system, not only through her position as a Clark County assistant prosecutor, but also as the first black woman to serve in that role.
“I see the law as a beacon of justice, but it’s hard to trust the system when you don’t see people like you in the system,” she says.
Lunderman, who joined the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office in 2019, is originally from the Dayton area, born and raised in Harrison Township before graduating from Chaminade Julienne High School, Bowling Green State University and Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law.
She had internships in corporate law but was drawn to help others on the criminal side. Only a small percentage of attorneys are black, she says, and that is particularly true of criminal law.
“I always wanted to help people and bring a sense of trust to people of color in the system of justice,” says Lunderman, 30.
Bringing justice doesn’t always mean conviction, she says. While she wants justice for crime victims, justice also means making sure that due diligence is paid and that the right people are convicted of the crime.
The first trial she worked on in the prosecutor’s office was a murder trial that resulted in a felony murder and felonious assault conviction last year, she says. Working on that case gave her confidence and taught her to trust her abilities.
Many people don’t understand the complexity of the criminal justice system, and Lunderman says that she tries to “bridge the gap.” Once others learn more about the process, then discussions can start about how to make that process better.
Prosecutors also are concerned about the overall safety of a community, she says, and they should be a proactive resource to help fix issues instead of simply being turned to after the fact.
Lunderman is working with local community members on the issue of gun violence in Springfield.
“The prosecutor’s office doesn’t want to be just a Band-Aid,” Lunderman says.
While the prosecutor’s office has had black assistant prosecutors who are male, Lunderman calls it a privilege to be the first black woman to be hired for the position, and it is an honor that she doesn’t take lightly. She hopes that her role will inspire other black women and girls in Springfield to be attorneys.
“Although I am the first, I don’t want to be the last – or the only,” she says.
Lunderman believes that her presence has already brought a new perspective to the prosecutor’s office and encourages new discussions. She can facilitate conversations about how people of color view the criminal justice system and law enforcement, and how they think the legal system views them.
At times her role can weigh heavy on her mind, she says, but it also can be a “guiding force,” reminding her that people are rooting for her on even the hardest days.
In a year in which women of color in law have been in the headlines, with Ketanji Brown Jackson becoming the first black female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Lunderman says progress has been slow but incremental.
“Some days are harder than others, but it definitely shows that progression is being made,” she says.
When Lunderman isn’t binge watching her favorite crime shows, she enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and watching Marvel movies, and she coaches a mock trial team at Chaminade Julienne. She also is known as a big Beyonce fan.
“Everyone in the office knows that,” says Lunderman, who lives in Huber Heights.
She likes how close-knit Clark County is, and how the community comes together when something happens.
The criminal justice system may not be perfect, but everyone in it has a role to play, she says.
“Being in the prosecutor’s office, I think I’ve learned you have to be patient,” Lunderman says. “But justice will work if you let it.”