There weren't many women working at the Erie County District Attorney's Office when First Assistant Donna Milling arrived, but she wasn't deterred. Her hard work and determination helped her rise to the top and, after 29 years, she is being honored with yet another award.
Milling was presented with the 2016 Community Service Award from the Erie County Law Enforcement Foundation at its annual dinner. The award is given to those who have made significant and valued contributions to the local criminal justice system.
Milling made history in the D.A.'s office earlier this year when acting D.A. Michael J. Flaherty Jr. named her his first assistant. Milling is the first woman and person of color to hold the second-in-command position in the office.
As first assistant, Milling is overseeing the thousands of criminal cases that come through the office, and she serves as district attorney in Flaherty's absence.
"Women have such a valuable role to play," said Milling, who is well-qualified for her new position and whose deep respect for the law and dedication to leaving no stone unturned have helped shaped her career.
Of Jamaican parentage, Milling holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pace University and a Juris Doctor degree from SUNY at Buffalo. She began her career in the Kings County District Attorney's Office in Brooklyn before returning to Buffalo, and the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
Flaherty spoke highly, almost reverently, about his colleague of over 20 years.
"When I needed to choose someone to serve in that very important role, I wanted someone respected by the courts, the bar and the members of the D.A.'s office," he said. "Donna has everyone's respect. She has earned it. More importantly, Donna has the wisdom, confidence and intelligence to help guide the decisions in this office. I, and the people we serve, need a first assistant willing to speak her mind. We would not be the successful, progressive office we have become without Donna."
During her tenure, Milling has served in the Buffalo City Court Bureau, investigating and prosecuting a high-volume caseload, and the Grand Jury Bureau, where she analyzed and prepared cases for presentment to a grand jury.
Since 2009, she served as chief of the Appeals Bureau, where she conducted legal research, oral argument and preparation of legal briefs to state and federal appellate courts across New York. As chief of the Appeals Bureau, Milling was responsible for assigning and editing the work of five appellate attorneys.
Milling is a lecturer for the New York Prosecutors Training Institute and, in 2014, she received the Prosecutor of the Year, Appellate Advocacy Award - the highest honor given to an appellate prosecutor from the New York Prosecutors Training Institute.