A leader is a person who is engages with others in order to work toward a common goal or for the greater good. That is an accurate description of the selfless post-conviction and criminal defense work of Kimberly Kendall Corral '12, who is being recognized by CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law with our 2021 Leader on the Rise Award.
“Kim personifies everything we are looking for when recognizing a Leader on the Rise,” explained CSU CM|LAW Dean Lee Fisher. “She combines immense legal knowledge with a passion for her legal practice and spends each day ‘living justice’ while working toward post-conviction relief and exoneration for her clients.”
“Being named Leader on the Rise is truly an honor,” said Corral. “To me, it is an acknowledgment that I am on the right path but also a reminder that I still have a long way to go and a lot that I can accomplish.”
Kim will receive her award at CSU C|M|LAW’s Hall of Fame Celebration on November 5 alongside 25 distinguished alumni, community leaders, and former faculty and staff being inducted in the Hall of Fame who have contributed to the past, present, and/or future success and reputation of CSU C|M|LAW.
“It is amazing to be honored around inductees with so much more experience,” said Corral. “It is incredible that my work, in a relatively short period, is being measured alongside community leaders with such longevity.”
Kim is the founder of the Law Firm of Kimberly Kendall Corral where she represents clients in complex criminal matters. The majority of her work seeks post-conviction relief for clients and she also works on criminal defense at the trial and appellate levels, including law enforcement defense and death penalty defense.
Kim has an exceptional track record of success protecting clients’ constitutional rights to help them avoid conviction, and even has won freedom from incarceration for numerous wrongly convicted clients. Kim helped Ru-El Sailor get his 2013 murder conviction overturned in 2018 after he was imprisoned for 15 years for a crime he did not commit. She helped secure a dismissal of murder charges against Charles Jackson in 2019 after he spent 27 years in prison for a homicide he did not commit. Recently, Kim secured a clemency for Michael Thompson who served 25 years of a 42-60 year sentence for marijuana charges, in a case that received attention from celebrities and social justice advocates including Kim Kardashian, Snoop Dogg, Shaun King and Chelsea Handler.
In July 2021, Kim secured a jury acquittal in a homicide trial for a law enforcement client in a deadly use of force case. She has been qualified by the Supreme Court as an attorney capable of handling Death Penalty cases in the State of Ohio and presided as co-counsel in the only capital case in the nation to go forward during the heart of the 2020 pandemic. In 2018, Kim visited the Oval Office to discuss a pardon on behalf of her client with U.S. President Donald Trump and the White House Counsel.
When Kim decided to attend law school, she was not quite sure where her journey would lead or the impact she could accomplish. Looking back at her time in law school, Kim gets nostalgic thinking about her younger self, who had originally dreamed of being a painter, and how her career and impact is greater than anything she could have imagined sitting in her 1L classes on the CSU C|M|LAW campus.
“If I am being honest, most of my life I never dreamed I would or could do work like this. I only knew one lawyer before law school, and I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a lawyer but a lot of people making big changes in the world were lawyers, so I decided to sit for the LSAT,” said Corral.
“My career is more rewarding than I ever thought possible,” she continued. “In every measure my career is more than I expected; more challenging, more exciting, more terrifying, more fulfilling, and more impactful than I imagined possible."
Kim is still in classes on the CSU C|M|LAW campus, but now as an adjunct professor. She current teaches about post-conviction remedies to 2L and 3L students in a hands-on course that matches students with clients seeking post-conviction relief. (Read about Kim’s 2020 pop-up practicum dedicated to seeking post-conviction relief for Anthony Starr)
“I love giving students an opportunity to apply the things they are learning in more traditional classroom courses,” said Corral. “There is a beautiful symbiosis between students, who need to apply what they are learning, and clients, who desperately need someone to care. Once the students get engaged, the learning happens faster than the already fast-paced course syllabus as they are motivated to help their clients.”
While guiding those future leaders and lawyers, Kim looks ahead at her own future. She is still satisfied with this chapter of her career as she is engaged in her work and challenged by the cases and the compelling legal issues she handles. Part of her future ambitions includes developing “a small army of freedom fighters,” describing future young lawyers she hopes to work with that are motivated by the same issues as she is, recognizing that her time is limited by an already heavy case load and raising two young daughters, and that there are many more people experiencing injustices.
Looking at what might be the next chapter of her career, she envisions spending a greater portion of her time working on systematic changes to the criminal justice system.
“I think I will always keep a hand in what I am doing now, but in the next season of my career I hope to change the rules of the game,” said Corral. “A system that kidnaps citizens for decades before [may be] finally correcting itself is not a system we can maintain. Dare I say that such a system may need replaced. I don’t know what that may look like for me or for the wrongfully convicted but this career has taught me that the work I do next may be more than I can even imagine now.”