Case, DREAM, Staff & Intern News
On April 11, 2022, the 9th Circuit reversed a conviction under 18 USC sec. 924(c) (possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense) and remanded for a new trial. In United States v. Irons (No. 20-30056), Court found that the instructions at trial were erroneous because they required only “a connection” between the defendant’s possession of the firearm and the drug trafficking offense. Reversing under a plain error standard, the Court held that the Government must prove that defendant possessed the firearm with the intention to further or advance the drug trafficking offense. After the trial, Mr. Irons, who had no prior criminal history, was sentence to 15 years of imprisonment (a mandatory 10-year term for the drug offense, and a mandatory consecutive 5-year term for the firearm count). The new trial will address only the firearm offense. Seattle AFD Dennis Carroll handled the case in the Ninth Circuit with tremendous help from law student intern Maya Itah, and Seattle paralegals Alma Coria and Donna Maxwell. CJA counsel represented Mr. Irons at trial.
DREAM Court had three participants graduate in April!
One graduate, James, had been charged with an assault after he drove drunk and caused a serious accident, seriously injuring himself and his cousin. James had turned to alcohol and other drugs after enduring significant childhood trauma. James came into the DREAM program with goals related to his own physical and mental health, his job skills, and his family relationships. He met all of these goals over the course of his time in DREAM. Now 22 years old, he is celebrating his sobriety and his bright future. Had he been convicted of assault causing serious bodily injury, he faced a guideline sentence of 24-30 months.
Josue also graduated from DREAM in April. Josue developed a significant addiction to methamphetamine, using an ounce a week prior to his arrest, and became involved in drug trafficking. He was charged as part of a conspiracy and faced a guideline sentence of 87-104 months. By the time he came into DREAM, he had already been sober for about a year and had a stable job. He continued on this successful path, graduating from the program in 12 months. During his time in DREAM, he was able to travel to Mexico to visit his wife and children. Josue was the first DREAM participant who did not speak English. The language barrier proved to be no barrier at all, and Josue became a leader in the program.
A. is the third person who graduated from DREAM in April. He too had long struggled with a substance use disorder and had turned to drug dealing to support his own habit. For his offense of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, A. faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a guideline range of 70-87 months. A. committed himself to turning his life around following his arrest, before joining DREAM. By the time he entered DREAM, he had been sober for a year and a half, had stable housing and work, and had begun the difficult task of repairing relationships with his family. A. graduated from DREAM in just one year. While he made it look easy, we know he worked hard to get to this point in his life.
We wish all three of our recent graduates ongoing success and happiness.
Vicki Lai is our New Chief Appellate Attorney!
Vicki is a graduate of UCLA Law School and joined the office in 2001 after stints as an associate at a Los Angeles law firm and a staff attorney with Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals. At the FPD, she has become a nationally recognized leader in federal appellate work and provides legal support in complex cases at the trial level. Vicki has been a leader in many special projects, including the Johnson litigation and compassionate relief filings. Outside the office, Vicki has been on the faculty of the National Appellate Writing Workshop for Federal Defenders since 2012 and has presented or facilitated at many other writing programs for federal defenders and CJA panel members. Vicki also leads and supervises our legal intern program, which has expanded greatly under her tutelage and boasts many alumni who have gone on to judicial clerkships and careers in public defense.
Federal Defender Leadership Forum!
Six staff members attended the Federal Defender Leadership Forum this month – Federal Defender Colin Fieman, First Assistant Corey Endo, Personnel Administrator Lynn Shamulka, Administrative Officer Madeline Scarp, Panel Administrator Natalie Harmon, and Chief Paralegal Patricia Stordeur all traveled to Chicago for the conference centered on the theme of Culture Shifts and Transformation: Growing Beyond the Pandemic. AdO Madeline Scarp co-led a presentation about using data to drive workplace equity and participated on a Rethinking “ordinary” office policies and practices in light of the pandemic panel with Federal Public Defenders Juval Scott (VA-W) and Stephen Newman (OH-N). Aside from an architectural cruise along the Chicago River (a “can’t miss” recommended by former Chicagoan and Federal Defender Mike Filipovic), highlights included cohort breakouts – the chance to meet with colleagues who hold the same position in offices across the country – and sessions focused on improving equity and inclusivity.
Some of our key takeaways were:
· “Plan for the office of tomorrow, take a proactive approach to reviewing the language we use and our policies” and consider forming a “Rapid Response subcommittee” from the Embracing LGBTQIA+ Members of Our Community session led by Chris Bright (she/her), Director of Public Training, The Trevor Project and Byron Conway, Assistant Federal Defender, Georgia Federal Defender Program, Inc.
· Manage work flow and expectations by examining what is on your plate and making time for both the things you need to get done and want to get done – from presentations by Dr. Kenston Griffin, CEO, Dream Builders Communication, Inc.
· “Assess whether our work is actually promoting our values” from Culture Transformation in Public Defense led by Chanta Parker, Managing Director, Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit
· “Reexamine long-standing office policies and practices through an equity lends” based on Looking Under the Hood: Retooling Existing Information and Data to Assess and Improve Workplace Equity, led by AdO Madeline Scarp and Jamie McGrady, Alaska Federal Public Defender
After Almost Five Decades of Public Defense Work, Administrative Officer Royce Rutherford Retires!
Royce Rutherford “graduated” this month after a 20+ year careers in public defense. Royce started out as a Pre-Sentence Intern at The Defender Association in King County (TDA), where she later worked as an investigator, studied with some of the best “professors” the field had to offer, and went on to supervise the investigator intern program. After 7 different jobs and 28 years at TDA, Royce came to the FPD brimming with the compassion, investigative insights, and grit that would help her serve our clients for the next twenty years. A seasoned investigator, Royce was as devoted to her clients as she was her colleagues. In 2006, she was promoted to Administrative Officer, a role seemingly tailor made for this “forever-learner” who was always eager to expand her knowledge. Royce had many diverse responsibilities – from budgeting and financial management to most recently co-supervising investigators and assigning cases – yet she was consummately patient, accessible to staff, and generous with her time. A “client-centered administrator” of the first order, Royce is beloved by staff past and present:
· “A joy to work with”
· “An amazing AdO and friend”
· “Committed to our clients and their stories”
· “Exceptionally hard working”
· “Respected and well-liked by those in the national AdO community”
For Royce, “clients have been my touchstone” and, although she is excited to embark on her next chapter, she will look back and “reminisce about all the great adventures I have had and, more importantly, all the amazing and wonderful people I have known along the way.”
Frank Xiao, who interned with our office in 2016 when he was a 1L at Harvard is now clerking with a ninth circuit Judge. Frank plans to move back to New York after his clerkship to pursue a career in public defense.