Monthly News!

July News!

Case, Staff, DREAM, Community & Intern News



Case News:


Client S filed a pro se compassionate release motion based on his mother’s stroke. The Federal Public Defender then agreed to represent him and Tacoma Research and Writing Attorney Alan Zarky filed a supplemental memo, providing more details about the danger to his mother if she were left unattended and the financial hardship of using our client’s step-father as her full-time care. Just as the client arrived at the Residential Reentry Center (RRC) for the last part of his sentence, his step-father deserted his mom. The RRC was likely to send our client home in a couple of weeks, but he needed to get there immediately.  The government opposed compassionate release but Teal Miller graciously filed her opposition early, allowing an earlier ruling by the court. In one afternoon, we wrote a reply and emailed the court to request an early ruling. Two days later, Judge Martinez granted the client’s forthwith release (without even requiring the home detention that we had offered). Bureau of Prisons (BOP) seemed to dawdle about okaying his release that afternoon, but after nearly a score of emails and phone calls to BOP, Probation, and the Marshals, BOP told the RRC to release him.  (AUSA Andrew Friedman even stepped in, agreeing he wouldn't prosecute our client for escape if he left the RRC on his own, or Alan for aiding and abetting.)


The team included Tacoma paralegals Carolynn Cohn and Julie Valencia (who filed the reply well past her and Alan’s normal bedtimes!), and Seattle AFD Vicki Lai, who edited and consulted at every stage of the case.  Congrats to client S and the whole defense team!



Staff News:

Long Time Federal Defender Investigator Jennifer Davis Retires after 35+ years with our office!

Jennifer Davis retired on July 31, 2022 after 35 years, 3 months and 10 days with the office. It is not possible in a short article to completely summarize a career of such breadth, especially when the career was as packed with adventure and accolade as Jennifer’s was. Jennifer was dedicated to the mission of the office, its clients and was a tireless worker. As noted below, her contribution to the work and stature of the office was felt inside and outside its walls.

Jennifer graduated from the UW in 1980 and launched her career in the legal field that same year as an assistant librarian and messenger for a local law firm. As challenging as that work was, Jennifer believed she had the stuff to do better and she soon shifted gears and became a contract paralegal, working mostly with local criminal defense lawyers. By the time I hired Jennifer in April, 1987, she had earned a strong and positive reputation as a hard-working, do anything, team player. Jennifer’s people skills made her a natural for investigative work and in short order she filled an office opening for that position. From day one, she excelled. Jennifer instinctively went beyond her role as investigator to identify and assure that any and all needs in her cases were addressed. This holistic instinct was an attention getter.

In a 1989 memo, our esteemed former colleague, Carol Koller, described and praised Jennifer’s “above and beyond the call of duty” assistance for a Cambodian client whose case was successfully completed one morning. But the client had no place to go except back to his jail cell. Jennifer enlisted the help of an array of individuals from interpreters to International Rescue Committee staff and had Carol’s client on a plane to Cambodia before the day ended. Jennifer got home after midnight. Carol offered, “it is a joy to be part of a staff where people care so much about the client.”

Care for the client is a recurring theme when others describe Jennifer’s work. Seasoned panel lawyer Scott Engelhard teamed with our office in a death penalty representation in the early 2000’s. In its aftermath, he wrote me and offered, “in my 20 plus years as an attorney, I have never had the level of support and encouragement that I received from your office.” He described the mountain of “outside the box” chores and issues presented by the case and singled Jennifer out as “absolutely the key to putting this all together.”

In 2010, former panel lawyer and now Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote following yet another death penalty representation. Jennifer assisted in the investigation of the case, an investigation which resulted in the death penalty being flipped and, Jennifer oversaw all the case logistics. Sheryl was blown away by the extent of Jennifer’s effort. She wrote: “Jennifer isamazing. I really want you to appreciate everything that woman does. She is a great asset to our work and our well-being.”

As we all know, Jennifer’s relentless work ethic and attention to all case details-- from creating goodwill with court staff to assuring her clients are properly fed and attired-- gained attention outside our community. The likes of Judy Clarke, famed former Federal Public Defender from San Diego and nationally preeminent death penalty litigator, called me often, asking to “borrow” Jennifer to assist in the investigation of high profile death penalty cases. Judy is intense and no-nonsense. She enlisted Jennifer’s help because she knew Jennifer would “go beyond.”

For 35 plus years Jennifer was there for our clients. She was never MIA. She took care of their “wellbeing” and ours. She was generous with her time and excelled in her field. In 2004, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers aptly honored Jennifer with it “Champion of Justice Award”, an honor that is typically reserved for lawyers. Jennifer is a champion and she is amazing and she will forever be a friend and source of pride for those of us who had the pleasure and honor of working with her. Congrats to Jennifer and her truly outstanding career with the Federal Public Defender’s Office.

-Tom Hillier (Former Defender and FPD employee for 35 years and 6 months. But Jennifer worked more hours!)




Heather Carroll is our New Tacoma Office Supervisor!

Heather graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 2005 and started her legal career as an attorney at the Snohomish County Public Defender Association. She then worked in Clark County as an indigent defense attorney before becoming the county's Indigent Defense Coordinator. Heather joined our office in 2019 and recently finished a term as the Board President of the Washington Defender Association. She is active in the WDA/WACDL legislative committee and several other committees. The Federal Defender’s Tacoma office, just a few blocks from the landmark Tacoma Federal Courthouse (, is home to 14 Federal Defender staff and represents clients in a large part of the Western District of Washington, including Tacoma and areas south to the Oregon border, the Olympic Peninsula, and Joint Base Lewis McChord.



TS graduated from DREAM after 18 months in the program. She had pled guilty to her role in a drug conspiracy and was looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. She also faced related state charges that were also dismissed with the help of the United States Attorney’s Office. She is now rebuilding her career as a health care professional, deeply engaged in her sober community, and grateful for the opportunities. Congrats to TS for her dedication to herself and accomplishing her goals!


Community News:

FPDs Housing Connector program is back at it again!

One DREAM client obtained her very own apartment this month with assistance from this important partnership. The Housing Connector program seeks out landlords willing to house people who historically have been considered ‘high risk’ in exchange for insurance/financial security. Stringent screening criteria that typically has barred our clients from renting are eliminated or reduced—rent to income ration, eviction history, rental debt, credit score, and criminal history. In exchange for landlords being lenient, the Housing Connector program will pay up to three months of emergency rent and up to $5,000 dollars in repairs to the unit. Our newly housed DREAM client couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter of her life! Congrats to our client and thank you to FPD social worker Daniel Potter-Engelskirger for establishing and maintaining this community connection. 


Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA), Chapter hosted its first in-person event since 2020 on June 29th, 2022, at the Women’s University Club in Seattle. Current Seattle Chapter members, prospective members, alumni, and WWCDA allies enjoyed viewing a short video on WWCDA’s impressive story, networked, and socialized with friends and colleagues they hadn’t seen in years. Thank you.

Intern News:

Former social work intern Tess Musolino is now a mitigation specialist for the Charlottesville office of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission.  Tess works on cases in five different courts (the circuit and general district courts for both the city and the county, plus juvenile and domestic relations court). Tess is working on mostly trial and sentencing mitigation.  Congrats Tess on your new job!


Asa Gelber, who interned with us last summer as a rising 3L at Indiana University Law School has realized his goals of living in downtown Chicago and securing employment as a Cook County Public Defender! Congrats Asa and knock it outta the park!



Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Seattle AFD Andy Kennedy and his yearly trip with the summer legal interns to a Seattle Mariners game!