COVID-19 FPD Update, Case News, Staff News, & DREAM News
COVID-19 FPD Update:
Our office is open for business on Mandatory Telework. Our phone lines are open and we are maintaining telephonic and email communication with our clients through the stalwart performance of Rolando in our Seattle Office and Christina in Tacoma. We are busy litigating detention issues, seeking expedited sentencing and arguing for compassionate release on behalf of our most vulnerable clients. Our lawyers are part of a national network of AFDs and CJA lawyers sharing briefs, favorable orders and ideas for seeking release for many of our clients. Our paralegals, investigators and other support staff have been working overtime to support this effort and our IT group – Jason, James and Patrick – have done an outstanding job in effectively taking the whole office to telework mode, keeping us connected so we can all continue to effectively advocate on behalf our clients.
Below are some quotations from staff regarding how we are working during these unprecedented times:
"The support that Jason, James and Patrick have provided me throughout this period of turmoil has been outstanding. I have been able to work fairly seamlessly and I wanted to acknowledge their efforts in helping make that happen.”
“During all of this craziness I feel very fortunate to be a part of this team. With the onset of all of the uncertainty and fear surrounding Covid-19, I have felt that the office has been very proactive, supportive, and dedicated to maintaining not only the function, goals, and ideals of the office but in supporting us as employee’s as well.”
“Keep pushing, keep fighting. We can get lulled in our district to believe that we are all on the same page and have the same goals. Be smart, be aggressive and always think what is best for this client in this moment in time. I am proud of all of you.
In our office’s first petition based on Rehaif v. United States, a 2019 Supreme Court case, Judge Robart agreed that the petition should be granted and our client should be released. The order reasoned that our client was never told, prior to pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), that he had to know that he qualified as a federal felon when he possessed the firearm. This failure amounted a due process violation under binding Supreme Court precedent. And our client was excused for failing to bring the argument three years before Rehaif was decided because, in fact, he was innocent of the offense. He did not qualify as a federal felon under Ninth Circuit case law—another case argued by our office, United States v. McAdory. Congratulations to Seattle AFDs Jesse Cantor and Ann Wagner for this important victory.
Even in the face of the current public health crisis, DREAM Court continued on, with all participants participating in the process group by video and in the court hearing by telephone. Two participants graduated this month. One graduate faced a mandatory five-year sentence for her role in a drug conspiracy. She had struggled with drug addiction throughout her entire adult life. Through DREAM, she attended in-patient treatment. After completing the in-patient treatment program, she began medically-assisted treatment and has thrived for the last nine months, committed not only to her own physical and mental health, but also to the wellbeing of her family and her broader community.
The other participant faced a mandatory two-year sentence for her role in a fraud scheme. She had achieved sobriety before beginning DREAM, but initially struggled with other aspects of her recovery. She has now found stable housing, has repaired her relationships with her children and family, and is close to completing her GED. We look forward to seeing them again, so we can celebrate their successes in person.
As a designated representative of Washington’s minority state bar associations to the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, Seattle AFD Christopher Sanders organized community support for the passage of the Open Courts Act (SB 2567) in the state legislature. The Open Courts Act implements new protections and procedures for immigration officers who wish to make an immigration arrest at or around a state courthouse. The passage of the act is a part of a greater effort by the Minority and Justice Commission and many other community partners to curb the tide of immigration arrests at our courthouses. The bill was signed into law by Governor Inslee on March 18, 2020 and represents a tremendous step forward in ensuring equal access to our courts.