Case News, DREAM, Office News, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Reflections & Staff News
The passage of the First Step Act in December 2018 expanded compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1), allowing our clients to file compassionate release motions to reduce sentences based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons” directly with their sentencing courts. Through advocacy by the whole office, the district courts in this district have joined the majority of court across the nation that recognize the COVID-19 pandemic should inform the requisite analysis – either in terms of whether extraordinary and compelling reasons exist or, if a person qualifies for a sentence reduction, whether relief is warranted based on the § 3553(a) factors. Since March, 2020, our office and members of the CJA panel have filed over 275 petitions under § 3582(c). As of today’s date, 189 motions are pending and many more are in the works. We are proud to serve our community in this manner, fighting for incarcerated persons whose circumstances are indeed extraordinary and compelling and whose release protects not only their safety, but also the BOP staff and our community.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office dropped its appeal of an FPD habeas victory at the end of the summer. The district court had held that Washington’s Intimidating a Public Servant statute, RCW 9A.76.180, violated the First Amendment as applied to our client, and that the Washington Supreme Court’s decision holding otherwise was contrary to clearly established federal law in Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003). The district court ordered our client released from DOC custody and granted a separate certificate of appealability to continue to challenge a separate conviction. Congratulations to our client and Seattle AFD Ann Wagner for this hard-fought victory.
Client is released on bond after a year of detention!
Mr. W had been detained for almost a year awaiting trial, with no firm trial date in sight due to COVID-19 closures at the courthouse. Mr. W had been denied release three times, but he and his FPD team persisted, and this month, Judge Settle granted his motion for release pending trial. Judge Settle found that the visiting restriction at FDC Seatac made it hard for Mr. W to prepare for trial with his defense team, and that Mr. W’s mom needed his help at home during the pandemic. The FPD team is Seattle AFD Greg Murphy, Tacoma AFD Heather Carroll, Tacoma paralegal Carolynn Cohn and Tacoma investigator Mike Stortini. This could not have happened without the critical assist of Research & Writing attorney Alan Zarky. After two weeks in quarantine, Mr. W.is now home with his mom.
Another client released on bond after a year of detention!
Our client has been in custody for approximately a year under oppressive conditions. Client battles anxieties related to whether he will contract COVID. He wanted to be released because he knew that he was not going to get into Court anytime soon and needed to be with his children during these uncertain times. In steps Seattle AFD Sara Brin who eloquently told the story of client’s case and persuaded Honorable Mary A. Theiler to mitigate the oppressive environment of lockdown at the FDC and release the client. In advocating for his release, Brin contextualized client’s criminal past demonstrating how bias, explicit or otherwise played a role in his past criminal charges. Brin added that keeping him incarcerated under oppressive conditions given his past, positively reinforced an injustice. Client was grateful for her advocacy and is happy to be reunited with his family.
One more participant graduated from DREAM in September. Following injuries and surgeries, she had become addicted to narcotic pain pills and developed a severe and expensive addiction. Unable to afford her habit, she began stealing money from her employer. This participant had already been sober for two years by the time she joined DREAM, and remained steady in her recovery throughout stress and loss. She also contributed enormously to DREAM, bringing new ideas about how participants can support other participants, knowledge about technology, even before the pandemic made it critical, and an overall energy that inspired many. She had pled guilty to bank embezzlement and faced a guideline range sentence of 21-27 months, and the charges were dismissed upon her graduation. We wish her all the best!
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Reflections:
We lost the fiercest of leaders on September 18, 2020. RBG was a legal and feminist icon to so many and her loss is immeasurable. Some of the women at FPD have reflected on what Justice Ginsburg meant to them and shared some of their favorite quotes by their hero.
-RBG’s tenacity, rigor, intellect, passion for justice, and unwavering kindness towards others have inspired me in many ways. But I think most of all, she has inspired by reaching the top echelon of power while remaining herself: a shy, reserved person who spoke with a soft voice—a persona so different than the lawyers—primarily hard men, at the center stage of power.
-I was about to graduate law school when RBG was nominated by Clinton to the Supreme Court. RBG exemplified the importance of doing what one loves professionally and having the gumption to fight for what is right, for change, for a better world, and the fact that a person can do so, even if also raising a family, without our gender closing doors. A hero/leader because she not only had the gumption to be a pioneer for women, but she did so with grace, smarts, decency, humility and humor.
- RBG was amazing and inspiring----a force for good--for the law, for women, for humanity. She inspired so many----and we go on fighting!
- I want to start by thanking Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her decades of fighting for equal rights. The world, and American women in particular, are forever indebted to her.
As a young woman who has always known that I would pursue a career in law, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been my lifelong inspiration. She was my hero.
Losing my personal hero really hurts. What hurts even more is knowing how many people no longer have her to advocate for them on the nation’s highest court. It is awful that we have to fear for the future while we mourn her passing. But we do. The fact that the nominee who will almost certainly take Ginsburg’s seat is the antithesis to Ginsburg means that countless people will likely be subjected to atrocious rights violations for decades. I saw a tweet from Louise Knott Ahern (@weezwrites) which says “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to be replaced by a woman who walked through every door that Ginsburg opened for her so she can promptly use her position to shut them all for others behind her.” This tweet summarizes the horrors that are likely to come.
In life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspired my future career in law by showing me all of the good that can come out of such a career. In death, she is also motivating my future career. This time, it is out of necessity. Now, more than ever, I need to fight like hell and do everything in my power to stand up for those for whom Justice Ginsburg stood up.
I hope we all use Justice Ginsburg’s passing as fuel for our fires to advocate for women, Black people, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, and everyone else from marginalized communities.
May her memory be a catalyst for extraordinary change.
‘So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.’
‘Dissents speak to a future age.’
‘We have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world, and it starts with three words, “We, the people”.’
'Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’
‘I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.’
‘When police or prosecutors conceal significant exculpatory or impeaching material, we hold, it is ordinarily incumbent on the state to set the record straight.’
“[I want to be remembered as] someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.”
― Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy: Mastering Oral Argument
Our Seattle Office is hiring both a Paralegal and Investigator
The FPD Diversity Committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that job postings reflect the values of diversity and anti-oppressive practices that we strive to achieve. Two new jobs— paralegal and investigator—have been posted. The Diversity Committee supported office administrators in framing expectations for applicants about their commitment to social justice and awareness of the history of systemic racism and oppression upheld by the criminal legal system in this country. The Committee hopes to support the office in becoming a more equitable and inclusive environment for all FPD employees, positively impacting our clients and community.
Meet our Seattle Based Undergrad Intern!