Case, DREAM, Community, & Intern News
In a Ninth Circuit habeas appeal, Seattle AFD Ann Wagner won a reversal of the district court’s judgment that a sufficiency claim had not been properly exhausted in the state courts. The case now returns to the district court for arguments on the merits. This is the second major victory in this case—the district court had previously vacated two ten-year convictions on First Amendment grounds and ordered our client released from state prison.
Mr. W Acquitted of Causing Forest Fire!
Mr. W was charged with six felony counts related to timber theft, and two counts that accused him of causing a forest fire in 2018. Mr. W did not dispute that he had unlawfully logged maple, but has always maintained that he did not cause a forest fire. The government nonetheless chose to charge Mr. W under a statute ordinarily reserved for arson or terrorism prosecutions, and which had never before been deployed in a case involving an accidental forest fire. If convicted of those serious counts, Mr. W. faced well over a decade in prison.
Happily, after a six-day trial, a jury acquitted Mr. W of all responsibility for causing the forest fire.
Mr. W was represented in court by Tacoma AFD Heather Carroll and Seattle AFD Gregory Murphy, along with Tacoma paralegal Carolynn Cohn and Tacoma investigator Mike Stortini. But the victory absolutely resulted from a team effort: Seattle paralegals Patricia Stordeur and Natalya Kim helped sync transcripts for cross examination. Legal intern Julian Scott provided valuable research help and feedback on proposed examinations. Research and Writing Attorney Alan Zarky provided research on any evidentiary questions. Tacoma AFD Colin Fieman offered strategic insight and trial feedback.
Congratulations to Mr. W for a well-deserved vindication.
FPD summer intern Julian Scott, a first year law school student at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis based in our Tacoma office, prepared a successful petition for early termination of supervised release for a client who had pending allegations of violating supervision by using marijuana. The client, who is 67 years old and the full time caretaker of his disabled wife, was using marijuana to deal with chronic pain from work related injuries and depression. The Probation Department asked the Court to punish the client with four days in jail, but instead the Court granted the motion to release him from further supervision. The client is now volunteering with The Reform Alliance (reformalliance.com), an advocacy group that “aims to transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing,” as a spokesperson on behalf of federal legislation to reduce incarceration for probation violations. Congrats Julian!
We had our first in-person DREAM hearing since the start of the pandemic in June, and it was a festive occasion, with two participants graduating.
CJA Attorney Sean Gillespie represented one of the DREAM graduates. The opportunity presented by DREAM was difficult for this participant because her husband was charged as a co-defendant and faced a mandatory five-year sentence. Despite her long-standing addiction and the emotional difficulty of her situation, this participant embraced the program and worked to build a strong foundation for her future. She also helped encourage other participants in DREAM, regularly sharing insights and encouragement.
Jacob Wilson was the second June graduate. Jacob was 23 years old when he started DREAM and had suffered from a substance use disorder for nearly half of his life. Although he relapsed and faced other challenges along the way, Jacob was determined to maintain his sobriety and to graduate from DREAM. Along the way, Jacob realized how much he enjoyed his sober life, from working to spending time outdoors and with family and new friends.
We wish them both all the best in the future!
The Honorable Walter T. McGovern, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington May 24, 1922 - July 8, 2021.
The Federal Bar Association for the Western District of Washington mourns the passing of Judge Walter T. McGovern. He was born in Seattle on May 24, 1922, and died on July 8, 2021, at age 99. Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez shared his thoughts on McGovern’s passing.
“The Western District of Washington has lost a local treasure. Judge Walter McGovern was Seattle born and bred. He cared deeply about his city, his community, and his country. Judge McGovern epitomized the ideal judge, intelligent, fair minded and with a touch of humility.”
Judge McGovern grew up in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. His mother named him after her brother, Walter, a well-regarded trial lawyer in San Francisco. McGovern once said it was in the fifth grade, he decided he wanted to be lawyer because of his uncle. “When I was a young trial lawyer, I always heard that if you’re going to be a judge, the greatest position in the world is to be a federal trial judge,” he said years after joining the bench. And there he served as a federal judge for our district for fifty years.
Most people addressed him as “your Honor,” but friends close to McGovern knew him as “Wally.”
He earned his law degree from Seattle’s own University of Washington School of Law. His wife of 71 years predeceased him on September 23, 2017. Rita Marie met McGovern in Fourth Grade and they later married in June 1946 at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Seattle. He started his judicial career at Seattle Municipal Court, running for election against an incumbent. McGovern won and launched his long service on the bench. Then in 1964, he ran against an 8-year incumbent on King County Superior Court and McGovern won – the first time a candidate unseated an incumbent on the county’s Superior Court.
In 1968, Gov. Dan Evans appointed McGovern to the Washington Supreme Court. “I realized I did not enjoy appellate work as much as I enjoyed trial work,” he said once. Then an opening on the federal trial court in our district became available. President Richard Nixon nominated McGovern and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and began his fifty year service to our district. “Judge McGovern was Chief Judge for 12 years and during those years (1975-1987) he put in place many of the structural changes to our District that made us a national model for innovation and excellence,” said Judge Robert S. Lasnik.
Chief Judge Martinez added, “He controlled the courtroom not with an iron fist but through the sheer force of his personality. Away from the courtroom he was a gentle man with a sense of humor who never took himself too seriously and would always greet you with a smile.”
McGovern was the first judge that our own Chief Judge Martinez appeared in front of as a special assistant United States attorney. “He invited me into his chambers and introduced himself before the case began. He made me feel welcome and that I belonged although I must admit when I stepped into his courtroom I was awed and a bit terrified,” said Martinez.
During McGovern’s tenure as Chief, there were only three active judges with an average case load of 700 cases each. To increase the number of judges to help with the workload, he decided to take senior status.
It was Judge McGovern who fought for the creation of our Federal Bar Association and why we enjoy the solid reputation as an organization that fosters bench-bar relations and beyond.
Chief Judge Martinez summarized his thoughts about McGovern, “He cared about the cases he presided over and, most importantly, the people who walked into the courtroom. He handled so many important cases in his long career that it is not hyperbole to say his rulings shaped our community. Few people know that he was the founder of the federal bar association in our district. He was passionate about the legal profession and constantly worked to make it better. He was my friend, and I will miss him.”
-Authored by Cynthia Jones, Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representative for the Western District of Washington with contributions from Judge Robert S. Lasnik and Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez.
Meet our new undergrad intern who started with our Seattle Office in June: