Yale Law School Defenders Society

On February 8, 2023, First Assistant Federal Defender Kelly Barrett spoke to the Yale Law School Defenders Society.  The discussion focused on how bail and pre-trial motions work in federal criminal practice, as well as on developing pathways to practice federal criminal defense.  

Yale Law School Defender Conference

On February 9, 2024, Assistant Federal Defender Carly Levenson participated in a panel discussion at Def Con 2024, a public defense conference at Yale Law School. As part of the panel “Why Public Defense, and Why Now?,” Carly spoke to law students about what makes public defense such a rewarding and important line of work.

FDO Partnership with Mental Health Justice Clinic

The Federal Defender Office has been collaborating with the Mental Health Justice Clinic at Yale Law School since 2022.  Kelly Barrett co-supervises with Professor Marisol Orihuela  students working on mental health justice projects.  MHJC’s representation model is holistic, client-centered, and disability informed.  

Panel Discussion - Law and Racial Justice Center

On October 12, 2023, Mitigation Specialist Maria Diaz Sommer and members of the Federal Defender Office attended a panel discussion with community members organized by the Law and Racial Justice Center at Yale Law School. Maria Diaz Sommer was on the panel, along with Senior United States District Judge Stefan R. Underhill, AUSA Bill Brown, Joshua Bentz, a participant in Bridgeport’s Support Court restorative justice pilot workshop, and Clarissa Turner, a victim survivor/restorative justice practitioner from the District of MA.  The panel spoke about the success of Support Court’s pilot workshop, their involvement with restorative justice from their role in the criminal legal system, restorative justice as an alternative to punishment, efforts to continue restorative justice and why more the district should follow suit

United States Sentencing Commission Testimony on Reduction in Sentence

On February 23, 2023, First Assistant Federal Defender Kelly Barrett testified at the United States Sentencing Commission in Washington, DC on behalf of the Federal Defender national program in support of the Commission’s proposed amendments to the Reduction in Sentence Guidelines.  On April 5, 2023, the Commission voted to adopt most of the proposed amendments. 

FDO Partnership with Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic

The Federal Defender Office has been collaborating with the Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic (CMIC) at Yale Law School since 2016.  Kelly Barrett and Carly Levenson co-teach CMIC with Professor Miriam Gohara and co-supervise students working on federal sentencing, reduction in sentence, and pre-trial cases.  CMIC’s representation model is holistic, client-centered, and mitigation driven.  We explore the foundations of building an effective working rapport with clients and of assembling the tools necessary to provide comprehensive, meaningful representation. These include: interviewing clients and relevant witnesses; conducting a broad-based, thorough fact investigation; developing a case theory; working with experts; organizing and managing cases; researching relevant legal doctrine; and written and oral advocacy.  Throughout the semester, we gather evidence of, study, and present in our advocacy the historical, racial, sociological, and economic structures that contextualize our clients’ contact with the criminal legal system. We also investigate and gather evidence of our clients’ own social histories and life circumstances in order to persuade decisionmakers to reconsider lengthy prison sentences or to persuade judges not to impose prison sentences in the first instance.

For more information on FDO’s collaboration with CMIC, please listen to Professor Miriam Gohara’s interview at https://soundcloud.com/yaleuniversity/episode-three-miriam-gohara.

Vicarious Trauma Training

On December 5, 2022, June 2023, and December 18, 2023, the Federal Defender Office hosted its biannual training sessions on Vicarious Traumatization.  Yale School of Medicine Law and Psychiatry Fellows and Dr. Kathryn Thomas led the office in a discussion of what vicarious traumatization is as well as strategies to implement to prevent burn-out and compassion fatigue. 

If you are interested in the Office’s work on vicarious traumatization, please contact Kelly Barrett at Kelly_barrett@fd.org or 203-498-4200.

Curtis-Liman Fellowship

Fellowship Opportunities at the CT FDO

The Federal Defender Office in collaboration with the Curtis-Liman Clinical Fellowship at Yale Law School is accepting applications for a fellowship position(s) for the 2024-2025 year.  In addition to the Curtis Liman Fellowship, attached, applicants may also apply for funding from Justice Catalyst, EJW, and Skadden fellowships (subject to the eligibility requirements for these fellowships). 

Hanna Duncan (Yale Law School ’21) is the Office’s inaugural fellow. As a Curtis-Liman Clinical Fellow, Hannah focuses on setting the groundwork for statutory and constitutional challenges to federal supervised release. She also supervises a cohort of law students working on these issues. Through direct representation, collaboration with stakeholders in criminal justice and public defense, and research about the history of community supervision and court-ordered treatment, Hannah supports clients serving sentences of supervised release or who are incarcerated for violating conditions of their release. Hannah also supervises a cohort of students and conducts qualitative research about court-ordered mental health and substance use counseling. Students involved in this project survey directors and therapists at treatment programs to identify the range of services offered and the quality of programming for individuals who have experiences of trauma, incarceration, mental illness, and/or substance use.

Elizabeth Clarke (Yale Law School ’23) is the current Curtis-Liman Fellow at Yale Law School and is based in the New Haven office. Elizabeth received a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a Research Assistant with The Justice Collaboratory and a member of the Criminal Justice Advocacy Clinic. During her summers, she interned with the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and The Legal Aid Society. Elizabeth holds a B.A. in psychology from Cornell University.  Her fellowship work is focused on reentry, examining conditions of supervised release, and researching the impact of court-ordered treatment.

Ibrahim Diallo is the incoming Curtis-Liman Fellow for the 2024-2025 year.

If you are interested in learning more about the Curtis Liman fellowship, please contact Elizabeth Clarke at Elizabeth_clarke@fd.org or 203-498-4200.


Restorative Justice

On November 17 and 18, 2022, Federal Defender Office Mitigation Specialist Maria Diaz Sommer implemented the District of Connecticut’s pilot restorative justice workshop. The workshop was graciously hosted by Homebridge and attended by six participants and observers of the Bridgeport Support Court program, four community members, a victim surrogate, and two federal prosecutors. Maria received her certification and training in restorative justice conferencing from Suffolk University. She has trained in restorative justice conferencing with the International Institute of Restorative Practices and has trained in restorative justice facilitation with the Center of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking at the University of Michigan Duluth. Maria plans to continue to expand the restorative justice program.

Native American and indigenous communities have long used restorative justice practices to resolve harms. Currently, there is a nascent, but growing movement to use restorative justice in pockets of the United States within the traditional criminal justice system or as an adjunct to it. On August 3-4, 2020, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and probation officers to consider using restorative justice practices in response to crime.

If you are interested in our Office’s restorative justice work, please contact Maria Diaz Sommer at maria_sommer@fd.org or 203-498-4200.