Our Work

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, the Federal Defender Office hosted its biannual training on Vicarious Traumatization.  Yale School of Medicine Law and Psychiatry Fellow Dr. Ashley Malka and Yale Law School Justice Collaboratory Fellow 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.  The Office was joined by our colleagues from the North Carolina Federal Defender Office.

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

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.

If you are interested in learning more about Hannah’s fellowship, please contact Hannah Duncan at Hannah_duncan@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.