Management, Policy, and Administration
The Director's Office
The Director's Office works to ensure DPD is providing excellent legal representation to its clients and to support staff who do the day-to-day work of public defense. The Director's Office oversees DPD's budget and operations, staffing, hiring, human resources, case coordination, assigned counsel, and other operational needs. It also directs the department's policy, litigation, and legislative strategy, as well as our work in external affairs and partnership-building.
Anita Khandelwal, Director
Anita Khandelwal, the director of DPD, was appointed to a four-year term by the County Executive in October 2018 and confirmed by the County Council in November 2018. Before becoming the director, Anita served as DPD's deputy director and policy director, identifying systemic issues and criminal legal policies in need of reform, drafting internal policies to encourage best practices, providing ethics counsel, bargaining union contracts, and more. Anita has been a public defender since 2008, when she became a staff attorney at was then called The Defender Association, now a division within DPD. She was a Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow, a civil rights fellow at Relman & Dane in Washington, D.C., and a fellow in the Washington Leadership Institute. She clerked for Judge Dolores Sloviter, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Wayne Justice, Western District of Texas. Anita attended Yale University for her undergraduate work, graduating with distinction in both anthropology and history, and obtained her JD from Yale Law School.
Gordon Hill, Deputy Director
Gordon Hill is the deputy director, working on operational issues, staffing and budget issues, and policy reform, and performing the duties of the director when Anita is away. He attended the University of Vermont as an undergraduate, obtained a master's degree from the University of New Mexico, and in 2005 received his JD from Seattle University School of Law. As a law student, he interned at the Northwest Defenders Association (NDA) and Associated Counsel for the Accused (ACA), both of which are now divisions at DPD. After graduating from law school, he joined ACA as a staff attorney, practicing in the misdemeanor, felony, and involuntary treatment units, became a supervisor of the misdemeanor unit, and was the acting managing attorney of the ACA Division.
La Rond Baker, Special Counsel
Affirmative Litigation and Policy
La Rond Baker, special counsel for affirmative litigation and policy, drafts legislation and identifies priority legislation for DPD to support or oppose, litigates appeals as needed strategically, oversees the department's inquest and police accountability work, files amicus briefs in appellate courts in matters that have a significant impact on clients' rights, and acts as co-counsel in litigation involving systemic issues that harm DPD’s clients. Before joining DPD, she worked in the Civil Rights Unit of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, where she fought issues such as the DOD’s ban on open service by transgender individuals and a private detention center’s practice of paying detainees $1/day for labor. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, she was a staff attorney at the ACLU of Washington, where she litigated a number of high-profile and substantive civil rights cases. She chaired WSBA’s Civil Rights Law Section for two years and in 2016 received the ACLU-WA’s Loren Miller Bar Association Award for Excellence in the Law. She currently serves as co-chair of the City of Seattle's Community Police Commission, which provides community oversight of the Seattle Police Department and the police accountability system. She earned her law degree in 2010 from the University of Washington.
Katie Hurley, Special Counsel
Criminal Policy and Practice
Katie Hurley, special counsel for criminal policy and practice, focuses on criminal policy and practice related to both juveniles and adults. She obtained her JD from New York University School of Law in 2006 and her BA in philosophy and government from Cornell University in 2002. After graduating from law school, Katie became a staff attorney at The Defender Association, now a division within DPD; worked as the legal intern assistant supervisor; became the supervisor of the juvenile unit, and joined the Director’s Office as the interim juvenile and young adult practice and policy director. She has taught numerous CLEs, primarily focused on youth in the criminal legal system. She has also served on the Creative Justice Adult Advisory Board and WSBA’s Juvenile Law Section, actively pursuing policy and legislative reforms in support of a less harmful juvenile legal system.
Brian Flaherty, Assistant Special Counsel
Brian Flaherty, assistant special counsel, focuses on criminal policy and practice related to adults and assists the other special counsels on litigation and special projects. Brian obtained his JD from New York University School of Law in 2008 and his BS in criminal justice from Northeastern University in 2004. During law school, he worked as intern for the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson, where he performed research relating to post-conviction capital defense cases and visited state prisons to meet with clients sentenced to death or life without parole. He was also the executive editor of the NYU Law Review, a research assistant to three professors, and a member of NYU’s Criminal Appellate Defender Clinic. In 2009, Brian became a staff attorney at The Defender Association, now a division within DPD; in 2016, he became a supervising attorney, overseeing one of the felony units in the division while also carrying a large caseload. He has represented hundreds of clients in all phases of criminal defense, from misdemeanor to serious felony charges, as well as clients detained under the state’s Involuntary Treatment Act.
Tara Urs, Special Counsel
Civil Policy and Practice, Training, and Employee Development
Tara Urs, special counsel for civil policy and practice, training, and employee development, helps direct the department’s civil practice, working on policy reform and supporting the divisions’ civil practice. She also supervises the training team and works with the managing attorneys and training coordinator to ensure a high-quality summer intern program. Before joining DPD’s management team, she practiced family defense in the Department’s Defender Association Division and, prior to that, worked as a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Family Defense Project. Tara received her BA from Wesleyan University and her JD from New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow and winner of the John Perry Prize for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. She clerked for Judge Deborah A. Batts, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Immediately following law school, she worked in Cambodia as a resident fellow with the Open Society Justice Initiative designing and evaluating outreach systems for the Khmer Rouge trials. Tara is the author of several law review articles on child welfare law, transitional justice, and domestic violence and has taught legal research and writing at Seattle University School of Law and Brooklyn Law School.
Scott Ketterling, Coordinator
As DPD's assigned counsel coordinator, Scott Ketterling is responsible for recruiting and selecting DPD's assigned counsel panels, outside attorneys who represent clients for the Department when DPD cannot do so due to prior representation of involved parties (called "conflicts" in the world of law firms). He also updates policies and practices governing assigned counsel, coordinates case reassignments when attorneys leave the panels, and acts as a liaison with DPD's expert services administrative attorneys, who review and respond to expert service requests. Scott, a 2004 graduate of Vermont Law School, has been a public defender throughout his law career. He has extensive trial experience, has represented clients in nearly every kind of criminal case, and has worked as a visiting clinical professor in the Youth Advocacy Clinic at Seattle University School of Law.
Laura Federighi, Chief Financial Officer
Laura Federighi is the department's chief financial officer. She prepares the department's budget, monitors its compliance with finance rules and regulations, and oversees all of DPD's budget and finance functions. Before coming to DPD, Laura worked in the county's Department of Public Health and the Department of Transportation in various finance and administration positions. She serves on several countywide project committees, including the Business Intelligence Analytics project, the Budget Advisory Team, the Enterprise Resource Planning Evaluation Team and the Best Run Government Deployment Review Team. Before coming to King County, Laura worked at the University of Washington, where she was instrumental in establishing the recycling and waste management programs and a supported employment program for people with disabilities.
Leslie Brown, Communications Manager
Leslie Brown is DPD’s communications manager, handling internal communication needs, media relations, social media, and other outreach. She also writes posts for DPD’s blog, For the Defense, and manages the department’s website. Before coming to DPD, Leslie worked as a news reporter for several years, winning numerous awards, including the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award. She also worked as the communications director for The Nature Conservancy of Washington. She received her undergraduate degree in history from Whitman College, a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, and a master’s in legal studies from Yale Law School.
Melanie Oberlander, Operations Manager
Melanie Oberlander brings extensive experience in legal administration and a deep knowledge of the day-to-day needs of the department to her position as DPD’s operations manager. Melanie began working for one of the divisions in 2003 (it was an independent nonprofit at the time), where she played a key administrative role and helped to design and develop a case management system. As a member of the Director’s Office, she continues to play a lead role in case management development and training for the entire department. She also supports staff development, acts as a liaison with the county’s IT department, develops business processes for a number of operational needs, and oversees case coordination. Before coming to DPD, she was the operations manager for an intellectual properties law firm in Seattle.
Stev Weidlich, Research and Data Analyst
Stev Weidlich, the department’s research and data analyst, uses data to help DPD understand and analyze trends in the criminal and civil legal systems, case volume and assignments, staffing levels, workloads across the divisions, and other measures that support strong public defense management. He also oversees a number of special projects, including implementation of a new client-based text messaging system and development of a police accountability database, and provides research and technical support to other members of the management and policy teams. Stev has a B.A. and Master’s degree in cultural anthropology. He joined DPD in June 2017 after working for several years as a social scientist and program manager in environmental justice and social impact assessment.
Alison Liu, Training Program Administrator
Alison Liu is the training administrator in the Director’s Office, where she manages training courses, ensures attorneys and mitigation specialists receive educational credits, records training sessions, maintains a library of training materials, handles myriad questions and communication needs, and much more. She also supports DPD’s class of interns, supports DPD’s effort at obtaining a new case management system, and helps to put on DPD’s annual conference. Before becoming the training administrator, Alison worked as a paralegal in the department for five years. She earned an honors degree in English from the University of Oregon and Clark Honors College.
The Managing Attorneys
DPD's four managing attorneys provide oversight and direction to staff in their respective divisions. They monitor caseloads, support case strategy, supervise staff, oversee operations, and handle the many issues that arise in the fast-paced environment of a large public defense division.
Kari Boyum, Managing Attorney
Northwest Defenders Division
Kari Boyum is the managing attorney for the Northwest Defenders Division, where she supervises attorneys and support staff, provides case strategy reviews, oversees office management, monitors caseloads, and handles the many other duties that come with running a large legal division. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and her JD from Seattle University School of Law. She began working at what was then called the Northwest Defenders Association (now a division within DPD) in 2006, practicing in the misdemeanor, felony and juvenile units. She also supervised attorneys and support staff working in King County District Court and Seattle Municipal Court before becoming the division's interim managing attorney.
Alena Ciecko, Managing Attorney
Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons Division
Alena Ciecko is the managing attorney for the Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons (SCRAP) Division, where she supervises attorneys and support staff, provides case strategy reviews, oversees office management, monitors caseloads, and handles the many other duties that come with running a large legal division. She joined SCRAP in 2007, where she supervised the Family Defense Unit for nearly four years and represented clients in the misdemeanor, felony, contempt of court, and family defense units. She also worked for two years as a public defender in Pierce County and clerked for Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong for a year. Alena obtained her B.A. from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies and her J.D. from the UW School of Law.
Ben Goldsmith, Managing Attorney
The Defender Association Division
Ben Goldsmith is managing attorney at The Defender Association Division, where he supervises attorneys and support staff, provides case strategy reviews, oversees office management, monitors caseloads, and handles the many other duties that come with running a large legal division. Ben has been a public defender since he joined The Defender Association, then a nonprofit public defense firm, in 2006, working first as a staff attorney, then as the assistant felony supervisor, and, most recently, as the division's felony supervisor. He became managing attorney at the division in November 2019. Before earning his law degree from the University of Michigan, Ben worked as a staff investigator for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C. He was also an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown Law, has co-taught a forensics course at Seattle University School of Law, and has presented numerous local and national CLEs. He is recognized for his work on the role of race in jury selection and the misuse of DNA in criminal trials.
Haydee Vargas, Managing Attorney
Associated Counsel for the Accused Division
Haydee Vargas is the managing attorney of the Associated Counsel for the Accused Division, where she supervises attorneys and support staff, provides case strategy reviews, oversees office management, monitors caseloads, and handles the many other duties that come with running a large legal division. Haydee has been a public defender since 2004, when she first started working for the Associated Counsel for the Accused, then a nonprofit public defense firm. She obtained her JD in 2003 from Seattle University School of Law, where she won several honors, including the appellate advocacy and legal writing awards. Haydee is proficient in reading, writing, and speaking Spanish.