Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Research & Writing Attorney Lynn Deffebach

The defense community lost one of its most dedicated and effective members this week. After a five year struggle with breast cancer, Oregon research and writing attorney Lynn Deffebach died peacefully at home last Thursday at the age of 55. As a national expert on Bureau of Prisons litigation, she has been a resource for defenders around the country, teaching continuing legal education classes, writing articles, and providing consultations with attorneys, prisoners, and families of prisoners. Her patient and gentle advice saved centuries of time for clients and her counsel assured that the complexities of the federal system were understood, even when clients were angry or impaired. As a litigator, her fierce tenacity, even against great odds, consistently brought cases to successful resolutions. 
After a stint with the Peace Corps in Samoa and in Washington, D.C., Lynn graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School. She found her way on to one of the Oregon Federal Public Defender trial teams, where her talents and energy quickly resulted in her being brought on full time. Her BOP work had its origins in the 1995 retroactive marijuana sentencing amendments. During group meetings, she began learning of the many ways statutes that were meant to assist prisoners and accelerate release were either under-utilized or completely neglected. For the next seventeen years, she litigated issues involving good time credits, access to community corrections, sentence reductions for drug treatment, and other prison issues in the district court, often to the Ninth Circuit, and twice to the Supreme Court. The picture here is Lynn on the steps of the Supreme Court after the oral argument in Clark v. Martinez, where she was part of the team that helped end indefinite detention of Mariel Cubans who had completed their sentences.

Lynn’s sophisticated approach to legal issues – especially statutory construction – made every team she worked on better, as did her qualities of compassion, courtesy, and humor. For lawyers she worked with and against, her intelligence and skill were inspiring, but it was her kindness and heart that provided a goal for the kind of attorneys we want to be. And she generously passed along her skills and talents by coaching high school students on Constitution teams. Shortly after she went to the Supreme Court the second time on the good time issue in Barber v. Thomas, she coached her Lincoln High students at nationals in D.C., including a team visit with Justice Sotomayor. Lynn loved to read, listen to music, and travel, but most of all to spend time with her nieces and nephews. We miss her.

Steve Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon



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