After four years as a Hennepin County District Court judge, Federal Defender Katherian D. Roe says she returned to the Office of the Federal Defender (District of Minnesota) in 2006 to create a criminal defense bar more reflective of the clients it served.
She has done that, says Andrew Mohring, a former federal public defender, who nominated Roe as a 2018 Minnesota Lawyer of the Year.
“Her office is a model of effective inclusion,” says Mohring, a federal defender for 28 years and now a partner at Ciresi Conlin LLP. “She has implemented programs, including a second-chair program, that enhance the quality of representation for the indigent accused, but always puts the representation of the client first.”
Before serving as a judge, Roe had been an assistant federal defender for about 12 years. When she returned to the defender’s office, Roe says, she wanted to make defenders a more diverse group.
Roe told the Federal Bar Association’s newsletter Bar Talk recently that one way that has been accomplished is by hiring attorneys with varied life experiences.
The other way is an innovative second-chair mentorship program proposed by Roe in 2006 and instituted in 2007 to recruit and train new members of the Criminal Justice Act public defender panel. The three-year program has been offered four times to classes of 5 to 11 attorneys and has become a model for other federal offices in the United States.
A gratified Roe says the program has brought in more women and people of different races and backgrounds — whether cultural or religious — and different areas of legal practice including civil and civil rights.