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Public Defense leadership

Learn more about our management, policy, and administration teams.

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
  • Other operational needs

This team 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, director of the department, was appointed to a four-year term by the County Executive in October 2018, then reappointed in 2022. During her tenure, she managed the department during a global pandemic that profoundly affected the criminal legal system, navigating those challenges with a focus on the rights of DPD's client and the health and safety of both clients and staff. She has also partnered with several community-based organizations in an effort to reduce the reach and impact of a system that disproportionately harms poor, marginalized, and BIPOC communities.

Under her leadership, the department played a key role in the passage of a law that ensures youth can access counsel prior to a custodial interrogation or a search; led statewide efforts to fundamentally transform dependency law in the state; developed a litigation and amicus strategy that has advanced the rights of our clients; developed a legislative strategy to mitigate the harms of the criminal legal system; and strengthened our post-conviction work, helping to reduce egregiously long prison sentences. Anita has been engaged in public defense 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.

Katie Hurley, Special Counsel Criminal Policy and Practice

Katie Hurley, special counsel for criminal policy and practice, focuses on criminal legal issues that affect youth and adults, using her expertise and strong community partnerships to push for an end to the incarceration of both youth and adults. Thanks in part to her advocacy work, King County adopted a trauma-informed and community-based approach for some youth charged with a serious crime or facing a juvenile court prison sentence and created a diversion program that enables some youth to work with skilled community navigators in lieu of facing criminal charges. She also worked with partners to draft and advocate for an ordinance that ensures youth can access counsel prior to a custodial interrogation or a search. That ordinance passed in the City of Seattle and King County in 2020 and inspired a state law that passed, again with Katie's advocacy, in 2021.

She has testified countless times in the state legislature on laws that would help to mitigate the harm of the juvenile and criminal legal system, authored numerous amici briefs on key appellate cases, and worked to advance changes in court rules. Katie began her career as a public defender shortly after receiving her JD from New York University School of Law in 2006. She is currently a commissioner on the Washington State Supreme Court's Minority and Justice Commission, is a member of The Gault Center’s Regional Juvenile Defender Center and is a past member of the Creative Justice Adult Advisory Board and WSBA’s Juvenile Law Section.

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, supports the divisions’ family defense practice, supervises the training team, and coordinates the Rule 9 summer intern program. Tara has led the department’s efforts to fundamentally transform dependency law in the state, drawing on our attorneys’ expertise representing clients to challenge a system that harms children and families, and disproportionately harms Black and Indigenous families. Working closely with partners, she has advanced legislation that aims to prevent family separation; prioritize parents’ ability to see their children when the state has separated the family; prioritize children remaining with extended families; and decrease the use of termination of parental rights and adoption.

She has testified countless times in the state legislature, argued on behalf of clients before the State Supreme Court, including In re Dependency of ZJG and In re Matter of KW, and co-authored numerous amici briefs on key appellate cases. Before joining DPD’s management team, she practiced family defense at TDAD 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.

Scott Ketterling, Special Counsel Expert Services and Legal Contracting

As DPD's special counsel for expert services and legal contracting, 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.

Will Casey, Communications Manager

Will Casey is DPD’s communications manager, handling media relations, internal communication needs, social media, and other strategic outreach. He also writes posts for DPD’s blog, For the Defense, and manages the department’s website. Before coming to DPD, Will worked as the law and justice reporter for The Stranger, where he covered the criminal legal system, policing, various reform efforts, and other public policy debates. He also was a managing partner at Left Wing Digital, serving as the primary communications strategist and on-the-record spokesperson for several political campaigns, and, prior to that, worked as the communications director for the Washington State Democratic Party, where he drafted the party's written communications, participated in strategic planning and crisis management, and supervised a team of paid and volunteer staff. Will has a law degree from Stetson University College of Law and an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Florida.

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.

Sithong Sosavanh, Training Program Administrator

Sithong Sosavanh 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 more. She also supports DPD’s class of interns and helps to put on DPD’s annual conference. Sithong worked for several years as an administrator – at Seattle Children's Hospital and at the King County Medical Examiner's Office – before joining DPD. A graduate of California State University, she has a passion for equity and social justice and enjoys the work of supporting DPD's strong defense teams.

The Managing Attorneys

DPD's 4 managing attorneys provide oversight and direction to staff in their respective divisions including:

  • Monitoring caseloads
  • Supporting case strategy
  • Supervising staff
  • Overseeing operations
  • Handling 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.

Matt Pang, Managing Attorney Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons Division

Matt Pang is the managing attorney for the Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons (SCRAP) 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. Matt has been a public defender since he joined SCRAP in 2008, shortly after obtaining his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. He began as a staff attorney, working in the felony, misdemeanor, and family defense (dependency) units, then supervised the misdemeanor and family defense units. Matt has handled numerous misdemeanor, felony and dependency trials, co-tried cases with new attorneys, developed training guides, and volunteered at a juvenile sealing clinic. He has also been active in SEIU 925, which represents line attorneys and other staff, and Teamsters Local 117, which represents supervisors. While in law school, he interned for the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a Massachusetts state senator and was active in student government. Matt graduated from Tulane University with a B.S. in electrical engineering and a minor in women’s studies.

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.

Matt Sanders, Managing Attorney Associated Counsel for the Accused Division

Matt Sanders is the managing attorney of the Associated Counsel for the Accused 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. Matt started working at ACA in 2011 as a Rule 9 intern, became a staff attorney in 2013, then a supervising attorney in 2020. He has worked in misdemeanors and felonies and handled countless jury trials, including a high-profile trial where his client, charged with Murder in the Second Degree, was found not guilty and subsequently brought a successful federal civil rights lawsuit. Matt earned his undergraduate degree from Kenyon College and his JD from Seattle University School of Law, where he worked for the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality. In 2013, Matt clerked for Chief Judge Joseph E. Cardoza in the Second Circuit Court of Hawaii. In 2016, he graduated from the National Criminal Defense College and in 2017 was a fellow in the University of Washington School of Law’s Leadership Institute. Matt is currently an adjunct professor at Seattle University School of Law.