Jennifer E. Wellman is a Principal of the firm. Her practice is focused on criminal defense in federal and state courts, counsel to individuals and businesses facing investigations and inquiries from federal and state regulatory agencies, and civil rights litigation.

Before joining Skellenger Bender in 2022, Jennifer was the Supervising Attorney at the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District of Washington. Early on in her career, Jennifer was in private practice, beginning as an attorney with the Houze Law Firm in Portland, Oregon, where she worked on serious criminal matters in federal and state courts throughout Oregon. For over 27 years, Jennifer has provided exceptional advocacy for persons charged with a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony offenses, in all stages of litigation including Grand Jury, trial, appeal and post-conviction. She has also provided counsel and advocacy for individuals under investigation by state and federal government regulatory and law enforcement agencies, where no charges were ultimately filed. She is well known for her tenacity, compassion, and effectiveness, as well as for having successfully handled numerous trials and appeals, including the successful challenge to indefinite detention of persons ordered deported in Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001).

Jennifer applies her unique criminal defense experience and litigation skills in challenging and complex government and regulatory investigations, including investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration, Washington State Bar Association, and the Department of Health, as well as in her civil rights practice, which is focused on cases involving police misconduct, including excessive force and racial discrimination.

She is admitted to practice in California and Oregon, the federal court in Alaska, as well as in the federal and state courts in Washington. She is also admitted to practice in United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.

Jennifer’s professional activities have included President of the Federal Bar Association for the Western District of Washington (2013), Co-Chair of the Ninth Circuit Lawyers Representatives, (2013-2015), and founding member of the William L. Dwyer Inn of Court (2002-2004).  She is a volunteer attorney with the Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic (since 2013), volunteered for the Task Force on Race and Criminal Justice System (Task Force 2.0) (2020-2022), and was instrumental in the development of the Drug Reentry Alternative Model program (a nationally regarded federal drug court) (2010-2019), as well as reentry program initiatives and the federal district court’s 2021 Round Table discussion with all stakeholders regarding systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. She continues to be an active member of professional organizations including the King County Bar Association, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Federal Bar Association for the Western District of Washington.


B.A., Sociology, University of California, San Diego (Revelle College), 1989

Regents College, London England, Spring Semester 1989

JD, Vermont Law School, 1994


Selected Awards:

Movers and Shakers, Loquitur, Vermont Law School Magazine, p. 36 (Winter 2020)

Recognition/Award (FPD in-house award) for commitment to DREAM (July 2019)

Award for Outstanding Detention Work presented by Detention Watch Network (2000)

Golden Door Award. Presented by Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project for outstanding work in promoting dignity and justice for immigrants and refugees (2000)

Co-Panelist, Sentencing CLE regarding how to tell client’s story with film and photography, FPD (Sept. 2019);
Co-Panelist, Judicial Externship Course, “Access to Justice – Path to Your Passion,” Seattle University Law School (June 10, 2019)
Panelist, ABA Taskforce on Women in Criminal Justice Listening Session (June 2019);
Panelist, Complex Case Training, Use of Film in Advocacy (Sept. 2018);
Panelist, FJC Training program at Harvard Law School, collaborative courts (Sept. 2016);
Guest speaker, Inn of Court, regarding reentry programs (Jan. 2016);
Guest speaker, in-house CLE regarding best sentencing practices (June 2014);
Speaker and emcee for Annual FBA Dinner (Dec. 2013);
Co-chair and emcee for Annual District Meeting and CLE, W.D. of Wa. (Dec. 2013);
Co-panelist DREAM panel discussions with partner agencies (2013, 2014 & 2017);
Co-facilitator, Bench Bar breakout sessions, Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference (July 2014);
Guest speaker Native American Conference, US Probation (March 2010);
Guest speaker at Seattle Law School regarding women in law (approx. 2010)

Reentry Guide (Dec. 12, 2018) and Supplemental Guide during COVID-19 (2020), with USAO, US Pretrial and social worker;
Short biography of the Honorable Wiley Manuel, first African American judge to serve on the Supreme Court of the State of California, for (August 2018), available at;
Jennifer E. Wellman, Profile of Michael Filipovic, FBA–WDWA, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter 2014), p. 14;
Jennifer E. Wellman, President’s Corner, FBA–WDWA, Vols. 35 & 36 (2013), p. 4;
Jennifer E. Wellman and Todd True, 87 Federal Judges Can’t be Wrong, Op-ed, Seattle Times (Aug. 2013);
Jennifer E. Wellman, Profile of Judge Brian A. Tsuchida, Federal Bar Association – W.D. Washington, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Fall 2008), p. 14;
Jennifer E. Wellman, Indefinite Detention by INS Ruled Unconstitutional by Unanimous En Banc District Court, The Liberty Legend, Fall Edition, October 1999 (Republished in U.S. Immigration Policy at the Millennium With Liberty and Justice for All? Conference materials, Harvard Law School, Dec. 3-5, 1999);
Stephen A. Houze and Jennifer E. Wellman, Criminal Constitutional Procedure, OSB CLE, Ch. 14, Right to Counsel, Supplement (1998)

Representative Cases:

United States v. Client, (representation of naturalized citizen charged with assaulting a federal officer at the airport. Independent factual and legal investigation revealed no intent; case dismissed)

United States v. Client (representation of person charged in federal cyberstalking offense with multiple defendants. Lead team and multiple co-counsel, as well as international and national experts, in complex investigation and litigation. Case dismissed against all three clients).

United States v. Client, (representation of husband in federal fraud prosecution against both husband and wife. Lead defense team in pretrial and trial litigation. Jury hung on multiple counts; client and his wife were sentenced to remaining counts to far less than either would have received had they plead guilty).

United States v. Client, (representation of person charged with enticement of a minor. Lead investigation and developed legal and factual theory regarding fantastical actions with no intent, as well as flaws in the government’s own trial preparation. Case dismissed).

United States v. Client, (representation of person in compassionate release motion who had been sentenced to 396 months pursuant to old § 924(c) stacking laws that have inflicted significant penalties on persons who exercise their right to trial, particularly on persons of color. Motion to release prisoner from custody granted).

United States v. Client, (representation of person charged with multiple counts involving drugs and firearms and potential mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years. Lead defense team in complex litigation, including at trial, which resulted in a hung jury on all mandatory minimum counts. Following interlocutory appeal of the court’s decision to allow the government a new trial, successfully negotiated resolution that avoided any additional counts and successfully argued at sentencing for the low end of the agreed upon guidelines range of six years).

United States v. Client, (representation of person in case involving overdose of a sailor by fentanyl, firearms and drug conspiracy with significant mandatory minimum terms and potential death enhancement. Resolved with favorable plea agreement and sentencing outcome of three years. Also engaged in successful restorative justice practice).

United States v. Client, (representation of over 100 persons ordered deported to various countries but indefinitely detained by immigration authorities. Wrote successful United States Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal briefs, as well as memoranda defeating government motions for stay of release in Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit and district court. Second chaired successful Supreme Court oral argument and argued before the Ninth Circuit. This successful litigation defeated indefinite detention of persons similarly detained by immigration authorities nationwide).

United States v. Client, (representation of person charged with murder. Defense investigation and litigation revealed flaws in the state and federal investigation. Case resolved with plea agreement to manslaughter).

United States v. Client, (Harboring immigrants charge dismissed and forfeiture avoided after defense investigation and advocacy)

State v. Client (representation of person charged with murder. Defense investigation and work with experts regarding mental illness and shaken baby syndrome, resulted in resolution that avoided significant mandatory minimum).

State v. Client, (First Degree Murder charge dismissed after defense investigation demonstrated charge to be unfounded; case resolved with a petty and gross misdemeanor. Client had earlier been released pretrial over the State’s objection and motion for detention without bail).

City v. Client, (representation of person accused of domestic violence assault; case dismissed after defense investigation revealed falsity of the accusations)

City v. Client, (representation of person charged with assault while on federal supervision; defense investigation resulted in an early dismissal of the criminal charges)

Of course, every case is different. These favorable results in past matters do not guarantee similar results in any other future matter.


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