Criminal Law Section


light shining, Section Spotlight, Criminal Law Section
By Josephine Townsend
Q. What is the most valuable benefit members get from joining your Section that they can’t get anywhere else? 

We are the only joint collaborative Section with prosecutors and defense counsel. You can get both perspectives by joining our Section. We offer free and reduced price CLEs to Section members. Our annual CLE, the Criminal Justice Institute, is a wonderful, collaborative experience. 

Q. What is a recent Section accomplishment or current project that you are excited about?

We are putting together a joint CLE on police reform initiatives and the effects on both defense and prosecution after the landmark Blake decision.11 See “From the Spindle” on page 24 for a summary of Blake.

Q. What opportunities does your Section provide for members who are looking for a mentor or for somebody to mentor?

We often get requests from new lawyers for referrals to more experienced lawyers in their area that can give advice on trial practice, brief writing, and negotiation.

Q. What advice do you have for building a successful practice in the area of law related to your Section and how does membership in your Section help do that? 

Be professional. Put deposits in the relationship banks. Have and develop rapport with colleagues and opposing counsel—play the long game.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are warriors; they will see each other in trial, in courtrooms, and in public, and they must respect each other and the role that they each play. It is about justice for the individual and not just “winning.” 

Whether you are a prosecutor or a defense attorney, the way to be successful is to work hard, be prepared, be respectful, and do the best you can for the client or the public that you serve, without being dismissive, disdainful, or unprepared. 

Our Section exemplifies that both sides can collaborate on important issues that provide relief for victims and fairness for the accused. We do not always agree—but we always listen respectfully and we ensure that each side is heard.

Q. In addition to membership in your Section, what are the best ways to stay up on the developing law in this practice area? 

Read, read, and read—court decisions, treatises, the Criminal Case Law Notebook by King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler that he faithfully updates semi-annually and distributes free of charge.22

Join professional organizations like the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys; Washington Defender Association; Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; your local bar association; and, of course, our Section. Attend the Criminal Justice Institute, or better yet, volunteer to teach a class. Talk to colleagues and watch their trials.

Order the trials from the local courts33 Contact the county superior court administrator’s office for information on ordering recorded hearings or trials. and watch experienced lawyers and how they perform. Become a mentor if you are an experienced lawyer and ask for help if you are a new lawyer. So many times we see new lawyers just thrown into the thick of it, without guidance or experience. If you see it, help them! It does not matter that they do not work with you, or for you—they want to succeed, just like you do. We can make them love the profession the way we do if we just lend them our experience and our friendship! 

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The Section membership year is Jan. 1 – Dec. 31. For more information and to join the Criminal Law Section, or any other Section, visit

About the author
About the author

Josephine Townsend is the owner of Townsend Law, PLLC. Her experience includes being an administrative law judge, guardian ad litem, and active trial litigator in criminal and civil cases. She is a former prosecutor for the city of Vancouver with over 20 years of supervisory experience including the oversight of criminal attorneys assigned to a heavy trial caseload. She retired from the New York State Police with 20 years of service and has exercised command and control of police officers during critical incidents including service at ground zero on 9/11. She is an adjunct professor for Warner Pacific College and a veteran of foreign war, having served her country in the war in Bosnia. Townsend is also a volunteer lawyer in veterans’ cases.