Successes

Launching an appeal after the federal government has won criminal convictions requires a courageous client and a tenacious advocate. Ms. Chen has been representing clients in trial, on appeal, and in other post-conviction proceedings for more than 20 years. Below is a selection of cases in which her clients have prevailed:

  • Mortgage fraud and government misconduct. Obtained reversal of convictions based on government misconduct in failing to disclose information that would have discredited one of its witnesses.  965 F.3d 993 (9th Cir. 2020).
  • Fraud and immigration consequences. Obtained writ of error coram nobis for lawful permanent resident vacating 20-year-old fraud conviction after lower court denied relief. Criminal defense counsel had advised client that so long as the sentence imposed was under one year, the conviction would not have immigration consequences. 781 F. App’x 576 (9th Cir. 2019).
  • Client autonomy. Obtained reversal of prison assault convictions where defense counsel had presented insanity defense over client’s clear objection, in violation of the client’s Sixth Amendment right to choose his defense. 918 F.3d 712 (9th Cir. 2019).
  • False statements, harboring, and illegal search. Represented client in appeal from convictions for harboring a fugitive and making a false statement. Obtained full reversal of convictions because officers violated Fourth Amendment when they gained entry into private home by threatening to kick in door.  760 F. App’x 502 (9th Cir. 2019).
  • Firearms and the Armed Career Criminal Act. Obtained reversal of 15-year mandatory minimum firearm sentence by establishing prior state drug convictions from Washington covered too much conduct to trigger the statutory sentencing enhancement. 904 F.3d 793 (9th Cir. 2018).
  • Firearms and sentencing guidelines. Obtained reversal of firearm sentence by establishing that prior Washington state drug conspiracy conviction did not trigger sentence guideline increase. 879 F.3d 1043 (9th Cir. 2018).
  • Homicide and criminal profile evidence. Represented client in appeal of double homicide and firearm convictions. Obtained reversal of all counts of conviction because government’s use of criminal profile evidence and old act of disobedience to shore up wholly circumstantial case rendered trial fundamentally unfair. 879 F.3d 900 (9th Cir. 2018).
  • False statement and due process at sentencing. Obtained reversal of sentence in false statement case and reassignment to new judge for resentencing where judge had increased sentence based on facts not proven. 714 F. App’x 671 (9th Cir. 2017).
  • Mortgage fraud and sentencing. Obtained reversal of mortgage fraud sentence, where sentencing judge had relied on confidential information from other defendants’ cases, calculated the guidelines incorrectly, and failed to give the government an opportunity to speak at sentencing. On rehearing, appellate court also reassigned matter to new sentencing judge. 637 F. App’x 419 (9th Cir. 2016), amended on rehearing, 643 F. App’x 873 (9th Cir. 2016).
  • RICO and defense expert testimony. Represented client in appeal of racketeering conspiracies and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Obtained reversal of all counts because court improperly excluded defense expert testimony regarding defendant’s post-traumatic stress disorder, which had led prior jury to acquit client of murder. 624 F. App’x 513 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Immigration and sentencing. Obtained reversal of immigration sentence and established that New Jersey aggravated assault is not a crime of violence triggering sentence increase. 807 F.3d 1079 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Right to Counsel. Obtained reversal of assault conviction based on district court’s constructive denial of the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, where district court refused to appoint new counsel after communications with trial counsel broke down completely. 618 F. App’x 628 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Immigration and sentencing. Obtained reversal of immigration sentence and established that, in determining effect of prior state conviction on sentence, sentencing court may not rely on defense attorney’s statement of factual basis for guilty plea and then use process of elimination to determine elements of state conviction. 782 F.3d 1094 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Post-conviction proceedings. Obtained reversal of denial of motion to vacate federal sentence and conviction for ineffective of assistance counsel, where lower court dismissed motion based on client’s failure to sign request for counsel and denied motion without evidentiary hearing. 615 F. App’x 450 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Workplace conflicts and government overreach. Represented client in appeal of conviction for possessing a false badge to get into his own workplace. Obtained reversal of conviction because government did not prove the badge at issue was covered by the statute. 754 F.3d 1116 (9th Cir. 2014).
  • Identify theft and the right to grand jury indictment. Obtained reversal of identity theft convictions because court’s instructions to the jury effectively amended the indictment in violation of client’s constitutional right to indictment by grand jury. 747 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2014).
  • Firearms and the Armed Career Criminal Act. Obtained reversal of 15-year mandatory minimum firearm sentence by establishing prior burglary convictions from Washington covered too much conduct to trigger the statutory sentencing enhancement. 589 F. App’x 348 (9th Cir. 2014).

Legal Presentations

Ms. Chen is frequently invited to train other criminal defense attorneys and to present legal education to other actors in the federal criminal legal system, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and probation officers. 


FSA Time Credits: The Basics. Training for Office of the Federal Public Defender and CJA Panel Attorneys, Central District of California (Faculty, February 2024); Training for Assistant Federal Defenders and CJA Panel Attorneys, Federal Defenders of New York (Faculty, May 2023).

The Categorical Approach: What, When, Why, and How. Orientation Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Kansas City, Missouri (Faculty, December 2023).

Fentanyl Sentencing: Nuts and Bolts. District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Panel Training, Southern District of Ohio (Faculty, November 2023).

The 2023 Sentencing Guideline Amendments. District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Panel Training, Southern District of Ohio (Faculty, November 2023).

Equal to the Occasions: Wooden and the Next Frontier of ACCA Litigation. Training for Federal Defenders and CJA Panel Attorneys, Federal Community Defender of the Eastern District of Michigan (Faculty, April 2023); Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (Faculty, June 2023).

Supreme Court Update. Orientation Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Faculty, November 2022).

There’s No “Sex Offense” Exception to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (Faculty, September 2021).

One of These Things is Not Like the Others: Challenging Drug Predicates. Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (Faculty, November 2020); District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Attorneys, District of Kansas (Faculty, March 2021).

Stepping Up Implementation of the First Step Act. 2020 Presidential Summit and Symposium on Sentencing. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Faculty, October 2020).

Legal Legends: Insights and Inspiration from Impactful Women. Grit: A Workshop to Energize, Elevate, and Educate Women in Public Defense. Live Webinar, Office of Defender Services-Training Branch and Seattle Federal Public Defender’s Office (Panelist, October 2020).

Challenging Drug and Other Predicates. Winning Strategies, Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Los Angeles, California (Faculty, January 31, 2020); Advanced Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Detroit, Michigan (Faculty, May 2019); Multi-Track Federal Criminal Defense Seminar, Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Los Angeles, California (Faculty August 2018); Advanced Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Kansas City, Missouri (Faculty, May 2018); District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Attorneys, Eastern District of California (Faculty, October 2017); Advanced Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, New Orleans, Louisiana (Faculty, May 2017).

Always, Sometimes, Never: Ten Tips to Try on Appeal. Advanced Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Detroit, Michigan (Faculty, May 2019); District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of Nevada (Faculty, September 2018).

Defining Crime of Violence. District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Central District of California (Faculty, May 2016); Criminal Justice Act Trial Panel Training, Central District of California (Faculty, May 2016); District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Attorneys, District of Arizona (Faculty, April 2016).

Role in the Offense. 2015 Annual National Training Seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. U.S. Sentencing Commission, New Orleans, Louisiana (Faculty, September 2015).

Reverse Engineering: Laying the Seeds for Sentencing from the Start. 4th Annual West Coast White Collar Conference. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Faculty, June 2014).

Moncrieffe and Descamps. District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Attorneys, Central District of California (Faculty, August 2013).

Supreme Court Update. District Training, Office of the Federal Public Defender and Criminal Justice Act Attorneys, Central District of California (Faculty, July 2013); Criminal Justice Act Appellate Panel Training, Central District of California (Faculty, March 2013); Orientation Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Faculty, November 2012).

Access to Counsel. Dialogues on Detention: Applying Lessons from Criminal Justice Reform to the Immigration Detention System, Human Rights First, University of California, Irvine (Panel, September 2012).

Sentencing Advocacy Workshop. Office of Defender Services-Training Branch, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, San Antonio, Texas (Faculty, March 2004); Santa Monica, California (Faculty, March 2005); Miami Beach, Florida (Faculty, March 2006).

Fourth Amendment Suppression Motions. Winning Strategies: Training Seminar for Criminal Justice Act Panel Attorneys; Office of Defender Services, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Faculty, September 2005).

Recent Supreme Court Jurisprudence from Apprendi to Blakely. 10th, 11th, and 13th Annual National Seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Federal Bar Association and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Palm Springs, California and Miami Beach, Florida (Panels, May 2001, 2002, 2004).

New Legal Challenges After Apprendi v. New Jersey. Seminar for Federal Defender Investigators and Paralegal Specialists, Federal Judicial Center, Kansas City, Kansas (Faculty, March 2001); Orientation Seminar for Assistant Federal Defenders, Federal Judicial Center, Nashville, Tennessee (Faculty, November 2000).

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