About Us

Lee Kovarsky — Lee Kovarsky is the Founder and Managing Director of the Powell Project. He is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland School of Law, and he specializes in criminal procedure, the death penalty, federal jurisdiction, and post-conviction litigation. He has published numerous books and articles on habeas corpus and capital punishment. Prior to founding the Project, he was the Post-Conviction Director at Texas Defender Service (“TDS”), and organization committed to securing fair administration of the death penalty. He was counsel of record on dozens of capital cases, and consulted in dozens more. He has extensive experience litigating harsh criminal sentences across multiple state and federal jurisdictions. He will argue Ayestas v. Davis before the United Supreme Court in the fall of 2017. He clerked for Judge Jerry E. Smith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Before that, he received his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was an Articles Editor for the Virginia Law Review. He graduated with distinction in both Political Science and Economics from Yale University. He is licensed to practice in New York and Texas, as well as in a number of federal jurisdictions.

Burke Butler — Burke Butler graduated from Yale Law School in 2011 and clerked for the Honorable Harris Hartz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Honorable Keith P. Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. As a Liman Fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project, Burke spearheaded a state-wide report about solitary confinement in Texas’s prisons and represented prisoners in their civil-rights litigation. Before joining FPP, she was a Staff Attorney at Texas Defender Service, where she represented capitally sentenced inmates in their state and federal post-conviction proceedings. She is licensed to practice law in Texas and New York.

Jessica Brand — Jessica Brand previously worked at the Texas Defender Service in the capital trial project, where she consulted with trial teams in death penalty cases across the state of Texas and conducted state-wide trainings on understanding mental health, performing capital defense investigation, and preparing a case for life. Formerly, Jessica was a staff attorney in the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She also served as a member of the forensic practice group, and she continues to train lawyers across the country on litigating the admissibility of forensic evidence. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Michael McConnell on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007, and summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. She is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, and Washington D.C.

Callie Heller — Callie Heller received her J.D. from the University of Michigan in 2014. During law school, she worked as a student attorney in the Michigan Innocence Clinic, as a Dean’s Public Service Fellow at the California Appellate Project, and at the State Appellate Defender in Detroit. She also completed human rights fellowships in Cambodia and South Africa. Following her graduation, Ms. Heller assisted in trial-level defense as a fellow at the Northern Virginia Capital Defender Office. Prior to joining the Powell Project, Ms. Heller served as a staff attorney on the post-conviction team at Texas Defender Service, where she worked on all aspects of state and federal litigation, including as federally-appointed second chair, on behalf of Texas death row inmates. Ms. Heller is licensed in California and Texas, as well as the Southern District of Texas and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jake Sussman — Jake Sussman received his law degree from New York University School of Law in 2002, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar. Following law school, Jake clerked for the Honorable Ellen B. Burns, U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut. He then moved to North Carolina, where he spent over 14 years as a criminal defense attorney. Jake has handled all types of criminal cases, from “white collar” to drug conspiracies to death penalty, at all stages of litigation (pre-indictment, trial, appeal, post-conviction). His has represented clients ranging from juveniles to protesters to capital defendants to General David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Jake has also litigated scores of civil rights and law enforcement misconduct cases. In this area, Jake has represented individuals in claims against federal, state, and local governments, including the successful challenge to North Carolina’s ban against marriage equality. Jake has regularly been selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers, and has been awarded an AV® Preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell, the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards. He is licensed to practice law in New York and North Carolina.

Celia Ouellette — Celia Ouellette is the Trial Director for The Powell Project. Celia has been running the Trial Consulting Program since 2015, and recently brought the program in-house to The Powell Project. Prior to directing the Trial Consulting Program, Celia was a staff-attorney at Reprieve, an international human rights charity. At Reprieve, Celia focused on the representation of capitally charged and condemned European nationals in the US and acted as a consultant to foreign governments. Formerly, Celia spent many sunny years practicing as a trial attorney in Southern California. Celia regularly engages in training and advocacy related to the death penalty, both domestically and internationally and, in particular, on matters concerning pre-trial practice. Celia holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oxford. Celia speaks fluent French and Spanish. She is licensed to practice in New York, California and several federal jurisdictions.

Julianne Hill — Julianne Hill is a capital defense attorney licensed to practice in Florida. Julianne works exclusively on the Trial Consulting Program, which she joined in 2016. Formerly, she worked with the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in California, and Reprieve, a human rights organization based in the UK. She holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology, a master’s degree in political science, and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Amy Weber — Amy Weber spent nearly a decade working as a trial and appellate attorney at the Public Defender’s office in Miami, Florida, representing clients in all phases of Florida criminal proceedings. She has also served as a law clerk for Judge Janet C. Hall on the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and as a Staff Attorney in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. Amy obtained a BA from Cornell University and a JD from Yale Law School