AUSTIN, Texas — H. Michael Sokolow, a 1984 graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, is one of three recipients of the National Association of Federal Defenders 2005 Outstanding Assistant Federal Defender Award. Sokolow is First Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Texas and offices in the Houston Division.
The Association presented the award to Sokolow at the annual training meeting for defenders nationwide in San Antonio last year to recognize his 18 years of honorable service as an Assistant Federal Defender for the Southern District of Texas. As stated in the award’s inscription, Sokolow was also recognized for his “dedication and commitment to quality representation afforded to indigent persons accused of crime, and having earned the utmost respect and friendship of his peers.”
During the 18 years that Sokolow has been an Assistant Federal Public Defender, he has served both as a trial and appellate lawyer. A description about his work was included in a January newsletter for the National Association of Federal Defenders stated in part:
“One of his nominators for the award commented, ‘In one notable instance, Michael obtained an acquittal for one client after a three-month jury trial; then he turned around and handled the appeal of a co-defendant!’ ‘As the head of Houston’s appellate section, Michael not only supervises over 1,000 appeals annually, but consistently achieves an amazing level of success.’”
Last July, Sokolow was promoted to First Assistant Federal Public Defender, making him second in command for the Southern District of Texas, which consists of five offices and 53 attorneys plus staff located in Houston, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Laredo. The types of cases these attorneys work on include federal drug and immigration offenses, white collar crime, bank, wire, and mail fraud, and tax crimes such as tax evasion, he said.
“Our office is appointed by the federal court to defend people charged with federal crimes who are unable to afford counsel,” Sokolow said. “And we defend them at trial in federal district court, defend them on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and defend them in the United States Supreme Court,” he said. In addition to the numerous federal jury trials and appellate arguments he has handled, Sokolow also has appeared before the United States Supreme Court, where he briefed and second-chaired the oral argument in Deal v. United States, 508 U.S. 129 (1992), and briefed and presented the oral argument in Witte v. United States, 515 U.S. 389 (1995).
Sokolow received a B.A. in 1973 from the University of Massachusetts, and an M.A. in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1977 from the Ohio State University. At UT Law, he served as Editor in Chief of the Texas Law Review from 1983 through 1984.
Following Sokolow’s graduation from UT Law in 1984, he clerked for Judge Alvin Rubin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for a year and then worked as an associate at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Dallas and at Susman Godfrey in Houston. He has worked at the Federal Public Defender’s office in Houston since 1987, with the exception of one year in the early 1990s in which he worked in the Federal Public Defender's office in New Jersey. In his current position, Sokolow also speaks nationally to attorneys about professional ethics and criminal defense.
The National Association of Federal Defenders is comprised of federal defender employees from around the country. Each year, the Association selects three individuals to receive the Outstanding Assistant Federal Defender Award.