Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only.
Attorney, Law Office of Dennis Balske
Executive Director, Metropolitan Public Defender
Paralegal, Federal Public Defender's Office
Retired Federal Agent
Director, Oregon Capital Resource Center
Steve Wax served as Oregon's Federal Public Defender from 1983 to 2014, and was one of the longest-serving public defenders in the country. He was a key part of the Brooklyn, NY, District Attorney's prosecution of David Berkowitz, AKA "The Son of Sam". Steve and his federal defender team successfully represented six men formerly held as "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo.
Steve has taught at Lewis & Clark Law School, serves as an ethics prosecutor for the Oregon State Bar, and lectures throughout the country. He has been honored for his work by, among other groups, the NACDL (2004 President's Commendation), the American Jewish Committee (Oregon Chapter 2007 Judge Learned Hand Award), the ACLU (Oregon 2007 Civil Rights Award and Oregon 2010 Hon. James M Burns Professionalism Award) and the American Constitution Society (Oregon Chapter 2014 Justice Hans Linde Civil Liberties Award).
Steve was invited to present the 2009 Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Peace Lecture at Oregon State University. He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. Kafka Comes to America, his book about his work representing Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield and the men in Guantanamo, has won four national awards, including the prestigious ABA Silver Gavel.
JD, Harvard Law School, cum laude
AB, Colgate University, cum laude
Co-founder and Attorney
Janis C. Puracal is an experienced trial and appellate attorney, and her work seeks to develop the intersection between law and science. She has encouraged decisions based on sound science in civil and criminal matters, and has been instrumental in advocating for changes in the law based on developments in various fields of scientific study.
To that end, Janis co-founded the Oregon Innocence Project. She works pro bono as an attorney for the Project and leads our amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) work. Janis became devoted to innocence work after she successfully represented her brother, Jason Puracal, in an international campaign to free him of wrongful conviction in Nicaragua. Jason was freed in September 2012 after nearly two years in captivity. Janis’s work included briefing in Nicaraguan and international courts, diplomatic relations in the U.S. and Nicaragua, lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., and media appearances on a national and international level, including CNN, Reuters, and The Today Show. Since Jason’s release, Janis has continued to work with her brother to advocate for legal reform and won awards for her pro bono contributions to social justice.
JD, Seattle University School of Law, magna cum laude, 2007
BS, New York University, Leonard Stern School of Business, 2001
Law Fellow/Staff Attorney
Brittney Plesser graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in May 2015. Brittney works almost exclusively on Oregon Innocence Project cases and issues. Although new to our staff, Brittney has been working at Oregon Innocence Project since September 2014 as a legal extern. Before joining OIP, she was a legal intern at the California Innocence Project in San Diego, her hometown, and a legal intern at the ACLU of Oregon. Brittney is dedicated to social justice and criminal justice reform and is thrilled to have the opportunity to cultivate her passion as our first Law Fellow/Staff Attorney.
JD, Lewis & Clark Law School, cum laude, 2015
BA, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010