Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only.
Attorney, Law Office of Dennis Balske
Executive Director, Metropolitan Public Defender
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
Brittney Plesser graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in May 2015 and began working for Oregon Innocence Project in October of that year. In addition to litigating OIP cases, Brittney supervises law students and consults on policy matters. Although Brittney became a member of OIP staff in 2015, she began working with us in 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.
JD, Lewis & Clark Law School, cum laude, 2015
BA, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010
Lawrence Matasar has established a reputation as one of Portland's ablest criminal defense attorneys. His work includes handling criminal cases in state and federal courts as well as allegations of professional misconduct by administrative and regulatory agencies. He has appeared as criminal defense counsel in federal court in other states, including Washington, California, and Florida, and has worked as co-counsel with leading national criminal defense lawyers. He has represented criminal defense lawyers, elected District Attorneys, and Deputy District Attorneys and has been retained by the Oregon Judicial Department to represent Oregon judges. Lawrence Matasar has testified in court on several occasions as an expert witness on the constitutional meaning of an effective criminal defense. He has also testified before the Oregon Legislature. He has been the Chair of the Oregon State Bar's State Professional Responsibility Board, and has been appointed by the Governor to the State Medical Examiner Advisory Board and the Oregon Commission on Public Safety. He has been the Chair of the Bar’s Computers and Information Technology Committee and has served on the Uniform Jury Instruction Committee and the Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee.