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Brent E. Newton

Of Counsel

Brent Newton's three decades of legal experience include one year as a law clerk for Fifth Circuit Judge Carolyn King, 16 years as a public defender, 10 years as deputy director of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington, D.C., and four years in private practice.  He has represented many hundreds of clients at all levels of the state and federal court systems.  He regularly handles criminal, civil, and immigration cases and also recently became an arbitrator for FINRA. 

After clerking, Brent initially worked three years as a public defender representing death row inmates in Texas and Florida.  He wrote the petitions for writ of certiorari in McFarland v. Collins, 510 U.S. 989 (1993) (granting cert.), Wills v. Texas, 511 U.S. 1097 (1994) (O'Connor, J., concurring in the denial of cert. & Blackmun, J., dissenting from the denial of cert.); and Lackey v. Texas, 514 U.S. 1045 (1995) (Stevens & Breyer, JJ., respecting denial of cert.).  He also was lead counsel for the defendant in Johnson v. State, 750 So.2d 22 (Fla. 1999) (reversing death sentence).  

From 1996-2009, Brent was an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Houston, handing trials, appeals, and post-conviction cases.  He served as first-chair or sole defense counsel in eleven federal criminal trials where complete acquittals were obtained.  He obtained relief for many clients in direct and post-conviction appeals.  In 2008, he argued for the petitioner in Gonzalez v. United States, 553 U.S. 242 (2008), before the United States Supreme Court.  Brent's very last client when he was a public defender obtained federal habeas corpus relief and was found to be actually innocent by the federal district court (and later was awarded substantial compensation by the State of Texas for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment).  Richard Sturgeon v. Nathaniel Quarterman, 615 F. Supp.2d 546 (S.D. Tex. 2009).

As deputy director of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Brent managed a staff of nearly 100 employees, including many attorneys and Ph.D.-level social scientists.  Brent was the primary author of five Commission publications, including the Commission's 2017 report, Federal Alternative-to-Incarceration Court Programs, and the Commission's 2012 book-length report to Congress, Federal Child Pornography Offenses.

Since 2009, Brent has served as an adjunct professor of law at both American University and Georgetown University, where he has taught every semester except for 2021-22, when he was a visiting professor at Penn State-Dickinson Law School.  From 2000 to 2009, he was a lecturer in law at the University of Houston Law Center.  His courses include Criminal Litigation, Criminal Procedure I & II, Civil Procedure, Civil Remedies, and Legal Ethics.

Brent has authored three books (all published by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy) and many law review articles and book chapters. 

Education/Judicial Clerkship

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Law Clerk)

Columbia University School of Law
J.D., 1992 (Kent Scholar; Stone Scholar; Senior Editor, Columbia Law Review)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., 1989 (graduated with highest honors & Phi Beta Kappa)

Law Licenses and Bar Memberships
Licensed to practice law in D.C., Florida (inactive), Maryland, and Texas.
Member of bars of U.S. District Courts for the D. Md., E.D. Tex., N.D. Tex., and S.D. Tex.; U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits; and Supreme Court of the United States

Prior Legal Employment

Gerger, Hennessy & Martin
Of Counsel (part-time)

Wittliff Cutter
Of Counsel (part-time)

United States Sentencing Commission 
Deputy Director of Staff

Federal Public Defender's Officer (S.D. Tex.)
Assistant Federal Public Defender

Dade County (Florida) Public Defender's Office
Assistant State Public Defender

Texas Death Penalty Resource Center
Staff Attorney

Representative Matters

  • In late 2022 and early 2023, Brent obtained the dismissal with prejudice of the federal indictment in two federal white-collar cases (N.D. Tex. and S.D. Tex.).
  • In early 2023, Brent obtained compassionate relief for a client held in federal prison based on changes in the applicable sentencing guideline.
  • On direct appeal, Brent obtained reversals of his client's convictions at trial in Stone v. State, 2021 WL 514287 (Md. App. 2021), and Godwin v. State, 2022 WL 2702341 (Md. App. 2022).
  • On direct appeal, Brent obtained the reversal of his client's prison sentence in United States v. Adibe, 858 Fed. App'x 101 (4th Cir. 2021). 


  • Elected Member, American Law Institute, 2010
  • Martindale-Hubbell “AV Preeminent” Rating 
  • Student Bar Association's “Adjunct Professor of the Year,” 2013-14, Washington College of Law, American University
  • Student Bar Association's “Adjunct Professor of the Year,” 2008-09, University of Houston Law Center
  • Named “Outstanding Assistant Federal Defender, 2006” (one of four nationally) by the National Association of Federal Defenders
  • Harry S. Truman Scholar, 1987

Publications (Selected)


  • Trial Advocacy in Action (NITA/LEXIS 2015)
  • Practical Criminal Procedure: A Constitutional Manual (4th ed., NITA/LEXIS 2021)
  • Criminal Litigation and Legal Issues in Criminal Procedure (5th ed., NITA/Wolters Kluwer 2023)

Articles & Book Chapters 

  • Incentivizing Ineffective-Assistance-of-Counsel Claims Raised on Direct Appeal: Why Appellate Courts Should Remand “Colorable” Claims for Evidentiary Hearings, 22 J. App. Prac. & Process 107 (2022)
  • A Partial Fix of a Broken Guideline: A Proposed Amendment to Section 2G2.2 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, 70 Case Western Reserve L. Rev. 53 (2020)
  • Recurring Ethical Issues Related to Federal Sentencing, 43 J. of the Legal Prof. 25 (2018) 
  • The History of the Original United States Sentencing Commission, 1985-87, 45 Hofstra L. Rev. 1167 (2017) (co-authored with Dawinder Sidhu)
  • The Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment Scorecard, 13 Stanford Journal of Civ. Rts. & Civ. Liberties 1 (2017)
  • The Real-World Fourth Amendment, 43 Hastings Const. L. Quarterly 759 (2016) 
  • The Story of Federal Probation, 53 Amer. Crim. L. Rev. 311 (2016)
  • Three chapters – Mental Health Issues in Federal Criminal PracticePretrial Statements; and Constitutional Issues that Arise During Trial – in Defending a Federal Criminal Case (2010)
  • Four entries – RetroactivityThe Eighth AmendmentSubstantive Due Process; and Professional Baseball Cases – in The Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (Macmillian Reference USA 2008)

Continuing Legal Education Presentations (Selected)

  • “Hot Topics in the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence”
    Federal Public Defender's Office/CLE for CJA Panel Attorneys
    Phoenix, AZ
    March 2020
  • Annual or Biannual Presentations on Legal Ethics, Immigration Offenses, Firearms Offenses, Child Pornography Offenses, and Federal Supervised Release, at U.S. Sentencing Commission's Annual National Seminars on the Sentencing Guidelines, 2007-2019
    Philadelphia, PA; Orlando, FL; New Orleans, LA; San Diego, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Minneapolis, MN; Baltimore, MD; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco, CA
  • “Sentencing in Securities Fraud Cases” ABA's Fifth Annual Institute on Securities Fraud
    New Orleans, LA
    October 2010
  • Annual Presentations on Federal Habeas Corpus Practice, Mental Health Issues in Criminal Law, Federal Pretrial Motions Practice, and Federal Sentencing Issues Advanced Criminal Law Course (State Bar of Texas)
    1999, 2002, 2005, 2007-09, 2011
    Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, TX
  • Regular Presentations on Firearms Offenses, Immigration Offenses, Pretrial Motions Practice, and Title III Wiretaps
    “Winning Strategies” Seminars (sponsored by the Defender Services Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts), 2002-2009
    Phoenix, AZ; San Diego, CA; Miami, FL; Boston, MA; Baltimore, MD; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Albuquerque, NM; Memphis, TN; Seattle, WA

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