Great Falls Office

Joining the Federal Defenders of Montana in July 2018 as Assistant Federal Defender, Rachel was selected to become the new Executive Director for the Federal Defenders of Montana and assumed that role on April 01, 2022. Rachel was formerly a senior level attorney with the Solano County (California) Public Defender’s Office where she tried numerous jury, non-jury, and juvenile matters dealing with the full gamut of criminal accusations.  She worked for thirteen months with the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of California trying misdemeanors, as well as researching and writing appellate briefs and trial level memoranda.  Rachel attended the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, graduating with distinction.  Among her many academic honors, she was selected to the National Moot Court Team, named Top Oral Advocate, and received the Thomson Reuters sponsored Witkin Award for Academic Excellence. 

David F. Ness began work as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Great Falls office in 2000. He was in private practice in Montana from 1991 through 1997, during which time he was a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel, then served as an Assistant Federal Defender with the Federal Defender Service for Eastern Tennessee, Inc., in Chattanooga. David was a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Russell C. McDonough of the Montana Supreme Court (1989-91). Coordinator for this organization’s quarterly CJA panel training sessions, he is a twice-published legal author. A 1985 graduate of Montana State University, David received his law degree (cum laude) from the University of Montana School of Law in 1989. David was honored as the Montana Trial Lawyer of the Year (1997-98). An outstanding habeas corpus litigator, David’s advocacy has been praised by both the Circuit and District Courts.  In large part due to post conviction work in the Johnson cases, David was tapped as the 2017 Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

R. Henry Branom Jr. served as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Great Falls Office from 2006-2021. In 2022 he was named the organization’s Senior Litigator.  The Senior Litigator is designated as such in recognition of his/her consistently outstanding skills as a litigator, and is responsible for assisting AFDs less knowledgeable with advocacy skills. Hank was a private practitioner and Criminal Justice Act panel member in the Southern District of Illinois distinguishing himself as an exceptionally capable, skilled and effective advocate for indigent defendants before relocating to Montana. Hank is often selected as a mentor for new CJA panel members and Continuing Legal Education instructor. One of the organization’s most successful trial attorneys, Hank is a 1987 graduate of Drury College (B.A. in Political Science), receiving his Juris Doctorate in 1990 from the Washington University School of Law (Saint Louis).  Hank is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations of America for which membership is extended only by invitation to extremely experienced trial lawyers with the highest ethical, professional, and collegial practices.

Clark Mathews is an Assistant Federal Defender in the Great Falls office. He previously worked for the Montana Office of State Public Defender for more than 8 years. During that tenure, he tried numerous jury trials throughout the state, including the most serious of cases. Clark also had supervisory responsibilities at the end of his tenure, managing the felony attorneys in Yellowstone County. In 2018, for his work as a public defender, Clark received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Performance. He most recently worked as a trial attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts. Clark is a 2007 graduate of The Ohio State University. He received his juris doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law in 2010.

Billings Office

Steven Charles Babcock has been an Assistant Federal Defender in the Billings Branch Office since 2005 and has been supervisor (Branch Chief) since 2016.  After law school, Steve was law clerk to the Honorable Diane G. Barz, Thirteenth Judicial District (Billings) and served as a Yellowstone County Public Defender. He was in private practice with the law firm of Eddleman & Babcock, PLLP, in Billings before joining this organization. Steve is a former Board Member of the New Lawyers Section of the Montana State Bar and a CLE instructor at the annual CJA conference in Chico. Steve is a 1997 graduate of Minot State University with a degree in Education. He obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of North Dakota in 2001. In 2013 he was the subject of a feature article in The Champion, the official publication of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, honoring outstanding attorneys who bring life to the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright.  In April 2016 Steve argued United States v. Bryant in the United States Supreme Court.

Evangelo Arvanetes has been an Assistant Federal Defender since 2003, first at the headquarters in Great Falls, now in the Billings Branch office. Vann was with the Kansas Board of Indigent Defense Services as an Assistant Public Defender, 1996-99, serving as Chief Public Defender for the Western District of Kansas, 1999-2003. He was an adjunct professor at Seward County Community College and lecturer at Criminal Defense Attorney training programs while in Kansas. Vann has continued his teaching endeavors as a presenter for various CLE programs in Montana. A particularly effective sentencing advocate, Vann received his Bachelor’s Degree in History (1990) and a Master’s Degree in English (1997), both from Texas A&M University. Vann was awarded his Juris Doctorate from Washburn University School of Law in Kansas in 1995.

Gillian E. Gosch is an Assistant Federal Defender at the Billings Branch Office. Jill earned her Juris Doctorate in 2000 from the University of South Dakota Law School following graduation with a degree in Psychology from Winona State University in Minnesota. Launching her legal career as an Assistant Public Defender in Lake County, Illinois, after three years she departed public service and briefly worked with two general practice law firms. She established her own office in northern Illinois in 2005 specializing in criminal law. For eight years prior to joining the Federal Defenders of Montana in 2015, the majority of her work was as Special Counsel and Conflict Attorney, dealing with the full gamut of criminal matters: murder, drug offenses, gun charges, white collar and election fraud, assaults, immigration violations, and sex crimes. Jill has specialized experience in sexually violent person litigation.

Russell A. Hart is an Assistant Federal Defender in the Billings Branch Office. A native of Laurel, Montana, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Management at the University of Phoenix and his law degree at Liberty University School of Law. Russ began his legal career at the law office of Karl Knuchel, P.C., in Livingston, where he worked in criminal defense and civil litigation. He left private practice briefly to serve as a deputy Gallatin County attorney, then joined Kasting, Kauffman, & Mersen, PC. Immediately prior to joining the Federal Defenders, Russ was with Netzer Law Office, P.C., serving clients throughout Eastern Montana, while taking on appointments as a contract attorney with the Montana Office of the Public Defender and as a member of the CJA panel. 

Edward M. Werner joined the Federal Defenders of Montana as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Billings branch office in 2022. Edward earned his B.A. in History from Gonzaga University in Spokane (2008). He earned his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in Missoula (2011). A member of the Montana State Bar, he started his legal career in 2012 with the Billings Office of the Montana State Public Defender. He left the state public defender in 2019 to become an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Districts of South Dakota and North Dakota stationed in Bismarck. Edward has substantial jury and non-jury trial experience and is familiar with all facets of federal criminal work.

Helena Office

Michael J. Donahoe is Deputy Federal Defender for the Federal Defenders of Montana. Before joining the Federal Defenders of Montana as an Assistant Federal Defender in 1993, Michael was a private criminal defense practitioner in Helena, Montana. He was chair of the Montana State Bar Criminal Defense Section; a panelist, Federal/State Habeas Corpus Conference; and a guest lecturer for the University of Montana School of Law, Montana Trial Lawyers Association and State Bar of Montana. Michael was a speaker on the Bill of Rights at the 1997 Symposium of State’s Constitutional Revision Efforts. He was trained as an Arabic linguist during his service with the United States Army in the mid-1970's. Michael received his Bachelor Degree at LaSalle College, Philadelphia, PA, 1973, and his Juris Doctor degree at the Monterey College of Law in 1983. Michael was named the 2008 Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  Michael argued a certified question to the Montana Supreme Court in United States v. Juvenile, decided by the United States Supreme Court in June 2011.

Shena Roath joined the Federal Defenders of Montana as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Helena branch in 2022. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Philosophy at Indiana University – Bloomington (2004). She earned her JD at the University of Montana, Missoula (2014), where she served as President of the Montana Trial Lawyer’s Association, and Secretary of the Women’s Law Caucus. She started her legal career in Livingston, Montana at the law office of Karl Knuchel, PC, where she worked in criminal defense, civil litigation, and appeals. She left Livingston to work for the Office of the State Public Defender in Helena in order to gain more trial experience in criminal defense. She briefly joined Luxan and Murfitt, PLLC in Helena before opening her own practice, focusing on criminal defense and appeals.

Since April 2020, Wendy Holton has been the CJA Supervising Attorney for the District of Montana. As CJA Supervising Attorney Wendy will work closely with the District Court, the Federal Defender and the Defender Services Office of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to oversee, manage and contribute to the training of the CJA Panel in Montana; systematically and equitably distribute cases to the CJA Panel; and ultimately review vouchers submitted by panel attorneys, experts, and other service providers for reasonableness, accuracy, and compliance with the Guidelines for the Administration of the CJA (Vol. VII, Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures).

Wendy received her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 1984 and was a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown University where she received her L.L.M. in Criminal Law in 1988. Thereafter, she practiced criminal defense in state and federal court at both the trial and appellate level. She was a member of the CJA panel from 1993 – 2020 and received the 2016 John Adams Award for service to the panel. She has served as the President of the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and, by appointment of the Montana Supreme Court, on the Montana Criminal Jury Instructions Commission and the Montana Evidence Commission. She was a member of the Conference Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2006‑2009, the Ninth Circuit Advisory Rules Committee from 2004‑2007, and was a lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2003‑2006.  She was honored by Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with the Lawyer of the Year award in 2015, by the Montana Innocence Project with its 2013 Defender of Justice Award, by the Montana Justice Foundation as a Champion of Justice in 2014, and has been selected for inclusion in the Mountain States Super Lawyers since 2013. 

Missoula Office

John P. Rhodes has been an Assistant Federal Defender in the Missoula Branch Office since 1996. He was a former CJA panel member and private practitioner (as a specialist in state and federal courts in both criminal and civil litigation) and a former Assistant Public Defender for Missoula County. John has been a guest lecturer at University of Montana (School of Law and undergraduate courses) and presenter on various criminal defense topics for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts and the United States Sentencing Commission at conferences throughout the United States. John received his Bachelor’s Degree (summa cum laude) from DePauw University (Greencastle, IN) in 1987 and his Juris Doctorate (cum laude) from Harvard University, Boston, MA, in 1990. He was judicial law clerk to the Honorable Gerald Heaney, United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, shortly after graduation from law school. John is the organization’s Sentencing Guidelines specialist.  John collaborates with CJA Supervising Attorney Wendy Holton and Panel Administrator Adina Poitra to generate and coordinate periodic district-wide Panel Training meetings.

Andrew J. Nelson is an Assistant Federal Defender in Missoula. Prior to joining this organization in 2009, Andy was an associate attorney with the law firm of Smith & Thiel before becoming a partner with Mudd Nelson, P.C. He was a Law Clerk to the Honorable Terry Trieweiler, Justice of the Montana Supreme Court shortly after law school. Andy was a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel for the District of Montana for five years. He has been an instructor at local Continuing Legal Education programs and is active in community activities. Andy is a 2000 graduate of the University of Montana Law School and has an Honors Degree in Political Science from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. His undergraduate degree (B.A. Political Science, 1994) is from Northwestern University. Andy has advanced training in forensic science litigation from the Cardozo School of Law and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).  Andy serves as the criminal defense member of the District Rules Committee.