Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 47

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
completing her JD at the District of Columbia
School of Law, she started working at PDS in its
Juvenile Services Program.
Those early years as a public defender were
difficult, Overstreet-Gonzalez says. Many of
her clients were just a couple of years younger
than her, and it was tough to see so many
young black men being incarcerated. Under-
standing the struggles these men faced in a
society that failed to support or celebrate them
shaped the course and direction of her career.
For Overstreet-Gonzalez, effective representation means more than just knowing the law.
You need to know people, she says. A substantial portion of her job involves identifying the
factors that led to her clients' legal difficulties.
Poverty, mental illness, lack of education,
limited access to nutritious food, housing insecurity, and numerous other pressures all contribute to the situations that can result in
charges of criminal activity. It is imperative that
attorneys educate their audiences on "the
whole client" to obtain the best possible
outcomes, she says.
"[Being] a public defender . . . isn't a glamorous
job. You're part teacher, part social worker, part
minister. Prisoners are forgotten by society.
They might as well live on a remote island
somewhere. You've got to be the light,"
Overstreet-Gonzalez says. "A defense attorney
needs the skill of discernment, real discernment. You need to see beyond the surface of
the allegations against your client. You have
to be a listener. You have to be able to put
yourself in the shoes of the person you are representing and represent them as you would
want yourself represented."

COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE
Personal resolve has been an important aspect
of her career. Every job has its challenges, and
it's important to know that going in, she says.
The PDS is tasked with the representation of
people who are, by definition, poor. The difficulties they experience outside of the courtroom and their uncertainty about the future
make them extremely vulnerable. Because of
this, Overstreet-Gonzalez says, it is imperative
not to take things personally, but it is equally
important to demonstrate professionalism and
loyalty.
Overstreet-Gonzalez tries to view the difficult
parts of her job as the ones that have shaped
her as an attorney. She's learned the importance of time management and how to forgive

herself. Being a public defender can be
exhausting, but she says her colleagues help
make the work bearable. Attorneys don't join
PDS to make money or even to get practice
experience, she says. They join because they
are committed to the cause.
Overstreet-Gonzalez says working at PDS has
given her the opportunity to be trained by
some of the best defense attorneys in the
nation, and to work alongside such grounded
and noble colleagues.

"You have to be able to put
yourself in the shoes of the
person you are representing and
represent them as you would
want yourself represented."
"Everyone who works at PDS is smart, zealous,
and compassionate. We are woven together by
a common thread, and together we charge into
battle. I often say I didn't choose PDS. PDS
chose me, and I will be forever grateful for my
association with the agency," she says.
In 2018 Overstreet-Gonzalez suffered a medical
incident that involved a sudden ambulance
ride to the hospital, emergency surgery, a
follow-up operation, and a six-week hospital
stay and months away from work. Throughout
the ordeal she received expressions of support,
including financial contributions and numerous
phone calls and emails. Once released from
the hospital, her colleagues donated sick and
annual leave to her when the recovery
consumed all her accrued time.
The experience reminded Overstreet-Gonzalez
of the selflessness of the people she works
with. A brush with death also renewed her
already strong sense of the spiritual importance
of her work. "It made me realize that God still
needs me," she says. "My work is not yet done."

ADVOCATING FOR CHANGE
Now working in the Parole Division, OverstreetGonzalez faces new challenges as a result of
the COVID-19 crisis. Many of her clients are older
and have compromised immune systems.
Overstreet-Gonzalez and her colleagues risked
their own health visiting jails several days a week
to consult with clients and attend hearings.

During the first week of April, PDS stopped
sending attorneys to jail out of concern for
both the attorneys and for the inmates who
might contract the disease from visitors.
Fortunately, many prisoners with nonviolent
charges or noncriminal parole violations had
already been released and given orders to
remain home. As Washington Lawyer went to
press, Overstreet-Gonzalez and others were
still fighting, virtually, for the release of those
who remained incarcerated during the
pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak brought to light
health and safety issues that PDS was already
familiar with, and public defenders are hope-ful
that it creates the urgency necessary for a
systemic change. "It is my hope that the
criminal justice system will begin to respect
and appreciate all of humanity and reevaluate
its stance on incarceration and punishment,"
Overstreet-Gonzalez says.
She worries, however, that once the crisis
has passed, America may simply return to an
untenable status quo of prison overcrowding
and mass incarceration for profit, unless those
in power decide to make widespread, permanent changes. She hopes that forthcoming
data can prove that those who were released
did not relapse but were rehabilitated, lending
support to the creation of a system with a
more positive and productive focus.
Whatever changes or doesn't, OverstreetGonzalez will continue to speak out for the
underserved. Poor people are still poor, and
the fundamentals of the work haven't changed,
she says.
Neither, it seems, has she. The years have
done little to dampen the enthusiasm and
optimism of the little girl on the playground
whose experience of injustice made her want
to fight for others. "The big difference is that
now my children are grown . . . and I used to
have black hair."

Do you know a D.C. Bar member who has
done outstanding work in his or her area of
practice? We are interested in hearing stories
about the careers and personal journeys of
our diverse members around the country
and the world. Pitch us a profile story at
editorial@dcbar.org.

JULY/AUGUST 2020

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 47



Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Election Coverage
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Staying Afloat feature
Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Annual Report
Taking the Stand
The Learning Curve
On Further Review
Member Spotlight -
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Women's Suffrage special section
Speaking of Ethics
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 10
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Staying Afloat feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 38
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Member Spotlight -
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Women's Suffrage special section
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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