Noted criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Carol Garfiel Freeman was a trailblazer. One of only fifteen women in the Columbia Law School class of 1961, Freeman had a storied career in New York and Washington, D.C.
First as a law clerk for Judge Charles Metzner in the Southern District of New York, then as a trial attorney within the Appellate Section of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and finally as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia,
Freeman was a committed public servant for the early part of her career. After her lengthy tenure with the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Freeman began practicing as a solo practitioner, which she thought would allow her more work-life balance at a time before that phrase had ever entered the lexicon. She soon found herself representing criminal defendants as CJA counsel in some of the most newsworthy cases of her day, including a defendant in a felony murder case involving the murder of a police officer by several individuals, one of whom was the daughter of a D.C. Deputy Mayor.
Her success as a defense attorney was so well-known that she was recruited to join the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office as Deputy District Public Defender, the number two position in the office. She stayed in that office mentoring new attorneys, but more importantly, protecting the rights of the accused, for seven years. Freeman took time off from practicing law to raise her family, but soon was back in the public sector, where she served as a staff attorney for the Pro Se unit of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia — ending her formal law career as she began it — in the federal district court.
But even after her retirement, Freeman remained an active member of the legal community. Between 2005 and 2019, she was the author of the “Cert Alert” column in the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Magazine, which explored important cases before the Supreme Court.
Finally fully retired in 2019, Freeman enjoys winters in Palm Springs, California and spending quality time with her husband of 50 years, her children (some of whom followed her into the practice of law) and especially her grandchildren.
Jodi Avergun, a partner in Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s Washington, D.C. Office, was the interviewer for Freeman’s oral history.