Brent Newton

Brent Newton joined our firm after 10 years as the Deputy Director of the United States Sentencing Commission, which issues the federal sentencing guidelines and their annual amendments.  Brent worked closely with Commissioners and federal judges around the country and oversaw Commission staff members’ work on several major guideline amendments from 2009-2018.  He also was the primary author of five Commission publications, including the Commission’s report, Federal Alternative-to-Incarceration Court Programs.

Brent is a “lawyer’s lawyer.” After clerking for Judge Carolyn King of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, he served for over a decade as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Houston.  There, he handled over 1,000 cases of all types, from complex white-collar trials to death penalty appeals, at all levels of the federal court system.  He tried several dozen cases to verdict – often to acquittal; handled dozens of appeals; and argued for the petitioner in Gonzalez v. United States, 553 U.S. 242 (2008), before the United States Supreme Court.

A well-recognized expert on federal criminal law and sentencing, Brent is an adjunct professor of law at both American University and Georgetown University. He has authored three books (all published by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy) and many law review articles and book chapters. From 1999-2009, he was a contributing editor of the Journal of Appellate Practice and Process.  He is a frequent speaker at CLE programs around the country on topics ranging from legal ethics to federal trial and appellate practice.

Education/Judicial Clerkships


JD, 1992 (Kent Scholar; Stone Scholar; Senior Editor, Columbia Law Review)

BA, 1989 (graduated with highest honors; Phi Beta Kappa)

Prior Associations




1992, 1993-1995

Representative Matters

  • Brent served as first-chair or sole defense counsel in eleven federal criminal trials where complete acquittals were obtained.
    • United States v. Smith, Cr. No. H-06-399 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 21, 2007); United States v. Mobee, Cr. No. H-02-270 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 6, 2004); United States v. Emmitt, Cr. No. H-02-728 (S.D. Tex. May 13, 2003); United States v. Cruz, Cr. No. H-02-359 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2002); United States v. Robinson, Cr. No. H-99-381 (S.D. Tex. July 9, 2002); United States v. Stringer, Cr. No. H-01-240 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 16, 2001); United States v. Bush, Cr. No. H-01-23 (S.D. Tex. May 24, 2001); United States v. Crockett, Cr. No. H-00-693 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 8, 2000); United States v. Escamilla, Cr. No. H-99-639 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 10, 2000); United States v. Alexander, Cr. No. H-98-469 (S.D. Tex. June 18, 1999); United States v. Phillips, Cr. No. H-97-90 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 22, 1998).
  • Brent obtained federal habeas corpus relief for an innocent Texas prisoner (who was later awarded compensation by the State of Texas for his wrongful conviction). Richard Sturgeon v. Nathaniel Quarterman, 615 F. Supp.2d 546 (S.D. Tex. 2009).
  • On direct appeal, Brent obtained reversal of the Maryland state defendants’ 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 reversals of federal defendants’ sentences in United States v. Adibe, 858 Fed. App’x 101 (4th Cir. 2021), and United States v. Herrera-Montes, 490 F.3d 390 (5th Cir. 2007).
  • Brent obtained federal habeas corpus relief for a state prisoner based on Texas’s unconstitutional stalking statute. Darrell Alexander v. Gary Johnson, 217 F. Supp.2d 780 (S.D. Tex. 2001), aff’d, 294 F.3d 626 (5th Cir. 2002).
  • Brent obtained a reversal of a Florida inmate’s death sentence on direct appeal.  Johnson v. State, 750 So.2d 22 (Fla. 1999).


  • Elected Member, American Law Institute, 2010
  • 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 2022)
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 Practice; Pretrial Statements; and Constitutional Issues that Arise During Trial – in Defending a Federal Criminal Case (2010)
  • Four entries – Retroactivity; The Eighth Amendment; Substantive Due Process; and Professional Baseball Cases – in The Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (Macmillian Reference USA 2008)

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
  • “Preparing Your Civil Client for Arrest”
    ABA White-Collar Section
    November 2002
    Houston, TX