Our Attorneys

Federal Public Defender

Michael L. Desautels

Michael has been the Federal Defender since 2006. He has more than 30 years of experience in federal and state criminal law in Vermont, New York, and West Virginia. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Before coming to Vermont, he was in private practice in New York for almost 20 years, focusing on litigation in federal and state court. He also worked in the Federal Defender Office in the Southern District of West Virginia. Michael has presented trainings for the New York State Bar Association, the Vermont Defender General, and at many federal defender seminars. He serves as the chairperson of the Criminal Law Subcommittee for the Federal District Court in Vermont.

Assistant Federal Defenders

Steven L. Barth

Steve graduated cum laude from the University of Vermont in 1996 and New York University School of Law in 1999. After two years at the New York law firm Dewey Ballantine, LLP, he transitioned to the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., where he maintained a full trial and appellate case load. In 2007 he was promoted to supervisor and led a trial team of between 6 and 8 attorneys while continuing to maintain an active trial and appellate practice. In 2010, he joined the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Vermont.

Barclay T. Johnson

Barclay was previously an attorney with Vermont’s largest law firm. Recent important victories include, United States v. Merz, 653 F. App'x 72 (2d Cir. 2016); Blow v. United States, 829 F.3d 170 (2d Cir. 2016); United States v. Van Mead, 773 F.3d 429 (2d Cir. 2014); United States v. Simard, 731 F.3d 156 (2d Cir. 2013); United States v. Klim, 2014 WL 4403153 (D. Vt.).

Barclay graduated summa cum laude from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis where he was a member of the Indiana Law Review. Barclay also holds a M.A. in Russian and European history from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Pasco M. Bowman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Barclay is the author of a number of articles, including Restoring Civility The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000: Baby Steps Towards a More Civilized Civil Forfeiture System, 35 Ind. L. Rev. 1045 (2002); The Severest Justice Is Not the Best Policy: The One-Strike Policy in Public Housing, 10 J. Affordable Housing & Community Dev. L (2001); Credit Crisis to Education Emergency: The Constitutionality of Model Student Voucher Programs Under the Indiana Constitution, 35 Ind. L. Rev. 173 (2001).

Sara M. Puls

Prior to joining the Federal Defender Office, Attorney Puls worked for the Office of the Defender General, the State of Vermont’s public defender’s office for eight years. During this time, she worked as a trial attorney in Chittenden County and as an appellate defender, juvenile defender, and legislative liaison. She successfully argued numerous cases on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court including: State v. Gates, 2016 VT 36 (2016), State v. Cameron, 2016 VT 134 (2016) and In re K.A., 2016 VT 52 (2016). At the trial court level, Attorney Puls represented clients on misdemeanors and felony cases. Her representation at the trial court level included pre-trial motions, jury trials, including a serious homicide jury trial, sentencing and post-conviction related matters. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Vermont and a J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Mary Nerino

Prior to joining the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Vermont, Mary worked as a private criminal defense attorney in both state and federal courts in Virginia for eight years, where she managed a robust trial practice and represented clients on a wide range of cases, including complex sexual assault and homicide. Mary received her J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia and her B.A. in Sociology from the Pennsylvania State University at University Park.