Michelle Yard works in the Appellate Division and also serves as the Intern Program Director for the Federal Defender’s Office Middle District of Florida. Along with defending individuals in appeals and habeas cases, she has completed federal trials and is board-certified by the Florida Bar as a criminal trial attorney. She has also appeared before the Eleventh Circuit for oral arguments and obtained reversals. In 2016, the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (CFACDL) selected her for its annual “Foot Soldier of the Constitution” award honoring one Central Florida criminal defense attorney “who exemplifies the actions of a true criminal defense lawyer by fighting for their client’s rights and improving the Criminal Justice system as a whole.” She is a member of the bar in the state of Florida, the Middle District of Florida, and the Supreme Court of the United States.
Before joining the Federal Defender in 2015, she worked as a trial attorney for ten years as a state Assistant Public Defender in Orange County where she successfully tried cases from DUI to sexual battery to homicide. While an Assistant Public Defender, she also served as Training Director and worked on special litigation projects, including leading a comprehensive multi-year jury composition study, representing respondents in Baker Act proceedings, drafting extraordinary writs, and seeking post-conviction relief under Graham and Miller for juveniles sentenced to life without parole—of which she secured some of the lowest resentences in the country. She has presented at local, statewide, and national conferences on sentencing issues and reform. She currently serves as President-Elect of CFACDL, recently served as a Subject Matter Expert for the Florida Board of Bar Examiners 2020-21 Legal Practice Analysis Panel, and previously served on the board of the ACLU of Central Florida. Her law school highlights include representing children as a Certified Legal Intern with the Gator Team Child Civil Law Clinic, as well as, receiving a Pro Bono Award from the Levin College of Law in recognition of her years of volunteer service in dependency cases as a certified Guardian ad Litem for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. She received her B.A. with honors and her J.D. cum laude from the University of Florida.