CFACDL’s 2019-2020 Board
Sean Landers – Immediate Past-President
Sean Landers has practiced exclusively criminal defense since August of 2007. Mr. Landers became Board Certified as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law in 2013. Mr. Landers worked for 8 1/2 years as an Assistant Public Defender for the 9th Circuit. He has been in private practice with the Baez Law Firm for the last 3 1/2 years, handling all degrees of State and Federal crimes including mostly serious violent felonies and sex offense cases. He has been lead counsel in over 85 felony trials.
Since 2013, he has sat on the Board of CFACDL and is now Immediate-Past President.
Benjamin Wurtzel – President
Benjamin Wurtzel is a Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney. Mr. Wurtzel currently runs his own practice, Wurtzel Law, PLLC, a private criminal defense firm serving Central Florida. Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Wurtzel served as an Assistant Public Defender in the Ninth Judicial Circuit for seven years. Mr. Wurtzel has handled thousands of criminal cases, ranging from misdemeanors to life felonies. Mr. Wurtzel has experience in nearly all aspects of criminal defense litigation, including pre-trial, trial, appellate, and post-conviction matters.
Mr. Wurtzel has been a member of CFACDL since 2011, and a Board Member for the past five years, including four years as an executive officer. Currently, Mr. Wurtzel serves as the CFACDL President. Mr. Wurtzel also serves on the Board of Directors of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as a chapter representative. Mr. Wurtzel obtained his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from the University of Florida, and obtained his J.D., cum laude, from Stetson University College of Law.
Ali Kamalzadeh – President-Elect
Ali Kamalzadeh has been a research & writing attorney for the Federal Defender’s Office since 2015. During law school, as a CLI, he assisted with foreclosure defense at the Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society (SCBALAS). Mr. Kamalzadeh organized SCBALAS’s first Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinic to assist low-income residents with preparing and filing their federal tax returns. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Kamalzadeh was a federal regulations compliance and operations director for a national bank in their mortgage division.
Mr. Kamalzadeh has served on the CFACDL board since 2015. He also serves on the Orange County Teen Court Advisory Board, and the Central Florida Chapter of the ACLU. Mr. Kamalzadeh volunteers as co-counsel for the Middle District of Florida Intensive Re-entry Program, Orlando Division, where he assists post-incarceration participants receive support in a non-traditional supervisory setting. Mr. Kamalzadeh is a member and chapter representative for FACDL and a member of the Orlando Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Nicole Bamberski – Vice President
Nicole Bamberski has devoted her career to criminal defense. She began as a legal intern for the Innocence Project of Florida while a student a Florida State University College of Law. She worked at the Second Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s office for two years after law school prior to moving to Orlando where she has been an Assistant Public Defender since 2014. She is a Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law. She has served on the Board for CFACDL for the past two years, helping coordinate several events and is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Andrew Clark – Treasurer
Andrew Clark is an assistant public defender, working in Seminole and Orange Counties for the past 13 years. At the Orange County office, he is responsible for a serious felony docket and trains new attorneys in jury selection. Mr. Clark has earned his reputation as an excellent trial attorney in his over 100 felony jury trials. He is board certified in Criminal Trial law by the Florida Bar since 2012. A member of the CFACDL Board of Directors for the past several years, Mr. Clark has a passion for the organization and its mission in the Central Florida legal community.
Susan Malove – Secretary
Susan Malove is a private attorney practicing state and federal criminal defense in Central Florida. Ms. Malove is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law and has been working as a sole practitioner since 2014. Prior to opening her own firm, Ms. Malove was an Assistant Public Defender in the Ninth Judicial Circuit from 2009 through 2013. Since 2015, she has served as a Criminal Justice Act panel attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. Through the CJA panel, Ms. Malove represents indigent defendants in federal court at the trial court level as well as on federal habeas petitions. In addition, Ms. Malove has continued to represent indigent defendants in Orange and Osceola County Circuit Courts on a court appointed basis through the Justice Administrative Commission.
Ms. Malove has been a member of CFACDL since 2009. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2006, and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 2009.
Heather Akram – Director
Heather Akram has worked as an Assistant Public Defender for the Ninth Judicial Circuit since her graduation from law school. While at Emory University School of Law, Ms. Akram focused on public interest and criminal defense. She worked with the Southern Center for Human Rights as well as the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office. Throughout her time at the Public Defender’s Office Ms. Akram has handled hundreds of misdemeanor and felony cases, litigated several jury trials, and conducted extensive motion practice. Ms. Akram has been a member of CFACDL since 2016 and is looking forward to her first position on a Board.
Bree Lawrenson – Director
Bree Lawrenson has been an Assistant Public Defender in the Ninth Judicial Circuit since 2013. During law school, she interned at the Innocence Project of Florida, was a CLI in the Juvenile Division at the Office of the Public Defender for the Second Judicial Circuit, and volunteered at the Office of the Public Defender in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.
Ms. Lawrenson has practiced solely in the Office of the Public Defender’s Juvenile Division in Orange County since 2015 and has handled thousands of cases. She is seeking Board Certification in Juvenile Law. She is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. Ms. Lawrenson also serves on the Teen Court Advisory Board.
Rachel Mattie – Director
Rachel Mattie is a criminal defense attorney at The Umansky Law Firm in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Mattie majored in Legal Studies at UCF before graduating from Barry Law School in 2014, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the law review. She also worked as a staff Research Assistant, drafting and editing articles to be published in various journals including the Harvard Law & Policy Review. Ms. Mattie has also published law review articles of her own, topics including Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and the National Organ Transplant Act.
Ms. Mattie has devoted her entire legal career to criminal defense, starting out as a legal assistant for a criminal defense firm in law school and then becoming an Assistant Public Defender for the Ninth Judicial Circuit in 2014. In 2017, she made the transition to private practice and now solely represents criminal defendants, focusing primarily on DUI defense and driver license issues. In addition to serving as a board member for the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Ms. Mattie also serves as a committee chair for OCBA’s Young Lawyer’s Section. Ms. Mattie is barred in Florida and in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida.
David Varet – Director
David Varet is a passionate, lovable, and charismatic defender of criminal rights of the indigent in Central Florida. Following his graduating FSU Law in 2012, Mr. Varet came to Orlando to work at the Office of the Public Defender, 9th Circuit, where he quickly worked his way up the ranks to felony court. After a quick sojourn to private practice, Mr. Varet returned to the Office of Regional Conflict Counsel, 5th District to continue defending the indigent, where he currently remains. When not visiting clients or researching case law, Mr. Varet enjoys spending time with his perfect, perfect dog, cooking, and watching his beloved New York Yankees.
Jim Skuthan – Director at Large
Jim Skuthan has worked as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Middle District of Florida from 1990 to 2000; and as First Assistant Federal Defender from 2000 to present. He is board certified by The Florida Bar in Criminal Trial Law and Criminal Appellate Practice. For the past twenty four years, he has lectured at the FACDL Criminal Board Certification seminar on federal sentencing. He serves on the FACDL Board of Directors. He is a past president of the Federal Bar Association, Orlando Chapter and served on The Florida Bar Judicial Nominating Committee for the 18th Judicial Circuit, and The Florida Bar Grievance Committee for the 9th Judicial Circuit. He is a past president of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (CFACDL). Mr. Skuthan received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University and his law degree from Florida State University.
Michelle Yard – Director at Large
Michelle Yard is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney in Orlando, Florida where she works at the Federal Defender’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. Prior to joining the Federal Defender in 2015, she worked for more than ten years as a state Assistant Public Defender in Orlando, Florida. In 2016, she received the annual “Foot Soldier of the Constitution” award from the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (CFACDL). She has been a speaker at statewide and national conferences on topics such as mitigation development and sentencing reform. She is a board member of the Central Florida Chapter of the ACLU and CFACDL. She received her J.D. cum laude and B.A. with honors from the University of Florida.
Melissa Vickers – Director at Large
Melissa Vickers is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer and has served as an Assistant Public Defender for 21 years. She began her career at the Office of the Public Defender, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit. Ms. Vickers later moved to Orlando and was an Assistant Public Defender with the Ninth Judicial Circuit. She currently lives in Winter Park with her husband and twin boys.
Matthew P. Ferry – Director at Large
Matthew P. Ferry has practiced criminal defense law exclusively since 2006. As a partner with the law firm of Lindsey & Ferry, P.A., Mr. Ferry has successfully defended clients throughout Central Florida on State and Federal criminal cases. Mr. Ferry is admitted to practice law in the state courts of Florida and the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. In 2015 and 2019, he was nominated by The Florida Bar to lecture to attorneys on criminal law. From 2016 through 2019, Super Lawyers has selected Mr. Ferry to its lists of Florida Rising Stars. This honor is awarded to attorneys who have demonstrated excellence in the practice of law and is limited to no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys within Florida.