Jennifer S. Freel
A former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Freel advises businesses and individuals under investigation by the government and conducts internal investigations for companies. As part of this practice, Jennifer helps clients defend their assets against government seizure. Drawing on her extensive courtroom experience, Jennifer also represents clients in civil disputes at the pre-trial, trial, and appellate levels in state and federal court.
In her previous role as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Texas, Jennifer prosecuted a variety of white collar crimes as well as cases involving child exploitation, narcotics conspiracies, illegal immigration, and firearms offenses. Her practice included appellate matters, as she defended convictions from across the district. She has argued 25 times before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Before becoming a prosecutor, Jennifer clerked for Judge Fortunato Benavides, who served on the Fifth Circuit. She has been appointed to the Western District of Texas Attorney Discipline Committee and the Criminal Justice Act appellate panel for the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas. Jennifer is an elected Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, a member of the Women’s White Collar Criminal Defense Association, a barrister in the Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court, a past chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Federal Bar Association, and a past president of the Austin Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Prior to attending law school, Jennifer worked as a broadcast news reporter at the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri and the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
B.J., with high honors, University of Missouri
J.D., with high honors, George Washington University Law School
- The George Washington Law Review, Editor-in-Chief
- Order of the Coif
Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas
Criminal Appellate Law
In Private Practice
Pre-trial, Trial and Appellate Matters
- (U.S. Supreme Court) Filed Amicus Curiae brief in support of death row inmate’s request to have his pastor audibly pray during the execution. The Court sided with our position and granted the inmate the requested relief.
- (5th Cir.) Represented woman accused of tax fraud, with the Court finding the district court committed error by not admitting certain undercover recordings
- (5th Cir.) Won an appeal for a Mississippi inmate who was fighting to have his habeas corpus petition heard. The Fifth Circuit held that the lower court had miscalculated the deadline for filing his petition by failing to include a 90-day period during which the client could have sought U.S. Supreme Court review of the underlying conviction.
- (W.D. Tex.) Represented a trade association in an Administrative Procedures Act case. The court granted a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, before the case was mooted by government action beneficial to the trade association
- (Tex. App. – Austin) Obtained denial of petition for writ of mandamus, when petitioner challenged district court’s refusal to stay the case pending resolution of similar litigation outside the State of Texas
- (Tex. App. – Austin) Obtained an opinion affirming a trial court’s contempt order against an opposing party who consistently abused the civil discovery process
- (Tex. App. – Austin) Obtained a victory for a client who was trying to secure a judgment during an appeal. The Court held that because the debtor had not provided credible evidence of his net worth, the trial court correctly set the bond at the amount of compensatory damages plus costs.
- (Tex. Dist. Court) Represented seventeen individuals–including board members, former board members, senior staff, and former senior staff–who were sued in their individual capacities based on actions of their company. A state court dismissed the individuals pursuant to Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute
- (Florida DFS) Represented company accused of violating state insurance regulations and conducted a compliance audit to identify why the problems occurred
- Advised multiple companies on responses to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and the Texas Public Information Act
- Advised multiple companies on website accessibility issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Represented multiple individuals and companies who have received government subpoenas or requests for interviews, assisting them with best methods for responding and gathering information
- Conducted due diligence for multiple clients prior to acquisitions on topics including anti-money laundering, FCPA, and pending/threatened litigation
- Coordinated media company’s response to data breach, including handling communications with federal authorities
- Counseled company after third party accused it of violating federal criminal law during certain activities with the United States Army Corps of Engineers
- Represented individual under criminal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security in a matter concerning allegations of procurement fraud
- Represented individual under DOJ and SEC investigation in a matter involving an alleged “pump and dump” scheme
- Led internal investigation for entertainment company after founder was accused of mishandling sexual assault allegation
- Assisted tech company with internal investigation after departing employees made complaints regarding unethical conduct and a hostile work environment
- Led internal investigation for investment fund after a complaint was left on the whistleblower hotline that suggested unethical and fraudulent conduct
- Assisted asset manager in responding to allegations of employee theft, including managing communications with affected investors
- Counseled construction company accused of committing ethical violations by a Texas agency and drafted a compliance program that satisfied the pertinent regulations
As a Federal Prosecutor
- (W.D. Tex.) Represented the United States in prosecution of a sophisticated money laundering scheme whereby the defendants cleaned drug money by buying, breeding, training, and racing quarter horses; handled forfeiture matters, including the interlocutory sale of 452 quarter horses for approximately $8.9 million; worked with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to freeze more than $20 million in assets; received the I.R.S. Excellence Award
- (W.D. Tex.) Served as trial counsel in the prosecution of a defendant accused of running a Ponzi scheme that targeted NFL players and members of the Mormon Church; the defendant was found guilty of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering; received the DeAtley Award for Complex or Significant Trial by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas
- (W.D. Tex.) Served as trial counsel in case involving a firearms smuggling ring and a money laundering conspiracy; obtained guilty verdicts on 47 separate counts
- (W.D. Tex.) Served as lead prosecutor in case involving a scheme to defraud the federal government of financial aid funds; coordinated the pre-indictment investigation; indicted the case and negotiated a guilty plea
- (5th Cir.) Represented the United States on appeal, after a jury convicted a licensed pharmacist of health care fraud; the defendant alleged a Speedy Trial Act violation and challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, certain evidentiary rulings, the restitution order, and the forfeiture of specific assets; the Fifth Circuit affirmed the conviction
- (5th Cir.) Represented the United States on appeal of conviction for mail fraud; the Fifth Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction, sentence, and a $10 million restitution order
- (5th Cir.) Represented the United States on appeal of a district court’s refusal to modify a protective order; prior to this case, the Fifth Circuit had never articulated a test for determining when courts should modify criminal protective orders; the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling
- (5th Cir.) Represented the United States on two appeals concerning $2 million money judgments entered after the defendants pled guilty to participating in drug and money laundering conspiracies; prevailed in both cases
- Board Certified in Criminal Appeals by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 2015-Present
- Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Ranked for Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations – Texas, 2021-2023
- The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White Inc.), Criminal Defense: White-Collar (Austin), 2022-2024
- Texas Super Lawyer, Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters, 2022-2023
- Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America, 2023-2024
- Recognized in the area of Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense, The Legal 500: United States, 2019
- Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation, 2016
- IRS Excellence Award, IRS Chief of Criminal Investigations, 2014
- DeAtley Award for Complex or Significant Trial, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, 2011
- Co-Author, “What Courts’ Deference Preference Can Mean For Sentencing,” Law360 (August 2023)
- Co-Author, “Major Case Update: Fifth Circuit Declines to Transform How Courts Apply Sentencing Guidelines,” Jackson Walker Insights (July 2023)
- Speaker, Hot Topics in SEC and DOJ Enforcement and Litigation Dallas Conference (June 2023)
- Co-Author, “For False Claims Act Cases, SCOTUS Says Courts Should Look at What Defendants Subjectively Knew at Time of Offense,” Jackson Walker Insights (June 2023)
- Co-Author, “US Supreme Court Curtails Government Enforcement Power Under Three Federal Statutes, Reining in the DOJ,” Jackson Walker Insights (May 2023)
- Co-Author, “US Supreme Court to Decide Whether the Government Can Prove Knowledge When the Defendant’s Regulatory Interpretation Is “Objectively Reasonable”,” Jackson Walker Insights (January 2023)
- Co-Author, “Major Case Alert: Is the Fifth Circuit About to Transform How Courts Apply Sentencing Guidelines?” Jackson Walker Insights (January 2023)
- Speaker, “Panel 1: Rising Crime Rates and Criminal Justice Reform,” The Federalist Society’s Eighth Annual Texas Chapters Conference (October 2022)
- Co-Author, “Docket Check: US Supreme Court to Decide Key Criminal and Regulatory Cases this Term,” Jackson Walker Insights (October 2022)
- Co-Author, “DOJ Officials Announce New Priorities to Combat Corporate Crime with Additional Details Provided at Government Enforcement Conference in Dallas,” Jackson Walker Insights, (September 2022)
- Speaker, “Career Basics Litigation Panel,” University of Texas School of Law (August 2022)
- Speaker, “What Every Attorney Needs to Know About Cybersecurity,” UT Law’s Conference on State and Federal Appeals (June 2022)
- Co-Author, “U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Standard for DOJ Dismissal of Qui Tam Cases,” Jackson Walker Insights (June 2022)
- Co-Author, “Help! The Government Seized My Privileged Documents! What a Recent Fifth Circuit Case Says About How to Respond” (September 2021)
- Co-Author, “A Win for Insureds: Fifth Circuit Finds Duty-to-Defend Data Breach Suit under Personal and Advertising Injury Clause in CGL Policy” (July 2021)
- Co-Author, “Insider Trading Update: Recent Developments and Compliance Risks” (June 2021)
- Co-Author, “Business School Ranking Scandal Tests the Scope of Federal Fraud Statutes” (June 2021)
- Co-Author, “Hacking the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: The Supreme Court Narrows the Reach of the CFAA’s “Exceeds Authorized Access” Provision” (June 2021)
- Women’s White Collar Criminal Defense Association, Austin Chapter Leader
- Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, Board of Trustees
- Criminal Justice Act Panel (Appeals) for the Western District of Texas – Austin Division
- Western District of Texas Disciplinary Committee, Vice-Chair
- Robert W. Calvert Inn of Court, Mentorship Chair (2020-2022) and Barrister
- Federal Bar Association
- Criminal Law Section, Former Chair
- Austin Chapter, Former President
- Austin Bar Association, Former Board Member and Federal Bar Association Representative
- Federalist Society
- Mother Attorney Mentor Association (MAMAs Austin)
- UT Law CLE’s Conference on State and Federal Appeals, Planning Committee
- UT Law CLE’s Government Enforcement Institute, Planning Committee
- The University of Texas School of Law, Adjunct Professor: Advanced Legal Writing – Litigation (2017)
- Texas Third Court of Appeals, Candidate: Place 6, 2017-2018
September 19, 2023Speaking Engagements
At the 9th Annual Government Enforcement Institute, Jennifer S. Freel and Edwin Buffmire will present on recent enforcement trends by the U.S. Department of Justice and the expansion of criminal antitrust enforcement.
September 19, 2023Attorney News
Each year, less than 5% of attorneys in Texas are named to the list. Selection is based off of peer nominations that are then reviewed by a research team. Each nominee is evaluated on his or her professional accomplishments, peer recognition, and community involvement.
September 14, 2023Attorney News
Jackson Walker Congratulates 35 Attorneys Named Among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America
Jackson Walker announces the selection of 35 attorneys to Lawdragon’s 2024 list of the 500 leading litigators in America.
August 24, 2023Newsletters
View Jackson Walker’s August 2023 Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter, Perspectives.
August 17, 2023Attorney News
‘The Best Lawyers in America’ Honors 287 Jackson Walker Attorneys in 2024 Edition, Including 12 “Lawyers of the Year” and 80 “Ones to Watch”
The Best Lawyers in America has recognized 287 Jackson Walker attorneys across 5 offices and 82 specialty practice areas in its 2024 edition, including 12 Lawyers of the Year and 80 Ones to Watch. In this year’s guide, Jackson Walker saw the largest number of attorneys in the areas of Commercial Litigation (66 attorneys) and Real Estate Law (60 attorneys) and the addition of 35 attorneys as Best Lawyers.
August 14, 2023Insights
A Deepening Circuit Split: The Fifth Circuit Weighs in on Divide Over Deference Afforded to Sentencing Guidelines
In this article contributed to Law360, Jennifer Freel and Michael Murtha take a deep look into the effect of a recent Fifth Circuit en banc decision, noting that the amount of deference courts give the Guidelines is an issue for criminal practitioners to watch and something likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 26, 2023Insights
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued its much-anticipated en banc decision United States v. Vargas, which tasked the Court with deciding how much deference courts should give commentary to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines following the Supreme Court’s decision in Kisor v. Wilkie. In a fractured decision, the Fifth Circuit held that Kisor does not extend to the Guidelines; rather, Stinson v. United States continues to control without any alteration from Kisor. Thus, the current paradigm remains in the Fifth Circuit absent Supreme Court intervention: the Guidelines commentary is “authoritative unless it violates the Constitution or a federal statute, or is inconsistent with, or a plainly erroneous reading of, that guideline.”
By Jennifer S. Freel & Michael J. Murtha
June 6, 2023Speaking Engagements
On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, Jennifer Freel will join a panel discussing the current securities enforcement priorities of the SEC and the DOJ. The Hot Topics in SEC and DOJ Enforcement and Litigation Dallas Conference will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Dallas.
June 2, 2023Insights
For False Claims Act Cases, SCOTUS Says Courts Should Look at What Defendants Subjectively Knew at Time of Offense
The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced its ruling in United States Ex Rel Schutte v. SuperValu Inc., a case that will impact how corporations will defend themselves in False Claims Act (“FCA”) litigation. In a win for the government, the Court held that the knowledge element of the FCA concerns what a defendant knew at the time it submitted a claim, not what someone could have objectively known after-the-fact.
June 1, 2023Spotlight
Chambers and Partners Recognizes Jackson Walker Attorneys and Practices in 2023 USA and Global Guides
Jackson Walker is pleased to announce that Chambers and Partners has selected 51 attorneys and 17 departments for inclusion in the 2023 edition of the Global and USA guides. Attorneys recognized in the guides were ranked in 19 practice areas, with 4 attorneys listed among multiple areas and 6 named among the top attorneys nationwide in their respective areas.