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, 2021-2022
- Ranked for Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations – Texas
- The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White Inc.), Criminal Defense: White-Collar (Austin), 2022-2023
- Texas Super Lawyer, Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters, 2022
- Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America, 2022
- 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, “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)
- 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
- Women in White Collar Criminal Defense Association
- 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
January 25, 2023Insights
Docket Check Update: US Supreme Court Declines to Decide Whether Attorney-Client Privilege Protects Dual-Purpose Communications
The U.S. Supreme Court decided on January 23, 2023, in a per curiam slip opinion that it would not consider whether communications including both legal and non-legal advice are protected by attorney-client privilege.
By Jennifer S. Freel & Michael J. Murtha
January 24, 2023Insights
US Supreme Court to Decide Whether the Government Can Prove Knowledge When the Defendant’s Regulatory Interpretation Is “Objectively Reasonable”
The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in a pair of cases out of the Seventh Circuit that will finally resolve a longstanding circuit split on the question of “scienter” under the False Claims Act (FCA)—namely, whether a defendant can “knowingly” violate the FCA if the relevant legal requirement is ambiguous and the defendant’s conduct is otherwise “objectively reasonable.”
By Jennifer Freel, Laura M. Kidd Cordova, & Bethany Pickett Shah
January 17, 2023Insights
On January 24, 2023, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will sit en banc to decide how much deference courts should give commentary to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The full Court will do so in the much-anticipated case of United States v. Vargas, 21-20140. Specifically, the Court will decide whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Kisor v. Wilkie, which limited judicial deference to agency interpretations, extends to the Guidelines.
By Jennifer Freel & Michael Murtha
November 17, 2022Newsletters
View Jackson Walker’s November 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter, Perspectives.
October 11, 2022Insights
This term, the U.S. Supreme Court is tasked with construing the Bank Secrecy Act’s penalty provision, ruling on whether the “right to control theory” provides a viable theory of liability under the federal wire fraud statute, and deciding whether a private citizen who has informal political influence over governmental decision-making can be convicted of honest services fraud. It also must decide whether the Government has authority to dismiss a False Claims Act case after initially declining to intervene.
By Jennifer Freel & Michael Murtha
October 7, 2022Attorney News
Jackson Walker Congratulates 36 Attorneys Named Among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America
Jackson Walker announces the selection of 36 attorneys to Lawdragon’s inaugural list of the 500 leading litigators in America.
September 22, 2022Insights
DOJ Officials Announce New Priorities to Combat Corporate Crime with Additional Details Provided at Government Enforcement Conference in Dallas
By Jennifer Freel, Erica Giese, and Bethany R. Pickett
On September 15, 2022, Deputy Attorney General Lisa A. Monaco outlined new steps the Department of Justice will be taking in its ongoing efforts to police corporate crime. The next day, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Lisa Miller discussed the new policy at the University of Texas School of Law’s Government Enforcement Institute—a two-day conference held in Dallas, Texas. This article covers key areas Department of Justice officials will focus their efforts in the coming months.
September 21, 2022Attorney 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.
August 29, 2022Client Results
Jennifer Freel and Emily Rhine Prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Giving a Mississippi Man a Second Chance at Post-Conviction Review
In a unanimous decision issued on August 8, 2022, the Fifth Circuit held that the lower court had miscalculated the deadline by failing to include a 90-day period during which Jackson Walker’s client, Reginald Wallace, could have sought U.S. Supreme Court review of the underlying conviction.
Jennifer Freel and Emily Rhine represented Mr. Wallace pro bono, along with Bryan Gividen, who is an attorney working in-house. Jennifer argued the case on behalf of Mr. Wallace.
August 18, 2022Attorney News
‘The Best Lawyers in America’ Honors 214 Jackson Walker Attorneys in 2023 Edition, Including 11 “Lawyers of the Year” and 41 “Ones to Watch”
The Best Lawyers in America has recognized 214 Jackson Walker attorneys across 6 offices and 79 specialty practice areas in its 2023 edition, including 11 Lawyers of the Year and 41 Ones to Watch. Best Lawyers listings are based on an exhaustive peer review survey of thousands of attorneys who vote on the legal abilities of others in their practice areas.