Michelle Behan

Michelle Behan

This week's member in the spotlight is Michelle Behan of Tucson, Arizona. Shelley was destined to become an outstanding attorney in the footsteps of her father. Her earliest memory is running across the campus of Washburn University Law School in Topeka, Kansas, her father's alma mater. She also remembers living in Washington, DC while her dad studied at Georgetown Law School and worked for the Department of Justice. Growing up in the law, she was a debater and an orator in high school, and captain of the mock trial team. Before going to law school, she was an FBI agent. She remarks that going to court and working with the US Attorneys was her favorite part of the job. The courtroom for her is like water to a fish. "That's where I feed my soul," she said. Once she became an attorney, she knew she wanted to be a defense lawyer, no question about it. As she put it, "They always looked like they were having so much more fun than the prosecutors."

It's pretty tough to have a more patriotic resume than Shelley. Not only has she served the country in law enforcement before defending the Constitution as a defense lawyer, she also enlisted in the Navy from 1994 – 2003. She served close to ten years as a Cryptologist. Her time at the FBI earned her national recognition from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). She also received recognition from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of South Dakota for her work on many interstate crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

While in law school, Shelley was part of a group of students who served as the impetus behind the creation of the Tucson City Court Veteran's Diversion Treatment Court. Along with her fellow veteran students, Shelley served as defense counsel (under the supervision of a professor) for veterans charged with diversion eligible offenses. That treatment court has grown with its multi-million-dollar grant and receives national recognition as a "textbook" treatment court.

Based on her work with the Veteran's Court and her clinical experience in Trial Advocacy, Shelley was selected by the University of Arizona Law School faculty to present an amicus brief on behalf of the defendant to the Court of Appeals for the United States Armed Forces, a federal level appeals court. Following argument, an under-advisement decision was granted on behalf of the defense, suppressing the evidence seized by the government during an illegal search of the defendant's computer.

In addition to the NCDD, she is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the Pima County Bar Association, the Arizona State Bar, and is on the board of directors for the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ). In 2015, she was awarded the Tucson Women's Commission Rising Star Award. Most recently, Shelley was honored to serve the office of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's regional committee dedicated to veterans' issues. Most impressively, she was asked to present to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in February 2019 and in April of 2019 addressed the attendees at the annual International Association for Chemical Testers symposium. She is currently preparing another submission to AAFS.

After graduating from law school at the University of Arizona in 2013, she served as a public defender for the City of Tucson before joining the law firm of Nesci & St. Louis. She opened her own firm in 2017. In a very short amount of time, she has made tremendous contributions to the legal profession. She wrote the amicus brief on behalf of the NCDD in State v. Valenzuela, an Arizona Supreme Court published decision. That decision prohibits the police from informing a defendant they are required by law to submit to a search of their blood. Police must ask for consent or get a warrant. In Diaz v. Bernini, Shelley presented an amicus brief to the Arizona Supreme Court on behalf of AACJ where the Court considered the post-Birchfield implications of breath test consent warnings in Arizona. In State v. Summers, Tucson City Court, she was part of a team that fought and won the right for defense attorneys to use the Tucson Crime Lab's uncertainty in breath testing measurement as part of a DUI defense. She has a published opinion from the Division Two Court of Appeals (State v. Chopra) requiring the mandatory disclosure of chromatograms in DUI cases, and another (State v. Devlin) regarding what constitutes sufficient evidence to detain a motorist for a DUI investigation. While Division Two did not see it her way in Devlin, Shelley has not given up the fight, and is awaiting a decision on review from the Arizona Supreme Court.

Shelley has two sons. Garrett, 23, is a Tucson Police Officer who threatens his mother daily with joining the DUI squad. Jonathan is 17 and a high school senior who, like his mom, likes to argue about public policy with anyone who will listen. Shelley brags that her dog Henry, "the world's best dog ever," dances when it is dinnertime. In her spare time, she is on the skill level of You Tube influencers in makeup. When not working or spending time with her boys, Navy buddies or running half marathons across the United States (pre-pandemic), she is writing a book on cross examination.

Shelley's learned advice to brand new lawyers is: "Learn everything you can from everyone around you. Go watch trials. Read everything you can get your hands on. Spend time with the greats. Talk to them about their cases, and figure out how they think. Adjust your expectations - everyone in this business is high speed, A+ personality, and everyone has something to teach you. Learn as much as possible. Finally, don't sweat the small stuff. Unless someone died, it is all fixable."

The NCDD owes a huge debt to Shelley. Not only does she serve as a lecturer Faculty member and writes amicus briefs on the Amicus Committee, she is the brainchild behind the SFST seminars. She approached the Board with the idea and it has taken off. The NCDD would like to thank Shelley for her talents, her good humor, and passion. It was author Ken Kesey that said, "I would rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph." Michelle Behan is remarkable lightning in everything she touches. We are proud of her and thankful for all her contributions.

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