Natasha Perdew Silas
Natasha Perdew Silas (“Tasha” to friends) has spent more than a quarter-century defending indigent persons accused of federal criminal offenses as a Staff Attorney and then Senior Litigation Attorney with the Atlanta Federal Defender Program. Tasha first came to the National Criminal Defense College Trial Practice Institute as a baby lawyer in 1995. She credits the techniques she learned at the College with giving her the confidence needed to handle herself in the courtroom. She is proud and happy to have the opportunity to give back to the College, serving as one of its Co-Deans since August 1, 2017.
Tasha is passionate about teaching. She joined the Faculty of the National Criminal Defense College in 2016, but she had been teaching trial skills long before that. She is a longtime faculty member of the Bill Daniel Trial Advocacy Program sponsored by the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. (Her favorite lecture topic is Theory of the Case, which should be the foundation of everything a trial lawyer does in the courtroom.) Tasha has taught trial skills internationally as well. She was part of a team of eight criminal defense lawyers from the State of Georgia who traveled to the Republic of Georgia to help criminal defense lawyers prepare for that country’s first-ever jury trials. Closer to home, Tasha has served as an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Emory University School of Law and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. She is a frequent presenter at a variety of local and national CLE programs. She is also a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Tasha lives in the metropolitan Atlanta area with her husband Kendal, a fellow federal defender. They are the proud parents of two amazing young people.
Karen Smolar is the Legal Training Director of the Criminal Practice at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, where she develops and conducts innovative trial training programs for every public defender and court-appointed attorney representing the indigent accused statewide. At CPCS, Karen also lends her expertise to other practice areas in the Training Department to help conceptualize curriculum across the agency. In addition, Karen is a member of the agency’s Anti-Racism Team, and she serves as lead on its DEI Recruitment Sub-Committee.
Karen spent her three previous decades representing the indigent accused in New York City, including twenty years of dedicated work at The Bronx Defenders. Karen spent a decade their Trial Chief, deservedly earning the informal title of Persuasion Guru. Karen’s time at The Bronx Defenders was marked by formal and informal brainstorming of a countless number of cases, as she mentored, trained, and supervised dozens and dozens of younger public defenders representing clients charged with nearly every crime imaginable.
Karen’s trial training legacy lives on at The Bronx Defenders, embodied in the Defenders’ Academy, the annual, intensive five-day program that Karen created from scratch in 2007. The Academy was the first training program in the country to focus on the intersection between trial skills and performance work, and it continues to attract and welcome interested attorneys in criminal, family, and civil practices from across the United States. Many Academy graduates from over the years would acknowledge the debt they owe to Karen when they speak of having been “Smolarized” in their approach to trial work.
Since 2017, Karen has also been the co-Dean at the National Criminal Defense College, America’s preeminent trial training school for criminal defense practitioners. Prior to her appointment as Dean, Karen had served for a decade on the College’s faculty as a presenter, lecturer, and small-group leader. Her work at the College allows her to develop and implement creative programming and pedagogy to train lawyers from around the country and beyond. Since her Deanship began, Karen has been especially proud of both the College’s successful efforts to diversify its faculty, staff, and participants as well as the College curriculum’s new emphasis on racial and social justice.
Karen is herself a renowned lecturer and guest trainer on everything from storytelling to closing argument, cross-examining expert witnesses to voir dire, having presented at trainings for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the New York State Defenders Association, and many other state-wide public defender offices around the country. Karen also has more than a decade of experience teaching in law school classrooms. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, where she is a sought-after Trial Advocacy Instructor and where she coaches the school’s Trial Team. Before moving to Rhode Island, Karen served in similar positions at St. John’s School of Law in New York and at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey.
Bellamy Johnston is the heart and soul of the National Criminal Defense College. She has worked every day for the College for the last 25 years. Since 2019, she has been NCDC’s Program Coordinator. She manages the Macon office and the day to day functioning of the College. She also coordinates Continuing Legal Education credits for participants with most of the 50 United States and Territories.
Bellamy strongly believes in what criminal defense attorneys stand for. She is very proud to be a part of the National Criminal Defense College family.
Before joining the College, she worked in the service industry for 35 years. She worked for the Hilton Hotel in Macon, GA as a switchboard operator, then a desk clerk and finally a reservations manager. During her time as reservations manager, she was voted employee of the year.
Bellamy earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Service from Middle Georgia State University in 2015.
She enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, traveling and fishing.
Frances Boyes has spent over 15 years fighting for the advancement of low wage workers, immigrants, and working families in this country. She has a graduate degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Labor Center and has experience as a community organizer, political organizer, and union contract negotiator.
She is proud to support the mission of the National Criminal Defense College and brings her strong commitment to social justice to her work here at NCDC. She works in collaboration with the Deans and the Programs Director to support the day to day operations of the College as it continues to grow.
Frances is from Wilmington, NC, and currently lives in Northeast Georgia. She enjoys long walks with her dog, hiking, kayaking, and cycling.