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Hosken retiring from Federal Public Defender office

Known for ‘commitment and compassion for his clients’

By: Bennett Loudon//June 22, 2018

Hosken retiring from Federal Public Defender office

Known for ‘commitment and compassion for his clients’

By: Bennett Loudon//June 22, 2018//

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After he retires at the end of June, Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Hosken and his wife, Sue, are heading south — South Buffalo, that is.

After Hosken’s mother-in-law died in December, they sold their Chili home and bought his wife’s childhood home where her parents lived in for 62 years.

Hosken, whose last day on the job will be June 29, plans to relax for a few months and spend some time visiting his son, Peter, and his family in Indianapolis, and his son, Patrick, in New York City.

Hosken and his wife also are planning a month-long cross-country road trip while renovations are done on their new home.

In the fall, Hosken will join Vahey Muldoon Reston Getz LLP on a part-time basis in a new Buffalo office of the firm.

And he’ll continue playing hockey two or three days each week with the same group of friends he’s played with since the mid-1990s.

“I think that physical exertion allows me to vent some of the challenges that you have when you’re seeing a lot of the downside of people’s lives,” he said.

But becoming part of those lives is what he cherishes most about his job. Because a significant amount of cases involve a guilty plea, a lot of his work involves presenting his clients’ stories to a judge with a goal of obtaining the most lenient sentence possible.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Lee called Hosken “a worthy opponent.”

“I always found him to be a straight shooter and a passionate advocate,” she said.

When he was growing up in South Buffalo, Hosken’s father worked at a steel plant in Buffalo and his mother was a homemaker.

“Where I grew up there was a sense of the three Cs: community, compassion, and commitment,” said Hosken, who attended Catholic elementary school and high school.

“There was a sense that everybody helped each other out,” he said.

As a young man, Hosken said, he liked to argue and he always rooted for the underdog. And going to college in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal inspired him even more to become a lawyer.

“I read biographies of everybody that was involved in Watergate,” Hosken said. “It really started to intrigue me how the rule of law overcame the assault on it.”

Hosken received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at the State University of New York, College at Buffalo, in 1978, and a juris doctor degree from Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Mass., in 1981.

Hosken started out as an assistant public defender with the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo Inc. In the 1980s and ’90s, he worked as a public defender in the Monroe County and Genesee County Public Defenders offices.

Hosken joined the Federal Public Defender Office in Rochester in 1996. He’s been the supervisor Assistant Federal Public Defender there since 2008.

The most significant change in the past 22 years has been the “incredible rise of mandatory minimum sentences that Congress has passed,” Hosken said.

The other major change during his career has been the changes to federal sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines introduced in late 1987 forced judges to calculate sentences based on a list of factors.

That’s how sentencing worked until 2005 when the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated the system with the decision in United States vs. Booker.

“This was invalidated in 2005, but it still forms the basis of many of the sentencing parameters. It doesn’t mean the judge has to follow it. It’s no longer mandatory, but it is something the judge has to look to,” Hosken said.

Still, the guidelines have led to a dramatic reduction in the number of cases that go to trial because defendants automatically get a reduced sentence by pleading guilty.

In his 22 years in federal court, Hosken has tried 17 cases. When he worked in state court he often averaged a trial every two weeks.

As a result, Hosken focuses a lot on what he calls “mitigation practice.”

He investigates the story of his client to provide the judge with information about any mitigating factors, such as mental health issues, developmental issues, physical issues or anything that might be worth exploring.

“You cannot negotiate with a judge, so a lot of this is presenting additional information to the judge in the hopes that the mitigation practice will be persuasive enough to tell the client’s story,” he said.

Jon Getz, a partner at Vahey Muldoon Reston Getz, said Hosken’s compassion for his clients is obvious.

“As a trial attorney he’s outstanding. He always comes in prepared,” Getz said. “He has a commitment and compassion for his clients to make sure that he does the best he can for them, and that always stood out.”

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