Kathy Nester has practiced law since 1992. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Kathy moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and went into private practice focusing on defending individuals charged with federal and state crimes and on representing individuals seeking money damages in state and federal civil cases. Kathy spent most of her time in the courtroom and tried a wide variety of felony cases including capital murder, murder, complex fraud, drug and weapons offenses. She also tried civil cases including wrongful death, employment discrimination, civil rights violations, and serious personal injury cases. In 2001, Kathy was named Mississippi Trial Lawyer of the Year.
In 2005, Kathy left private practice to join the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Jackson, where she worked exclusively on defending federal criminal charges including high profile cases and lengthy, complex trials. She also argued cases before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 2011, Kathy was appointed to be the Federal Public Defender for the District of Utah. She managed an office of 25 Assistant Federal Public Defenders and a staff of over 25 paralegals, investigators and administrative employees. She also appeared as second-chair counsel before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015, the Utah Federal Bar Association awarded Kathy their Distinguished Service Award and her office also received the Jimi Mitsunaga Excellence in Criminal Law award from the Utah Minority Bar Association in recognition of their commitment to diversity and equal representation. During her time as the head of the office, Kathy also handled a caseload, including a capital murder case, a capital habeas case and several high profile complex fraud cases and sex offenses.
During the Obama administration, Kathy served as a representative of the Federal Public Defenders on the national Steering Committee for the historic Clemency Project 2014, which managed nearly 4,000 lawyers as they provided free legal services to more than 36,000 applicants for presidential clemency. Chief Justice John Roberts also appointed Kathy to serve on the Advisory Committee responsible for advising the United States Supreme Court on the Federal Rules of Evidence.
In 2018, Kathy was hired to be the Executive Director of the Federal Defenders of San Diego, California. She managed an office of over 60 attorneys and over 100 staff in a practice focused mainly on border and immigration-related crimes.
Kathy returned to Salt Lake City in 2022 to start Nester Lewis, PLLC, with her friend and former co-worker, Wendy Lewis.
Kathy is licensed to practice in Utah federal and state courts, California federal and state courts, Mississippi federal and state courts (although currently inactive with the State Bar), the Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Kathy is a fellow of both the International Society of Barristers and the American College of Trial Lawyers. She is also active in the Inns of Court, the Federal Bar Association, the Utah Women Lawyers Association, and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She has trained lawyers across the country and her cases have appeared in national and international press coverage.