After her clerkship with the Honorable Peter T. Fay in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sonia Escobio O’Donnell became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida from 1979 until 1995. During sixteen years at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Ms. O’Donnell tried criminal cases, worked on hundreds of appeals and supervised one of the largest appellate divisions in the country. She also litigated civil cases, defending federal agencies and bringing civil actions on behalf of the United States. She worked in major cases: United States v. Noriega (ex-Panamanian dictator); United States v. Marino-Garcia (challenges to the constitutionality of the “High Seas Statute”); United States v. Casamayor (public corruption); the Cuban Connection case (high ranking Cuban government officials charged with narcotics offenses). As the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney and as Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney, she supervised major investigations, such as “Courtbroom” (a judicial corruption case) and advised on issues and investigations in the Southern District of Florida.
After leaving government, she joined a former U.S. Attorney, and several former prosecutors, at Lehtinen O’Donnell, representing Indian tribes on issues of Indian law, Gaming and Environmental law. At two major firms, Jorden Burt (2000-2014) and Carlton Fields (2014-2017) she continued to litigate in federal district and appellate courts, filing certiorari petitions in a number of cases, both civil and criminal, and a Merits brief in the United States Supreme Court in the Clean Water Act case of Miccosukee Tribe v. South Florida Water Management District. Her cases and matters have included: federal environmental statutes, class action and state opt-outs (including arguing the Ninth Circuit case of Allianz v. Negrete, where the district court had enjoined class action settlements in other jurisdictions), IRS targeting, FOIA and Bivens. Ms. O’Donnell was the American lawyer representing Ann Bender, an American citizen tried a third time in Costa Rica for homicide. In 2017 she opened her own practice, see, soniaodonnell.com where she continues to litigate in trial and appellate courts, including recently as counsel for Petitioner in the guardianship proceeding: In re: Kathleen DuRoss Ford (widow of Henry Ford). Ms. O’Donnell has lectured in both substantive and procedural areas in panels for the American Bar Association, the Florida Bar and the IADC. Ms. O’Donnell co-chaired the ABA Appellate Practice/Litigation committee and presently Chairs the Appellate Practice committee of the IADC.