Sunday Read: Getting to Know Whistleblower Attorneys: Jacey Messer

National Whistleblower Center
5 min readJan 15, 2024
This article highlighting the background and traits of a qualified whistleblower lawyer is sent as part of NWC’s “Sunday Read” series. For more information like this, please join our mailing list.

If one of your resolutions for 2024 was to speak truth to power, then you deserve a hearty congratulations. But this is just the beginning of your journey as a whistleblower. Prior to alerting authorities of fraud, corruption or other wrongdoing, the first step should be to select a whistleblower lawyer. This strategic move will protect you — the whistleblower — and your confidential information and also better ensures that a financial reward can be secured.

In this Sunday Read, National Whistleblower Center (NWC) continues a new series that explores the qualities and motivations of some of the field’s leading practitioners.

Our January interviewee is Jacey Messer, Esq., a senior associate at H Street Law, a Washington D.C.-based firm that focuses on whistleblower law, commercial and non-profit matters and prosecutions and investigations. Messer and H Street Law have been invaluable NWC allies; their most recent high-profile collaboration (also alongside Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav) was advocating for whistleblowers at the Supreme Court of the United States. The amicus brief informed the Justices of the connection between Bittner v. United States and whistleblower tips garnered through the IRS Whistleblower Program.

We’ll explore what inspired Messer to enter this complex area of law and how she collaborates with clients during such a fragile time in the whistleblower’s life.

An Interview with Jacey Messer, Esq.

NWC: Jacey, what inspired you to enter whistleblower law?

Jacey Messer: Does falling in love with the movie Erin Brockovich count?

During the Spring break of my senior year in college, my roommates and I went on a road trip, the highlight of which to me was spending the day shopping at a mall in Virginia and then watching Erin Brockovich in a theatre. I had spent the day with three of my favorite people and we ended it watching such a moving piece of cinema.

It was then when I knew I wanted to help others and provide a strong voice for them. Fast forward 20 years, I now represent whistleblower clients, like Ms. Brockovich, as part of my legal practice — somebody pinch me!

You began your career as a staff attorney at the Office of the State Public Defender in Bozeman, Montana. How did that experience lay the groundwork for your current whistleblower work?

Yes, that was my first “real” job. At the PD’s Office, I represented clients accused of misdemeanors with possible sentences of up to six months in jail. I also assisted on felony cases from time to time. Many of our clients at the PD’s office were already in jail or had been arrested and were out on bail. This experience prepared me well for the practice of whistleblower law because I represented clients who were shunned by society. Oftentimes, I was the only person they had in their life who would take their calls, visit them in jail, or really listen to them. Whistleblowers are often ostracized by society, just like my clients were at the Public Defender’s office.

I viewed my job as a Public Defender as four-fold:

(1) Work with our team of investigators to thoroughly gather and analyze the evidence,

(2) Listen to and clearly document the client’s story,

(3) Cordially communicate, and sometimes negotiate, with the prosecution, and

(4) Offer the client a menu of final options, whether it be going to trial, preparing a plea or moving for a dismissal.

Whatever final option the client chose, I advocated for the client in written and oral form. Turns out, I do an awful lot of 1, 2, and 3 as a whistleblower attorney.

Contrary to societal stereotypes of Public Defenders, I did not view my job as finding out if my clients were guilty or poking holes in the prosecution’s case. But I did protect their constitutional rights at all costs.

One could draw the philosophical parallels between that experience and your work now at H Street.

At H Street Law, our highest priority is protecting the client’s rights. We will consider representing whistleblowers who may have exposure to criminal prosecution if they have a strong tip to file. And we do not try and poke holes in the prosecution’s case. Quite the contrary, our whistleblowers are financially incentivized to provide solid evidence to the government through the qui tam award programs offered at the SEC, CFTC, and IRS.

When did you start representing whistleblowers?

I started representing whistleblowers after spending more than a decade in the small business world as a product manager, lead product designer, and a shareholder in a closely held corporation in South Dakota. Every time I draft a new Tip, Complaint, and Referral (TCR) for the SEC Whistleblower program, I am taken back to my previous role as a product manager and shareholder in a domestic manufacturing company. This was an invaluable experience because it provided organizational context. I can instantly assume the perspective of the shareholder in a corporation when preparing a TCR, because I used to be one.

We will learn more about Jacey Messer’s whistleblower career in February. Make sure to join NWC’s mailing list, subscribe to the newsletter on LinkedIn and follow us on Medium to ensure you get notifications for Part 2!

Strong Deliberations

The decision to come forward is not one to be taken lightly, nor should selecting a whistleblower lawyer. NWC provides resources that can connect you with the right legal professional.

You can also learn more about the type of whistleblower lawyer needed for your claim in Rules for Whistleblowers: A Handbook for Doing What’s Right, which was authored by NWC Founder and Chairman of the Board Stephen M. Kohn.

Support NWC

NWC fights to bolster whistleblower programs, inform the public and employees in all sectors about available laws and protections, and help connect them with the right legal representation. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit our awareness building work is made possible with the support of our generous donors. Please consider donating $100Whis today to help us continue to educate the public on how to find help when it is time for them to blow the whistle.

This story was written by Justin Smulison, a professional writer, podcaster, and event host based in New York.

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National Whistleblower Center

National Whistleblower Center is the leading nonprofit working with whistleblowers around the world to fight corruption and protect people and the environment.