What Makes a Great Defender: Advice from the Foxhole

The traits that make a great defender are listed in no particular order, because depending on the case, the order of importance varies. I haven’t included traits that are universal, such as “always be prepared” because that goes without saying. Also, I am only providing nine, because ten is what you expect, and as a criminal defense lawyer, I always want to go with the unexpected!

1. Good sleep habits! This is no joke. The patience, energy, creativity, tenacity, and resiliency necessary for the great criminal defense lawyer are qualities that are sapped by not enough sleep. Of course, everyone needs sleep, but a criminal defense lawyer is in the foxhole every day, and life in the foxhole is emotionally and physically draining. A good night’s sleep prepares you for battle. Also, try this trick: go to sleep thinking about a difficult problem in your case; wake up with the answer. While you sleep, your brain is billing!

2. The ability to rely on others: all lawyers are control freaks and criminal defense lawyers are the most controlling of all. It’s no mystery: so much can go wrong, so much is at stake and we have so little real control. But every successful criminal defense lawyer I know has someone who has their back: a partner, an associate, a paralegal, or a secretary. For my friends who fly solo it can be their office mate, or if they are a member of NACDL or an affiliate, their colleagues on the listserv. Criminal defense work has a million sensitive decision points – you need to get advice, feedback and sometimes, just a reality check.

3. The Double Whammy: the ability to see the forest AND the trees. This is one of the many life lessons I learned at NCDC when I was a baby defender: overall themes are crucial to every stage of the game, from investigation to trial, and even to appeal and habeas. On the other hand, your defense theory relies on every detail lining up: your theory is only as good as your facts, and as we all know, facts are stubborn things.

4. Conviction: when I was a young defender I realized that I was the only person in the court room who believed what I believed (including my client!) and the process of persuading others to come over to my view of things was only possible if I could argue with conviction. When you litigate with conviction, you are believable — and the fact finders, whether judge or jury, can “hear” your arguments.

5. Credibility: I’ve never gone wrong staying on the high road no matter how low the prosecution goes. Judges like it, juries respect it, and clients who don’t appreciate it are better off in somebody else’s office. Also, when you are on the high road, it is often possible to require your adversary to stay up there with you.

6. Time management practices that provide you with the mental space to properly research and ponder your legal issues and your case. In the olden days, we used to go to the library, take out books, and read cases in hard copy. Sometimes, other lawyers would wander in and talk about your case with you. It was the most wonderful creative process and it didn’t include a cell phone or a blackberry. You need to be able to create that space for yourself now, and that’s a time management issue. Try saying to your client: I will get back to you with an answer tomorrow. It feels great and a client can understand that their problem is important and complex enough to require real thought.

7. Patience and resilience: cases sometimes progress poorly in the beginning, but that doesn’t mean they’ll end up that way. Be patient with the process, with your clients, and even with the prosecutor. When things go wrong, don’t despair; when obstacles arise, go around them. We start out with the facts and the law against us, with a dearth of information, and a well-armed and well-informed adversary. Big gains are often made incrementally and you need to accept and be prepared for that.

8. Care about your client. Caring about my clients keeps them on my mind so when I’m shopping, commuting, gardening, etc., I’m thinking about my client’s problems. The more I think, the more I get good ideas. Over the years, it’s been those “good ideas” that have created opportunities for success and good results. Also, the cared-about client is the client who can be patient and supportive, rather than undermining your good work.

9. Creativity and tenacity: solutions to difficult problems don’t reveal themselves easily. You need to be willing to try ideas that seem counter intuitive until you get to the right one. And don’t give up – keep thinking and trying, because that’s what you do when liberty is at issue. This comes back to where we started: a good night’s sleep: when something goes wrong in my cases, if it’s my fault, I wake up with a sick feeling in the middle of the night. When I’ve tried everything I can but I still get a bad result, I don’t lose sleep over it, because tomorrow is another day in the foxhole.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Why Women’s Initiatives Matter

This week I received an email from Paula Henderson, an attorney and a fellow NACDL board member and I wanted to share it with you. She does a wonderful job of identifying the very specific challenges that we face as female criminal defense attorneys – and she reminds us of why it’s so important for us to continue to get together, build relationships, and form networks with fellow women criminal attorneys. I hope you find it as moving as I did!


I was in a boutique last week and a piece of costume jewelry caught my attention. Imprinted on a piece of decorative metal attached to a leather bracelet were the following words: STRONG WOMEN, May We Know Them, May We Raise Them, May We Be Them. These words struck many chords with me. My daughter’s face immediately came to me. She, with all her nine-year-old enthusiasm, charm, and wit, looked at me as I measured myself against the standard embodied on that piece of costume jewelry.

Then, my thoughts turned to the strong women I have known. Some of the strongest women I know are relatively new to my life, having met them through NACDL over the last couple of years. They are some of the finest legal strategists and litigators in the profession of criminal defense law. Female criminal defense lawyers are a different breed. And in our individual towns and communities, we are also a very rare breed. The field of criminal defense is predominantly male and finding female colleagues with whom to commiserate in this particular arena proved challenging, UNTIL I began participating in NACDL.

Women like Ellen Brotman – a skilled listener and analyst, Susan Bozorgi – a fighter who knows why she fights, Elizabeth Kelley – organized, thorough, and fiercely focused, Melinda Sarafa – deadly in diplomacy in a courtroom or boardroom, and Lisa Wayne – the sword and shield personified with the ability to command and captivate an audience. These women, and so many more like them, fill the working ranks of NACDL. And I am honored to serve alongside them.   I have learned from them, been encouraged by them, and most importantly, I have been inspired by them.

The women of NACDL hail from different backgrounds. We have different religious beliefs and different political beliefs. Some of us are parents. Some of us are not. We live in big cities and small towns.   We do not boast. We are not arrogant. We are resolute in our belief that we have been entrusted with protecting our clients. We listen to their stories. We absorb their fear, desperation, and anger. We hold their hands, hug their necks, talk to their families, and earn their trust. Our clients’ struggles become our own. We go as far and as long into their battles as the battlefield before us allows. And we do it day in and day out usually in heels. Sometimes, we struggle to meet the demands of the oaths we swore while meeting the other demands that life places upon us. We get fatigued, frustrated, and burdened, but one thing rings true of these strong female criminal defense lawyers – We will rise.

Strong female criminal defense lawyers refuse to be victims of a system, a society, or a negative mind set. We summon our strength, skills, and intellect and carry on. The motions will be argued, the pleadings will be drafted, the research will get completed, and the cases will get tried. Beyond that, we are grateful to receive a heartfelt “thank you” or a “nice job” by a colleague. Then, it’s on to the next client, the next pleading, the next hearing, and the next trial. That may sound like drudgery to some, but to us, it is a life fueled by high ideals like freedom, forgiveness, hope, and human compassion. And every once in awhile, we may get an unexpected but much appreciated boost of encouragement like the one I received when I overheard someone telling my daughter how her mom saved a man’s life today.

So, here’s to all those strong women who are criminal defense lawyers. May you always be strong and may each of you experience the privilege of saving someone’s life. Thank you for your legacy.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Progress and Setbacks for Women in Law

Let’s start with the good news! Just this month, two women joined the ranks of a small but growing number of female law firm leaders as two large law firms named women as their chairs for the first time in their history. Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP just announced that litigator Jami Wintz McKeon will become the first woman chair of the firm, and Bryan Cave LLP announced that Therese Pritchard will become their firm’s first female chair. Pritchard, one of our own, is a white-collar litigator. She was quoted as saying “I think the playing field is leveling out, and I think firms can select leaders from a more diverse talent pool than ever before,” and “I do remember the days when I was for the most part the only woman in the room.” Other women heading big law firms include Kim Koopersmith of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Jerry K. Clements at Locke Lord LLP.

This is just because I love the quote: A partner at Dechert, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who is married to the United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister was recently quoted as saying “I am being asked all the time ‘Do you want to have it all,’ and I don’t want to have it all – I want to have what men have” she told the BBC, “So if many men have children and a job, and that’s what they choose, I do not know why I cannot have that, if that’s what I choose.”

And now, some alarming facts: The Careerist reported last month that Women Lawyers are Falling Behind in Client Development More Than Ever. This slap-in-the-face statement comes from statistics generated by the Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2014 Partner Compensation Survey which reports that male partners reported average originations of $2.9 million in 2014, an 8 percent increase over 2012, while female partners reported average originations of $1.24 million in 2014, which was a 12 percent decline. The spread between male and female originations is now 77%, a significantly higher spread than the 50% in 2010 and 44% percent in 2012. Vivian Chen notes that this gap is especially alarming considering the existing gap in compensation ($779,000 for men versus $531,000 for women) and predicted that in combination that this “means that women are unlikely to achieve pay and power equity anytime soon. If ever.”

So what is the takeaway from these developments? First, that the need for the continued conversation is real. Second, the conversation is evolving, and so are we, as we strive to understand and find our unique path to success as women lawyers. And, finally, that one of the critical building blocks to barriers being broken and ceilings being smashed wide open is that we reach a critical mass of women in positions of leadership.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Interview with Claire Rauscher

CRThis week I had the opportunity to interview Claire J. Rauscher. Claire is a partner with Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice in Charlotte, North Carolina. She concentrates her practice in the area of white-collar defense. Prior to joining Womble Carlyle, she had her own law firm and later became the first Executive Director of the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina from 2005 to 2011. Before relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1994, she was an assistant federal defender and assistant public defender in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Besides her current law practice, she also is an adjunct professor at Wake Forest Law School and Charlotte School of Law as well as a frequent speaker at continuing legal education and trial advocacy programs. I met Claire through some mutual friends and always look forward to connecting with her at national women’s events. She is truly committed to supporting women in the field and has made huge strides to break the glass ceiling for women in North Carolina in the white-collar field. I know I enjoyed learning more about Claire’s vast criminal defense experience and I hope you’ll love getting to know Claire Rauscher as much as I have.

What are the most striking changes for women criminal lawyers that you have witnessed during over 30 years of practice in the field?

First of all, there are more women in the criminal practice than ever before, especially in federal court. When I started practicing in federal courts, there were very few women criminal defense attorneys and a few female prosecutors. Second, women are beginning to create their own referral networks. This development is long overdue and will continue to assist female practitioners in their practice growth.

You have extensive experience practicing in both the public and private sectors of criminal defense and in fact served as the Executive Director of the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina after having had your own private practice for years, how have these vastly different practices shaped the lawyer that you are today?

I have a true appreciation for the struggles that women practitioners face in the private sector. Women have to prove themselves every day and work hard to get referrals and well-paying work whereas men can easily rely on their own networks. I also understand why many women prefer to be in public defender offices where they receive a set salary with benefits and they can do the work they enjoy without having to worry about the next case coming through the door. My experiences have made me truly appreciative of where I am today and I don’t take it for granted.

What would you tell a young female lawyer deciding whether to pursue a public sector job compared to a private sector job?

I would suggest they start out in the public sector since that is where you can obtain a lot of experience in a short amount of time. Public sector jobs provide an instant network of contacts that can be helpful when transitioning to the private sector.

Your practice is now largely focused on white-collar defense, what do you think are the challenges and obstacles that women face in the white-collar field and what do you think women need to be doing more of to break through?

Unfortunately, most in house counsel and general counsel do not immediately think of women attorneys when they are facing white-collar problems. Most firm white-collar practice groups are headed by men. Men also seem to do a better job of self-promotion regarding their results. Women need to be better at public relations and selling themselves and their results. It is not something that most of us do well. We need to be more proactive in promoting ourselves and our colleagues. We need to create strong networking groups in our areas of expertise and refer work to one another whenever possible. Only when the corporate community sees and hears about more women in the field (and their successes) will these obstacles be overcome.

Aside from hard work, what do you attribute to your success?

I love what I do. I think my enthusiasm and interest in my work is obvious to others and has led to my success.   Recently, my daughter told me that she wanted to find a career path like mine because she never saw me not want to go to work in the morning. When she said that to me, I was so proud and gratified to be able to provide that type of example for her – and it made realize how much I really do enjoy the work!

Of the women criminal defense attorneys that you know and admire what made them stand out to you? Why did they inspire you?

When I was first hired at the public defender’s office in Philadelphia, the head of training and the then first assistant (now head defender) were women. Both had been criminal defense attorneys for years and were willing to share their experiences and lend support whenever needed. They were my cheerleaders and made me feel like I could win every case I tried. Their confidence in my abilities empowered me to push through the large dockets and difficult moments. I recognized if they were able to be successful in a system almost exclusively dominated by men (at the time), I could certainly plow through a system weighted against the indigent clients and fight for just results.

As an example, one day I was before a judge who told my client’s mother not to listen to me because I did not know what was in the best interest of her son.   I was so angry after having spent an entire week being belittled by this judge, that I threw my files into the air and stormed out of the courtroom. When the deputy came out to tell me to come back in the courtroom, I refused until the judge apologized. To make a long story short, when I got back to the office, I told the head defender what happened. She immediately picked up the phone and called the judge. She demanded that he apologize and fully defended me. It was a day I won’t forget (the judge did make a half-ass apology the next day). She took on a powerful judge that could have taken some action against me and/or the office but she fought for me and what was right.

What has been your most effective business development initiative?

Going to (non-legal) women’s events. I get to meet women from other industries and am able to tell them about what I do without competing with other lawyers.

What is your proudest moment in representing a client?

Successfully defending a client in a capital case. There is no greater pressure and no greater reward than saving a life.

Best advice you ever received?

Keep your overhead low and you will be able to create a sustainable practice through the good and bad times.

Moment you knew you had made it?

When I was preparing to leave my position as a federal public defender and a bidding war began involving a number of firms. I ultimately had the opportunity to join my current firm as a partner.

One thing people who know you don’t know about you?

Many people know that I am a Division I Volleyball official but most people don’t know that I am truly a sports-aholic. I am an avid fantasy football player. I don’t play in money leagues but enjoy playing for pride. I can out-talk most men about sports!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Emma Watson Reminds Us That Feminism isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione, the bossy Harry Potter gal pal, delivered an impassioned speech to the United Nations on September 20th about feminism and the struggle for gender equality around the world. The speech was in honor of the launch of the HeForShe campaign in her role as United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador. The focus of the campaign is that feminism and supporting gender equality is not just a women’s issue but also a men’s issue – and it’s time that men get on board. Watson said “The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

If you haven’t heard the speech, it is worth your time to listen to what she had to say. Although I find her words and delivery compelling, I think what is truly compelling is that a twenty something year old woman that has just finished college can be such a strong voice for feminism. It is also compelling to hear her share that in spite of her privileged upbringing that gender inequality has still touched her life. The speech has been all over the Internet and social media. CNN reported that Watson gave feminism a new life. Vanity Fair wrote that Watson Delivered a Game-Changing Speech on Feminism.

And Emma Watson is not the only star throwing their hat in the ring. Beyonce made a strong statement in support of feminism at MTV’s Video Music Awards. During her performance, she had the word FEMINIST in huge letters behind her in the back of the stage. And the statement she made spread in the media like wildfire. Feminism is the new “It girl.” The Huffington Post reported on the phenomenon in an article titled Beyonce’s Feminist VMAs Performance Got People Talking About Gender Equality.

Obviously both of these women bring star power to the feminist cause and they have the power to engage the world in the conversation. We continue to need more and more women and men like them to stand up. But their voices are not the only ones that can effect true change; each of us must stand up and courageously say we support gender equality and feminism. I hope you’ll join the movement!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: What Makes a Great Defender

The primary goal of this blog is to highlight women in the criminal defense field and to draw attention to the great work that they do. We try to accomplish this is several ways – from interviewing leaders in the field to shining a spotlight on current cases involving fellow women defense attorneys.

Today, we are going to launch a new series. I want to give women in our field the opportunity to share their thoughts about what it takes to be a great defender. I think that this could be a valuable way to help younger female criminal lawyers learn what it takes to do this job well. In this first installment, I am going to share some of my thoughts and talk about what motivates me. In future installments, we will open up the floor and hear from other women criminal defense attorneys.

I am one of those criminal defense attorneys that believe that it is honor to represent my clients. In fact, as many can attest, I really like my clients. I don’t think it is cool to walk around calling your clients names or making fun of them, which we have all heard before. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have gotten choked up at trial or a sentencing. Most of our clients, even corporations, which are made up of real people last I looked, are facing consequences that sometimes warrant emotion. And I believe that the people who decide our clients’ fate, both judges and jurors, should be confronted with the emotional reality of those serious decisions.

I tell jurors that every year I do this job I am more and more humbled by the significance and privilege that it is to stand with a person in their darkest and toughest hours. I fight for every client like it is my last client. They get every ounce of fight in me. My motto is to never give up and I don’t. I have been called determined, relentless, and dogged. And for my clients I am all of those things.

I am fortunate to be able to say I don’t take tons of clients because it allows me to focus on my role of guiding and protecting the ones that I do have in the criminal justice system. And I think they are better for it. For me representing a client is a holistic and organic process. From the moment I begin representing a client I start using the word “we”, because from my perspective we are in this together. And I work on getting to know my clients, their stories, and their experiences because I believe it serves my ability to tell their story and their perspective.

Of course it is not always easy and there are challenging attorney-client relationships. But when it is hard I dig down and remind myself of how scared and afraid the client must be and I go back at it and try even harder. And often I am more surprised than anyone at what I find. I am thinking of a specific case where the client and I had a really tough time relating and once I dug down and pushed through it either I was able to see something that I was blind to, or the client was able to finally trust me. And, that critical fact that we uncovered saved the client 28 months in prison.

So what makes a great defender? From my perspective, it is very simple; a great and true defender has heart. My assistant has a wonderful line, when she critiques food. She will say it is “made with love” or that it isn’t. She is unwavering and clear about her critique because she says you can just tell the difference. And the truth is she is right. And the one thing that makes the difference in a great criminal defense attorney is heart. There are many ways to do the job satisfactorily but there is only one way to do this job striving for greatness, and that is while wearing your heart and soul on your sleeve.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Find Your Voice

A recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Women, Find Your Voice,” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn and Mary Davis Holt from the consulting firm Flynn Health Holt caught my eye. The article discusses the reality that many women have a difficult time finding their voice in a boardroom meeting, based on research conducted by surveying 7000 workers, including 110 female executives and 270 female managers of Fortune 500 companies about their issues with company meetings.

The research found that many women have trouble finding a strong voice in this setting. Men complained that women don’t have enough volume in their voice and often allow themselves to be interrupted. They also felt that women apologize too often and don’t provide fact-based evidence. Women described feeling outnumbered and having a hard time presenting a dissenting view when there seemed to be a consensus. “Many women admitted that they do get rattled when they’re challenged,” the authors wrote, “In fact, they’re uncomfortable with conflict in general. They find it unsettling when anyone receives a sharp public rebuke, and they often brood and second-guess themselves long after meetings are over.”

Biz Journal highlighted the article and outlined some of the authors’ suggestions on how to deal with these issues:

“1. Build allies in the boardroom: ‘Women could go a long way toward addressing the problem of timing and their feelings of isolation if they sounded out colleagues and built allies in this way,’ the authors note.

2. Consider joining Toastmasters: Learning how to speak extemporaneously is an important skill to master.

3. Come to meetings with ideas already prepared: ‘Women who do their homework and come to a meeting with an accurate sense of what it’s really about and how it will probably unfold can build on others’ remarks,’ the authors wrote. ‘Being armed with some cogent comments or questions can allow them to move the conversation forward.’

4. Keep your emotions in check: It may be a stereotype, but the authors suggest that women try to control their emotions and use language that doesn’t convey uncertainty. ‘Women need to ensure that they are seen as composed and in command of their emotions,’ the report noted. ‘It is not so much what women say as how they say it. They need to keep an even tone, not shift to a higher pitch when under duress. They need to speak deliberately and avoid signaling frustration through sarcasm or curtness.’

For women criminal defense attorneys who spend plenty of time in meetings with clients and other colleagues, this is important food for thought. How many of us have to sit through client pitches or meetings with co-counsels and opposing counsels? We probably aren’t the shyest bunch around, but I think the candor in this article will resonate with all women. Women come to the table with a different skill set and it’s critical that we openly discuss what we need to work on in order to position ourselves for success.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Please Don’t Go, Justice Ginsburg!

There has been rampant speculation about who would be the next Supreme Court Justices replacing Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kennedy, since President Obama made a comment at a fundraiser in Massachusetts about future Supreme Court vacancies. From my point of view, The ABA Journal got it one hundred percent right when they said that Justice Ginsburg would be replaced by a woman, and that the appointment of a justice to replace Justice Kennedy would result in a political World War III. One of names that has been floated as a possible replacement to Justice Ginsburg was Patricia Millet who was appointed last year to the DC Court of Appeals. We highlighted her work on a significant insider trading case before she took the bench.

Without question the replacement of Justice Ginsburg needs to be a woman. And if you remember her comment about when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court, I think she was correct when she stated, “When There are Nine.” Just recently Justice Ginsburg spoke at an address at Duke University about her desire for ‘Equal Dignity for Women in the Court Decisions’. She told the audience that the Court speaks of equal dignity in recent LGBT rights decisions but the court has yet to embrace “the ability of women to decide for themselves with what their destiny will be.” Obviously this is not to say that Justice Ginsburg is unsupportive of LGBT rights but she is correctly noting that women deserve as much equality as any group in this country. Justice Ginsburg continues to voice her concern over the Hobby Lobby decision. In her blistering dissent she said the court “has ventured into a minefield.” The New York Times wrote about her comments and noted that “She said the court’s five-justice conservative majority, all men, did not understand the challenges women face in achieving authentic equality.”

What a concept! Authentic equality. Not lip service or token positions but real authentic equality. Isn’t that what is at the heart of the debate to reenergize the women’s movement? We will need many more authentic woman leaders and champions like Justice Ginsburg to get us there. I know that there are many capable candidates out there to replace her, and surely Patricia Millet is one of them, but these are huge shoes to fill not only as a legal scholar but as a voice for women’s rights everywhere. In spite of the obvious politics surrounding Supreme Court appointments that are in place to ensure the appointment of a replacement liberal justice, I just can’t help but think… Please don’t go Justice Ginsburg!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Cris Arguedas Representing FedEx in Historic Criminal Case

FedEx was criminally charged in the Northern District of California with trafficking drugs for illegal web pharmacies. One of our fellow women defense attorneys, Cris Arguedas of San Francisco, California, is lead counsel with Allen Ruby for FedEx. Arguedas has a national reputation for her involvement in the defense of many high profile defendants like Barry Bonds and as a member of the OJ Simpson team. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Cris Arguedas, heard her speak, and met her in San Francisco. She is one of the great true defenders in this country and FedEx clearly has demonstrated their commitment to defending themselves in their wise choice of defense counsel.

Arguedas appeared in Court at the end of the July and entered a Not Guilty Plea to the Indictment stating in court, “We are a transportation company, not a pharmacy, not a website, not a doctor.” The allegation is that FedEx delivered drugs from internet pharmacies that supplied pharmaceuticals to patients that were never examined by a doctor but rather based on them filling out a questionnaire. Arguedas said, “The Company has cooperated with the Department of Justice throughout its multiyear investigation,” and “FedEx will continue to defend its conduct and its people.”

This prosecution is part of the government’s crackdown on online pharmacies. Last year the United Parcel Services, Inc agreed to forfeit $40 million for shipping from illicit online pharmacies under a non prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, Walgreens and CVS.

A decision like United States Parcel Services made to settle with the Department of Justice has become commonplace in this country. It is now the standard cost of doing business that US and International companies and banks wanting to do business in the United States will inevitably have to settle with the government over an investigation or probe into their criminal and regulatory violations. The problem with this practice is that the Government’s allegations are never truly tested. They don’t have to prove their allegations in a court of law subject to a legal standard that exists to protect the rights of individuals and companies.

The charges leveled in the FedEx case are particularly concerning because at the heart of the allegation is the notion that a company should be responsible for policing its customers. Sound familiar? This is a dangerous slippery slop. Thankfully for FedEx and the rest of us for that matter, Cris Arguedas is leading the fight against such an injustice.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: United States Sentencing Commission to Review Fraud Guidelines

Just last week the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) announced its priorities for the upcoming year and they have included a review of sentences in economic crimes. The press release quoted Judge Patti Saris, Chair of the Commission, as saying “For the past several years, we have been reviewing data and listening to key stakeholders to try to determine whether changes are needed in the way fraud offenses are sentenced in the federal system, particularly in fraud on the market cases,” Saris said. “We look forward to hearing more this year from judges, experts, victims, and other stakeholders on these issues and deciding whether there are ways the economic crime guidelines could work better.”

Some federal judges have grown increasingly critical of the fraud guidelines. One such judge from the Southern District of New York, Judge Jed S. Rakoff, was recently quoted in a Newsweek article, Nonsensical Sentences for White Collar Criminals stating that “Insider trading is a serious offense, and it is very important there is prison time to send a strong message,” he said “But the arithmetic behind the sentencing calculations is all hocus-pocus—it’s nonsensical, and I mean that sincerely. It gives the illusion of something meaningful with no real value underneath.” The criticism is focused on the fact that the guidelines are driven by monetary loss amounts and as Judge Rakoff points out, “The way it’s set up now, you may be the lead offender in a crime or the low man on the totem pole and still get the same sentence,” Rakoff says.

Sound familiar? It is not news to any white-collar practitioner out there that white-collar clients are receiving excessive sentences for economic crimes. I could tell countless stories where I have personally seen clients sentenced to grotesque sentences for nonviolent financial crimes that often times far exceed the time that a violent offender might face in an overburdened state system. Something has to change, and at least for now, the USSC’s statement that they are going to make it a priority to review the fraud guidelines is a step in the right direction. Stay tuned.