Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Joan McKown Represents Goodyear in Settlement with SEC

Joan McKown of Jones Day represented Goodyear in a reported settlement of more than $16 million dollars related to charges brought by the SEC. The charges stem from the company’s violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when its subsidiaries paid bribes to land tire sales in Kenya and Angola. Here is the SEC press release. The SEC claimed that Goodyear failed to prevent the payment of 3.2 million in bribes during a four-year period that were improperly recorded in their accounting records as legitimate business expenses. The settlement requires the company to report its FCPA remediation efforts to the SEC for a three-year period.   It has been reported that Goodyear self-reported the violations and that the DOJ declined filing criminal charges.

Prior to joining Jones Day as a partner in 2010, Joan McKown spent 24 years working for the SEC and left in 2010 as longtime Chief Counsel of the Division of Enforcement. She lectures extensively on SEC matters and not surprisingly focuses her practice on representing clients and companies before the SEC. McKown clearly drew on her experience, knowledge, and advocacy to reach this favorable outcome for her client. Without question we are lucky to have her on the defense side of the table.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Checking in With Women Criminal Lawyers Around the Country

Bruce Jenner hired lawyer Blair Berk after he was involved in a car accident in early February that resulted in a fatality.   Berk, who practices in Los Angeles, California, has a great deal of experience representing celebrity clients, which spark intense media attention as we previously discussed here.   Jenner was involved in a car accident with four other cars that caused the death of a 69-year-old woman. There is an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Meanwhile, the jury selection process is still on going in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Boston Marathon bombing trial. Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad are not giving up on a request for change of venue and were just granted a hearing before the First Circuit Court of Appeals for their clients renewed request to change venue based on the answers from prospective jurors. The prosecutors are obviously arguing that the appeals court should deny the request to change venue, while the defense has repeatedly pointed out that conducting this trial in Boston could never yield an unbiased impartial jury. Jury selection has been ongoing since the beginning of January, which in and of itself should speak volumes. The Court of Appeals did deny a request to stay the jury selection process until the argument before the Court, which could be argued does not bode well for their chances. In spite of this, kudos to the defense team for not giving up on this critical issue. Argument before the Court of Appeals is later this week.

Please reach out if you know a case involving a woman criminal defense attorney. I want to continue to feature the great work that women are doing across the country!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Cynthia Giacchetti Representing Criminal Defense Attorney Charged with Perjury

There is nothing that hits closer to home than representing a fellow member of the bar. When that client is a criminal lawyer who is under attack by the Government for conduct relating to doing his or her job, well, that is simply one of the toughest challenges this field has to offer. Cynthia Giacchetti has developed a reputation as a top-notch criminal defense attorney in Chicago, and she is currently representing a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago who is in the midst of a fight for his life. There is no doubt that Giacchetti is up for the challenge. She was a former Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois in the 1980s and has been defending the criminally accused ever since leaving to enter private practice. It is obvious after reading about the case that, for Giacchetti and her client, this will be a tough and epic battle.

Last year, criminal defense attorney Beau Brindley was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice for encouraging witnesses to lie in a federal trial. This January a superseding indictment was filed expanding the case and accusing him of encouraging witnesses to lie in a total of five cases and making a false statement in a filing in a sixth case. His law partner was also added to the superseding indictment. In the fall of last year, Marina Collazo, who was named in the original indictment with Brindley, agreed to cooperate against him. Collazo is a former wife of the co-defendant charged in the drug conspiracy trial where it is alleged that Brindley coached both his client and Collozo to lie on the stand.

What is most concerning about a case where a lawyer is charged for conduct directly related to doing his job, is that by the nature of the charge the Government is imposing themselves into the attorney-client relationship and the work product during that relationship. It is impossible to “Monday morning quarterback” every conversation with a client or witness and establish who said what and what it meant. A witness can interpret meaning from a lawyer’s statement that was not intended and vice versa. It is ironic that an individual whom the Government considered a liar when they once testified for the defense is miraculously a truth teller when they are providing testimony that supports the Government’s theory.

It appears that the indictment encompasses the lawyer’s conduct of coaching his client. Since when is coaching a client to prepare for testimony a criminal offense? Doesn’t the Government coach witnesses? I’m sure most of us have witnessed this first hand as it relates to cooperating witnesses at one time or another. Irrespective of whether or not Mr. Brindley is the shining example of a criminal defense attorney, indictments of this nature are an attack on the defense bar and the role of the criminal defense attorney in our system. Indictments of this nature feed an ever-growing paranoia that the Government’s wrath against our clients might be turned and aimed at us. Indictments of this nature permeate the attorney-client relationship and turn every conversation with a client or prospective witness into a tiptoed dance that requires a lawyer to be more concerned about self-protecting then defending their clients.

Why couldn’t the Government’s concerns about this lawyer have been brought in the form of a bar complaint? What about it rose to being a criminal offense? And if the Government were truly concerned over an ever-growing problem of attorneys suborning perjury then why aren’t we seeing civil lawyers or even government lawyers who have faced sanctions for similar conduct being indicted? I think the answers are obvious. The bottom line is that when criminal defense attorneys are forced to prioritize cautiously self-protecting over what is in the best interest of the client then the attorney-client relationship is fatally injured and the defense function is forever jeopardized. And ultimately our clients suffer. Unfortunately, I suspect that this is the ultimate goal.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: San Francisco Woman Defender Handcuffed Outside Court for Doing Her Job

There has been outrage in the defense community about a San Francisco public defender who was handcuffed and detained outside court for simply doing her job and representing her client. The video of the encounter is embedded below and I invite you to watch it if you haven’t seen it.

The public defender is attorney Jami Tillotson. Her boss, Jeff Adachi, immediately blasted the police deputy for his actions in the media and was quoted in the San Francisco Examiner as saying “This not Guantanamo Bay.” He continued, “If this happens to a public defender in front of her client, I can only imagine what is happening on our streets.”

When you watch the video is the clear that Tillotson is respectful and demonstrates professionalism while asserting her clients rights in reaction to what is obviously bullish police behavior. Tillotson demonstrates tremendous courage and defender spirit. Bravo to her and the San Francisco public defenders office for standing up against such blatant abuse.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Interview with Nina Beattie

Nina_Beattie_62This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nina Beattie who is a partner at Brune & Richard in New York City. Nina is an experienced litigator who focuses her practice on representing individuals and entities in white-collar criminal and regulatory matters. Many of her clients are from the financial sector both in the United States and abroad. She won an acquittal at trial for one of the defendants in the Bear Stearns hedge fund case and she remains at the forefront of representing clients in what is now a highly scrutinized industry. Nina graduated from Yale Law School in 1996 and before joining Brune & Richard, she clerked for a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, and worked at the Capital Defender Office. She has been recognized as a leading lawyer in her field by Chambers USA, which describes her as an “extraordinarily gifted lawyer who is very smart and tremendously hard-working.” She has also been repeatedly identified as one of New York’s top white-collar defense attorneys by Super Lawyers. Nina is a tireless advocate for her clients who are lucky enough to have her by their side and I am thrilled to introduce her to you.

What do you love most about being a criminal defense lawyer?

Getting to know my clients, mastering complicated fact patterns, and working in a very dynamic area of the law. Also, that the stakes are high – that what I do and how I do it matters a lot. Of course, that is also what keeps me up at night.

Much of your practice is focused on white-collar defense and representing clients in regulatory matters. What are some of the challenges you face in white-collar cases?

In a white-collar case, there are usually multiple governmental agencies (not to mention plaintiff’s firms) investigating the client. For example, in a typical financial fraud case, a lot of attention is often focused on the role of the United States Attorney’s Office or some other criminal prosecutorial agency. But often times, the SEC, FINRA or the CFTC is conducting its own parallel investigation or proceeding; and, today, various state agencies – such as the New York State Department of Financial services – as well as US Senate committees can be in the mix, too. In some of the more recent financial crime cases – such as those involving LIBOR and foreign currency manipulation – there have been international regulatory and prosecutorial bodies involved as well, which has added a new layer of complexity.

The challenge comes in when the various entities are not truly coordinated, as is often the case.  If a client does agree to be interviewed or give testimony, it’s likely that he or she may end up giving statements multiple times over a number of years to various different entities and parties. Navigating the best course, knowing that there will be multiple competing considerations, can be quite challenging.

Do you think that women bring unique skills or attributes to defending the criminally accused?

It’s hard to say. There are a number of traits that I think are crucial for any successful criminal defense attorney to have. Some of those – such as being able to listen well, being empathetic, or being detail oriented – are often associated with women, for one reason or another. But plenty of men have those traits as well.

Have you had women role models and how has this impacted your career?

I have had women role models throughout my legal career, and they have been very important to me. When I graduated from law school, I clerked for the Hon. Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York, and the experience of working for her still inspires me. She is both a brilliant and forceful jurist and a wonderfully kind and down-to-earth person. I try hard to emulate her.

What kind of struggles do you think that women in the field have to deal with that our male colleagues do not?

I was once told in a job interview that I couldn’t do the job because I had a child. I responded that I guessed he, the interviewer, didn’t have any children. He said that he had three children, but it was very different because he had a wife. In fact, he said, he had two wives, an ex-wife and a current wife!

I think having to overcome obstacles in life can make you a better advocate.  You can’t let one individual’s foolish opinion stop you from succeeding.  I focus on getting results for my clients and leave the rest behind.

What do you think it takes for a woman to succeed in this field? 

Brains, fearlessness, attention to detail, perseverance, and the ability to speak in a way that moves people and convinces them of the righteousness of your position. There are, of course, also some negotiating skills involved that can require a more flexible touch. Knowing when to react and adjust, and when to stay the course, is always helpful.

What is your proudest moment in representing a client?

There is nothing like getting an acquittal in a criminal trial. But sometimes the proudest moments are the quiet victories. Convincing a prosecutor or regulator not to bring charges and delivering that news to a client is a real thrill that you can’t advertise, but it is incredibly satisfying all the same.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of career advice what would it be?

Find the time to keep in touch with your friends. I mean that both personally, because it’s healthy, and professionally, because often your friends are doing interesting work – legal or non-legal – that just might intersect with your own.

What do you consider your most valuable weapon in your defense arsenal?

Knowing the facts and the law better than my opponent has been key to my success. It gives me a lot of confidence when I go into a meeting or an argument to know that I am completely prepared. I find that having that foundation allows me to react quickly when I need to find a new way to get my point across or address an issue where, perhaps, the other side seems to be gaining traction.

Of the women criminal defense attorneys that you know and admire what made them stand out to you? What about them inspired you?

It is not easy, what we defense lawyers do, and often it does not make us popular. What inspires me is when I see a lawyer – male or female – really make a difference in an unpopular case, whether it is by forceful advocacy or by simply making the right judgment call.

Best advice you ever received?

When you are weighing a tough decision, make all the arguments on either side and then pick the right side, stick to it, and argue the hell out of it. Of course, if the facts change, one needs to recognize the need to adjust one’s tactics accordingly.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Ellen Brotman Representing Client Indicted in TARP fraud

Ellen Brotman of Montgomery McCracken in Philadelphia is representing the ex-board chairman of Nova Bank, a failed Philadelphia bank, who was just charged with TARP fraud. The chairman, Barry Bekkedam, a former Villanova University basketball player, was charged along with the ex-CEO Brian Hartline with multiple counts of fraud. A Justice Department press release describes the Indictment.

Ellen Brotman set the tone in vigorous defense of her client when she spoke to the Philadelphia Business journal. She said both men “are innocent and they will be exonerated and vindicated at trial. This indictment should not have been brought and I am shocked that the government chose to go forward with these charges, in reckless disregard of the reputations they are damaging in the process. This prosecution is a misguided attempt to salvage an investigation that should never have gone this far.”

Knowing Ellen Brotman like I do, the Government will certainly have a tough fight on their hands and her client couldn’t be in stronger or more capable hands. Stay tuned!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad Represent Defendant in Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

The trial has officially begun in the Boston Marathon Bombing case and two of the lead lawyers on the defense team are none other than the renowned death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad, the chief federal defender for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The trial is still in the jury selection phase, which will undoubtedly serve to be challenging since the Judge denied the motion to change venue out of Boston. Not a big surprise to those of us that practice regularly in federal court… but without question an unfortunate ruling for the defense. The case is anecdotally known as the Boston bombing case, how can jurors in Boston be unbiased to the correlation between the crime and the place they call home?

In fact, reportedly dozens of jurors have been excused for cause already but the pool of prospective jurors is well over a thousand people. The media has reported that there was an effort to strike a plea deal, which would have resulted in a life sentence for Tsarnaev, but ultimately the Government would not agree to waive death. The trial is expected to last for months.

We had previously posted about the case when Judy Clarke was initially brought on to be part of the team, but now the tough part begins. It is clear from the experience sitting at defense counsel table that Tsarneav has able attorneys and some of the best women criminal defense lawyers in the country by his side. I certainly will continue to follow this trial.

Women Criminal Defense Lawyers: Evan Jenness Speaks Out

One of our colleagues, Evan Jenness, from Los Angeles, California, spoke up in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, candidly calling out the fact that the justices of the Supreme Court are engaging in biased conduct toward women and minority lawyers. She suggests that the Court should consider accepting blind briefing as a means to eradicate their practice of accepting petitions from a select few attorneys that are overwhelmingly white and male.

Her letter, along with others sent, were in reaction to an Editorial Board article entitled The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy, which discussed a recent Reuters report that exposed the reality that a small elite group of lawyers have the highest probability of arguing a case before the Supreme Court. The justices accept approximately 75 out of 10,000 petitions per year. And a shocking number of the petitions have a small elite group of lawyers names attached to them again and again. Reuters identified 66 lawyers who represented less than one half of 1 percent of all lawyers who petitioned the court during the report period from 2004 to 2012, but these 66 lawyers were involved in 43 percent of the cases the justices heard. And not shockingly the New York Times reported, “That elite cohort is as homogeneous as it is powerful: 63 of the 66 lawyers were white, 58 were men, and 51 worked for firms with primarily corporate clients.”

There is nothing new about these kind of statistics, but when you consider the significance and importance that access to the Supreme Court has for a practicing lawyer, the fact that women don’t have equal access is disturbing to say the least. We should all be speaking up and against this kind of inherent bias against women in law. Thanks to Evan Jenness for speaking out so candidly about this important issue.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Happy Women’s Year

Happy New Year! In spite of the holidays being hectic there always seems to be time for reflection as the New Year approaches. And I have been doing my own reflecting about this blog. I had meant to acknowledge the two year milestone of the blog in October, but I forgot. We have never missed a weekly post in two years which was a personal goal.

In 2014 we highlighted some amazing women which I want to do more of in 2015. I had women share with me that they were shocked at the positive reaction they got from doing an interview, I had women tell me that potential clients read about them on the blog when researching them, and I had women tell me their firm marketing directors absolutely loved the interview.

All in all it has served as a wonderful tool for us to get to know each other and for women criminal lawyers to get more exposure and recognition. I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.

We started a series called What makes a Great Defender which I would love to see grow. I would love to see more women contribute and participate in the blog in the New Year. And I would love to find more women criminal lawyers highlighted in the media and women involved in the representation of big cases. So in the spirit of reflection I created a list of my top ten successes for women criminal lawyers for 2014:

  1. WCDA blog interviews 5 women (more next year) and highlights 10 women (more next year)…just killing it on specific cases
  2. March 2014 ABA panel “Women in White Collar in Today’s Global Community”
  3. March 2014 Women White Collar Subcommittee holds cocktail at ABA White Collar Conference
  4. March 2014 Women White Collar Defense Association holds “Spa day” event at the Biltmore with over 175 women white collar practitioners participating from all over the country
  5. March 2014 Jan Little is one of the recipients of NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense Award
  6. March 2014 NACDL Women’s Initiative holds panel “Career path for Women in Criminal Defense: Challenges and Triumphs”
  7. May 2014 NACDL Women’s Initiative holds panel on “Mentoring and Your Career”
  8. August 2014 Cynthia Orr installed as co-chair of ABA Criminal Justice Section and receives NACDL Robert Heeny award
  9. November 2014 Women’s Initiative networking luncheon organized at NACDL White Collar Conference
  10. Cris Arguedas hired to represent FedEx in controversial drug trafficking Indictment.

Here is to a New Year of prosperity and full of continued successes! Happy Women’s Year!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Give the Gift of Knowledge and Experience

During this season of giving I have been contemplating what gift this blog can give. And the answer that I keep coming back to is the gift of sharing knowledge and experience. I have used this phrase before “reach out, up, and back to connect and draw upon the knowledge base of fellow women.” Gifts of knowledge and experience last forever and truly are what matter most. And these gifts are not reserved for young lawyers. This past year, after twenty years of practicing, I was the recipient of such a gift. A woman that I met through NACDL’s Women’s Initiative, who has been practicing twenty-six years, generously shared her experience and knowledge with me. Of course these gifts aren’t reserved for women, either. Just last week I sat with a new male associate in our office and talked to him about court hearings. But it is important to make a specific effort to reach out, up, and back to women in the field. This is still a very male dominated field and women still struggle with finding their voice and direction. We need to help them and we need to help each other.

In that spirit I have been thinking a lot about what I have developed in my arsenal of defense tools that I found most useful in twenty years of practice. One of those tools is Judgment. When we start practicing we are obsessed and consumed with the idea that our opponent or the Judge will know the rules or case law better than we do. We falsely believe that mastering the law alone will protect us in a fight. The truth is, in my opinion, that these are a criminal defense lawyer’s weakest tools. That is not to say that knowing the law is not important. It is. But not at the expense of one of your most valuable tools… your judgment. You have to learn to develop your guiding voice, your gut, and your instinct. They all come together to form Judgment. This is when you decide “should I reach out to the detective or prosecutor?” in the midst of an investigation. This is when you decide “do I sit down and stop talking because I’m winning?” This is when you decide what kind of resolution you can push for and which is going to cause push back and make matters worse. This is when you decide which argument passes the “laugh test” and which doesn’t.

The list of how judgment affects every aspect of criminal defense is endless. I could go on for days. The point here is that in defending a client sometimes the best defense entails putting down your book and Westlaw and listening to your own guiding voice. There is tremendous amount of instinct to this job and the earlier you start trusting that instinct or finding a mentor that can help you develop it when you are insecure about it (which is normal), the faster you will grow as a criminal defense lawyer. There are certainly more tools at my disposal which I am pledging to share more about on the blog and in my office to whoever wants guidance. That is my pledge in the New Year, to share my own knowledge and experience with generous heart and open spirit. It is my way of paying it forward. Happy Holidays!