Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Nina Marino on Cover of Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine

Nina Marino, who we have previously interviewed here, is on the cover of the Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine this month with Blithe Leece, who is Of Counsel with Marino’s firm. The two women are highlighted as they take up the cause of educating lawyers about the dangers of public corruption prosecutions under the California Penal Code. It’s a comprehensive review of the types of prosecutions that are increasing for public officials and those responsible for public monies in California. They correctly advise that “[f]or any client who sits on a board of directors for a company receiving public funds, the best advice is to know what is going on, ask questions, and maintain records of activities.” The cover article is titled The Accidental Defendant and is worth a read whether or not you practice in California.

What I obviously love most is that the Los Angeles County Bar Association highlighted two strong women criminal defense attorneys on the cover of their prestigious bar magazine. Way to stand out Nina and Blithe!

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Judy Clarke and Team Continue to Impress

The trial of Boston marathon defendant Tsarnaev officially started and Judy Clarke laid down the gauntlet in a fight for her client’s life. She wasted no time telling the jury in opening that her client committed the crime.

The New York Times called her strategy an echo of Clarence Darrow. Clarke told the jury she wasn’t contesting the who, what, where, and when of the government’s case, but only the why. She then went on to paint a picture of her client as a lost teenager who was controlled by a radical older brother. Clarke told the jury that her client would not sidestep responsibility for his crimes. This was a move that undoubtedly gained her credibility with the jury, being that she wasn’t going to try to insult their intelligence with some slick argument but rather told them the truth. It is amazing how jurors respond to being told the truth by a defense attorney.

Since the dramatic opening there have been countless daily reports of the parade of witnesses. Clarke and Miriam Conrad are taking every opportunity to extract detailed facts that support their theory. Some of the first witnesses were victims of the attack who shared harrowing stories of survival. CNN reported that the defense team did not cross-examine any of these witnesses. This was absolutely the right move. It showed respect for them and their stories, and that they were doing exactly what they promised in opening, not fighting the what.

When one of Tsarnaev’s friends was called to testify that he had given Tsarnaev the gun that was later used to kill a police officer, Conrad cross examined the witness about comments Tsarnaev made to his friend about his brother that clearly supported the defense theory that his brother was controlling and radical. There are similar reports for almost every witness that has taken the stand. I couldn’t help but imagine when reading these reports that Clarke and her team reminded me of skilled surgeons who are very methodically making incisions in a patient to get to the cancer in the patients body while trying to prevent it from spreading. It is a very deliberate and thoughtful dance.

No one would question that this is a tough defense case, but sometimes the answer to even the toughest case is simply the truth. And the truth is that family relationships are complicated and complex. The truth is that we have all seen this story before. Most of us have had the experience of representing a client who wasn’t predisposed to commit crime but committed a crime nonetheless at the bequest or prodding of a family member. I think this is such a universal experience that if you represent people accused of crime you surely have seen the effect of family influence on a client. So, the only difference here is that the crime that was committed resulted in unimaginable destruction. It doesn’t change the story behind what happened and bravo to Clarke and the entire defense team for having the courage to tell, what appears to be, Tsarnaev’s authentic story and hoping that the jury has the courage to listen and understand.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: The Focus on Women’s Issues is Stronger than Ever

Lately there seem to be more and more stories about women standing up and drawing attention to inequality in the workplace. These issues range from unequal pay, to work environments that serve to harass and belittle women, to a lack of fair opportunities for promotion to positions of leadership. Right now there is trial in San Francisco relating to a high profile employment discrimination suit brought by a former partner of Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm. The testimony in the trial sheds light on the “good old boys” environment that many women are complaining about. A former prosecutor has brought suit against the district attorneys office in Suffolk County Massachusetts for gender bias, claiming she was paid less than her male counterparts.

And these aren’t just isolated cases. A gender discrimination lawsuit against Goldman Sachs was back in the news yesterday when a magistrate recommended denial of their claim to certify a class. The women have alleged that work related events were held at strip clubs.

This focus around women’s issues isn’t going away anytime soon. The Clinton Foundation released the No Ceilings Report this week that is the result of a study conducted in partnership with the Gates Foundation and the Economic Intelligence Unit. The Clintons announced this No Ceiling Initiative aimed at closing the gender gap and promoting more women into position of leadership. Then yesterday, the United Nations held its 59th Commission on the Status of Women and urged the private sector to help close the gender gap.

Even movie stars are getting in on the action. During Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech she said “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, its our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” My favorite part of the speech was watching Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez cheering her on and fisting pumping in the air from the audience. So women in law are clearly not alone. There is disparity in pay and treatment across the professional board from law, to Silicon Valley, to the gaming industry, to engineering, and yes even in Hollywood.

Many naysayers thought the conversation that got reignited when Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In would extinguish as quickly as it started. But in fact the opposite has happened, it has spread like wildfire. It is now in a soon-to-be Presidential candidate’s best interest to openly take up women’s issues and gender inequality in pursuit of the White House. What does that tell us? That collectively our voices are strong and powerful. Let us not forget that.

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Women’s White Collar Defense Association Annual Retreat

This year’s Women’s White Collar Defense Association Annual Retreat, formerly known as “Spa Day”, took place last night in New Orleans. It was another raving success. There were over 175 women from all over the country present for an afternoon and evening of networking. This is the fourteenth year that women in the white-collar field have made an effort to connect around the ABA white-collar conference. When the group first met there were 8 women and today the association has over 800 members with an annual retreat that reaches maximum capacity around 175 women. For the past couple years there have been wait lists of women that want to attend and of firms that want to sponsor. The energy and excitement of the women in the room was palpable.

Karen Popp of Sidley Austin, who was one of the original eight, is a driving force behind the association’s continued growth and success. She addressed the women yesterday during both the afternoon and evening events and is an inspiration for the group and for anyone in the field. She shared how networking with women in the field has grown her business and contributed to her success. The women of Collora, LLP including but not limited to Maria Durant and Eve Slattery deserve a lion’s share of praise for the time they put into organizing the event year after year. Maria gave special thanks to the consultant firm sponsors and law firm sponsors that made the event possible this year. Finally, Marjorie Pearce of Ballard Spahr addressed the women and encouraged every woman in the room to get involved in the clemency project and donate their time to help. Check out the clemency project through NACDL, which directs you how to contact them to volunteer.

Every year I attend this event I am reminded about the power of connecting with other women in the field. Consider what eight women who put their minds together were able to create; a powerful network for women in the white-collar field. It is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we join together and commit to helping one another. Just imagine what 175 women can do!


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!