Women Criminal Defense Attorneys blog

Connecting Women in Criminal Law

Justine Harris Has Never Forgotten Her Roots Which is Reflected in Her Repeated Success

Justine Harris, a seasoned criminal defense attorney with Sher Tremonte LLP in New York City, gained her experience as an assistant federal defender at the Federal Defenders’ office for the Eastern District of New York. In nine years, from 2001 to 2010, Harris served as lead counsel on countless criminal cases in federal court.

Deciding to go into private practice, Harris was a co-founder and partner at Colson & Harris LLP, before joining Sher Tremonte LLP.  Known for her advocacy, and dedication to clients, she has defended individuals charged with insider trading, securities fraud, bank fraud, RICO, mortgage fraud, terrorism, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax fraud.

In the end of last year Harris won a stunning victory in a visa fraud case involving an economist at the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Hamidur Rashid, a Bangladeshi national, was charged in June 2017 with fraud in a foreign labor contract involving a household worker. But in November 2017, the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan dropped all the charges against Harris’ client.

“We are pleased that Dr. Hamidur Rashid has been vindicated,” said Harris at the time. “Mr. Rashid and his family paid the employee appropriately and treated her with dignity and respect. He is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.”

In March 2018, Harris led the legal team defending Charles Garske, one of four former corporate advisers at Georgeson LLC, in a bribery case in Boston. She was joined by Michael W. Gibaldi of Sher Tremonte LLP and Alexandra G. Watson and Anthony E. Fuller of Hogan Lovells.

The federal trial came to a halt after three weeks of testimony – one day short of closing arguments – when a juror’s family emergency led to a mistrial.

Garske and Michael Sedlak, Richard Gottcent and Donna Ackerly were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in the case, which involved the alleged exchange of concert and sports tickets valued at $12,000 for an advance look at votes on shareholder proposals in leading public companies.

The U.S. attorney’s office said on March 21 that it intended to retry the case. Harris and the other defense counsels commented after learning more how the dismissed jurors viewed the case, “[w]e strongly believe that we were winning,” said Gottcent’s attorney William Cintolo of Cosgrove Eisenberg & Kiley PC, in a post-trial interview.

In response to the Government’s announcement of their intent to retry the case, Harris and two of the other co-defendants objected to the Court retrying the case based on double jeopardy grounds. The Government requested a mistrial after conditioning their consent for proceeding with 11 jurors on all four defendants agreeing to 11 jurors. They would not agree to continue the trial with the defendants that consented to the 11 jurors, which included Harris’s client. Three defendants agreed, and one did not. A motion to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds is now pending.

Despite her success in the private arena, Harris has never forgotten the importance of her roots as a federal public defender. She has long been active at the Federal Defenders of New York and was recently named vice-chair of the Board of Directors.

Another indication of the high respect Harris has gained in the criminal justice community is her service as a non-voting member on the Practitioner’s Advisory Group to the United States Sentencing Commission.

In her defense of clients and contributions to the profession, Harris is an excellent role model for women criminal defense lawyers seeking to uphold the highest standards of the law. She remains a prime example of what I refer to as a true defender.


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