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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Angie Halim Successfully Defends Philadelphia Traffic Judge

Just last week Angie Halim, a criminal defense lawyer from Philadelphia, won an acquittal of the primary charges for a Traffic Court Judge who was charged with fraud along with five other Traffic Court Judges. The US Government alleged that the group of judges conspired to fix traffic tickets and give associates breaks on traffic tickets, which supposedly cost the city thousands or possibly millions of dollars. The judges were charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and perjury. Halim represented Judge Robert Mulgrew who, along with all six judges, was acquitted of the most significant charges. Mulgrew was convicted of perjury, along with some of the other defendants, for lying about receiving consideration for fixing the tickets of certain VIPs. It seems a little counterintuitive but we all know that is how the jury system works sometimes. Halim reportedly used a very effective demonstrative aide in closing that sent a clear message about the ridiculousness of the Government’s case. The Philadelphia Magazine summarized the closing arguments and highlighted a pie chart that Halim used to demonstrate what amounted to a frivolous amount of “fixed” tickets. She pointed out through her chart that of the 66,000 tickets Mulgrew adjudicated from 2008-2011, the FBI deemed only 16, which was 0.01 percent, of them as “fixed.” The Philadelphia Magazine reported that “in what was arguably the most crowd-pleasing visual aid of the day, Halim used a gigantic orange pie chart to demonstrate how miniscule 0.01 percent really is, zooming in on an otherwise invisible green dot that represented the amount of tickets Mulgrew is accused of ‘fixing’.” Halim was reported as arguing, “Mr. Mulgrew did the best he could in an imperfect system.” In the end, the jury clearly agreed with her and acquitted her client of the primary charges, but ironically found him guilty of perjury. Mulgrew was also charged in a separate fraud and tax case which he had previously plead guilty to relating to the misuse of State of Pennsylvania grant funds and filing a false tax return. The sentencing was postponed until the conclusion of the ticket fixing trial. Any criminal defense attorney that has fought for a client in federal court knows that you should never underestimate the Government in a trial. But it is also safe to say the Government should never underestimate Angie Halim. Bravo to her. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of women champions of justice in Philadelphia.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Current Happenings in Criminal Defense

During the annual meeting of the ABA Criminal Justice Section held in Boston, Massachusetts August 7 through August 10th, one of our own, Cynthia Orr, along with James Felman, will be installed as Co-Chairs of the Criminal Justice Section. For many years Cynthia has been a champion for women in the field and continues to pave the way for women to hold positions of leadership and find ways to support their advancement. Congrats to Cynthia for this honor and continuing to be a source of pride and an example to all women criminal defense lawyers. Also, during the NACDL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, the Foundation for Criminal Justice will host its 2014 Awards Dinner at the National Constitution Center on August 1, 2014. Click here to learn more about this must attend event or to donate to the foundation. Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, is the featured speaker. Cynthia Orr, past president of the NACDL, will receive the Robert C. Heeney Award. Current NACDL Secretary Rick Jones will receive the Champion of Justice Award. Also just this week, NACDL announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will address the NACDL annual meeting and seminar attendees at 10am on August 1st. The seminar and meeting is a perfect time to get more involved with the NACDL and meet criminal defense lawyers from all over the country. I don’t know about you but I am beginning to feel more hopeful in my role of defending the criminally accused. Let’s face it, the last two decades for the criminal defendant were quite depressing. But even though I’m almost afraid to trust them…there are signs of hope. From the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California which held that law enforcement couldn’t generally search, without a warrant, digital information on a cell phone seized pursuant to an arrest; to the United States Sentencing Commission just this week unanimously voting to apply a delayed reduction of the drug quantity tables retroactively to most federal inmates serving time for drug trafficking offenses as of November 2015. The commission estimated that this could affect almost 50,000 incarcerated inmates. Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the Commission ended the news release stating “The step the Commission is taking today is an important one,” she said “but only Congress can bring about the more comprehensive reforms needed to reduce disparities, fully address prison costs and populations, and make the federal criminal justice system work better.” Even five years ago I wouldn’t have believed it if someone told me the conversation about the criminally accused would change so radically. If someone had told me our Attorney General would be lecturing around the country about Smart Sentencing or that anyone in this country would care about collateral consequences for convicted felons, I would have had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. Let’s hope that these positive signs translate into real change. And let’s hope that more women attorneys like Cynthia Orr are able to obtain positions of leadership and influence. It’s an exciting time for women in our field and let’s keep building momentum.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Ex BigLaw Lawyer and IMF Director Christine Lagarde Discusses Women and Leadership

Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director and former Baker & McKenzie executive committee chair recently discussed women in leadership and it was a fascinating conversation. Lagarde took over the IMF immediately following the abrupt resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn over allegations of sexual assault. She was the first woman and first non-economist to lead the organization. Lagarde said, “I have a theory that women are generally given space and appointed to jobs when the situation is tough. I’ve observed that in many instances. In times of crisis, women eventually are called upon to sort out the mess, face the difficult issues and be completely focused on restoring the situation.” Maybe she is really on to something… especially when you consider that GM’s first woman CEO, Mary Barra, was appointed right at the start of a major crisis for GM. At first the news articles heralded her appointment as a true breaking of Detroit’s car industry glass ceiling. Then we started to hear that her pay was half of that of her predecessor and now CEO Mary Barra is at the heart of a controversy over the company’s recall of millions of small cars based on a flaw in the ignition switch which has lead to a Congressional Investigation. Lagarde discusses the need for women to get more comfortable in their own skin and bodies and to put aside the outside pressure to constantly change themselves. She explains that this mindset is an integral part of how a woman commands a room as a leader. She also discussed the need to have more women on the IMF board, which is currently made up entirely of men. She never had a career plan and shared the advice her American father gave her at 17… “Don’t let the bastards get you.” Great advice for a slew of circumstances that any woman criminal lawyer may find herself in. Read the entire interview on the Washington Post here.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Michelle Peterson Represents Benghazi Suspect

Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson has been appointed to represent Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspect who was brought to D.C. district court to face charges related to the Benghazi attack. Peterson appeared in court with her client during the recent bond hearing and conceded that pretrial detention is appropriate based on his status as a foreign national, but strongly criticized the lack of evidence against her client and the Government’s failure to turn over evidence which has essentially left her and her client unable to challenge the charges. “It is incredibly difficult for us to defend someone against a charge when no evidence has been provided,” Peterson told the court. “We are left to glean from press reports what the government evidence is.” Additionally, Peterson said that the little disclosure she had received that same morning contained “no evidence of direct involvement”, and “There was no suggestion that he was one of these 20 individuals [said to have carried out the first attack] – their allegation appears to be that he knew these individuals, not that he was directly involved himself.” When addressing the argument of his dangerousness due to the fact that her client was armed when arrested she stated, “This is a broad stretch … Libya has been in a constant state of rebellion, and it is not at all unusual to be armed.” I know very little about the Government’s case in this instance but I already have a feeling that precious constitutional and due process rights could be at risk in the name of politics. There is such a powerful political tug of war occurring over Benghazi as we approach the next campaign for Presidency. It has the makings of the perfect witch-hunt. It is obvious from what I am reading that Michelle Peterson is a tenacious advocate and up for the fight, but unfortunately this case may be more about politics than it is about evidence.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Karen Patton Seymour and Women of Sullivan Cromwell Represent BNP Paribas in Guilty Plea

Just this week BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, entered a guilty plea in New York State Court based upon a global deal with both the State of New York and the Justice Department, in which the bank has agreed to pay a $9 billion fine relating to transactions in blacklisted countries in violation of US trade sanctions. The bank entered its first guilty plea in State Court in New York on Monday, and will also enter a guilty plea in federal court.  BNP’s General Counsel entered the plea, flanked by the bank’s lawyers, Karen Patton Seymour, who is the co-managing partner of Sullivan Cromwell’s litigation group and has been frequently published for her role in representing the bank, and her partner Elizabeth Davy. The bank is pleading guilty to processing billions of dollars in transactions on behalf of clients in Sudan, Cuba, and Iran. The sanction brought by the Justice Department is the largest penalty in any criminal case involving a bank. And it is noteworthy that a woman criminal defense attorney is at the helm of one of the biggest white-collar cases ever brought against a bank in this country’s history. It’s another hopeful sign that the glass ceiling is beginning to bust wide open.
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