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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Was Madeleine Albright Wrong?

There has been much media attention given recently to a statement made by Secretary Madeleine Albright at a Hillary Clinton event that, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” This caused an angry backlash, mainly from younger women. Although it’s safe to assume that Albright didn’t mean to imply that women should face eternal damnation on the basis of their selection of a presidential candidate, it was clear she was making a point about the responsibility of women to support women. But was she wrong in the larger context about the need for women to support other women? Secretary Albright’s comment merits analysis in the criminal defense community as well, an area where women have been historically and are currently underrepresented. It is undisputed that female criminal defense attorneys face a range of unique hurdles in our profession: from questions about whether we are tough enough to represent criminals; to being forced to confront humiliating clothing practices directed at women to gain access to our incarcerated clients; to struggles generating business when most referral sources are male. Working harder or being smarter is often not enough to enable us to overcome these gender hurdles alone. Should successful female criminal defense attorneys just focus on their own careers and clients or do we owe it to other women in our profession to support them as well? Although no female criminal defense attorney should be made to feel guilty for not doing enough to help others, male or female, don’t we owe it to other women criminal defense attorneys to support them when we can? Wouldn’t we benefit from having more people who look like us, face similar challenges as us, and have common experiences as us in the courtroom defending clients with us? Can younger women really succeed in this area without the support of other women? I would argue that Secretary Albright was not wrong, neither in the words used or in the sentiment behind them. We as advocates understand that one must often be provocative to cause meaningful action to occur; indeed, to bring about action is the meaning of the term provocative. And meaningful action is needed. We must act to support one another, whether as a friend, mentor, referral source, or in countless other ways. If we don’t support each other, we will find ourselves by ourselves in a profession where community is crucial. If we don’t support each other, we risk not only a lack of advancement in the profession for ourselves and our younger female colleagues, but our own marginalization. Secretary Albright wasn’t wrong. In fact, she couldn’t be more right. Her now famous quote is not about eternal damnation- it is a call to action. She intends to provoke change for women, she intends to empower women, and she intends to harshly criticize women who refuse to support the advancement of other women. We should use Secretary Albright’s words as a reminder to those of us in this field to remain cognizant of the hurdles facing female criminal defense attorneys and to support each other however and whenever we can. And I too believe, there is a special place in hell for those of us that don’t. The post Was Madeleine Albright Wrong? appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Interview of Rebecca LeGrand, Partner at Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon PLLC

This week I had the privilege of talking to Rebecca LeGrand, a partner at Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon PLLC in Washington, DC.  She has vast experience representing individuals facing criminal charges in federal court or subject to a government investigation. Before joining Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon, Rebecca worked as a litigator at Williams & Connolly LLP and Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, where she represented both individuals and corporate clients in high-stakes civil and criminal litigation.  Rebecca also worked as a volunteer attorney at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, where she helped clients navigate complex sentencing issues and criminal investigations.  Rebecca graduated from Yale Law School, where she was the co-editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal of Health Policy. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and she has a master’s degree from Duke in evolutionary biology.  I hope you will love getting to know Rebecca as much as I did. What drew you towards a career in criminal defense? I like being on the side of the underdog, and working with individuals who desperately need someone on their side when it feels like all the powers that be have turned on them. You have your own criminal defense firm with two other partners. Can you describe your path to opening up your own firm? I was looking for a different way to practice law.  I was incredibly lucky to start my career at Williams & Connolly, which was a great place to learn how to be a litigator, but I never saw myself as a big firm person. I heard stories from the old guard about what Williams & Connolly was like when it was just starting out, and that sounded like such a great way to practice law.  The legal market is different now, but there are still a lot of clients who need zealous, smart, representation and want to (or have to) work with a smaller firm.  I wanted to create that firm, and I got incredibly lucky to find partners who shared that vision. What have been some of your proudest moments in representing clients? I’m really proud of this recent three-day evidentiary hearing where I represented a client in a post-conviction matter.  It is a female client who I believe was wrongfully convicted.  There were so many ways that the system let her down when she was tried and convicted.  Finally having a zealous advocate fight for her and share her story was so meaningful for her and her family.  That responsibility is humbling, and it’s why you do this work.  I’m also very proud of the work that I do outside the courtroom, behind the scenes.  It’s a devastating thing to be charged with a crime at all.  When I can help a client navigate an investigation to avoid criminal charges I know I’ve done something really significant to protect them and their families from that trauma. How did the presence of women mentors or lack thereof impact your career? I wish I’d done more to cultivate mentors in general when I was younger.  It’s so important to have those relationships, but it’s easy to neglect when you are juggling cases and feel like you are spending so much time keeping up with emails.  I didn’t have a lot of women to look to as mentors, and that does make it harder.  Because of that, I really appreciate the women who took time to mentor me even when I was an annoying associate and did not necessarily make it easy – I give a hat tip to Kathy Zecca on that point. There aren’t enough of us out there and we have to stick together. Of the women that you admire in the field, what do you find inspiring about them? Simply that they are putting themselves out there, even when the deck is stacked against them, and finding a way to do the work they want, and doing it well. Most important weapon in your defense arsenal? My science background.  In fact I rely on my science background in defending clients, even though I’m not working anywhere near a lab anymore. My science training taught me to approach evidence in a rigorous way.  And I really enjoy working with numbers and big data sets, which is an important skill when I’m dealing with, say, a complex financial case.  Sometimes I get to use science even more directly—like cross-examining a government expert—but I use that training in less direct ways as well to help me think about the facts of a case, and the government’s proof, or lack thereof. Best advice you ever received? ...
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Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All

Every once in awhile, we meet people who truly inspire us to be better people and better lawyers. Marjorie Peerce is one of those people. As a partner in the New York office of Ballard Spahr she focuses her practice on white collar, regulatory and commercial defense. Yet since 2014, in addition to her busy practice, she has made time to work tirelessly to recruit and train volunteer lawyers to provide free legal assistance to federal inmates who may be eligible to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President of the United States. Over 3,000 attorneys across the country have volunteered their time to work on this project, including 100 lawyers from Ballard Spahr. Every application submitted by Ballard Spahr is reviewed by Marjorie. She recently saw the first fruits of her labor and that of her colleagues when, on March 29, 2016, Obama granted clemency to 61 federal inmates, 25 of whom came through Clemency Project 2014 and two of whom were represented by Ballard Spahr attorneys. To put this in context, on April 23, 2014, former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced the DOJ’s initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President. Under the clemency initiative, the DOJ is prioritizing applications from inmates who meet the following criteria: • Currently serving a federal prison sentence and likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today; • Non-violent, low-level offender without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels; • Have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence; • Do not have a significant criminal history; • Have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and • Have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment. Approximately 35,000 inmates responded to a Bureau of Prisons questionnaire indicating that they believe they meet the clemency criteria. After the clemency initiative was announced, the Administrative Office of Courts determined that inmates do not have a 6th Amendment right to counsel for the purpose of seeking clemency. As a result, federal money cannot be used to pay attorneys employed by the Federal Defenders or through the Criminal Justice Act to represent inmates under this initiative. In an effort to address the need for federal inmates to obtain legal assistance in submitting clemency applications, Clemency Project 2014 (“CP 2014)” was formed by lawyers from the Federal Defenders, American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”). CP 2014 lawyers screen inmate requests to determine if they meet the clemency criteria, assign a volunteer lawyer to prisoners who appear to qualify, then assist the inmate in filing the clemency request. To date, 250 clemency applications have been granted by the President; approximately 60 of those applications came through CP 2014. I spoke to Marjorie about the two individuals recently granted clemency by the President who had been assisted by Ballard Spahr attorneys. Kevin County, a 43 year old African American, was convicted in New Orleans for selling small amounts of crack cocaine and heroin. Because he had a prior felony conviction, he received a sentence of 20 years (240 months) in prison and has already served 167 months. He was scheduled for release in 2020. Under current law, Mr. County would have been sentenced to 70-80 months in prison. Last week, Marjorie, together with Joanna Jiang and Erica Leatham, the Ballard Spahr attorneys who worked directly with Mr. County, called Mr. County in prison to tell him that he had been granted clemency by the President and would be released in July. Mr. County’s response was simple but powerful: “God bless you! Thank you!” Marjorie spoke to the New York Times after the announcement and praised President Obama for commuting the sentences of 61 federal inmates including Mr. County and stated “[t]he war on drugs from the 1990s resulted in inordinately harsh and long prison sentences for offenders who did not deserve to serve that length of time.” The other Ballard Spahr client, Angela Laplatney, was represented by Ballard’s Salt Lake City office, including Blake Wade and Melanie Clarke, also received a grant of clemency from a 20 year sentence for selling methamphetamine in Wyoming. Ms. Laplatney had served over 10 years of her sentence and was scheduled to be released in 2022. She, like Mr. County, will be released in July. Marjorie is grateful to Ballard Spahr for supporting the work of CP 2014, and noted that “pro bono is ingrained in the DNA of the firm.” She likewise praised the work of her NACDL partners, Jane Anne Murray and Norman Reimer, who serve on CP 2014’s Steering Committee with her, through which they certify that applications submitted through CP 2014 meet the clemency criteria. Marjorie told me that in over 30 years of practicing law, her work with CP 2014 has been “the single best thing” she’s done. She is on a mission to help as many federal inmates as possible who are serving sentences that, under current law, are “obscenely severe.” The recent grants of clemency by the President have further fueled Marjorie’s drive to help these inmates, and there is no doubt that her efforts in recruiting, training, and mentoring volunteer attorneys will pay off and change the lives of people who, until now, have been resigned to spending many more years in prison. Marjorie’s enthusiasm for CP 2014 is contagious. Lawyers who, like Marjorie Peerce, are willing to give up some of their time to work on this project will cherish the rare opportunity to change lives. By: Sharon L. McCarthy Partner, Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP New York, New York The post Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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