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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Interview with Caroline Judge Mehta

Caroline Judge Mehta, a member of Zuckerman Spaeder’s Legal Profession and Ethics Practice in Washington, DC, is an experienced advocate who represents individuals, business organizations, and other entities in criminal, regulatory and administrative investigations. She also advises lawyers and law firms on a variety of issues before the District of Columbia Bar and federal agencies. She has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America and Legal 500 US, in White Collar Criminal Defense. But her day doesn’t end with her legal work; she also writes a blog that’s published on Huffington Post, which she started at age 40. Her topics reflect what’s close to home, she says, and much of them relate to some of the topics in this interview. “Like so many lawyers, I love to write and express myself in ways that briefs and motions don’t allow,” she explains. Our conversation on topics both professional and personal will no doubt strike a familiar chord with many of you. How did you get experience in handling white collar matters? I’ve been so fortunate to be trained by the best trial lawyers anywhere.  I took every meaningful litigation opportunity you can get at a “small” trial firm – civil or criminal – and got on my feet in court every chance I could.  I’m at one of the few firms that wants to train lawyers from the bottom up.  That means pushing young people out in front, early on, making them an equal player on the team in the client’s eyes, and trusting younger lawyers to handle larger and larger portions of cases. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for women in the white collar field? Keeping younger women in the profession.  It’s still an extremely tough tightrope walk, and I get why many women leave.  But we won’t have a healthy white collar bar unless we keep making strides on gender equality.  In the private sector, that means generating business, and it means mentoring and supporting each other and the women of the next generation. Has there been a representation of a client that has most stayed with you through the years and why? I think they all stay with me.  One of the best moments of my life was calling a client who had been the target of a criminal antitrust investigation that dragged on for about four years.  We made a last pitch to DOJ, along with the company’s outside counsel (who both had the temerity to fight and stood up for the individual executives), and we got a declination – and that was after we’d all received target letters.  I reached my client in his car, and he had to pull over because he was overcome with emotion.   There aren’t enough days like that, but when they happen you cherish them and remember why you chose to do this work. What part of defending a client most fuels you? Drains you? Like most of us, I want to win.  But I’m fueled by the challenge of helping a person navigate one of the most difficult crises he or she will face in life.  I get to do everything in my power – a unique power we as lawyers wield in society – to help my client get to the other side of that crisis. And what drains me?  In a way, the very same thing.  You carry that weight with you throughout, and you never put it down.  You’re either on that journey with your client, or you should be in a different line of work. Is there any unique aspect about being a woman that either helps or hinders you when you are defending a client? It’s hard to answer that without falling prey to stereotypes.  But I often observe that women will sit back and listen a lot longer before they insert themselves into the conversation.  You learn a lot more by listening than by talking.  I’ve often had male colleagues ask, “How did you know ___?”  And the answer will be that I heard the client or a witness or an opposing counsel say it. This is a profession in which all of us like to talk, and that’s a lot of the fun of it.  But I always think of that quote by Maya Angelou, who stayed silent for five years after a childhood trauma.  In that time, she read all of Shakespeare, Poe, Kipling, Burns. ...
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Arresting Officer in Freddie Gray Case Found Not Guilty

Baltimore policeman Edward Nero, implicated in the death of Freddie Gray last year, was found not guilty of all criminal charges. Nero was tried before a judge and is the second officer of six charged to stand trial for Gray's death. But Nero is the first to resolve his case, according to Slate. A trial last year for Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury and the case will be tried again. Perhaps informed by Porter's experience, Nero opted for a bench trial, meaning this case was argued before a judge only and not a jury. It was a good choice for him, considering he was found not guilty. The State's Arguments The judge reportedly accepted Officer Nero's defense and was said to be unconvinced by the state's case throughout the five-day trial. His hesitation may have stemmed from the state's arguments, which essentially blamed Nero for his involvement in an arrest with no probable cause and called for judicial scrutiny of day-to-day policing. Prosecutors said Nero, who was on bike patrol and asked to chase Gray, should not have aided in the arrest without inquiring as to the circumstances. Nero should have asked why his fellow officers were chasing Freddy Gray, rather than just following orders and going after the fleeing suspect, the state argued. But Judge Barry Williams was not buying it. According to Slate, he "made [that] abundantly clear ... at one point asking Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe whether she was suggesting that every time there is an arrest without probable cause, it is a crime." The Defense's Arguments The defense argued that Nero had a limited role in the arrest and did not arrest or cuff Gray. Judge Williams apparently accepted this, in part based on witness testimony corroborating the claim that Nero did not contribute as much to Gray's arrest as other officers. Next Up Another officer is scheduled to stand trial next month, on June 6, and there are four more cases to resolve after that. The Baltimore Police Department issued a statement after Nero's case concluded today, saying he will remain under internal investigation and on administrative duties until all of the officers implicated in Freddie Gray's death have resolved their criminal cases. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can You Choose Not to Have a Jury Trial? (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter) What Are the Charges in the Freddie Gray Cases? (FindLaw Blotter) First Freddie Gray Death Case Ends in in Mistrial (FindLaw Blotter)
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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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Can I Sue for Being Overworked?

You’re lucky if you work 40 hours per week. Many other employees work 50, 60, or even 70 hours per week. Constantly working too many hours can have serious negative impact on your health, your state of mind, and even your social life. Are you overworking yourself because you need extra money? Or, is your employer overworking you because the business doesn’t want to hire another employee? Can you sue for being overworked? No Law Limits an Employee’s Hours There is no law limiting the total number of hours an employer can make an employee work. So, there is no cause of action for you to sue for being overworked.However, there may be other issues that can enable you to sue or to seek compensation. Overtime Pay An employer can require you to work as many hours as they want as long as they pay you. Federal and state labor laws require overtime pay for hours worked above a certain level. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay overtime if an employee works more than 40 hours per week. Any hours worked over 40 hours must be paid at one and one half the employee’s regular rate of pay. Sadly, this rule currently does not apply to exempt employees who perform executive, professional, or administrative duties. Some state laws are even more generous to employees. In California, employers must pay overtime if an employee works more than eight hours per day, even if they do not eventually work more than 40 hours per week. If your employer is making your work more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day, in certain states, without paying overtime, consult an experienced wage and hour law attorney for help. Workers’ Compensation In addition to suing for overtime, you may be able to make a workers’ compensation claim if overworking affects you physically. According to the Mayo Clinic, working too much can cause headache, neck pain, back pain, depression, or chronic fatigue. Also, if you work more than 10 hours per day, you have 60 percent higher chance of getting a heart attack than someone who works only eight hours per day. When you are injured at work by your work duties or the conditions of your work, workers’ compensation pays you for your medical bills and lost wages. If you suffer an injury because you are overworked, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help. Related Resources: Hurt on the job? Have your injury claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) Ca. Overtime Laws Apply to Nonresident Workers (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Could Young Associate’s Death Have Been From Overworking at Firm? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates) Did Long Hours, Overwork Kill Skadden Associate, 32? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)
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After a DUI Arrest, Don’t Forget Your DMV Hearing

In the aftermath of a DUI arrest, it's important to remember that in addition to the criminal charges you are facing, you may also have a limited amount of time to request a hearing with your state's DMV in order to avoid a lengthy driver's license suspension. In most states, immediately following a driving under the influence arrest, a person essentially has two different cases to deal with: the criminal case in criminal court and the administrative case through a state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent vehicle registration agency. Why is it important to know about this administrative hearing process? Driver's License Suspension In most states, a driver who's been pulled over and cited for suspected DUI will have his or her driver's license automatically suspended. In order to have your driver's license reinstated, a person arrested for DUI must file a request for a hearing within a specific number of days, typically 10, although the exact deadline varies by state. In Colorado, for example, drivers who have their license revoked following a DUI arrest only have 7 days to request a hearing. Even if your criminal DUI charges are dropped or you negotiate a plea to a lesser charge -- such as a "wet reckless" -- failure to request a DMV hearing may mean that your driver's license will remain suspended or revoked (although in some states, such as California, you may be able to regain your driving privileges if you are acquitted in criminal court). What Happens at a DMV Hearing? The DMV hearing is an administrative, not criminal, proceeding, but you still have the right to have an attorney present. You can also present evidence and testimony on your own behalf. Unlike in criminal court, where a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, DMV hearings generally operate under a lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof similar to that often found in civil trials. The DMV hearing is not conducted in front of a judge, but rather a hearing officer. However, the hearing is similar to a criminal trial in that the law enforcement officer who made the arrest must show that you were lawfully arrested for operating a vehicle over the legal limit of intoxication or that you refused to submit to a chemical test in violation of a state's implied consent laws. If you have questions about DMV hearings in your state, a DUI attorney will know the law and may be able to help you regain your driving privileges. You can also learn more about DUI arrests, charges, and penalties at FindLaw's section on DUI Law. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) How to Reinstate a License After a DUI (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Questions to Ask a DUI Lawyer (FindLaw's Blotter) What Happens If You Refuse a DUI Breath Test? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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