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Interview with Penny Cooper, “Champion of the Marginalized”

Penny Cooper has a real and enduring legacy, as is reflected in the documentary about her life and work entitled Penny: A Documentary Film. Penny practiced for 36 years in San Francisco after graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1964 and is now retired.  She was a “lawyer’s lawyer” and was one of the first women criminal defense lawyers to try a major white-collar crime case, but she would tell you she preferred defending people charged with general criminal offenses.  She argued before the United States Supreme Court, which is rare for any lawyer, let alone a female.  She was known for her cross-examination skills and a long list of wins and high-profile acquittals; yet in-spite of this she has a keen understanding of the most important aspect of what it means to be a criminal defense attorney, that is that “[i]t’s not just the drama of going to court and objecting and winning or losing, it’s really managing people’s lives when they get into difficulty or trouble.” The documentary aptly described her as a “champion of the marginalized.” Penny was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame by the California State Bar’s Litigation Section in 2010, with long-time law partner, Cris Arguedas.  It was such an honor to interview one of the true legends of the criminal defense bar. I feel so lucky to have had an opportunity to have met and listened to this true defender, who forged a path for many of us to follow. I hope you will be as inspired by Penny Cooper as I am.   How did you get interested in criminal defense and what kind of cases did you handle? I am a product of the 60’s. I graduated from law school in 1964 from Berkeley.  The fall of 1964 was the free speech movement. We were just getting the civil rights amendment passed.  It was an era where everybody felt strongly one way or another about civil rights and criminal defense.  It was the only thing I was really interested in. I practiced for 36 years and I handled every kind of case.  My greatest day of practice was when I was coming home after having handled a traffic case for some guy who owned a winery who had entered the freeway the wrong way and was ticketed. I was representing him and I got the case dismissed because the law had been repealed. That same day, as I was driving home, I learned that we had won our case in the United States Supreme Court – United States vs. Merchant, 480 U.S. 615 (1987). This is the best way to express the breadth of my practice. I did everything from handling a traffic case in a little municipal court to arguing and winning a case before the United States Supreme Court. Without question, you were a pioneer for women in the field. What was it like to be one of the few women in the field when you started and did you know at the time that you were opening doors for other women in criminal defense? I have a very close female friend whom I went to law school with, and we laugh about it all the time because we didn’t even know what feminism was and we didn’t realize we should have been treated differently. We were just treated the way we were and it was really bad, but we just kind of laughed at it and soldiered through.  The dean of the law school was William Prosser, who was one of my teachers and he didn’t believe that women should be in law school – period. In my section, there were 90 people and only 3 women – and he didn’t call on women because he just figured it was a waste of time. In that era that’s just what people believed. Nick Johnson, who was another professor and who later became Lyndon B. Johnson’s head of the Federal Trade Commission, believed that it was so ridiculous to have women in law school; he said he was going to treat women equally — so in our class he called on man – woman – man – woman. Then we had a professor who transferred from Harvard, named Raoul Berger, and he would say “now stand up like a man and recite.” And we just took it all.  And we kind of laughed about it and still laugh about it.  It was only years later that we realized we had a right to expect something else. In law school we even had a segregated conference room where we would take our breaks and the men were someplace else. I remember when JFK was assassinated, we had to get permission from the dean to be able to watch the television, which was located in the men’s conference room. Here we were at Berkeley, the bastion of liberalism, which wasn’t so liberal back then. So, when I entered the public defender’s office there was only one other woman at the time but she was on her way out. The guy who hired me, the public defender, told me he didn’t really think women belonged in that office because it was like sailing down a sewer in a glass bottom boat. ...
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US and Cuba OK Commercial Flights

President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro continue to work on improving US-Cuban relations, last week announcing flights between the two countries will resume. But most Americans are still officially prohibited from traveling to Cuba, according to the State Department, and there are no plans in place to actually resume commercial flights anytime soon. They have just been approved. Despite the prohibition on American tourist travel to Cuba, some Americans and countless other tourists from around the world have long visited the island nation even without direct flights. And tourism in Cuba today is booming, according to reports from National Public Radio. Sticking Points Remain In the past year, Cuba and the U.S. have agreed to cooperate on drug traffic control, environmental protections, and the re-establishment of direct mail. But full relations have yet to be restored and neither country has seen all its demands met by the other. Cuba wants the U.S. to lift its economic embargo and pay reparations, which the Castro regime says amount to $120 billion. The U.S. is seeking $18 billion for property seized in the communist takeover, and an improvement in human rights. "Most tourists still cannot legally visit Cuba, but a State Department spokesman says having a stronger aviation relationship will promote authorized travel and improve people-to-people contact," according to NPR's Carrie Kahn. Island Vacations? American planes are not going to be flying tourists to Cuba immediately, but the aviation agreement is a clear signal that relations between the nations continue to improve and that we could be vacationing in Cuba soon. The deal struck between Obama and Castro will allow up 20 flights a day to Havana from the US and up to 10 daily flights to Cuba's other airports. In total, this will allow for about 110 possible flights between the countries every day. Right now, there are no commercial flights actually planned between the countries, just approved. Currently, charter flights do travel directly between Cuba and the U.S. and are allowed to travel with unlimited frequency. Hopefully soon, the rest of will be allowed to do so, too. If you have questions foreign travel, obtaining a visa to go abroad, or even foreign adoption, speak to a lawyer. Counsel can help you sort out your options. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer (FindLaw Directory) Who Can Legally Travel to Cuba? (FindLaw) Can US Passport Holders Travel to Cuba Now? (FindLaw)
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Supreme Court Calendar: 3 Cases to Watch in January 2016

After a momentous 2015 that saw the Supreme Court save Obamacare (again), give same-sex couples the right to marry, and preserve the death penalty (for now), the Court's October term moves into 2016. While the January session doesn't appear as juicy as previous dockets, there are some cases that will no doubt have a lasting impact. Here are three cases to watch in January 2016 as the Supreme Court closes out the October 2015 term: 1. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (January 11) Even if teachers and other public employees don't want to join a union, they can benefit from the union's collective bargaining on their behalf. Therefore, the Court has previous held that public employees may be required to pay union fees, even if they have opted out of joining the union. These are called "agency shop" arrangements, whereby public employees are still represented by the union for purposes of collective bargaining, but those who opt out of union membership only an agency fee for a "fair share" of the union's costs and unions are prohibited from spending nonmembers' agency fees on "ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining." But a group of California teachers are saying that even public-sector collective bargaining is political speech and they shouldn't be compelled them to subsidize that speech. The Supreme Court will decide whether these "agency shop" arrangements and violate the First Amendment. 2. Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle (January 13) Is Puerto Rico part of the United States? Sort of -- it is a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, but no star on the flag or senator in Congress. Puerto Rico has its own Supreme Court, but also a U.S. District Court. So how does double jeopardy work with these two court systems? Luis Sanchez Valle was indicted in a Puerto Rican court on gun charges, and then also indicted in a U.S. federal court based on the same facts. His lawyers argued that this was essentially charging someone twice for the same crime, violating the prohibitions on double jeopardy. The Supreme Court will decide whether Puerto Rico and the federal government are separate sovereigns for purposes of double jeopardy. 3. Heffernan v. City of Paterson (January 19) Can public employees get demoted if their boss thinks they support a certain candidate? In this case a city police officer (Heffernan) was demoted after another officer saw him holding a campaign sign for a mayoral candidate (Spagnola) who was running against his chief's chosen candidate (Torres). And here's where it gets even murkier: Heffernan is friends with Spagnola, but wasn't working with the campaign or even campaigning at the time -- he was picking up the sign for his bed-ridden mother. The Court will have to decide whether Heffernan has a valid First Amendment claim based on his boss's incorrect perception of his "speech." Keep an eye on FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blog and Supreme Court blog as we update the oral arguments and the rulings in these and other major SCOTUS cases throughout 2016. Related Resources: The Big 4: Major Cases and Legal Issues of 2015 (FindLaw's Decided) The 5 Most Important Supreme Court Cases of 2015 (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog) Supreme Court Could Soon Ban the Death Penalty, Scalia Says (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog) Supreme Court Calendar: 3 Cases to Watch in November (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Texas Law Puts Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms

A new Texas law will require cameras in classrooms with special education students and teachers after an investigation revealed questionable practices in some schools, according to a report from National Public Radio. Last year, a video of an 8-year-old autistic child held captive on the floor in a "calm room" resembling a closet -- over his protests -- was publicized. It prompted parents of special education students to demand cameras in classrooms across the state. The Texas law is the first of its kind in the country but it may be the beginning of a new trend in teaching, given the rise of cameras in policing. Child and Teacher Protection Some teachers resent the intrusion, although video could protect them from false accusations of mistreatment. But there are limits on filming in place in the law. Footage cannot be used in teacher evaluations, audio capability is required for context, and cameras are forbidden in bathrooms. The law's critics say Texas missed the opportunity to better train and compensate teachers, rather than spending on educator surveillance. There is concern that cameras will be a strain on school budgets. Not every school has to install them automatically or even at all. But districts must provide cameras upon request by a parent or school staff member. "Teachers are mixed, and the districts don't like the mandates," said Monty Exter, a lobbyist with the Austin-based Association of Texas Professional Educators. The law, which takes effect at the start of the next school year, applies to all of the state's public schools and charters, and to any self-contained classroom in which at least half the students receive special-ed services for at least half the day. A Major Expense The potential expense imposed by the new law is significant, as there are costs beyond camera equipment, such as added servers, microphones, archival capabilities, ceiling mounts, and labor fees. Plus, some rooms may need more than one camera. "We have to figure out how to store the video and audio, and that's a very expensive thing to do," said Robbie Stinnett, a director of special education for the Duncanville Independent School District. She says she has already received requests for cameras from three parents and expects more. "Schools are stretched," Stinnett said. "If [a bill] becomes law, it needs to be funded, because public education isn't funded well enough to add stuff on top of it." Consult With Counsel If you have a child with special needs, speak to a special education lawyer. Consult with counsel and get help even if you do not suspect mistreatment. A lawyer can help you secure the services your child needs at school. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer (FindLaw Directory) Disability Access to Education (FindLaw) Selecting a Special Education Lawyer (FindLaw)
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When Can You Serve Someone via Publication in a Newspaper?

Serving the other side with notice of a lawsuit is typically done in person or through the mail. In some cases, however, a person may be served by publication in a newspaper. Following the filing of a complaint -- the document which describes the lawsuit and identifies the parties involved -- the party filing the lawsuit must complete what is known as "service of process." There are typically very specific rules for how service must be completed, depending on the type of case and the jurisdiction in which it is being filed. Generally speaking, however, when can you serve process via publication? When All Else Fails... Typically, a plaintiff is first required to attempt to locate the defendant and serve him or her through personal service -- in which a defendant is personally handed the summons and complaint -- or substitute service in which the papers are left at a defendant's home or business, or delivered via certified mail. Many times, a person who may not know where to find a defendant can hire a professional process server to accomplish service of process. However, when the defendant is unable to be located or avoids being served by other means, a plaintiff may be able to request to serve the defendant via publication, usually in a newspaper or other widely distributed publication. The notice is then posted in a newspaper or publication approved by the court for the required length of time. In California family law cases, for example, the required document must be published once a week for four weeks in a row. How Does Service by Publication Work? Service of process is intended to put the defendant on notice of a lawsuit and give him the opportunity to defend himself should he so choose. In order to proceed with the lawsuit, the plaintiff filing the lawsuit must show that he has put the defendant on notice by showing proof of service. In the event that service by publication is allowed, the defendant is typically considered to have been put on constructive notice. Constructive notice does not require that the defendant ever actually received notice of the lawsuit, only that the means by which process was legally sufficient to fulfill the notice requirement. If you need help with your lawsuit, a lawyer who specializes in civil litigation can explain the legal options available for service of process. You can also find more tips for how to sue at FindLaw's section on Filing a Lawsuit. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer by Practice Area and Location (FindLaw) Legal How-To: Responding to a Lawsuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Proof of Service Can Often Prove Tricky (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Kesha, Dr. Luke's Lawsuit, and the Chicken-Sticker Process Server (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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Labor Day: 5 Employment Law Changes in 2014

For more than 100 years, Labor Day has been a federal holiday celebrating the role played by the American worker in shaping our nation's prosperity. And though Labor Day remains the first Monday of every September, what have certainly changed over the last 100 years are the laws governing labor. From wage and hour rules to workplace safety regulations, employment law is constantly evolving. To mark this year's Labor Day, here are five noteworthy changes to employment laws so far in 2014: Minimum wage increase for federal contract workers. During his State of the Union speech earlier this year, President Obama announced that he was going to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers. A month later, he signed an executive order to that effect, reports Reuters, raising the federal contract worker minimum wage to $10.10 an hour starting January 1st, 2015. State minimum wage increases. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states and Washington D.C. raised the state minimum wage in 2014. These states include Hawaii, Michigan, Vermont, and Rhode Island. California whistleblower protections. California kicked off 2014 by rolling out changes to state employment laws protecting whistleblowers, reports The Wall Street Journal. Among the new rules are expanded prohibitions from employer retaliation against employees who report suspected illegal activity internally, including rules guarding against employers who take action against an employee in anticipation of that employee reporting illegal activity. Veteran discrimination protection. There were several new laws passed in 2014 prohibiting employers from discriminating against veterans of the armed services. In Indiana, HEA 1242 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against veterans of any armed services branch or current members of the Indiana National Guard. Added protections for pregnant women. Also added to the list of protected classes for purposes of workplace discrimination law: pregnant women. Earlier this year, New Jersey amended its state Law Against Discrimination to include pregnant women and women who have recently given birth, reports Think Progress. The federal Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission also issued new guidelines clarifying federal rules against pregnancy discrimination. If you have a question about labor law or feel your rights have been violated, an employment lawyer can help explain your legal options. And regardless, enjoy your Labor Day! Related Resources: What is Labor Day? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Things an Employment Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Requesting FMLA Leave From Your Employer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Your Boss Make You Work on a Holiday? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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ABAJ: Lawyer suspended for posting video of undercover drug buy in mistaken belief it exonerated client [it didn’t]

ABAJ: Lawyer suspended for posting video of undercover drug buy in mistaken belief it exonerated client by Debra Cassens Weiss: An Illinois lawyer will be suspended for five months for posting a discovery video of an undercover drug buy in the initial but apparently mistaken belief that it exonerated his client. Lawyer Jesse Raymond Gilsdorf was suspended in an Illinois Supreme Court order issued on March 14. The court agreed with the five-month-suspension recommendation by the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
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NLJ: Judiciary Hiring Public Defenders Again

NLJ: INADMISSIBLE: Judiciary Hiring Public Defenders Again: Federal defender offices, which lost approximately 400 employees because of last year's mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, have enough money in this year's budget to begin backfilling most of those positions, court officials said on March 11.
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