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Cristina Arguedas Presented with 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and Stetson University College of Law presented Cristina C. Arguedas with the 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award this last weekend.  It was an honor to be there and witness both the presentation and her acceptance of the award. Cris Arguedas was awarded this prestigious honor for her work in the FedEx case.  The successful defense of FedEx can only be described as a hero’s tale.  The irony that this defense was spearheaded by a woman and a small team isn’t lost on me. It’s amazing when you really consider the consequences of this win.  Not only is this one of the few times that a corporation has dared to take on the United States Government in a criminal prosecution.  But to consider that the herculean task of defending a corporate case of this size and magnitude was accomplished without an army of lawyers – which is typical in a corporate white collar case – not only speaks volumes about Arguedas but of the importance of mounting a defense at all.  More often than not the army of lawyers aren’t challenging the Government or forcing the Government to trial, but rather are working their way to a negotiated settlement.  It really doesn’t matter how many lawyers are representing a corporation if the evidence remains untested. As I have said before, it is easy to champion a winning theory in a conference room; it is a far different thing to champion it in the courtroom.  And that is exactly what Arguedas did in the FedEx case. The case completely imploded within days after the trial started. I am personally proud that this historical victory was led by one of our sisters in the field.  I have previously shared how much I admire Arguedas – and I am not alone.  She is without question one of the legends in the field.  Barry Pollack, President of NACDL, presented the award and gave a wonderful speech in which he imagined that legends in the field would have their own trading cards that we could collect, with trial victories and stats on the back. Since Arguedas was inducted into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2010 with Penny Cooper – another legend – his analogy was more than appropriate. As would be expected from Cris Arguedas, she accepted the award with grace and humility.  She didn’t take the opportunity to bask in the limelight but rather spoke passionately about the dangerous landscape of corporate criminal prosecutions, which has amounted to nothing short of Government bullying of Corporate America.  She shared with us the amount of pressure that she shouldered to fight against the baseless charges that she confronted in the FedEx case and the amount of painstaking preparation that went into the defense.  Indeed, the trial judge took the unusual step of concluding, on the record at the time of dismissing the charges, that FedEx was “factually innocent.” Arguedas’ acceptance speech was emblematic of everything that makes her great.  She is a true defender in every fiber of her being.  She is a fierce advocate.  The takeaway is that it does not take an army to fight an injustice lobbed by the Government.  Rather, it takes the spirit of a lion and the courage to strike back in defense. It’s that simple. The post Cristina Arguedas Presented with 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Female owned law firms may be the ticket for more women to gain first chair experience

In early 2016 Beth Wilkinson and Alexandra Walsh left big law to open their own firm in Washington, DC with a male partner in Los Angeles, Wilkinson, Walsh, + Eskovitz. In a recent ABA article, they talked about the lack of women who have experience trying complex cases in the legal field, and their commitment to change that inequity. Wilkinson told the ABA, “[d]ue to many things, there are far fewer women with first-chair trial experience, especially in large or complex cases, and therefore it is difficult for women without that type of experience to get those opportunities.” As of December, they had 30 lawyers and were looking to hire more.  Walsh correctly noted that “[i]f you go through trials enough, you see that things don’t always go perfectly. Beth messes things up. I definitely mess thing up…It’s how you learn.” Walsh shared the story that when she was in a large firm, Wilkinson was the only one willing to let her take an active role in trial and encouraged her that she could do it.  Unfortunately, many women don’t have a Beth Wilkinson that help them gain the necessary trial experience to grow into a first chair trial lawyer. We previously blogged about a report called First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table by the American Bar Foundation and the Commission on Women in the Profession. There is also a Temple University Beasley School of Law study of multidistrict ligation (MDL) appointments and gender.  Its 2016 research found that over a five-year period women made up only 15 percent of the lawyers appointed to first-tier leadership positions, and 19 percent for second-tier leadership positions.  Jaya Ramji-Nogales, a Temple law professor, oversaw the MDL study and chose these types of high profile litigation matters because they are so lucrative and so few women are appointed. Ramji-Nogales said that “[b]asically, these surveys document a phenomena that everyone knows is happening.” Wilkinson has the right attitude about trial experience and why she promotes associates around her being in court as frequently as possible, “[t]he quicker you’ve done your first witness, the easier it is to do your second witness…Every time you stand up, the stress is a little less and the confidence is better. Then you can enjoy the experience and you’re a trial lawyer.” Wilkinson and Walsh hope they can play a role in the increase of women who have first-chair trial experience. “I think you can either complain – which is what I sometimes do – or try to make a difference…[a]nd we’re trying to make a difference,” Wilkinson said. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of both accomplished women.  I was lucky enough to gain extensive trial experience early on working as a public defender and as a member of the CJA panel.  But, gaining this necessary experience is far more challenging in the private sector because women need someone like Wilkinson to take a chance on them.  Until more women have first chair experience, landing the elusive complex case will remain only a possibility, not a probability. Thankfully we have leaders like Wilkinson and Walsh who are willing to stand up and commit to changing these statistics for good. The post Female owned law firms may be the ticket for more women to gain first chair experience appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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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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Humanity and Hope is the Only Thing that Can Save Our Criminal Justice System

Late in the morning, January 19th I received a message from a woman I didn’t know from the Department of Justice.  She wouldn’t tell my assistant the reason for her call.  As any criminal defense attorney knows, unexplained inquiries from the federal government are not typically welcome phone calls. I immediately went through a list of investigation matters which could have precipitated such a call. I reached out to my law partner to warn her that we might be in for some bad news.  Her response was more optimistic than mine, saying, “Are you sure this isn’t your clemency petition?” That thought hadn’t occurred to me, because, this being the day before Inauguration Day, I had assumed that President Obama, had already issued his last round of pardons and commutations.   I quickly hung up and called the number.  The woman who left me the message answered. I introduced myself and she said she was calling from the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice.  My heart was in my throat.  Then the message came: she told me that President Obama was commuting my client’s sentence. I started crying the moment the words came out of her mouth. Once I composed myself, I learned that her office had already set up a call between my client and me, so that I could be the first person to share the news with him.  Telling my client that President Obama himself had decided that he was deserving of a second chance will always remain a highlight of my career. In total, President Obama granted clemency to 1927 individuals. Of those, 1715 were commutations and 212 were pardons.  While that number may sounds high, it is in fact quite low considering the large number of nonviolent drug offenders who are languishing in federal prisons throughout this country. During the full course of his presidency, President Obama received 36,544 petitions for clemency, which means ultimately he only granted around 5% of those petitions. It has been hard for me to put into words the gratitude that I feel to President Obama for the humanity he showed my client.  Especially because my client is someone who is nameless and faceless to much of our society.  It is easy to get behind the cause of someone who has notoriety because of either their position or media spotlight given their incarceration.  But to care about someone who is regarded as nothing more than a number in our system – a person who few would even notice if they were walking by – that is the true mark of a leader and a hero by my standards. For me, this client isn’t a number; he is a human being and deserving of this chance. He has paid his debt to society and then some and deserves an opportunity to have a chance to reenter that society. The fact that the President of the United States agreed gives me renewed hope. I have begun to think about the lessons to draw from this experience and from the Obama presidency in general. For me, these lessons are centered on humanity and hope. There are so many ways that our system has been made better and stronger for the hope and humanity that has been infused into it. From the Clemency Project, to the Holder Memos, to the effort to improve prisons by reevaluating solitary confinement and the privatization of federal prisons, and to the Justice Department’s conducting of investigations and using  consent decrees to eliminate unlawful conduct in local law enforcement agencies. The common thread that runs through these initiatives is that they infuse both humanity and hope in our system – the heart and soul of criminal justice reform.   When I heard that President Obama had commuted my client’s sentence, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude. It was partially from the relief that someone finally cared enough to listen to this young man’s story. But it was also a greater sense of redemption for all the moments that I have had to stomach watching a system that previously didn’t care; one void of humanity or hope.  Today, because of criminal justice reform our system is stronger, fairer, and more just. And we must fight to keep it that way. The post Humanity and Hope is the Only Thing that Can Save Our Criminal Justice System appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Christina Swarns argues racial bias before U.S. Supreme Court

Christina Swarns, director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. argued Buck v. Davis before the United States Supreme Court in October of this year. Buck is a case which involved the Fifth Circuit’s denial of a Certificate of Appealability (COA) to a Texas death row inmate on his death sentence appeal based on the argument that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for knowingly presenting a defense expert who testified that Buck’s identity as a black man increased the likelihood of his future dangerousness (likeliness of future dangerousness is a factor used in Texas courts to justify the death penalty over life in prison). It of course defies all logic why Buck’s counsel would have called a witness to provide this testimony, but such illogical and self-destructive tactics lay at the heart of Buck’s ineffective counsel argument. What made the denial of the COA so egregious was that the state of Texas had, in 2000, released a statement indicating that it would not object to death penalty appeals made on the basis of this exact expert’s testimony (notably, all of the other appeals had been based on the prosecution’s use of the “expert,” making the defense’s use of the expert all the more bewildering). Yet, during the argument before the Supreme Court the Solicitor General for Texas tried to distinguish that assurance between cases where the State called the expert versus when the defense had called the expert. That argument didn’t appear to be persuasive, as having your own attorney introduce such racially charged and damaging evidence would certainly seem to support an ineffective assistance of counsel argument. By all accounts the Justices seemed inclined to rule in Buck’s favor, with even Justice Alito commenting that the use of the testimony was “indefensible.” While the arguments and pending decision in Buck are highly relevant to those who work in the defense bar, what was also highly notable about Swarns’ argument in Buck was that it was one of very few occasions that a black woman has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Over the history of this country, those attorneys arguing before the Supreme Court have usually been white and usually been men. But this once highly exclusive club is changing, albeit slowly. Diversity in the highest court both on and in front of the bench continues to be an aspirational goal, and Swarns’ argument in October is a great step forward. Christina Swarns is an inspiring example to all female attorneys and attorneys of color desiring to help in the cause of justice. Swarns started out at the Legal Aid Society in Manhattan, and then began dedicating herself to death-penalty work at the capital unit of the Philadelphia Federal Community Defender’s Office. She later joined the Legal Defense Fund, first as Director of the Criminal Justice Project in 2003. In 2014, Swarms became the organization’s Director of Litigation. Swarns is considered a national expert on death penalty and race and speaks throughout the country on the issue. She was profiled in an ABA article titled Lady of Last Chance as well as in the Washington Post. In 2014, Christina was selected by the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School to be an Honorary Fellow in Residence, an honor given to an attorney who makes “significant contributions to the ends of justice at the cost of great personal risk and sacrifice.” Christina Swarns is an attorney whose ongoing dedication to living out a commitment to public service on behalf of defendants makes her a true champion of justice. The post Christina Swarns argues racial bias before U.S. Supreme Court appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Time to Get the Sledge Hammers Out

Although the loss of the opportunity to see the first woman become the president of the United States was both devastating and completely unpredictable (at least to me, as evidenced by my blog post here), as criminal defense attorneys we have a first-hand understanding that, when an injustice occurs, that means it’s our time to gear up for a fight. This isn’t the time to sit on the sidelines, feeling sorry for ourselves and fearful of what comes next. It’s time to get our sledge hammers out and start forcing the glass ceiling open ourselves. As much as I believed that this election would serve as a statement that things were changing for women through Hillary winning, her loss is a statement of how deep the roots of inequality still are for women in our culture when a supremely qualified woman is passed over for a man with no experience. It was hard to explain to my eight-year-old daughter what happened and why our country didn’t celebrate or embrace the opportunity to put the first woman into the White House. And on hearing the news, she was shattered and angry. Hillary spoke to her and countless other young girls in her concession speech when she said: To all the women and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder then to be your champion. Now, I know, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every change and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. So what to do? For me the answer is simple, we have to dig deeper and do more. This isn’t the time to stop. It’s time to ramp up. I personally refuse to accept that we are second- or third-class citizens. I am not accepting the scraps from the men that will be holding the power in this country come January. We have to work together to change that. We need to walk the walk. We need to open doors for each other. We need to make sure that we include each other at every table we are seated at. We need to take our successes and stop simply asking for them. We need to refuse to accept second-chair positions and insignificant token roles just so we can be in the room. And above all – as many times as I have said this on this blog I will say it again until I am blue in the face – we need to SEND EACH OTHER BUSINESS. We are the only ones who are going to assure our own success. If this election teaches us one thing, it is that we need to take primary responsibility in looking out for one another out there. The post Time to Get the Sledge Hammers Out appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler

As I let the results of the election sink in, one of the biggest fears that I have is that it will now be socially acceptable for people to be mean to others based on their membership in a group, whether it be women or minorities or immigrants or gays or anybody else who is not part of the white male establishment. Nobody can deny that the recent presidential election has been one of the ugliest in our lifetimes with women being called names and being publicly criticized for their appearance and for speaking out against assault and Hispanic politicians being called liars and having their judgment questioned based on their cultural heritage. I have heard people praise the Donald Trump campaign for making it okay not to be politically correct and for him saying things that others think but are afraid to say, and I fear his affirmation through the election will make such hurtful and regressive discourse even more common and tolerated than it already is. Although we can debate whether political correctness has gone too far, I think we can agree that it is not okay to vilify and hate others based on their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. So what can we as female criminal defense attorneys, who see the debilitating effects of stereotyping on a daily basis, do for the next four years? I suggest that we become stronger together to fight to make this nation kinder and gentler despite our divisions. We must speak out against hatred of all types, whether it be in the form of racial or religious profiling or gender stereotyping. We must raise our voices even louder to speak out against injustice when we see it and fight harder in our local communities to eradicate it. We must speak up publicly in and out of court when our clients have been victims of hate or are being judged in whole or in part because of their membership in a group. And when our clients are the haters, advocate for the punishment designed to rehabilitate rather than lead to recidivism by embedding the hatred even further. I also suggest that we use our economic power to make changes. We must support local women and minority-owned business (and lawyers) and boycott businesses associated with those who hate. We must spend our charitable dollars on local organizations which work to empower girls and immigrants rather than on charitable foundations which make their officers and directors richer. We must support candidates at the local level who will fight for the values we believe in. Let politicians see that we will vote with our purses as well as through the pulpit and polls. I suggest strongly that we work together to be stronger and to make this country kinder and gentler every day in our local courts and communities and that we show the public and the Government and its officials that smart, kind, strong, and gentle female criminal defense lawyers can make a difference. The post Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Air Force One is About to Crash Through the Glass Ceiling

On this historic election day when our country will hopefully elect its first woman president, I am filled with hope and excitement. I took my daughter with me to the poll this morning so she could one day tell her daughter that she was there to witness this moment in history. When I told her that, 100 years ago, women still did not have a right to vote, let alone have a chance of becoming President, there was a look of bewilderment on her face as she processed such a foreign concept from a not-so-very distant time in our history. Already this historic presidential race has inspired my daughter to one day want to be president too. But it’s not just our daughters that are affected by this race; after the ballots are counted, all women everywhere will be living in a new world, forever changed. I have never intended for this blog to be political and I don’t intend to start now. However, regardless of your party affiliation or political beliefs, the significance of this moment for all women and women criminal defense attorneys cannot be overstated. This isn’t just another break in the glass ceiling – Air Force One is crashing straight through it as a woman will take over the most powerful job in the world. That doesn’t mean we still don’t have work to do. We still have enormous pay inequity in law. We still have women leaving the practice of law in much larger percentages than their male counterparts. Women are still seriously underrepresented as equity partners in law firms. We still have men outpacing women as being named lead counsel in larger, more lucrative complex litigation matters, and this is especially true in larger white collar matters. Yet, I can’t help but feel like we women criminal defense attorneys can breathe a little easier when we survey our remaining issues after witnessing the shattering of the glass ceiling this election cycle. And that new breath might give life to a renewed energy to work through the problems that remain. During the last two months I have struggled with finding the time to blog, falling short of the promise I made to myself that I would “never” miss a week. I’m not sure if this is a testament to the Anne-Marie Slaughter line of thinking that women can’t have it all, or is simply symptomatic of the time pressures many lawyers face, regardless of gender. In spite of this lapse, my commitment to highlight and support of women in this field remains unwavering. I continue to make efforts to get to know other women in the field and organize more formal opportunities for more and more of us to connect and help one another. Thankfully that hasn’t stopped, even as the blogging has been less consistent. And it was during a recent dinner that I shared with some amazing women defenders that I realized I needed to recommit myself to telling our stories through this blog. There is still a need to highlight and promote the great work that women are doing in the field, although I admit I struggle with finding cases in the media identifying women criminal lawyers. So I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to fill that void. I need to hear about your cases or about cases other women defenders are handling. We need to work as hard in assuring our own success in this field as we have in placing a woman in the White House. The kind of success that is not just about earning a seat at the table; it’s about sitting at the head of the table and deciding who sits there with us. Much like the distinction between being Secretary of State and the President of the United States. I look forward to these next four years and beyond and to hearing your stories from the front lines of criminal defense. The post Air Force One is About to Crash Through the Glass Ceiling appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint?

You might've thought enabling Touch ID on your iPhone made it more secure. After all, it's harder to fake your fingerprint than to guess a passcode. But when it comes to the law enforcement searches, your smartphone might've gotten a lot more vulnerable. According to Forbes, federal law enforcement officers recently served a warrant on a California home which gave them "authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant."Essentially, cops could force everyone in the residence to open their phones. Is this really legal? Fourth Amendment Concerns The Fourth Amendment protects people "against unreasonable searches and seizures," and generally requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant before searching someone's home or personal effects. In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, a person must show that he or she has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the place being searched or thing being seized. But courts have consistently found that a person has no expectation of privacy in physical characteristics like fingerprints, and that a police may therefore require that a person give fingerprint samples. So requesting a fingerprint to open a phone likely doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement. In terms of search warrants, they must be based on probable cause, and "particularly [describe] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." This has generally been interpreted to mean the warrant must be narrow in scope, but, as Electronic Frontier Foundation staff Andrew Crocker told the Washington Post, a warrant that "extended to include any phone that happens to be on the property, and all of the private data that that entails" could stretch those limits. Fifth Amendment Concerns The Fifth Amendment, on the other hand, protects people against self-incrimination and could apply to warrants for biometrics in certain circumstances. In general, courts have not found fingerprints, by themselves, to be self-incrimination because they aren't "testimonial" in the sense that they don't amount to a statement about something. But does that necessarily mean that officers can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone? Law professor and blogger Orin Kerr looked at three such scenarios and opined that, as long as the officers already know that the phone is yours, the answer is probably yes. At that point your fingerprint would not be telling officers anything they didn't already know, or, as Kerr put it, "No testimonial statement from the person is implied by the act of placing his finger on the reader." But when -- as in the case above that involves a search of a residence with multiple phones and multiple people -- cops don't know which device belongs to whom, being forced to unlock a phone could be testimonial: It amounts to testimony that says, "yes, this is my phone," or at least, "yes, this phone was set to recognize a part of my body as a means of access." It further says: "I am familiar enough with this phone to know that the fingerprint reader was enabled and which part of me was used by me to program the fingerprint reader." According to Forbes, the warrant in this case is "unprecedented," but we may see similar warrants as more people use their fingerprints to secure their smartphones. If you've been subject to a similar search, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Do You Have to Let Cops Search Your Cell Phone? (FindLaw Blotter) Cell-Phone Fingerprint Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know (FindLaw Blotter) Geo-Tracking: Should Phone Location Info Require a Warrant? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Supreme Court to Decide Which Bathroom Trans High School Student Can Use

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that they will be taking up the case of Gavin Grimm, the high school student who has been told he can't use the boys' restroom because he is transgender. The case will be heard at some point next year, as the Court has only accepted to hear the case at this point. When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court, one party to a case is asking the Court to review a Federal Appeals Court's decision. The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases each year, and only selects about 80 to review. Although Gavin won the last appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the appeals court's decision not go into effect until they decide to reject the case or after they decide the case. The Case of Gavin Grimm Gavin's case was forced upon him. When he started high school as a freshman, he initially used the unisex/single stall restroom in the nurse's office. However, it was the only single stall in the building and Gavin did not feel like he could solely use that restroom as it was the only one. When he requested that he be allowed to use the regular boys' bathroom, the school approved his request. However, when some other students' parents learned that Gavin was using the regular boys' bathroom, they petitioned the district to stop Gavin, and won. But Gavin didn't stop fighting for his rights as a transgender student. Gavin challenged the school district in court and on appeal, Gavin won. After the appeal, but before the Supreme Court announced that they would weigh in, the Department of Education, with the Department of Justice, issued formal guidance on how public schools should handle any policy relating to sex segregation and gender identity. Basically, both agencies state that Gavin, and other trans students, should be able to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, regardless of how they are identified in legal documents. Trans Bathrooms: Separate Is Not Equal For the purposes of Title IX, which applies to schools that receive federal funding, a student's gender identity is their sex, and Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. Soon, the Supreme Court will weigh in and may provide some judicial certainty to this politically divisive question. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Primer for Parents and Students on Transgender Bathrooms in Schools (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do I Need a Lawyer for a Gender Change? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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