(844) 815-9632

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: First Female Law Firm Opens in Saudi Arabia

The first female law firm has opened in Saudi Arabia. Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first woman issued a law license in the Kingdom, and the first woman lawyer ever to appear in Court defending a client, has taken another huge first step and opened up a law firm. In a nation known for its oppressive treatment of women, this is no small accomplishment. Al-Zahran has stated that the “objective of her law firm is to fight for the rights of Saudi women and bring their problems before the court, since male lawyers in many cases couldn’t understand the problems and situations of a female plaintiff.” The count of female lawyers in Saudi Arabia is now up to four and Al-Zahran is hopeful that the numbers will increase dramatically now that this positive step has been taken. It is almost a foreign thought, to us in the United States, that a woman would be celebrating the opening of her nation’s first female law firm in the year 2014.  We take that right for granted – and we assume that we are light years ahead of a culture like Saudi Arabia.  But is it possible that this sense of accomplishment has kept us from pushing for full equality in law and in business? With great privilege comes great responsibility and I believe that we have a responsibility to Al-Zahran, to the women that will follow her in Saudi Arabia, and to women all around the world to continue to work towards full equality in law. Here is to a world full of female law firms!
continue reading

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: We Remain the First Line of Defense Against Prosecutorial Misconduct

It is a good sign when anyone outside of the criminal defense bar takes up the case against prosecutorial misconduct.  Last Sunday, the New York Times Editorial Board boldly addressed the negative impact of such misconduct on our system in a piece entitled Rampant Prosecutorial Misconduct. The Editorial Board highlighted the recently issued dissenting opinion in United States v. Kenneth Olsen by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Kozinski wrote that “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land” and noted that “only judges can put a stop to it.”  In Olsen, the Government failed to disclose evidence that the forensic scientist who performed the lab tests in the case had been previously investigated relating to sloppy work which led to wrongful convictions in the past. The majority ruled that this would not have changed the outcome based on the overwhelming evidence against the defendant. Judge Kozinski chastised the majority and called this rationale a “serious moral hazard” and called out the fact that prosecutors are rarely punished for these violations. According to the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, courts punish prosecutorial misconduct in less than 2 percent of the cases in which it occurs. These statistics are no shock to any of us in the trenches fighting for criminal defendants.  While the Editorial Board states that all Courts should heed Judge Kozinski’s call, they also add that this alone will not fix the problem and that prosecutor’s offices should develop integrity standards of their own.   That is the same as asking any group to police their own misconduct and, although a morally correct position, it has very little chance of actually changing anything. From where I sit, as always, the defense bar is the first line of defense against Brady violations and prosecutorial misconduct.  We have to remain vigilant while pushing for evidence, and must commit to exposing all incidents where evidence is withheld. The statistics referenced above relating to prosecutorial punishment only account for cases in which defense counsel is drawing attention to violations.  We all know that there are countless cases where Brady violations go undetected because defense counsel is in the “let’s just get along” mode.  I understand there are times when this is the right approach for a client’s sake, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be asking for everything that your client is entitled to.  If a prosecutor considers that controversial or too adversarial for their taste you should question everything about their motive and their integrity. I am not intending to shift the blame for Brady Violations to defense counsel. The responsibility remains in the laps of the prosecutors but we are and always will be the first line of defense against this devastating injustice. While the New York Times Editorial Board should be applauded for bringing this issue to the public’s attention, let’s not forget that it is our job to keep pushing, prodding and objecting so that every instance of prosecutorial misconduct is exposed.
continue reading

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Happy New Year!

Every year that women focus more on creating equality in law and business is a good year.  Every year that women strengthen their connections with one another in law and business is a good year.  For me and hopefully for many women, 2013 was a great year from that perspective. In 2013, this blog enriched my life and practice more than I ever could have known was possible. I developed friendships with women who will hopefully be a part of my life for years to come. I have been the grateful recipient of the knowledge base of fellow women who have so generously shared their time and experience. And I have given of my time and knowledge to younger women in the field. In 2013, I was more mindful to reach out, up, and back to connect with fellow women… and it paid dividends and returns that will last a lifetime. My hope for 2014 is that our community continues to grow and strengthen. I look forward to interviewing and meeting more amazing women all over the country that continue to bring passion, heart, and soul to criminal defense. And I hope that 2014 will be an incredible year for all of you as well. Happy New Year!
continue reading

Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Happy Holidays and a Dream Come True

Happy Holidays!  It’s that time of year to reflect on the year that is passing and anticipate all the hope that the New Year brings. The holidays remind us that childlike dreams can be a reality and that what seem like impossible wishes can come true.  That is what happened recently when President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates. They were sentenced under the old draconian 100 to 1 ratio of crack to powder cocaine. One of the inmates was represented by Margaret Love from D.C who specializes in executive clemency and pardons.  She told the New York Times that both she and her client were overcome with emotion. Now, that was certainly a wish come true, at least for the eight federal inmates and their attorneys. There has been criticism regarding the fact that Obama has used the power of the presidential pardon far fewer times than any modern day president. The Editorial Board of the New York Times called the recent actions a “Small Step toward More Mercy“, but also called the Obama White House the “least merciful [administration] in modern times.”  There are still over 8000 federal inmates who are serving sentences based on the old drug laws, who have no recourse under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. I understand the criticism; I too wish President Obama would do more.  What we should not forget, though, is that there are not many Presidents that would take up or care about our societies’ most forgotten citizens to begin with. The crack cocaine sentencing injustices that went on for years disproportionately affected African Americans more than any other race. There are not many individuals in politics today taking up the charge for drug offenders, especially those sentenced under the crack guidelines.  The spirit of that should not be forgotten or minimized.  And this holiday season is the perfect time to remember and reflect. Happy Holidays, and may all your wishes come true!
continue reading