April 12, 2012
Second Thoughts on The Lafler/Frye Motion
Last week, in a blog entitled "DOJ's Lafler/Frye Motion Goes Too Far," I expressed a strong objection to that prong of the DOJ application that requests that the defense lawyer submit an ex parte document signed by him and the defendant explaining defense counsel's reasoning for rejecting a plea. See here.
I, however, found "generally unobjectionable" the request that the defense lawyer report the plea offer and its rejection in open court. I have, upon reconsideration, changed my mind somewhat and come to the conclusion that plea offers and rejections should not be announced in front of the judge. Rather, any necessary record should be made in writing and not made public, if at all, until the case has been concluded. Such a procedure should amply satisfy DOJ's desire to avoid or minimize post-conviction attacks based on a failure to advise (but admittedly not a failure to give adequate advice).
I fear that if plea offers were to be publicly announced, it could affect the severity of some offers, put arguably inappropriate material before the court, and lead to occasional posturing by both prosecutors and defense lawyers. A prosecutor who is concerned about the legal sufficiency of her case might be hesitant to offer a seemingly lenient plea because she fears that a low plea offer might signal the weakness of her case to the judge, who in the event of a trial, will rule on sufficiency, and perhaps even be the trier of fact. Indeed, she might make an exceedingly harsh offer or no offer at all in the hope that the judge be led to believe she feels she has a strong case. Somewhat similarly, a defense lawyer's announced rejection of a lenient plea, especially if unaccompanied by commentary about the lack of merit of the prosecution, might convey to the triers of fact, the judge or in highly-publicized cases potential jurors, a message that the prosecution case is weak.
Additionally, a prosecutor's failure to offer what a judge believes is a reasonable plea offer or a defendant's rejection of such a plea might well have an adverse effect on a judge with an especial concern in processing cases quickly or keeping his workload in check.
For these and other reasons, most, perhaps all, federal courts prohibit a judge from engaging in plea discussions. (See Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(e)(1): "An attorney for the government and the defendant's attorneys . . . may discuss and reach a plea. The court must not participate in those discussions . . . .") Arguably, a judge's silent awareness of a plea offer and rejection may not be considered "participation," but that is a thin distinction.
Of course, in some jurisdictions, such as New York state courts, judicial involvement in plea bargaining is the norm.
April 09, 2012
Baseball Investigators' Notes Should Be Disclosed To Government
BLT: The Blog of Legal Times reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington recently asked to review notes made by attorneys for DLA Piper, including George Mitchell, during interviews of persons such as Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski who are expected to be government witnesses in the trial of Roger Clemens. See here. Judge Reggie Walton had ordered that these notes, made by the lawyers in their investigation of drug use by baseball players, be produced to the defense over DLA Piper's objection. The government took no position on the defense application for production.
Now, claiming that the government "did not lift a finger" to secure the notes, Clemens' attorneys ask Judge Walton to deny the government access to the notes. Otherwise, the court will "reward the prosecution for taking a head-in-the-sand approach," they claim.
I cannot agree with Clemens' position. Discovery is not a one-way street either for the government or for the defense. Both parties should be equally entitled to the documents. Even objections to production of documents by third parties should not operate as a waiver to review the documents, if they are produced. Although the defense, unlike the government, has no obligation to produce material harmful to its case, when relevant documents are secured by court order from third parties, absent special circumstances such as privilege, they should be available to both sides. A contrary rule would conceal information from defendants much more than from prosecutors.
April 04, 2012
DOJ's Lafler/Frye Motion Goes Too Far
In companion cases decided two weeks ago, Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel applies to the plea bargaining process and that a defendant who rejected a favorable plea bargain based on incompetent advice from his attorney may be entitled to relief even though he was subsequently convicted at trial.
In Frye, the defense attorney failed to relay a plea offer from the prosecution. The uncommunicated offer expired and the defendant later accepted a plea deal that involved a substantially greater sentence than did the original offer. The Court held that "as a general rule" defense counsel is required to communicate to his client a "formal offer" that is favorable in that it may result in a lesser sentence, a conviction of a lesser crime or crimes, or both.
In Cooper (the name of the defendant), the attorney conveyed the plea offer but advised the client to reject it based on the attorney's constitutionally defective assessment of the strength of the case. The Court held that such advice in plea-bargaining discussions was ineffective assistance and was not rendered irrelevant by a later conviction at trial. Both decisions were by a 5-4 majority with the opinion written by Justice Kennedy.
Thus, in sum, the Supreme Court has held that in the plea bargaining process, the defense attorney must convey a favorable plea offer (Frye) and must not give ineffective advice relating to the decision to accept or reject it (Cooper). Either failure may result in relief even if the defendant were later convicted after trial and sentenced accordingly.
The Department of Justice, understandably and reasonably concerned in protecting convictions in pending cases headed for trial from later appellate and collateral attack on the grounds that a plea offer was not communicated or was rejected because of unsound advice, has responded, at least in one jurisdiction, with a motion to make a record of "plea negotiation activity." See here - Download Motion Pursuant to Lafler and Frye. This "pro-active" motion essentially contains two prongs.
First, the defense counsel should report the plea offer to the Court in the presence of the prosecutor, and the defendant should acknowledge having rejected it. That prong appears to me generally unobjectionable, although I see no reason why the prosecutor, the offeror, should not state the offer, rather than the defense counsel, the offeree.
Second, DOJ requests that the defense counsel's advice concerning whether to accept or reject the plea also be placed in the record. Recognizing that this advice may be privileged, as Frye states, DOJ asks that this be done in a "sealed ex parte document" signed by the defendant and defense counsel. That prong is highly objectionable, and DOJ should withdraw it. If not, defense counsel should challenge it and courts should reject it.
Information that is "privileged" as attorney-client confidences should not be disclosed to anyone, including the judge, unless absolutely necessary (as it might be in a challenge as to whether the communication is actually privileged). Such disclosure, for instance, might reveal the defense trial strategy so that the judge might be influenced in her trial rulings. It might reveal uncharged crimes about which the judge is unaware. It might suggest that the defendant's arguably unreasonable refusal to accept the attorney's strong advice to plead guilty reflects a lack of acceptance of responsibility that the judge might consider negatively at sentence. It might also reveal the attorney's candid view of the judge's ability, fairness and decency, a factor in many plea decisions.
To be sure, a failure to make a record of an attorney's advice whether to plead guilty might lead to an increased number of appeals or collateral proceedings based on alleged unsound advice, although, as pointed out in Cooper, past history does not support this conclusion. This standard argument, that the floodgates will be opened, however, applies equally to the failure to make a record as to the attorney's advice whether a defendant should testify, or should forego for tactical reasons a motion to suppress, or should call certain witnesses, or any number of issues in a criminal proceeding.
DOJ should reconsider its request that the attorney divulge, even ex parte, confidential plea bargaining discussions between lawyer and client beyond merely that the offer was communicated and not accepted. In the absence of a withdrawal of this request by DOJ, defense lawyers should not voluntarily comply (unless it is to their clients' advantage, and I can think of many instances where a defense lawyer would seize the opportunity to give his evaluation of the case to the judge ex parte), and courts should not enforce such an intrusive requirement.
March 15, 2012
NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson
February 22, 2012
The NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson announces inaugural White Collar Criminal Defense Award recipients
The NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson has announced the recipients of the inaugural White Collar Criminal Defense Award. Jan Lawrence Handzlik and Janet Levine have both been selected by the NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College advisory board to receive the award, which honors individuals who have made a profound impact on the field of white collar criminal defense advocacy. Read more here.
January 22, 2012
New Article - Indictment of Lawyers for their Legal Advice
Attorney Jack Fernandez (Zuckerman Spaeder LLP) has an interesting Essay for the the ABA's White Collar Book entitled, An Essay Concerning the Indictment of Lawyers for Their Legal Advice. It is here - Download 3533275_1 DOCX (3) (3)
January 19, 2012
Indicting Criminal Defense Counsel for Trial Misconduct
Mike Scarcella over at the BLT Blog has an interesting piece titled, D.C. Attorney, Charged In Scheme, Fights Prosecutors Over Evidence. But what sounds unusual here is that the attorney is charged based upon testimony from a client that he represented, who is now cooperating with the government and the charges stem from alleged misconduct during the trial.
Even if these allegations of trial misconduct prove to be true, one has to wonder why this wasn't handled via cross-examination or through objections to the admission of the evidence at trial. Is this a professional responsibility problem, a contempt problem, or should this be considered criminal? And did counsel do anything wrong?
When defense counsel is charged with a crime for trial misconduct, it needs to be scrutinized carefully as the process can have a chilling effect on the right to counsel. And it certainly needs to be looked at very closely when the case is premised on a former client's cooperation. So isn't this just the kind of case that all discovery should be turned over to the defense so that justice can occur?
December 26, 2011
In Memoriam: Robert G. Morvillo (1938-2011)
Leading white collar practitioner Robert G. Morvillo passed away. His firm notes here. The NYTimes has an article here. Contributing blog editor Lawrence S. Goldman writes, "If I had ever been investigated by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, I would have hired Bob Morvillo. In the current world, where many defense lawyers try to avoid getting into fights with prosecutors, Bob was a throwback. Although personally conservative on many criminal justice issues, Bob had no hesitancy in using his considerable skills and stature to challenge vigorously a prosecutor, both in the office hierarchy and in court, when he felt that his client was being treated unfairly. He was a brilliant, gutsy, no-nonsense lawyer. His death is a great loss to the white-collar defense bar."
September 02, 2011
Prosecution Gets Another Turn At Bat In Clemens Case
CNN has the story here. Judge Reggie Walton apparently blasted prosecutors, accusing them of deliberately violating his rulings during the truncated first trial. But Judge Walton believes that governing law prevents him from barring retrial on Double Jeopardy grounds. The leading Supreme Court case is Oregon v. Kennedy, 459 U.S. 812 (1982), which holds that a mistrial granted upon the request of a defendant, even if necessitated by government misconduct, only bars retrial on Double Jeopardy grounds if the prosecution intended to goad the defendant into moving for a mistrial.
September 2, 2011 in Celebrities, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, News, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
August 22, 2011
Petition for Cert Filed by CEO Ian Norris
The Norris case provides an opportunity to consider the role of corporate counsel in dealing with a CEO, in addition to resolving a circuit split with the witness-tampering statute - 18 USC 1512(b). The defense raises the issue as to "whether a person 'corruptly persuades' another in violation of the statute by persuading him or her to decline to provide incriminating information to authorities, where the other person enjoys a privilege or right to so decline."
The underlying factual basis that sets the stage for this issue raises concerns that could use Supreme Court clarification. As noted here and here, the Third Circuit ruled that the district court "did not legally err in applying" the Bevill test. Deferring to the district court, the Third Circuit held that permitting the company's former counsel to testify at trial was not error as Norris had not met "his burden in asserting his privilege pursuant to the five-factor test set forth in Bevill. The defendant had argued that the Bevill standard should not "apply here, as here, both the individual and the corporation have an express attorney-client relationship with counsel."
Ian Norris, CEO of Morgan Crucible, originally faced three counts of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of two counts following his extradition and trial in the United States, but was convicted of conspiracy to tamper with grand jury witnesses. A key witness against the defendant was corporate counsel. The trial court allowed corporate counsel to testify despite the defendant's argument that corporate counsel had represented Norris. Some of the evidence offered by the defense is included in the attachments to the cert petition. For example, the Antitrust Division explicitly asked counsel who he represented, saying "if your representation is limited to the corporation only, I would greatly appreciate your confirming that fact for me so that there are no misunderstandings as to the scope of your representation." (p. 181-82a). The exchange of letters has counsel telling the Antitrust Division that "[w]e presumptively also represent all current employees of the companies in connection with the matter." It also states - "[s]hould you wish to call other current employees, I assume that we would also represent those individuals." (p. 185a). Norris presents many other documents in the appendix to support his argument that corporate counsel represented him.
Norris Cert Petition - Download Norris Cert Petition (efile)
The government did not file a responsive brief and the Supreme Docket has the case distributed for a conference of September 26, 2011. See here.
See also Sue Reisinger, Corporate Counsel, Jailed CEO Ian Norris Appeals His Conviction to SCOTUS; D. Daniel Sokol, Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog, Norris Cert Petition to the Supreme Court
July 18, 2011
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) issued a news release here titled "Legislation Would Enforce Government's Duty to Disclose Favorable Information to Accused." The essense is that it calls for new legislation. The press release states:
"To help ensure fairness in federal criminal proceedings, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has endorsed model legislation drafted by NACDL’s Discovery Reform Task Force that would require the government to disclose all information favorable to the accused in relation to any issue to be determined in a federal criminal case."
(esp)(disclosure that this author served on the committee working on this suggested legislation)
June 17, 2011
NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – Keynote Address: Benedict P. Kuehne, Friday, June 17, 2011
Guest Blogger: Darin Thompson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender (Cleveland,OH)
The Keynote Presentation, "Standing Tall: Criminal Defense Lawyers as Constitutional First Responder s in Today’s War on Crime," was given by Benedict P. Kuehne.
Benedict Kuehne spoke regarding the important role that criminal defense attorneys play in America. He noted that criminal defense lawyers often put at risk not only their fee, but their own liberty. Because the role of criminal defense lawyers is to safeguard our constitutional rights, that role itself is threatened. Mr. Kuehne used his personal story to examine these principles. In 2004, his office was searched pursuant to a federal warrant. He was the subject of a grand jury investigation into conspiracy and money laundering. His alleged crime related to legal advice he provided another criminal defense lawyer regarding the source of his fee.
This prosecution was part of an overall trend towards the broadening of the scope of money laundering prosecutions, Mr. Kuehne suggested, noting that money laundering has replaced conspiracy as the prosecution’s weapon of choice.
Mr. Kuehne noted that this prosecution theory threatened to chill the assertion of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the willingness of counsel to provide legal representation to individuals facing prosecution.
Mr. Kuehne then explored the history of litigation surrounding the specific statutory exemption for criminal defense fees. For 20 years, the government persisted in attempts to convince courts that the exemption did not mean what it said. These efforts, combined with the ability to seek forfeiture of fees, had a chilling effect on that Sixth Amendment right.
His case resulted in the decision U.S. v. Velez, vindicating the criminal defense fees exemption in money laundering cases. Mr. Kuehne's story is an inspiring one that clearly demonstrates the importance of the work that we defense lawyers do everyday.
NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – “Monsanto and More: Ethical Tactics for Getting Paid When the Government Gets There First,” Friday, June 17, 2011
Guest Blogger: Darin Thompson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender (Cleveland,OH)
John Cline began the discussion with a hypo of an indicted individual who has millions of dollars that the government believes were garnered through criminal activity. Mr. Welk presented the government’s perspective and outlined the steps taken to identify the assets the government believes can be tied to the charged crimes. Typically this involves going to the Magistrate and obtaining seizure warrants for assets and then seizing them. If it involves real property, then they will go get a lis pendens.
Mr. Cline asked about ex parte restraining orders and when and how the government uses them. Mr. Welk explained that once he obtains the restraining order, he will typically approach the counsel for the client, inform them of the order, and then set up a plan. Typically the parties sit down and work out the issues together. Mr. Welk noted that going in ex parte can be extremely disruptive to the business and that is why the defense is willing to sit down. However, there is always a concern that the assets could disappear if the government does not come in strong.
Mr. Cline then sought the defense perspective from Ms. McNamara—what steps she takes when faced with an ex parte restraining order. She would first seek out help from an experienced forfeiture lawyer. This is because this process is quite draconian and it allows the government to basically step into the defendant’s shoes. However, given the practicality of the temporary restraining order, where the government must show its cards, the parties are usually willing to come to the table and talk.
A member of the audience asked about money that the lawyer already has, such as a retainer. Mr. Welk explained that there is a wide diversity of views on how to handle this situation. He will typically sit down with the attorney and work out an arrangement, typically involving a return of a portion of the money.
Ms. McNamara noted that there has been an uptick in asset forfeiture since the Madoff case but Mr. Welk noted that it was really a coincidence of timing. Rather, he noted that the uptick was a product of at least five years of work by the Asset Forfeiture Working Group. It just happened that their work aligned with the Madoff case.
Mr. Cline then asked the panelists to discuss negotiations that frequently happen in order to avoid an evidentiary hearing. Both parties usually go in hoping to cut a deal and come out with a clear plan. Ms. McNamara explained that the government typically comes in with a pragmatic approach, but that is not always the case.
The panelists engaged with the audience on the interaction between bail and forfeiture, the potential conflict for the defense attorney in seeking to protect the client’s assets in general and specific to defense fees, and the question of government authority over third-party assets. Mr. Welk noted that while the government has authority to seize third-party assets, but the courts don’t like that.
Mr. Cline closed the panel with a discussion the potential for prosecutors to clawback fees that have been unfrozen for defense. Mr. Welk said this is rare and there are other venues to explore, one of which is a strongly worded letter to counsel explaining that it is the government’s belief that all the client’s money comes from illegal activity and thus any money accepted may be subject to forfeiture. There is serious debate over the use of these letters, but defense counsel should be aware of them and on the lookout.
NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – “Navigating the Wilderness of Mirrors: National Security Issues for the White Collar Lawyer,” Friday, June 17, 2011
Guest Blogger: Darin Thompson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender (Cleveland,OH)
Day two of the seminar started with a discussion of the issues that arise when classified information is implicated in a white collar case. Led by John D. Cline, the panel consisted of Deborah Boardman, Matt Apuzzo (of the Associated Press), Joshua L. Dratel, Ross H. Garber and Nancy Hollander.
John Cline began the discussion by reviewing the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”).
Mr. Garber suggested that there are a number of cases in which defense attorneys don’t realize that national security information is implicated. This is for many reasons, including unfamiliarity with the statutes involved and an increasingly aggressive use of FISA and national security related charging decisions by the government. The increased numbers of FISA warrants granted and their revealed use in non-“terrorism” cases (money laundering, export violations, FCPA, among others) were cited in support. Mr. Apuzzo noted that the potential for these issues to arise in cases is often underestimated. The scope of the government’s use of its surveillance powers is constantly increasing.
Mr. Dratel noted that an increasing amount of information has been designated classified, leading to this increase in cases with these issues. Once information is classified, however, a Judge cannot declassify it. There are administrative procedures available, but they are impractical for most cases due to timing. Once classified information is involved, CIPA is going to be the sole avenue of relief. He further noted several examples of the “tactical” use of classification and CIPA by the government, including the use of section 4 of CIPA (which allows the government to submit potentially exculpatory classified material to a Judge for review prior to any disclosure).
Ms. Hollander noted tactical de-classification was also a weapon in the government’s arsenal. She also added that FISA includes more than that wiretapping authority: it includes sneak and peek warrants, email, among other powers. Another hurdle caused by classification arises, she noted, in the context of obtaining security clearances for experts, an additional time-consuming burden imposed in these cases. Deborah Boardman noted that the delay in getting clearances can apply to anyone on the defense team that an attorney wants or needs to have access to classified material in order to effectively defend the client.
Many of these practical problems are best understood by using a case study method. To facilitate that, Ms. Boardman used her recent litigation in U.S. v. Thomas Drake to review these problems and how navigating CIPA enabled her excellent result. Mr. Cline and Ms. Hollander also commented upon the practical problems. The role of Classified Information Security Officers as neutral problem solvers was emphasized. John Cline described them as “the best bunch of problem solvers I have ever run across,” a description with which anyone who has ever dealt with them will readily agree.
Mr. Garber, characterizing these problems as “fun”, described the FISA procedure for challenging the warrant. Unlike traditional search warrant applications, FISA applications are not routinely provided to defense counsel. There is a procedure for requesting the application for the warrant. No such request has ever been granted in 30 years.
Ms. Hollander noted a new problem with FISA warrants: they may continue after indictment. She emphasized that if the FISA information is not going to be used by the government, the existence of the wiretap won’t even be disclosed.
In conclusion, Mr. Apuzzo spoke about the problems of reporting on national security cases. He noted reporters actually have several advantages in understanding these cases. For example, because defense counsel receives only a well-defined set of information, they often miss the larger picture, whereas reporters who work on these cases are often more able to quickly understand the significance of new disclosures. He also indicated that communicating effectively with the media is especially important where a case may have (or appear to have) national security implications. Nancy Hollander emphasized Mr. Apuzzo’s points, emphasizing that a good reporter can often find information that defense could never find.
June 16, 2011
NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – “Finding the Line: Ethical Considerations When Contacting and Interviewing Witnesses,” Thursday, June 16, 2011
Day One of the seminar concluded with a panel discussion of the various ethical pitfalls surrounding the interviewing of witnesses. Patrick Robbins moderated the discussion. The panel included Blair G. Brown, David Fechheimer, Nina J. Ginsberg, Marc S. Harris, and Steven Singer.
The panel first discussed hypotheticals involving a lawyer who first represents a company (through an audit committee) under investigation. Ms. Ginsberg pointed out the first potential conflict that lawyers face when interviewing employee witnesses under these circumstances is that the witness’s interests may be adverse to the company client. She further noted that such adverse interests would preclude dual representation as well. She discussed the burdens the model rules place upon lawyers interviewing witnesses. Model Rule 4.3 requires an explanation of the lawyer’s role, prior to interviewing, where the witness may be confused regarding the lawyer’s role, and that this explanation approaches that required by Miranda warnings. As Mr. Brown noted, these warnings are in the interest of the lawyer as well, as they will protect the company and the lawyer from subsequent motion, though he doubted that the warnings ever approach the standard of Miranda. The panel agreed that the overriding goal of representing the company by ferreting out information, and convincing the government that the company is being aggressive in its investigation, runs directly contrary to strong warnings. Marc Harris noted that it was common to demand cooperation from employee witnesses, upon threat of termination.
The panel discussed the problems presented by the question: “Should I get a lawyer?” Everyone agreed that the question required the lawyer to walk a fine line. The lawyer should not give the witness legal advice by opining whether a lawyer is a good idea, but must accurately answer that the witness has the option to get a lawyer.
The next hypothetical involved a lawyer advising an AUSA that he represents all current employees of the corporation and the current and former CFO and CEO, but the AUSA sends the agents to interview the employees. Mr. Brown started his response by cautioning against such blanket assertions of representation unless the facts truly warrant it. He continued by noting that the state ethics rules may provide the best barrier to this kind of conduct. The panel agreed, with Mr. Singer noted that many state ethics rules specifically include corporate employees as represented parties.
Marc Harris noted that another fine line exists when advising all employees of a company that they need not talk to agents, and that flatly advising against it may constitute obstruction of justice. Ms. Ginsberg further cautioned that it created an impression on the part of the employees that they are being represented. Mr. Brown noted that Model Rule 8.4 allows a lawyer to advise a client’s employee not to talk to an adverse party.
One questioner noted that the trend toward “hyper-co-operativity” on the part of companies has only aggravated the problems faced by the employees on the other side of the hypotheticals discussed.
Another questioner asked about government pressure to not interview government witnesses. Mr. Singer commented that such efforts to intimidate the defense must not be allowed to succeed, and discussed taking steps to protect oneself during those scenarios, i.e., having multiple people present for any interviews.
The final hypothetical involved a grand jury witness taking the 5th Amendment privilege to protect another individual and advising the lawyer he was doing so. Mr. Harris indicated that this is not problematic, but, advising a witness to do so might constitute obstruction of justice, especially if that advice was motivated by a desire for financial gain by securing further employment by the corporation at issue.
NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – “Twitter, Facebook & Google in the Courtroom: High Profile Defense in Real Time,” Thursday, June 16, 2011
The seminar opened with a discussion of the intersection between the internet (especially so-called “social media”) and the courtroom. The discussion was moderated by Gail Shifman, and the panel included Leslie R. Caldwell, Rusty Hardin, Dennis P. Riordan, and Allen J. Ruby.
The panel started by discussing cases with intense media scrutiny. High profile cases can arise due to the notoriety of the client, as was the case with Mr. Ruby’s former client Barry Bonds. But as Ms. Shifman noted, any kind of case or defendant can become notorious, as the glare of the media spotlight can be prompted by the facts of the case. The skills discussed can be required by cases in any criminal defense practice.
Mr. Hardin stressed determining early in the case to what extent the client’s reputation in the community is especially important, i.e., a celebrity or politician, and if so, react more proactively in media response. He stressed that the storyline of the case for the media will be set very early, perhaps in the first 36 hours, and will be repeated as the media updates the story.
Mr. Ruby spoke about a client’s concerns when under the spotlight: a strategy that repairs damage to reputation, to the extent possible. The internet has changed the game in many ways, but one is that it never forgets: every news story remains preserved for future searches, making “weathering the storm” less viable of a strategy than in years past.
Mr. Riordan discussed picking potential media outlets to suit your strategy: not every client and case will benefit from a discussion with Nancy Grace or her ilk, but some will. Different kinds of print media and bloggers are well suited to other kinds of cases.
Multiple panelists referenced the Duke rape case as one of the finest examples of excellence in media strategy. The choice of media, themes and messengers were all lauded.
Where reporters are pressing attorneys for comments, but public comments would not be beneficial (i.e., are part of the media strategy), off-the-record or background comments to the press may be useful, either to “hold them at bay” or to begin to influence the media coverage of a case. Where attorneys are gagged not by strategy, but by court order, motions can be drafted to convey the client’s position.
Another point stressed by multiple panelists was that the jury will remember what the lawyers say, and therefore attorneys should be careful before they make specific factual assertions in the press.
The panel discussion turned to specific social media issues. Use of social media research on witnesses or jurors was discussed, and it was noted that the use of third persons to surreptitiously access Facebook pages has been repeatedly characterized as unethical in numerous bar opinions.
Jury control in the age of social media and internet saturation was discussed. All panelists agreed that ordinary jury admonitions on these topics are seemingly “not processed” by jurors: it is simply unfathomable to not use the internet. Suggestions included requesting Facebook and Twitter information from prospective jurors (perhaps being given only to the court), or requesting the strongest possible judicial warnings to jurors.
April 23, 2011
Lauren Stevens Case To Start Tuesday: Has The Government Overcharged?
The federal criminal trial involving former GlaxoSmithKline ("GSK") Vice President and Associate General Counsel Lauren Stevens commences this Tuesday in Greenbelt, Maryland. When I first read the Indictment, without knowing anything else about the facts, it struck me that the government may have overcharged. That is probably not a good sign for the feds, since the Stevens charging instrument is a classic one-sided speaking Indictment that seeks to put the United States' case in the best possible light.
The crux of the prosecution theory is that Stevens, who headed up a team of inside and outside GSK counsel responding to an FDA inquiry, withheld information about off-label marketing of Wellbutrin. Specifically, Stevens allegedly learned that several doctors, paid by GSK and speaking at GSK-sponsored events, promoted off-label (weight-loss) use of the drug. GSK's responses were part of a voluntary production pursuant to a written request from the FDA's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications ("DDMAC"). Stevens allegedly agreed, orally and in writing, to provide DDMA with "materials and documents presented at GSK-sponsored promotional programs, even if not created by, or under the custody or control of GSK." But, according to the Indictment, Stevens knowingly failed to produce numerous off-label promotional and presentation materials, provided to GSK by the doctors in question, with intent to obstruct an FDA proceeding. Rather than focusing entirely or primarily on this failure to produce, the Indictment lumps in many other broad statements contained in Stevens' various cover letters to the government. It seems to me that at least some of these statements are open to differing interpretations. Perhaps the government should have more narrowly honed in on the failure to turn over the presentation/promotional materials.
Part of Stevens' defense will entail her purported reliance on the advice of outside counsel in sending GSK's written responses to the FDA. The original Indictment was thrown out by Judge Roger Titus, because federal prosecutors incorrectly instructed the grand jury that reliance on the advice of counsel is only an affirmative defense. In fact, good faith reliance on advice of counsel negates the specific intent element under the federal obstruction and false statement statutes at issue in the trial.
This prosecution should strike terror into the hearts of inside and outside counsel throughout corporate America. Of particular note is that the FDA inquiry into off-label Wellbutrin marketing did not involve a compelled production and was not even quasi-criminal in nature.
Attached for our readers' benefit are some documents setting out the government's case and what are likely to be key portions of Ms. Stevens' defense.
April 23, 2011 in Arthur Andersen, Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Fraud, Grand Jury, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 11, 2011
En Banc Petition Filed in Norris case
The Third Circuit recently ruled in a closely watched case, on the issue of whether corporate counsel had in fact represented an individual within the corporation and as such the attorney-client privilege should apply. (see here) The unpublished opinion of the court found no error on the part of the district court. Counsel for Appellant Norris has now filed for a rehearing en banc. Three issues are presented in this Petition:
"I. The Panel Decision Squarely Conflicts With Shramm, Arthur Andersen, and Aguilar as to the Requisite Specific Intent for a Conspiracy to Obstruct a Grand Jury Proceeding;
II.The Panel Decision Squarely Conflicts with Farrell's Holding that 'Corrupt Persuasion' Does Not Include Persuading an Alleged Co-Conspirator to Withhold Incriminating Information;
III. The Panel Decision Misapplied Bevill to Permit the Evisceration of a Corporate Officer's Personal Attorney-Client Privilege."
Petition for Rehearing En Banc - Download 2011-04-06 Petition for Rehearing En Banc
March 25, 2011
Commentary on Court Dismissal of Indictment Against Former VP & Associate General Counsel of GlaxoSmithKline
Check out - Sue Reisinger, Corporate Counsel, She Asked, Counsel Told: Case Against Glaxo Attorney Is Dismissed
The former VP and Associate General Counsel of GlaxoSmith Kline had been charged with a 6-count Indictment for the alleged crimes of obstruction (1512), falsification and concealment of documents (1519) and false statements (1000). The Indictment against Lauren Stevents has now been dismissed, but it is without prejudice.
Stevens claimed a defense to the charges of advice of counsel in her responses to the FDA's inquiry. The government response was that 18 USC 1519 is a general intent crime and therefore a "good faith reliance on advice of counsel is only a defense to specific intent crimes."
The court did not agree with the government, citing applicable sources that provide a solid basis for its holding. My take is that the statute clearly is requiring two intents - to "knowingly alters, destroys, multilates, conceals, coversup, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impeded, obstruct, or influence the investigation ....." With two intents it seems clear that one should use specific intent here.
But what is more questionable here is that the government thinks that specific intent should not be required here. Should you really prosecute someone who may not have had the specific intent to do these alleged acts? Will this achieve the deterrence from criminality that we desire? Irrespective of whether one accepts the government's claim that advice of counsel is an affirmative defense or the defense and court position that it negates the mens rea, is prosecution of this alleged conduct the way we want to spend valuable tax dollars?
This case is a perfect example of how we are failing to use our resources wisely. Do we really need to spend money prosecuting folks who may not have complied with a government discovery request properly? Or would the money be better spent using it for educating lawyers and others of how to respond to government inquiries correctly. And what happens if we turn the tables - should we start prosecuting Assistant United States Attorneys who do not comply with constitutional requirements of discovery, or would our resources be better spent educating them of the importance of upholding these constitutional rights.
Bottom line - don't refile this case.
Addendum - See here
March 23, 2011
Third Circuit Rules - OK for Corporate Counsel to Testify Against CEO
In a closely watched case (see here), the Third Circuit was asked to consider whether corporate counsel had in fact represented an individual within the corporation and as such the attorney-client privilege should apply. Defendant had argued that the Bevill standard should not "apply here, as here, both the individual and the corporation have an express attorney-client relationship with counsel." Reply Brief of Ian P. Norris - Download 2011-02-25 Norris Reply Brief.
The Third Circuit issued an unpublished opinion that resolves this issue in a paragraph, stating in part that:
"[t]he District Court in this case held an evidentiary hearing and ultimately determined that Norris failed to meet his burden in asserting his privilege pursuant to the five-factor test set forth in In the Matter of Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corp., 805 F.2d 120, 123 (3rd 1986). The District Court did not legally err in applying this test, and we see no clear error in the District Court's holding based on the facts elicited in the evidentiary hearing."
To all the corporate executives that are cooperating with corporate counsel thinking that the individual is representing them - beware....
Opinion- Download Opinion