Prosecutors

No one has getting indicted on their bucket list. No one sends word of their indictment to their alumni magazine.

That said, if you’re going to get indicted, it’s a whole lot better to be charged in state court in New York than in federal court anywhere else in the country, in at least one way.

The criminal case about the implosion of Dewey & LeBoeuf shows why. Last week, the folks charged in the Dewey meltdown filed a number of motions to dismiss the indictment. Everyone but Zachary Warren filed an omnibus motion to dismiss. Steve DiCarmine filed his own motion that was so, well, something that it contained Above the Law’s quote of the day. Zachary Warren filed a separate motion. There’s some great stuff in all of the pleadings about the government’s case.

What’s perhaps less obvious to those of us who do white-collar criminal defense but don’t normally practice in state court in New York is that, according to the law as set out in these papers, New York state is a magical Shangri-la of due process compared to federal court.

How?

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Reason enough why no country should ever engage in the practice of Affirmative Action again. This could be the result. Where would she be if she didn’t hit the quota lottery? Here’s a hint: “Would you like to supersize that sir?”

– Florida Assistant State Attorney Kenneth Lewis, in a message expressing his love for Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Facebook. Lewis also posted messages suggesting that “crack hoes” get their tubes tied for Mother’s Day, and in support of Donald Sterling and the right to free speech.

Some people go to law school not in the hope of making buckets of cash, but to bring justice to their communities. With long hours and low pay, being a government attorney is a noble pursuit. The catch is that some of these poor souls didn’t know just how poor they’d actually be.

To that end, they certainly didn’t expect that they’d be paid a lower salary than the courthouse custodian, and they had no clue that they’d be members of the working poor.

Which state is allowing entry-level government attorneys to live in squalor?

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As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently wrote, “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.”

But judges need to know about prosecutorial misconduct in order to do anything about it. The public needs to be made aware of this important issue as well.

Last week, I interviewed Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who has written a new book — a book that pulls no punches when it comes to her former colleagues at the U.S. Department of Justice….

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The criminal justice system has all sorts of problems. Far, far, far too many people are in prison. Hell, lots of them are downright innocent. Most of those inmates are drawn disproportionately from the poor and minority population while the more affluent and white receive better treatment for the same crimes. And the wealthy, mostly white people who caused widespread economic pain not only avoided prosecution, but made healthy sums.

But one big problem with the criminal justice system that we’ve harped on before is the broad, largely unchecked power of federal prosecutors to bully the accused.

A prominent federal judge thinks it’s gone too far and he’s got a proposed solution.

Too bad it’s far too sensible for anyone in a position of power to actually adopt….

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Do you think I whipped him enough?

– a question allegedly asked by Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants of his current wife after the attorney allegedly struck his son with a belt more than 10 times. After his ex-wife filed a criminal complaint, Plants was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. Plants is trying to get the charge dismissed because he claims he was “acting within a constitutionally protected right to control his child.”

The indictment of Zachary Warren is troubling for a lot of lawyers because, well, he seems like one of us. His post-Dewey path to a great law school, two cool clerkships, and an offer from a great law firm, is something we, as lawyers, can identify with.

What’s most frustrating about Zachary Warren’s situation is that it looks like he was charged largely because he decided to talk to law enforcement without hiring a lawyer first.

Most of us would like to think that, as lawyers, we’re smart enough to make the right legal moves if we’re in a place where we need to. Yet Warren talked to law enforcement, when most of us know that’s the wrong move (and, if you don’t know that’s the wrong move, there’s a short video on my firm’s webpage explaining how we look at it). What’s up with that?

As Lat mentioned earlier this week, there’s a dispute about what happened. Some of Warren’s friends say he was essentially duped about his status or the nature of the interview he participated in. The Manhattan D.A. has pushed back, through spokeswoman Erin Duggan Kramer: “The facts [in this New York Times piece] are incorrect. The claim that an attorney with a federal clerkship could have any misunderstanding of what it means to speak with and agree to meet with the D.A.’s office is preposterous.”

Kramer’s point makes seems intuitively compelling. Why would a smart lawyer talk?

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There are so many interesting parts of the Dewey criminal charges, it’s hard to count them all.

For starters, there are the emails laid out by the SEC in its complaint, such as:

  • “I don’t see how we’ll get past the auditors another year.”
  • “I assume you [k]new this but just in case. Can you find another clueless auditor for next year?”
  • “I don’t know anything about [the contracts] and I don’t want to cook the books anymore. We need to stop doing that.”
  • “I don’t know. He’s starting to wig a little. Maybe he’s hearing and seeing too much . . . .”

Sadly for people and happily for prosecutors, regrettable emails are simply a fact of modern electronic life. Still, “I don’t want to cook the books anymore” has to be pretty high on the list of things that one is likely to regret putting in an email.

(These emails, and more, are collected in the Bloomberg piece by Matt Levine wonderfully titled “Law Firm Accountants Were Bad at Accounting, Law.”)

But, probably more interesting than these regrettable emails is what the Dewey prosecution can tell us about white-collar prosecutions in New York more generally….

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The first rule of state court is: you do not talk about state court.

* Foreclosure attorney Bruce Richardson alleges that Hogan Lovells partner David Dunn hit him with a briefcase in front of a court officer. That’s how they roll in state court. (Expect more on this later.) [New York Daily News; New York Post]

* From cop killer to nomination killer: Mumia’s the word that stopped Debo Adegbile’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. [Washington Post]

* In happier nomination news, congratulations to former Breyer clerk Vince Chhabria, as well as to Beth Freeman and James Donato, on getting confirmed to the federal bench for the Northern District of California. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* It’s been a good week for amicus briefs. Congrats to Professors Adam Pritchard and Todd Henderson for getting the attention — and perhaps the votes — of several SCOTUS justices. [New York Times]

* How a Cornell law student got her father to foot the bill for half of her pricey legal education. [ATL Redline]

* As I predicted, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in United States v. Maloney didn’t sweep the alleged prosecutorial misconduct under the rug by granting the government motion without comment. [The Atlantic]

* RACEISM™ alert: federal prosecutors allege that deputies to a North Carolina sheriff accused of racial profiling of Latinos shared links to a violent and racist video game. [Raleigh News & Observer]

* Speaking of mistreatment of Latinos, a recent Third Circuit decision spells good news for some immigrant communities. [Allentown Morning Call]

* Sarah Tran, the law professor who taught class from her hospital bed, RIP. [Give Forward]

Julia Papazian Law

Last May, a 26-year-old paralegal by the name of Julia Papazian Law was found dead in the bathtub of her boss and boyfriend, prominent Philadelphia defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. The news set tongues wagging in Philly. It had all the elements of a tabloid tale: a beautiful young woman, a wealthy and successful lawyer, and possible organized-crime connections. (Peruto has represented such prominent alleged Mob figures as Joey Merlino and Nicodemo Scarfo.)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams convened a grand jury to investigate Julia Law’s death. This decision did not sit well with Charles Peruto, who claimed that it placed him under a cloud of suspicion that harmed his reputation and his legal practice.

With the grand jury probe concluded, District Attorney Williams made an announcement about its findings. What did he have to say?

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