Firm Files Amicus Brief Supporting Successful Effort to Overturn Lawyer’s Fraud Conviction

On September 9, 2011, in a unanimous ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the conviction of a former partner of a major international law firm who was accused of having participated in fraud perpetrated by officers of a firm client. Shapiro, Arato & Isserles LLP filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant, on behalf of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers (“NYCDL”), a not-for-profit professional association with a membership of about 200 lawyers whose principal area of practice is the defense of criminal cases.

During protracted jury deliberations at the trial, jurors engaged in heated arguments. The next day, the foreperson sent a note to the district court asserting that one juror had attempted to barter his vote and was refusing to deliberate. However, the court refused to share the contents of the note with the parties or seek counsel’s input before it conducted an ex parte interview with the accused juror. During this interview, the court effectively gave an individualized “Allen charge,” emphasizing the importance of reaching a verdict.

The defendant argued on appeal that the district court’s actions with respect to this note deprived him of his right to be present at every stage of the proceeding and his right to counsel. In the NYCDL’s amicus brief, we argued that the court’s refusal to share the note with the defendant and his counsel, along with the private interview, violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel at this critical stage of the proceedings.

Partners Alexandra A.E. Shapiro and Marc E. Isserles co-authored the NYCDL’s amicus brief.

To read the Second Circuit’s opinion, click here.