White & Case Secures Crucial Judgment for Donna Ackerly in the First Circuit Court of Appeals

Press Release
2 min read

Global law firm White & Case LLP has secured a crucial judgment in the First Circuit Court of Appeals for client Donna M. Ackerly. The judgment rebuffed an effort by federal prosecutors to overturn an order vacating Ms. Ackerly's conviction.

Ms. Ackerly, a proxy solicitor, was indicted along with three coworkers on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. White & Case has represented her through two jury trials in the District of Massachusetts, the first of which ended in a mistrial. After the second trial, the District Judge vacated a jury verdict against Ms. Ackerly, finding that a prosecutor's question about a non-witness’s guilty plea had violated Ms. Ackerly's Confrontation Clause rights. This error required a new trial, the District Judge found, because the prosecution's evidence was weak.

In yesterday's judgment, the First Circuit affirmed. Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Bruce Selya took the unusual step of applying the "plain error" legal standard against the government, finding that the prosecutors had failed to address White & Case's "luminously clear" constitutional arguments in the District Court.  Judge Selya agreed that the prosecutor's question at trial had been "improper," and upheld the District Court’s conclusion that "an error of constitutional dimension had occurred."

"We are delighted and grateful to the court for this ruling," said White & Case partner Michael Kendall. "The improper nature of the question was obvious, and it clearly had an impact on the jury in a case where the evidence was extremely thin. We have maintained all along that Donna Ackerly is completely innocent, and we expect her to be cleared of all charges."

The White & Case legal team was led by Mr. Kendall and by associates Yakov Malkiel and Yanbing Chu (all in Boston).

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