In The Hot Seat: The Media’s Impact on High-Profile Litigation

By WLALA Board Member Nicole Vongchanglor

March 2019

Throughout history, high-profile cases have captivated the public.  As the movie-making capital of the world, it is no surprise that Los Angeles is where most celebrities live.[1] Consequently, when these celebrities are involved in a criminal case or civil suit, it garners substantial media interest, creating a disproportionately higher volume of high-profile cases in Los Angeles County when combined with cases that naturally pique public interest, such as those involving public officials.[2]


With the large number of high-profile cases, Los Angeles lawyers are faced with the unique obstacle of attempting to navigate intense media scrutiny while simultaneously serving the best interests of their clients.  Successfully handling media exposure is especially important in high-profile cases since, as Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter recognized, “[c]ases are too often tried in newspapers before they are tried in court, and the cast of characters in the newspaper trial too often differs greatly from the real persons who appear at the trial in court and who may have to suffer its distorted consequences.”[3]


I.                   About the Program


In the Hot Seat: The Media’s Impact on High-Profile Litigation,” will feature a distinguished panel that will share their expertise on how high-stakes litigation plays out in the media as much as the courtroom. The panel will consists of three attorneys: Davida Brook of Susman Godfrey LLP; Maggie Carter of O’Melveny & Myers LLP and former Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Shawn Holley of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.  The panel’s moderator is Mack Jenkins, Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.  

The panelists and moderator will share their personal experiences on handling high-profile litigation with intense media scrutiny, including: how to use the media to your client’s benefit, how to handle and mitigate negative media exposure and the impact it has on public opinion, the dos and don’ts of speaking to the media about criminal proceedings, and the evolving standard for discoverability and admissibility of evidence disclosed by the media.  For example, Ms. Brook will discuss her appeal in a case against Beats Electronics and Dr. Dre.  Ms. Carter will share her experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation and defense of FBI Special Agent Denise Woo.  Ms. Holley also will describe her defense of Kanye West, O.J. Simpson, and Lindsay Lohan in several high-profile actions as well.


II.                Program Panelists and Moderator


To create a powerful, diverse, and all-encompassing panel, the Litigation Section for WLALA chose panelists from varying levels of practice and firm size.  All panelists are high-ranking, prominent attorneys in the Los Angeles legal community from both the civil and criminal sectors.  Panelists include:


i.        Davida Brook  – Susman Godfrey LLP


“Davida Brook is the best young litigator I’ve ever seen in court.  Intelligent, articulate, and always well prepared.  There isn’t anyone I would rather have representing me in trial.” – Steven Lamar, Beats by Dr. Dre Concept Creator and Founder of ROAM Audio.  Ms. Brook is a partner whose practice focuses on commercial litigation at both trial and appellate levels, and ranges from two-party business and employment disputes to complex, multi-party and class action cases involving securities, contract, and patent law. 


Most recently, Ms. Brook has been recognized for her role in securing an important appellate victory against Beats Electronics, Dr. Dre, and Jimmy Iovine, in a case involving royalties owned to client Steven Lamar from sales of several models of the popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which Susman Godfrey argued was the same design of several related models of Beats headphones.  The Superior Court of Los Angeles had previously dismissed the case on summary judgment on the grounds that the 2007 written settlement at issue only required royalty payments on the first headphone model, the “Studio model,” as a matter of law.  In arguing the appeal, Ms. Brook maintained that there was ambiguity in the 2007 royalty agreement that the parties signed and that Lamar’s claims were meant to cover the headphones’ design, not just a single headphone product.  Ms. Brook claimed that the lower court erred by disregarding credible documentary evidence backing Lamar’s position.  In its ruling, the appellate court agreed with Ms. Brook, stating that it found the contract “ambiguous” and that disputes of material facts did exist.  The court went on to reverse summary judgment and remand the case for trial.


In addition to her success in the Beats matter, she has also achieved a successful settlement in a multi-million dollar class action matter.  In 2015, she was an integral part of a legal team that represented a class of 7,000 limited partners who invested in oil and gas limited partnerships and alleged that they voted to divest themselves of their partnership rights based on false and misleading statements and omissions in defendants’ proxy statements, losing millions in the process.  After three years of hard fought litigation, Ms. Brook’s team obtained a $37.5 million settlement for the class.


Ms. Brook currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Western Center on Law and Poverty and on the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council.  She also serves as a board member for the New Girls Network.  Prior to joining Susman Godfrey, Ms. Brook served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Raymond C. Fisher in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  During law school, Ms. Brook co-founded Building a Better Legal Profession, a national organization that promotes diversity within the legal procession by compiling and publishing data on law firms’ commitment to the retention and promotion of women and minority attorneys.


She is the co-author and editor of Building a Better Legal Profession’s Guide to Law Firms.


She has received several awards for her work in the legal industry, including: Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers in California in 2018, Top Women Lawyers in 2017 by The Daily Journal, and a Next Generation Leader in Tech Law by The Recorder (2018, ALM).


ii.      Maggie Carter  – O’Melveny & Myers LLP


Maggie Carter is a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and former federal prosecutor who specializes in high-stakes civil and white collar criminal trials, complex litigation, sensitive internal investigations and regulatory matters.  Her extensive government experience includes the prosecution of complex financial fraud, civil rights, and public corruption cases.  Ms. Carter’s industry experience is broad—she represented companies and individuals in the investment funds, entertainment, financial services, health care, technology, education and telecommunications industries in criminal, civil, and investigations matters.  She also represents a large public entity on immigration issues and has filed numerous amicus briefs to further the entity’s support of immigrant residents and local law enforcement priorities. Notably, she defended, pro bono, former FBI agent Denise Woo against felony national security charges.  The case settled weeks before trial with a favorable no-time misdemeanor plea.  The successful representation was featured in American Lawyer magazine and selected for California Lawyer magazine’s “Angel Award.”


In addition to her practice, Ms. Carter dedicates significant time to pro bono advocacy and community involvement. Together with the ACLU of Nevada, the ACLU National Federation, and the former Federal Public Defender in Las Vegas, she recently spearheaded a civil rights class action against the State of Nevada and Governor to challenge how the State of Nevada provides criminal defense services to indigent defendants.  Ms. Carter also serves as a co-chair of the firm’s Trial Advocacy Prosecution Program, which trains associates to prosecute misdemeanor crimes in California’s Redondo Beach, allowing the small city to take on special projects it otherwise might not have the resources to handle. 


She currently serves on the board of the Western Center on Law & Poverty and helps to drive the organization’s mission to advocate for low-income Californians.  She also serves on the board of Radio Bilingüe, Inc. and the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, on the Los Angeles County Bar Associate Litigation Section Executive Committee, and as Co-Chair of the ABA White Collar Crime Southern California Subcommittee.  As an associate, Ms. Carter was a founding member of the Board of KIPP Academy of Opportunity, a public charter middle school in South Los Angeles.


Ms. Carter spent eight years as a prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, where she focused on public corruption, civil rights, and sophisticated fraud cases, including those involving charges for embezzlement, money laundering, health care fraud, and identity theft.  Ms. Carter conducted a sweeping investigation of the largest sheriff’s department in the United States, which has resulted in the convictions of the former Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, and 19 other current and former officers.  She has also served on the Department of Justice Medicare Fraud Strike Force and as Identity Theft Coordinator.  Ms. Carter has worked closely with regulators from federal agencies including the FBI, IRS, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security. 


As a prosecutor, Ms. Carter led dozens of significant prosecutions, won convictions in several high-profile jury trials, and argued and briefed cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She also served as a mentor to new prosecutors in trial.  Ms. Carter’s cases have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, and on public radio’s “This American Life.”  She has received awards from the FBI, IRS, Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Inspection Service, Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators, the Los Angeles Business Journal, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.


Ms. Carter was selected by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of its “Most Influential Women Lawyers” in 2018.  She also received the Los Angeles County Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Special Recognition Award in 2018 and was recommended by Legal 500 for Labor and Employment Disputes-Defense in 2018.


iii.    Shawn Holley – Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP


Shawn Holley is a partner at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP and former Los Angeles County Public Defender, who has handled hundreds of serious criminal cases from inception to trial.  She was also the Managing Partner of the Los Angeles office of The Cochran Firm and the head of its national Criminal Defense Section. 


With more than 60 trials to her credit, Ms. Holley is the rare trial attorney who practices in the areas of both civil and criminal litigation.  She was a highly visible member of the O.J. Simpson defense team and worked closely with Johnnie Cochran on a number of high-profile civil and criminal cases when the firm was known as The Law Offices of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.  She represented actress Lindsay Lohan in three very high-profile criminal cases arising out of an alleged altercation with her vehicle, alleged theft of jewelry, and allegedly leaving the scene of a vehicle accident.  Among others, Ms. Holley has represented or currently represents Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Michelle Rodriguez, the Kardashian/Jenner family, Katt Williams, Shemar Moore, accused Symbionese Liberation Army bomber Sara Jane Olson, celebrated Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Axl Rose, Mike Tyson, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Lamar Odom, and Reggie Bush.


Ms. Holley was the chief legal correspondence for the E! Network and was a featured legal analyst on its nightly coverage of the Michael Jackson trial which was broadcast internationally.  Ms. Holley was the on-air legal analyst for KABC Eyewitness News in Los Angeles for several years and has appeared on The Today ShowGood Morning AmericaPrimeTime Live, Court TV, Fox News, and CNN.  She was also a featured lawyer on Fox TV’s Power of Attorney for two seasons and the judge on MTV’s The Verdict.


For the past 20 years, Ms. Holley has taught trial advocacy at Cardozo Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program at Yeshiva University in New York City.  She is a frequent speaker on high-profile litigation, women in the law, and the representation of “celebrity” clients.


Ms. Holley was named a “Power Lawyer” in 2011 and 2012 by the Hollywood Reporter, one of the Daily Journal’s Top 100 Lawyers in 2014, one of the Daily Journal’s Top Women Lawyers in 2012, 2014 and 2017 and one of the Daily Journal’s 2015 Top Entertainment Lawyers.  She was also named Southwestern Law School’s 2013 Outstanding Alumnus by the Black Law Students Association.


iv.    Mack Jenkins – U.S. Attorney’s Office

Mack Jenkins is the Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Sections at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and will be the moderator for this event.  Mr. Jenkins received his Bachelor of Arts from UCLA, where he had a brief and inglorious stint as a walk-on for the UCLA football team.  He graduated from Yale Law School, after which Mr. Jenkins worked for over four years at the downtown Los Angeles office of Gibson Dunn, where his practice focused on complex business and entertainment litigation and where he was awarded Public Counsel’s Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award for his pro bono litigation work. 

Mr. Jenkins joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2008.  During his tenure in General Crimes, Mr. Jenkins prosecuted one of the Secret Service’s largest “ink and jet” counterfeiting schemes, which is now memorialized in an episode on MSNBC’s American Greed.  He then joined the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Section where, among other cases, he prosecuted the District’s first racketeering case against a Bloods/Crips gang.  This 45-defendant indictment of the Pueblo Bishop Bloods (“PBB”) resulted in three separate multi-defendant, multi-week racketeering trials.  Across the three PBB trials, all defendants were convicted of racketeering and related charges, and the two defendants who were previously acquitted on state charges were both separately convicted of federal murder.  The PBB case and trials earned Mr. Jenkins the California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year Award in 2014 and a nomination for the Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Award. 

Mr. Jenkins followed up the PBB prosecution with a 72-defendant indictment of the Broadway Gangster Crips, which is currently the largest pending case in the District.  Mr. Jenkins then moved to the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section where he helped author the Office’s first wiretap of a sitting state senator in decades.  That wiretap resulted in the prosecution and convictions of former CA Senator Ron Calderon and his brother, former CA Assemblyman Tom Calderon. The Calderon prosecution resulted in Mr. Jenkins receiving a second California Lawyer’s Attorney of Year Award in 2017.

Mr. Jenkins is also currently the lead prosecutor on a hate crime case stemming from a gang’s coordinated midnight firebombing of units in the Ramona Gardens Housing Development that were occupied by African-American families, including children, in order to drive these families out of their homes.  During his career in the Office, Mr. Jenkins has tried approximately 12 cases, six of which have been multi-week RICO trials.  Mr. Jenkins has also secured federal murder convictions for over ten defendants.  In total, Mr. Jenkins has authored over 30 appellate briefs and argued before the Ninth Circuit nine times.

Mr. Jenkins teaches Trial Advocacy at the National Advocacy Center, is the Office’s Hate Crime Coordinator, and was one of the founding AUSAs for the District’s Substance Abuse Treatment And Reentry (STAR) Program.  He has previously served as a Hiring Committee member, the District Elections Officer, as a Human Trafficking Coordinator, and has chaired a subcommittee on the Diversity Committee.


III.             Event Logistics


In the Hot Seat: The Media’s Impact on High-Profile Litigation,” will be held on Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza in Downtown Los Angeles, 251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.  Valet parking is available for $15 or self-parking is available for $11.50 next door with an entrance on Olive Street.  Appetizers and a cash bar will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m.  The substantive program will be begin at 6:30 p.m. and will last for approximately one and a half hours. 


IV.             Why You Should Attend


The program is relevant to both civil and criminal litigators since it features experienced litigators from both sectors who have handled high-profile cases with intense media scrutiny.  “In the Hot Seat: The Media’s Impact on High-Profile Litigation” presents a unique opportunity for lawyers to gain access to invaluable and practical information on how to deal with issues in the media when litigating a high-profile cases that cannot be found elsewhere.  The speakers have experience in an approximately 100 combined trials and have achieved numerous prestigious accolades and awards for their success in these high-profile cases. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to hear directly from the experts in this field!


Thank you to our Annual Sponsors for graciously supporting our event!


[2] Parachini, Allan, California Courts Review: Managing the Media; Summer 2006.

[3] Pennekamp v. State of Fla. (1946) 328 U.S. 331, 362-63.