In 2013, it was my honor to represent David Swenson in a 44-day jury trial in which he was accused of money laundering, conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud for his involvement in a company known as DBSI. During the proceedings, the federal government referred to the DBSI case as “the biggest fraud prosecution in the history of the state of Idaho.” Thousands of people lost millions of dollars when DBSI was forced to cease operations due to the “Great Recession” in 2008 and the freezing of the credit and real estate markets. As I said in my closing argument – that was a shame. Although David was acquitted of the money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud counts, he was unfortunately convicted of the securities fraud counts and received a 36-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay restitution in the millions of dollars.
“Fast” forward to June 5, 2017. (Thankfully, David and his co-defendants are on release pending appeal at this time.) Oral argument on David’s and the three co-defendants’ appeal was heard before a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington. The case took, literally, thousands of hours to prepare for trial. As I said above, the trial took 44 days. There were many unique and significant legal issues which could lead to reversal of David’s and the others’ convictions and, potentially, their freedom. There were literally thousands of pages of transcript and record materials. There were literally hundreds of written arguments in the briefing submitted to the Ninth Circuit.
Now to the crux of this post and the reason for the title. All 4 people convicted – known as “appellants” in legal jargon, were granted a total of 20 minutes for argument. That breaks down to 5 minutes per individual if all counsel had decided to present argument. As a team, we thought it was best to utilize our time by having two attorneys argue. This way the clock wouldn’t keep running when counsel changed and time wasn’t wasted giving introductions 4 times. I will tell you – 20 minutes flew by. It really was quite unbelievable how quickly those 20-odd minutes passed. At the end, you always wish for more time, but hope you did the job with the time you had. (I guess it’s a lot like life that way!) You have to make your time count by: (1) submitting well-written briefs; (2) being prepared for any possible question by reviewing the law and the briefs; and (3) narrow the issues to present at oral argument to those that either will make the most difference or in which the judges take the most interest.
In any event, if you are interested in listening to the oral argument, simply click on this link. It will take you to the audio recording. I expect we won’t be getting an opinion in this case for 4-6 months. When it comes out, I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts.