May 22, 2013
Following the grounding of the EXXON VALDEZ in 1989, Federal, State and local Governments in the United States have become increasingly aggressive in prosecuting shipowners, crewmembers and corporate officers for environmental violations related to pollution accidents. We have an extensive environmental and marine pollution practice and it has become clear since EXXON VALDEZ that whenever a spill or a natural resource damage occurs, the potential for serious criminal liability exists and a criminal investigation is likely. In many instances, criminal prosecution may follow. Accordingly, we have established a Maritime Criminal Defense Group, consisting of experienced attorneys, to handle the maritime criminal defense of shipowners, crewmembers, and corporate officers who are at risk of alleged crimes. For a detailed look at our Maritime Criminal Defense Group, click here.
Heading this department is Thomas M. Russo. Mr. Russo was a lead criminal defense attorney for the Master of the EXXON VALDEZ and since 1989 he has had extensive experience representing a wide variety of defendants in criminal investigations and cases arising from vessel accidents and pollution incidents. Mr. Russo is a former Executive Assistant District Attorney possessing extensive criminal trial experience. He has lectured worldwide on maritime criminal liability, and has published numerous articles and papers on the topic. Accordingly, we have a unique combination of both criminal expertise, environmental expertise and shipping expertise to handle pollution catastrophes.
While most maritime firms need to engage outside criminal counsel to cover the potential criminal liabilities arising from pollution accidents, our firm has the in-house capability to handle both the civil and criminal aspects of such cases. Furthermore, our criminal maritime lawyers are not only extensively experienced in criminal matters and criminal procedure, they are also experienced in maritime law as well. There is no learning curve necessary to bring our criminal lawyers up to speed relative to maritime and navigation issues, or regarding ship terminology and naval architecture.
Our main goal in our criminal defense department is to prevent a criminal charge from being leveled against our client. Our lawyers have negotiated with law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the EPA, and local District Attorneys in any number of cases, successfully convincing such agencies to decline prosecution. Frequently our cases result in no prosecutions. On the other hand, we are prepared to fully defend an environmental crimes case through trial and appeal.
As a law firm whose tradition is historically maritime, we are also aware of our clients' concerns about costs in the industry. Accordingly, we provide top-flight environmental defense litigation at a rate consistent with maritime law practice. Many clients have discovered that criminal lawyers outside the maritime field are not sensitive to the economic conditions in the maritime industry and, as a matter of course, will be much more expensive.
Maritime criminal law is a unique area of our practice, and we have the capability to respond nationwide to defend criminal pollution cases. Our attorneys handle criminal defense cases throughout the United States, and in the last few years have dealt with cases in Alaska, California, Texas, Florida, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Maine, New York and New Jersey.