Marci Gilligan LaBranche has spent her nearly two-decade career on criminal and civil defense involving issues ranging from white collar crime to sexual misconduct allegations. But in recent years, the latter have made up an increasingly large share of her practice, and she defends sexual misconduct cases in both the civil and criminal realms.
In 2017, she had three trials defending sexual assault accusations in five months. Gilligan LaBranche, a partner at Ridley McGreevy & Winocur, said she’s been hearing more from other civil law firms in town asking for her help in #MeToo- type cases.
“In private practice, I didn’t see a lot of it probably until the past six, seven, eight years,” she said. “But even more so, as you can imagine, as the years have gone by.” Increased scrutiny on sexual misconduct makes jury selection especially important, because an attorney has to under- stand potential jurors’ opinions from the outset, since it’s an issue every- one has strong opinions about.
“People are very willing to talk about their feelings. I’m sure every- one always had strong feelings, but I find jurors really want to be fair one way or the other, and really want to tell you that they have these biases or thoughts or concerns that they’re bringing with them to a trial,” Gilligan LaBranche said. She added that in her experience, jurors in general take seriously their responsibilities for understanding and applying the law fairly. Also affecting juries, she said, is that every judge oversees the voir dire process differently.
“We all have [implicit] biases and [implicit] prejudices that we don’t mean to have, and that’s why I’m al- ways so impressed with jurors who are willing to admit that, because it’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s how people end up getting a fair trial.”
She said in high-profile cases, media attention can affect considerations such as venue, but she said visibility doesn’t otherwise change how she thinks about the cases.