Trial Pros: Farella Braun's Bill Keane
March 23, 2016
"Trial Pros: Farella Braun's Bill Keane"
William P. Keane is a partner in Farella Braun & Martel LLP’s San Francisco office, where he is chairman of the complex litigation department. He has nearly 30 years of experience in criminal and civil litigation trials. His complex litigation practice emphasizes white collar criminal and regulatory defense, corporate internal investigations and commercial and intellectual property litigation. Notably, he has extensive experience in defending clients in securities-fraud matters being investigated and charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's Office and also in antitrust cases being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. He has represented clients in criminal cases and investigations involving Medicare fraud, banking, environmental law, off-label pharmaceutical marketing, tax violations, mail, wire and computer fraud, government false claims and export and money laundering violations. He leads corporate internal investigations on accounting, fraud, FCPA, trade-secret and pharmaceutical-industry matters.
Keane is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has served on the court-appointed U.S. Magistrate Judge Selection Committee and as a Lawyers’ Representative for the Northern District of California. Prior to joining Farella, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Silicon Valley Office in San Jose, where he specialized in white collar criminal prosecutions.
Q. What's the most interesting trial you've worked on and why?
A. It is hard not to pick my defense of world-class track coach Trevor Graham in the steroid/BALCO-related jury trial that took place before Barry Bonds' trial. I have to say, however, that my "most interesting" was the administrative trial defense I did related to the largest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the international sailing championship America's Cup, held on San Francisco Bay in September 2013. I represented one of six Oracle Racing crew members accused of cheating before an international jury of sailing experts. The hearing was in the two weeks leading up to the start of the championship races. I was the only defense counsel who was not an accomplished sailor. Many of the top 10 sailors on the planet were in that hearing room at some point. It was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the sport, and we were pleased with the result for our Australian client.
Q. What's the most unexpected or amusing thing you've experienced while working on a trial?
A. The biggest laugh I ever got before a jury occurred when, as an assistant U.S. attorney, I had an investment fraud victim on direct examination describe attending a movie with the lead defendant, which movie the defendant himself selected: "Other People's Money" (starring Danny DeVito). One of the jurors was still laughing ten minutes later.
Q. What does your trial prep routine consist of?
A. My trial prep routine is probably not all that different from most trial lawyers. One thing that stands out for me: I tend to spend an extraordinary amount of time preparing my opening statement, which — while so important in all trials — I find especially critical and challenging when defending criminal cases. In the aftermath of what often sounds like a crushing, overwhelmingly strong case for the prosecution, the challenge is how in your allotted opening time to swing the momentum completely around when often not knowing what the evidence will be (e.g., will my client testify?) At a minimum, my goal after openings is to have the jury thinking: "This sounds like a close case that is not nearly as obvious as the prosecution says it is." That, at least from the defense perspective, gives you a fighting chance.
Q. If you could give just one piece of advice to a lawyer on the eve of their first trial, what would it be?
A. Expect the unexpected — it is inevitable no matter how much and well you prepare.
Q. Name a trial attorney, outside your own firm, who has impressed you and tell us why.
A. One of the trial lawyers who had a big influence on me early in my career was a colleague in the U.S. attorney's office, former AUSA Marcia Jensen, most recently the mayor of Los Gatos, California. Marcia, who had also been a deputy DA, had an uncanny ability to synthesize and boil a case down to its essence. One of her guiding principles: do in trial just what needs to be done and no more.
Read Q&A online at https://www.law360.com/articles/764563 (subscription required).