Mary Ellen Powers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

mary ellen powers

LinkedIn Mary Ellen Powers is a Jones Day law firm partner defending the Trump camp in a federal case in New York that claims it was complicit in the Russian cyber attack on the United States. .

Late Thursday a new filing was made in the 12-count federal Southern District of New York case the Democratic National Committee versus the Russian Federation, Donald J. Trump for President, Donald Trump Jr., campaign cohorts including Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopolous, John Does 1 – 10, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the GRU and its agent Guccifer2.0, Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and Trump himself.

The complaint alleges all of the above violated numerous federal laws in the Russian cyber attack on the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

The Trump camp has a new lawyer, Mary Ellen Powers.

Powers is a partner at Jones Day in Washington D.C. and according to the ‘about me’ page, her specialty is “complex civil litigation and high-profile criminal, regulatory, and congressional investigations for clients charged with racketeering

In many high-profile cases where the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of Justice, has brought charges, with Powers as defendant’s counsel, it fell to technical court matters that resulted in her successful defense of clients including Saudis in a 9/11 liability case where jurisdiction was argued and where a sitting governor found guilty of corruption saw his conviction vacated based on too-broad jury instructions.

In a court filing late Thursday, Powers told the court she’d be representing the Trump campaign.

Powers and her firm has a real stake in the Trump-Russia probe and recall that soon-out-the-door White House counsel Don McGhan was a Jones Day partner.

It’s not clear if he’ll be returning to the firm with his departure imminent. The firm, and Powers in particular, is very much involved with the Trump-Russia case as it defends the administration and the Trump campaign orbit.

Here’s what you need to know about Jones Day’s Mary Ellen Powers:


1. Powers Helped to Successfully Defend the Bin Laden Family in a 9/11 Terror Attack Liability Case

With Powers as second chair, according to the Jones Day website, court records and media reports, eight Saudi companies and individuals walked away because a court agreed there was a question whether or not federal prosecutors had jurisdiction to bring charges related to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

After a deep dive, Heavy located the list of clients Powers represented; the Bin Laden family and its businesses: Appellees Saudi Binladin Group, Abdullah Bin Laden, Bakr M. Bin Laden, Omar M. Bin Laden, Tarek M. Bin Laden, Yeslam M. Bin Laden, and and Khaled Bin Mahfouz.

In April of 2103, a press release from Powers and Jones Day said the government “sued hundreds of foreign defendants alleging wide-ranging theories of liability for the attacks under the Anti-Terrorism Act, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, and Torture Victim Protection Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a series of decisions by the district court that neither general nor specific jurisdiction existed over any of Jones Day’s clients.”

Powers and Jones Day claimed this case another victory for the firm and its clients. They do not mention their clients were the Bin Laden family in the statement. On the Jones Day website highlighting Powers’ big wins, it reads she defended “a Saudi construction company in connection with claims arising out of the 9/11 attacks.” Which is true. The family of 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden owns a large construction company.


2. Powers Defended Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell & His Wife in a Federal Corruption Case

mary ellen powers

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, followed by members of the media, leaves the U.S. Supreme Court April 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard the corruption appeal from McDonnell, who and his wife were convicted of accepting more than $175,000 of gifts and favors from businessman Jonnie Williams, who wanted their help to promote his dietary supplement product called Anatabloc.

In 2014, then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted on federal corruption charges after a lengthy federal investigation into $130,000 worth of gifts McDonnell and his wife got including trips and a Rolex from a dietary supplement maker. McDonnell repaid the CEO $120,000 and apologized, but claimed he didn’t break the law. He and his wife were indicted and found guilty of public corruption. The sitting governor was facing up to 12 years in prison, but after his attorney Powers and her firm argued for leniency, he got a 2-year sentence. A few months later, while out on bail pending his appeal-he was turned down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case argued by Powers and Jones Day and vacated his conviction saying the trail court issued jury instructions that defined ‘official acts’ too broadly and the government could come back with a more narrowed-down charge.

The Washington Post reported in September of 2016 that prosecutors decided against retrying McDonnell.

Powers’ press release called the win in the high court a “decisive victory” for McDonnell and Jones Day.


3. Powers Got a Successful Jury Verdict for Client IBM When Workers Claimed They Were Exposed to Carcinogens

ibm, mary ellen powers

Silicon Valley Location Of IBM In San Jose, California

Workers brought a case against IBM saying its workplace was a toxic environment claiming they’d been systemically chemically poisoned due to exposures to chemicals at IBM’s disk drive manufacturing facility in San Jose, California. The workers said IBM knew of the dangers and failed to act and “as a result of this alleged concealment, their initial injuries had aggravated into breast cancer in one plaintiff and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the other plaintiff.”

The case got a lot of attention nationally but it the end, IBM prevailed.

Powers’ press release says the cases she successfully defended against were “…the first four of more than 40 similar, pending cases brought by former employees or their survivors against IBM on the West Coast and another 200 pending cases brought by former employees or their survivors against IBM on the East Coast. Given the novelty of the San Jose lawsuit and the potential implications of an adverse verdict for IBM and the entire industry, the trial was highly publicized by the plaintiffs’ lawyers on both coasts, receiving significant attention from an often-hostile media as far away as India and Taiwan, and was closely monitored by the microelectronics and semiconductor industries.”

Bottom line: despite the cancers workers had, and with at least a couple two score more with similar claims of getting cancer from working at the IBM plant, “the jury of 11 women and one man deliberated for only a day-and-a-half before returning their unanimous defense verdict in the case of both plaintiffs, finding that neither plaintiff had suffered “systemic chemical poisoning.”

“The team’s success was a real testament to the one-firm concept, as reflected by the superb and coordinated efforts of Jones Day lawyers from six different offices,” the release read.


4. Powers, Described as Having ‘Cold-Blooded’ Analytical Skills as a Litigator, Says the ‘Media Exaggerate the Obstacles Women Face’

In a revealing, albeit brief, article from the Washington Law Journal from eight years ago about the most powerful D.C. female attorney’s, Powers, who was named among them joining U.S. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayo, said the “media exaggerate the obstacles women face. There’s too much focus on women as ‘victims of historical problems,’ she said. ‘There’s a lot of opportunity out there.’”

Now the Jones Day partners running the Europe division, then the report said she was “partner-in-charge of one of Jones Day’s largest offices — more than 400 lawyers and staff in Washington.” Powers was the “first female administrative partner at Jones Day” and while she pioneered a Jones Day policy to allow “associates and partners to work part-time,” which she did herself for a period of time and made it work through “not easily,” she said, was nonetheless critical of popular media culture assumptions about women’s professional equality and opportunity: “There’s a lot of opportunity out there.’”

The IBM general counsel was quoted as saying Powers has a “’cold-blooded’ ability to analyze the relevant issues that make her an exceptional litigator.”


5. Powers Has Spent 35 Years Defending High-Profile Clients in Criminal, Regulatory, & Congressional Investigations’ Cases

Powers earned her law degree in 1980 from the University of Virginia. According to her bio and LinkedIn, she has represented clients in complex civil litigation and high-profile criminal, regulatory, and congressional investigations for more than 35 years. Her practice has included cross-border disputes and investigations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, her bio reads.

She has defended clients against claims under RICO, the Anti-terrorism Act, and the Alien Tort Claims Act and in government investigations arising under the FCPA, the USA PATRIOT Act, and under securities, financial, and consumer regulatory statutes.

She represented toy maker Mattel in congressional investigations relating to toys manufactured in China, an overseas bank that challenged FinCEN sanctions under the USA PATRIOT Act, and like with IBM, successfully defended against “claims in a case alleging environmental exposure due to vapor intrusion.”

Powers is director of Attorneys’ Liability Assurance Society and a trustee of the Jones Day Foundation. She has served on the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and as a lecturer in trial advocacy at the George Washington University National Law Center.

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