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Jackie S.
Democrat CA 14

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  • Recognizing Joe Cotchett

    by Representative Jackie Speier

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    SPEIER of california in the house of representatives Thursday, January 9, 2014 Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize an extraordinary man, and a true humanitarian, who is celebrating his 75th birthday and his 50th anniversary practicing law in pursuit of justice for all Americans. Joe Cotchett is a Burlingame attorney known for his intellectual honesty, his booming declaration of indignation over the lack of justice for his clients, and an enormous heart that pumps love out to all, especially those in urgent need.

    A few examples of his work over the years demonstrate his dedication to the rule of law. This chamber may never have heard of Joe Cotchett, but many have heard of Charles Keating, the former CEO of Lincoln Savings and Loan. Joe pursued Keating through the years until senior citizens who were bilked had received some measure of recompense. He took the case when others considered it a hopeless cause. Not to Joe. Justice is never hopeless in the law offices of Joe Cotchett.

    In fact, white collar criminals know the name of Joe Cotchett well, as he pursued them in the interests of swindled investors in companies such as Technical Equities. When banks and securities firms sold Enron's bonds and assured investors that the bonds were sound, they defrauded buyers. Joe Cotchett held the sellers accountable. More recently, the County of San Mateo is likely to receive tens of millions of dollars through a suit filed against Lehman Brothers and the personal assets of its former CEO, Richard Fuld. Public agencies and the human needs that they serve will recover from wrongdoers, thanks to Joe Cotchett.

    In the eyes of many in modern day America, civil justice is a rich man's right and a stale leftover due any poor man with the temerity to plead at the doors of a courtroom. In the eyes of Joe Cotchett, justice is an everyday pursuit on behalf of any American who has been wronged and who deserves redress.

    Mr. Speaker, there are probably many persons who are alive today who unknowingly owe their economic well-being and peace of mind to Joe Cotchett. In 2000, Consumers Union was hit with a product disparagement and defamation suit. An automaker claimed that Consumers Union had hurt its reputation. Indeed, when the magazine pointed out that vehicles made by the company were prone to rollovers, sales fell. Joe Cotchett successfully defended Consumers Union and the right of investigative, consumer-oriented journalism to spell out the truth to buyers. Lives then and now are saved because this lawsuit and another in 2004 were not successful. The truth about dangerous products will continue to be published.

    Most recently, he recovered $1.5 billion for California counties which had sued lead paint manufacturers for the damage done to children by lead-tainted products. The settlement will go towards removing lead from the homes of low income children throughout California.

    He once defended the justices of the California Supreme Court who were sued by various Wall Street interests. Wall Street was a bit unhappy with the court's rules regarding arbitration. The Wall Streeters were unsuccessful, thanks to Joe, and now it is demonstrable that there is justice even for justices but, most importantly, for the public interest that these justices serve.

    Joe's work is not merely on behalf of those who can pay. Amerasian children in the Philippines were left in villages after Subic Bay Naval Base closed. Joe mounted a suit on their behalf that resulted in a settlement giving [[Page E40]] direct U.S. aid to the children fathered by U.S. servicemembers. Locally, Joe and his law firm are routinely at the top of the list of donors to nonprofits helping the disabled, mentally ill, homeless and many others. It would be difficult to overstate the generosity of Joe towards his many communities, including $5 million to create an endowment at California State Polytechnic University to promote the teaching of mathematics and science. Joe Cotchett has been ``paying it forward'' for decades, all with the knowledge that the meaningful legacies of any man's life are not memorialized in stone but rather demonstrated by the conscientious, continuous replacement of despair and anguish with hope and well-being.

    Of course, over 50 years of practice it would be expected that an accomplished advocate would receive many honors and serve in many positions. Joe's honors and places of service are so numerous that they defy enumeration. Let me name just a few: Service on the board of the San Mateo County Heart Association, the San Mateo Boys and Girls Club, the Peninsula Association of Retarded Children and Adults, the Bay Meadows Foundation, Disability Rights Advocates, Public Citizen, and Earth Justice. He has lectured at the law schools of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Southern California, Georgetown, and U.C. Hastings College of the Law. Among his many honors have been those bestowed by the Anti-Defamation League, trial lawyer associations both state and national, and the State Bar of California. He has been published seven times and is a member of eight professional organizations, including the State Bar of California, and the bar associations of New York and the District of Columbia. He is also admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Joe Cotchett received his B.S. in Engineering from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo in June 1960, being named an outstanding graduate, and his J.D. from Hastings College of the Law at the University of California in June 1964. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Cal Poly and Honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Notre Dame de Namur University and the University of San Francisco. He is the author of ``The Ethics Gap'', ``California Continuing Education of the Bar'' and many others. His honors include being named Top 100 Lawyers in California by California Daily Journal in 2011 and the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America list for 2011.

    Do you see the theme here, my fellow members? Starving children. Children being poisoned by lead. Trusting consumers. The Earth in all her glory? Investors who legitimately trusted in free and fair markets? These are the clients of an honest, thoughtful advocate. An honest man is sometimes described as being made of the salt of the Earth. In fact, Joe is a bit salty. He can sometimes be crusty. But he is definitely of this Earth. Joe Cotchett deserves a happy 75th birthday and a warm round of applause for 50 years of service in the interest of justice. America is always strengthened by citizen advocates who see the public's interest and who defend it unstintingly. This nation should hope that there are many more years in the life and service of Joseph W. Cotchett, an historic defender of American democracy.


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