Joseph Cotchett, the Burlingame lawyer who is handling San Jose's antitrust lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball of illegally holding up the city's effort to become the home of the Oakland A's, has had a career full of famous cases and clients. Among them: NFL: Cotchett defended the Los Angeles Rams and National Football League from 1980 antitrust claims by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission and Oakland Raiders. A federal jury in 1982 sided with the Coliseum and Raiders, allowing the team's Los Angeles move. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the antitrust verdict. The Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995. Viola Liuzzo: Cotchett was lead trial lawyer on the legal team that in 1979 sued the FBI on behalf of slain civil rights worker Liuzzo's family for having hired an informant who was with the Ku Klux Klanmen when they fatally shot her as she drove with a black man on an Alabama highway in 1965. Cotchett's team lost the case in 1983, but the FBI later overhauled informant procedures based on the trial. Technical Equities: Cotchett won jury verdicts of more than $200 million on behalf of hundreds of investors ranging from elderly couples to sports stars who had lost their savings in the 1988 collapse of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by charismatic Silicon Valley financier Harry Stern through his San Jose investment firm, attorneys and accountants. Lincoln Savings and Loan: In Perhaps Cotchett's most famous victory, he represented thousands of investors, many elderly, wiped out by the failure of financier Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan, an Irvine thrift his Arizona real estate firm, American Continental, acquired before its 1989 bankruptcy. The initial Arizona jury award of $3.3 billion in 1992 was among the largest of its kind at the time but later was reduced to $1.75 billion. Subic Bay Naval Base: After the base was closed, Cotchett sued the U.S. Navy in 1993 on behalf of some 8,000 children who were left behind in surrounding villages and were fathered by American sailors. The U.S. government ultimately provided several million dollars for the children's education. Consumers Union: Cotchett successfully defended the consumer advocacy group in 2000 from a defamation suit brought by Japanese automaker Isuzu Motors over criticism of its 1995-96 Trooper SUV model. Valerie Plame: Cotchett was part of the legal team that represented the former CIA agent in a 2006 lawsuit against officials in former President George W. Bush's administration whom they accused of outing the former spy after her diplomat husband publicly criticized their case for war in Iraq, ending her career. The lawsuit later was dismissed on executive privilege grounds in Washington, D.C. Bernard Madoff: Cotchett sued the New York financier in 2009 on behalf of thousands of investors bilked by Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He was the only attorney to interview Madoff in federal prison.
Biography Name: Joseph Cotchett Age: 74 Hometown: San Mateo Family: Five grown children and six grandchildren Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 1960; Juris Doctorate, Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, 1964; Honorary Doctor of Laws, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (2002); Doctor of Humane Letters, Notre Dame de Namur University (2006); Doctor of Humane Letters, University of San Francisco (2011) Public service: U.S. Army (Intelligence Corps, Special Forces Airborne, Judge Advocate General Corps) 1960-1961 active duty, reserves until 1991, retired at rank of colonel; California State Park and Recreation Commission 2000-03, chairman; Army War College Foundation board, 2001-05; California State Bar Association Board of Governors, 1972-75; California Judicial Council, 1976-80; California Commission on Judicial Performance 1985-88 Awards: 1996 Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Jurisprudence Award; 1999 California State Bar Association Litigation Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame; 2011 American Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame; 2011 Judicial Council of California Distinguished Service Award; 2011 California State Bar Association Antitrust Lawyer of the Year; 2011 California League of Conservation Voters Environmental Leadership Award; 2011 Consumer Watchdog Lifetime Achievement Award Charity: $5 million fund to support science and mathematics teacher education at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to serve inner-city and rural minority children; Cotchett Family Foundation supports and aids individuals and groups in need of assistance, especially animal and environmental groups Quotes: "It's not about winning or losing, it's about shining a light on things that need justice"; "The true champion is the person who is not afraid of power but fights for principle."