Over a career spanning nearly four decades, criminal defense lawyer Dan Cogdell has served as trial counsel in more than 300 trials in 16 states and achieved a number of storied successes: He obtained the only acquittal in the original trials related to the collapse of Enron Corp., as well as acquittals in the 1994 Branch Davidian trial and the Houston City Hall bribery cases; currently, he is defending the Texas attorney general from securities fraud charges.
While Cogdell has spent the majority of his career practicing at his own boutique law firm, he recently joined Jones Walker as a partner at the firm’s Houston office—a move he says will ensure the best service for his clients, particularly with the anticipated increase in regulatory scrutiny under the Biden administration.
“Under the prior administration we saw the lowest prosecution on complex matters ever,” Cogdell says. “My move to Jones Walker was predicated primarily on the belief that under the Biden administration we will see more enforcement matters; not only will there be more cases in terms of the quantity but there will be more complex cases where additional resources and staffing will be required that are not present in smaller shops. Many of my clients have more than one issue they’re facing, and Jones Walker has a diversified bench of lawyers that can assist in any area of practice.”
Indeed, Jones Walker has more than 355 lawyers across offices in eight states and the District of Columbia and counsels individuals and businesses in a wide range of legal disciplines. Cogdell notes, “Previously, when I handled cases involving specific areas, such as environmental law, I would have to associate with lawyers outside my firm; now, I can walk down the hall and receive assistance from some of the leading attorneys in these fields.”
For example, in 2020 Cogdell represented the head of logistics for Arkema in litigation following the 2017 chemical plant explosion in Crosby, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey. He notes that the matter involved complex issues relating to environmental law and that being able to call on experienced lawyers in the area proved invaluable. “We started that trial last year in February and broke in March for what we thought would be spring break but turned out to be a long COVID-19reset,” Cogdell says. “When we resumed in December, my client’s case was the first to be dismissed and then all the other defendants’ cases were dismissed as well. It was a very complex matter, and I couldn’t have tried that case without the help of a number of environmental lawyers from different parts of the country, which speaks to the fact that I’m handling more complex cases where having a deeper bench of lawyers on hand to assist is essential.”
The resources of Jones Walker will also be helpful in the coming months as courts begin to address the cases that were backlogged due to COVID-19 restrictions. Cogdell estimates that he will be handling 10-12 complex matters in different parts of the country over the next 8-10 months, and says he is looking forward to the challenge. “Trials for criminal cases came to a full stop during the pandemic, with judges continuing to push them back every 2-3 months at a time,” Cogdell notes. “But now we are starting to see judges set these matters for trial, so I should be back in the courtroom by July, and then from that month until the end of the year I’ll most likely be in trial back-to-back; so having additional people to work on these cases with me will be absolutely critical.”
In the meantime, Cogdell continues to be celebrated for his previous achievements. A few years ago, the Oxygen Network aired a one-hour documentary on Cogdell’s defense in the Branch Davidian trial called “Waco: In Defense Of,” and last year Netflix aired a miniseries on the Waco siege that is being followed up by a series covering the trial and Cogdell’s work. “That case demonstrated how important a criminal defense lawyer can be in situations where the government has run amok, and there remains nothing more rewarding in my professional life than achieving an acquittal for a client in those instances,” Cogdell says.