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Women of steel

This story appears in the School of Law’s Summer 2012 Mag­a­zine. It was written by free­lancer Maura King Scully.

There are a lot of jokes about the sorry state of Pennsylvania’s highways, but for Tara I. Allen, L’98, Candace Cain, L’83 and 
Linda (Jarrett) Cohn, L’97, all roads lead to Pittsburgh, where the three have formed a Northeastern law triumvirate at the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District 
of Pennsylvania.

“When I was a student, I don’t think there were any co-op employers in Pittsburgh,” recalls Cohn. Yet, the three were seemingly drawn, like magnets, to the Steel City. Cain and Cohn are both originally from the area; Allen moved to Pittsburgh from the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, in a quest to get closer to her native Boston while staying on track with her career as a federal criminal defense attorney.

All three credit Northeastern’s clinics with inspiring their public interest careers. “I blame Wally Holohan and the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic,” says Cain. “That absolutely cemented my love of criminal defense work.”

“There’s not a trial that goes by that I don’t think back to Wally and his cross-examination techniques,” echoes Cohn. “That was the best training I ever had.”

For Allen, it was the Criminal Advocacy Clinic that “shaped my desire to do this work,” she says. “That was the first time I had to go to court, to learn how to talk with clients, and not in legalese.”

The training apparently paid off. In fall 2011, Cain, with Allen as her second chair and Cohn cheering from the sidelines, argued Reynolds v. United States before the U.S. Supreme Court, securing a victory for her client. The case, which grappled with the question of whether or not SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) applied to those convicted before 2006, has now been remanded to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. And so, like these three Northeastern alumnae, the battle over SORNA will hit the road back to the Keystone State.