The Legal Advocate

A blog brought to you by the national institute for trial advocacy

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dealing with the Evasive Answer

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In this quick tip video Micheal Johnson discusses how to deal with evasive answers.

Communication Specialists: Mary Ryan and Brian Leroy

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Over the past 20 years The Portia Group Ltd. Has conducted focus groups, mock trials, and juror interviews with thousands of jurors and juror research participants all over the country. The Portia Group Ltd. is led by two principals, Mary E. Ryan and Brian E. Leroy. They have a combined background in persuasive and nonverbal communication, ancient rhetoric, law, trial consulting, economics, law firm management, psychology, performance arts, and behavior change.

Mary and Brian have been working with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy in both In-House and Public Programs for over 10 years.

*Mary and Brian were awarded the 2008 Hon. Prentice H. Marshal Award for Innovative Teaching Methods Using Focus Groups by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Mary E. Ryan has a background in nonverbal communication and a Master’s degree in ancient rhetoric and persuasion theory, along with over 20 years of experience as a trial consultant and jury researcher. She has conducted jury research all over the country on cases ranging from pharmaceuticals, medical negligence, auto crash, commercial disputes, and toxic torts to patent infringement, contract claims, construction defect, and personal injury. She consults with counsel and experts in trial preparation and assistance at trial with jury selection and case presentation.

Brian E. Leroy, Q.C. is a trial consultant and barrister who has been awarded a Queen’s Counsel for his professionalism and trial excellence in his native Canada. In addition to his 25+ year career as a trial lawyer, he has worked for over 10 years in the US as a trial consultant, conducting jury research on cases ranging from pharmaceuticals to commercial disputes and toxic torts to patent infringement. Along with Mary Ryan he has conducted research on 1000’s of focus groups and mock trial participants, as well as assisted counsel in trial preparation and assistance at trial.

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Individual Donors Make a Big Impact

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Special Thanks to Mike Ginsberg, Doug Irish, Leo Romero, Ben Rubinowitz, and Robin Weaver.

The NITA Foundation spotlights the generosity of individual donors who are passionate about supporting new Public Service Slots for Public Programs. Mike Ginsberg, Chair-Elect of the NITA Board and Partner with Jones Day donated $2,500. Doug Irish, NITA faculty member and attorney with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, gave $1,000. Leo Romero, Chair of the NITA Board and Emeritus Law Professor at the University of New Mexico Law School, gave $1,500 for scholarships to Rocky Mountain regional programs. Ben Rubinowitz, NITA Board member and Partner with Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz, donated $5,000 for scholarships for Northeast regional programs. Robin Weaver, NITA Board member and Partner with Squire Sanders, gave $1,800. We are so grateful for these donations. To join their efforts please make a gift today at www.nita.org/Donate.

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THE BEST JURY MOVIE EVER

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Post by guest blogger Judge Robert McGahey

Henry Fonda was one of our greatest actors.  Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Fonda was a star in Hollywood and on Broadway.  He made great movies: Young Mr. Lincoln, My Darling Clementine, The Grapes of Wrath, Mr. Roberts. But he served as producer on one film only: 1957’s 12 Angry Men, the best movie ever made about a jury – even though the film isn’t necessarily reflective of how juries actually work or are actually supposed to work.

The movie details the deliberations of a jury trying to come up with a verdict in a murder case where a young man (probably a teenager) is accused of killing his abusive father.  The jurors know that a guilty verdict will mean a death sentence for the defendant. After being instructed by the judge, the jurors retire to the cramped confines of the jury room.  A preliminary vote is taken: eleven “guilty”, one “not guilty.” The majority immediately turn on Juror #8 (Fonda) and badger him about his vote. Asked why he insists on discussing the case when the others think the defendant’s guilt is obvious, Juror #8 replies: “Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.” And from there, Juror #8 begins to do exactly that.

The movie is extremely claustrophobic in its setting, and the director, Sidney Lumet changed the focal length of his camera lenses as the movie went along to increase that feeling.  Except for the opening and closing scenes (about three minutes total), the entire film takes place in the jury room or the tiny washroom attached to it.  None of the jurors are ever named until the end of the movie; in fact, in any cast list you can find, they are identified only as “Juror #1”, Juror #2”, etc. The cast is fabulous: in addition to Fonda you have such excellent actors as Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, and E.G. Marshall, and supporting actors you will recognize from many other roles: Jack Warden, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, Robert Webber, Ed Binns, Martin Balsam.

12 Angry Men, like many ensemble movies, uses its characters as archetypes, which the lack of names emphasizes.  There’s The Truth Seeking Honest Man (Juror #8), The Arrogant Guy with Money (Juror #4), The Wise Old Man (Juror #9), The Immigrant Who Understands Citizenship (Juror #11), etc.  There’s also The Bigot (Juror #10) and The Psychotic (Juror #3). (With regard to the last two, any trial lawyer will wonder how these two got through voir dire?  Please.  Who got thrown off the panel instead of these guys?  Attila the Hun? Voldemort?)

Because of the setting, this isn’t a very “movie” movie. In fact, in a reverse of what we see today, where TV shows regularly are turned into movies, this movie was originally a live TV drama.  And it was anachronistic even for 1957.  A jury without any women on it?  And the jury does things during its deliberations that would result in a reversal if any of them came out during an appeal. (If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll avoid spoilers here.) And it’s shot in black and white. Believe me, none of that matters when you watch it.

12 Angry Men is a movie every trial lawyer needs to see.  We can argue about how accurately it depicts real jury deliberations (highly debatable) or whether it represents a 1950’s liberal’s fantasy about how juries are supposed to work (not debatable.) But we can’t argue with its power and its ultimate message: this is a system of justice, regular people participate in it — and the Framers were pretty smart guys.

We ask jurors to resolve issues of significance between their fellow citizens — and between their fellow citizens and the government. Trial lawyers have a symbiotic relationship with juries: we each need the other in order to do our job properly.  Watching 12 Angry Men can help you remember why you wanted to be a trial lawyer – and why you want to be the best one you can be.

John Baker

September 2012 Executive Director’s Letter: Advocacy Skills: Northern Ireland

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John BakerSince 1999, volunteer NITA faculty members have shared the “learning by doing” method of teaching advocacy skills with Solicitor Advocates from Northern Ireland. Seven American “Tutors” joined local, NITA-Trained Irish faculty to run the 13th Annual Law Society of Northern Ireland Advanced Advocacy Course for five days in Belfast September 3-7, 2012. As with all thirteen of the earlier NITA courses this program was sponsored, organized, and staged in conjunction with the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

The program was virtually identical to any of NITA’s Basic Trial programs in the United States. Since the legal system in Northern Ireland has some subtle procedural differences with the American system, NITA trained Irish tutors assist teaching in the performance rooms and in video review. The 49 Irish participants teamed up to represent their respective clients in an “Irishized” NITA criminal case file, reflecting terminology and procedural differences. High Court judges heard the cases without jurors in final trials. Completion of the program helps the Solicitor Advocates complete a comprehensive course of advocacy training.

The American tutors for this year included Jim Brosnahan, Doris Cheng, Angela Vigil, Bill Hunt, Peter Hoffman, John Baker, and Communication faculty member, Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla. This year’s trip was special for Jim Brosnahan as he was one of the NITA family, who was instrumental in organizing the original program in 1999.

The legal profession in Northern Ireland helped the country through the civil strife of the “troubles” as one of the constants for the Irish society. As Course Director Fiona Donnelly reminds us, “This advanced course is likely to be an integral part of the process for the solicitor advocates to achieve Higher Rights to practice in all courts in Northern Ireland.” The NITA community should be proud to play a role in supporting that legal profession going forward.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

John T. Baker

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system. NITA's Goal is to:
  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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