TO: NITA CENTRAL
FROM: Michael and Jo Anne Roake
RE: The Micronesian Legal Services/NITA Paradise Tour of 2012
What is not to like about the seven-week-long 2012 Micronesian Legal Services Basic Trial Skills Training, other than United Airlines? In a seven island swing through Majuro, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Saipan, Yap and Palau, Jo Anne and Michael Roake trained 62 lawyers and trial counselors in a basic trial advocacy program pursuant to a U.S. Department of the Interior grant administered by Micronesian Legal Services Corporation (“MLSC”) and implemented by NITA under the very able hands of Terre Rushton.
In addition to MLSC lawyers, MLSC generously opened up the training to other advocates on the respective Islands, so NITA was also able to train private attorneys, attorneys general, public defenders, and judicial clerks. Judges and court officials often sat in for sessions, and in one venue even members of the public dropped by to watch (it probably was the most exciting live theater event happening on island).
Everyone responded well to NITA’s learning-by-doing model. Invariably we were approached with requests for more training, not only by lawyers but also by judges, many of whom would appreciate NITA training to increase efficiency in their courtrooms as well as improve their own proficienty with best practices and the Federal Rules of Evidence (used throughout the FSM). The training in Saipan was so popular that admission for local bar members was by lottery! Certainly, there was a general recognition that Micronesia longs for continuing legal education and NITA is accepted as the gold standard (amazing how often someone said they or someone they knew had taken a NITA course and it had been wonderful).
The trip was a professional NITA success on a number of levels. Aside from the enthusiastic training fervor of our legal participants on Majuro, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Saipan, Yap, and Palau, the Roakes also met with local legal leaders and judges at each stop, and were feted to great celebratory beach feasts at the end of each three-day program by new found friends and colleagues.
Personally, it was a fantastic voyage. Here is but a partial list of highlights: NITA’s great Peter Carlisle (now Mayor of Honolulu) debating on television, great snorkeling on eight different Islands in Micronesia and the Northern Marianas, reading about pirate ships and tall tales, wreck diving on Chuuk (aka Truk), exploring ancient ruins in a mangrove swamp on Pohnpei, swimming with sharks in Chuuk and with manta rays in Yap, kayaking in rivers to see fruit bats, and checking out WWII relics in Palau. Did we mention the sunsets? All this and professional satisfaction too!
Prior to the actual training, individual three-day schedules were created to address identified needs in each of the offices, and all materials were sent in advance electronically. In almost every office, these materials were made into lovely blue tabbed folders. The Roakes carried a copy of all the materials on disk and JPEG–a necessity as it turned out, because the level of available technology varied considerably. Looking to the future, a number of possible upgrades to the file suggested themselves as the trainings went along, which could be incorporated into the Bier file for even greater usability.
Most of the training focused on basic trial skills. The lawyers in six of the seven island venues received the basic eight-day trial advocacy course in three days, plus components for motion practice and making the appellate record. The emphasis was on case planning, cross examination, and making objections, followed by full trials on the third day. On Saipan, the Roakes used a hybrid deposition/trial skills approach for an ambitious one day program (both schedules are attached). Further adjustments were made along the way to accommodate participant need and skill level. The short Bier file allowed participants to focus on skills (as opposed to the requirements of the longer case files), as it can be edited to suit a number of purposes (e.g., human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, labor disputes). After seven weeks, the Roakes saw nuances you wouldn’t believe (and it was not the sekau)!
In summary, the seven week sojourn was both professionally and personally rewarding. Michael and Jo Anne Roake would like to especially thank Terre Rushton and Ben Weber for making it possible. Their efforts left these NITA trainers feeling very well cared for throughout.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
There are strong grant and NITA market opportunities in Micronesia.
Micronesia is in a state of flux. Under its agreements or Compact with the U.S., it will will soon have to be economically self-sustaining, as U.S. funding will run out in a few years. This is a real challenge the Federated States of Micronesia face. Currently there is an urgent need to ready themselves to operate well under a rule of law and to refine and strengthen their legal architecture to face the challenges of the future. The legal system is based on an American model and the legal community is hungry for more training.
NITA has an great opportunity to at once influence the Rule of Law in an evolving area of the world and also expand its international reputation as the premier, go-to advocacy trainer. If NITA wants to be the brand name synonymous with the world’s best advocacy training, NITA can make it happen in Micronesia. The FSM, as we speak, is reaching out to China, Japan, and Australia to fill the void that will be left by declining U.S. sponsorship. These new partners, whoever they will be, will want a strong rule of law structure in Micronesia to protect their investments. NITA’s development of the already existing, though frail, rule of law system will be viewed very favorably, resulting in support of our efforts from foreign governments, as well as the U.S. Certainly, a strengthened bar and judiciary would act to protect the citizens of the FSM from overreaching.
The following are some points NITA may want to consider when deciding whether to pursue further training in this target rich environment:
1. Develop contacts based on the folks who have just attended this training. On every island, there are small private bar associations, attorneys general, public defenders, judges, and judicial clerks. All of these groups came to the trainings and all wanted more for their particular constituency. Such development can start with letters to the attendees by e-mail, recognizing their hard work and suggesting future contact to meet their needs.
2. Consider developing remote learning programs attuned to particularized needs of the legal groups marooned on these islands. In Saipan and Palau, the bar members (and the agency attorneys) were desperate for NITA training and responded extremely favorably to it. In the FSM, our basic trial advocacy programs would be really welcome. If we could dedicate some remote learning modules to them, it would be favorably received. The internet is being explored by groups such as The Pisces Project to effectuate more learning within the islands.
3. Align to the audience. The FSM has set a low threshold to be a trial counselor. Saipan and Palau bars have higher legal training requirements, but skills are still rudimentary. Trainers have to be quick to analogize and flexible in teaching basic skills, despite the fact the FSM operates under the Federal Rules of Evidence. That is not to say they are poor advocates–they are good advocates. They just lack some of the evidentiary knowledge that a law school graduate usually has. FSM trial counselors have heart and are smart. In many ways, the challenges are similar to those faced in training lay advocates on the Navajo Nation, concerns Mark Caldwell could address.
4. Recognize some equipment needs may not be met. Not each office has a LCD projector for PowerPoint. Adapt and improvise!
5. Sending information electronically worked well and is economically effective.
6. Have direct local contact with satellite offices (in advance, if possible). Ben Weber, the interim director, was a dream in arranging things. But even Ben couldn’t hold hands the entire trip, and some offices were better prepared than others in having a turn-key operation ready to go. Trust, but verify.
7. Develop a workable way to handle expenses. Travel is the big issue, as United has a monopoly on the Island Hopper route and flights can be cancelled. So the flight schedule determines how long you must remain on one island before proceeding eastward. Sometimes the flights come once a week, and you pray there is no fly-over of your island. Obviously you must allot quite a bit of time if you are visiting all the FSM islands (might consider piecemeal approach, such a one or two islands at a time). Traveling in Micronesia is wonderful, but it can be challenging in terms of flight schedules, facilities, and accommodations. No high maintenance people need apply! NITA also needs to consider an alternative to trainers fronting thousands of dollars while clutching fistfuls (eventually a suitcase full) of itemized receipts wrested from a culture that doesn’t itemize (in Kosrae, they giggled when I asked for a gas receipt as they poured gas into my car from plastic gallon containers!).
We remain available to discuss other issues regarding travel, preparation, composition of the offices, and adjustments for the future, and encourage any trainers lucky enough to be part of this effort to contact us.
Michael and JoAnne Roake
Earlier this year, NITA added another tool to NITA’s trial advocacy toolbox for teaching and learning advocacy skills: the NITA Blog! For the inaugural blog, we are asking our superb NITA faculty for submissions about their “favorite advocacy critique,” with an emphasis on the “prescription” or “fix.” This submission should be a short article on how you would improve a person’s advocacy skills. We ask you to describe in writing the critique that you believe is most helpful to participants. You should focus on the prescription, or how to fix the skill performance to make it better. (Or, if you were a participant in a NITA program, describe a critique that was effective for you.)
The article should be about describing the critique; not a verbatim critique. We do not want to include any specific “playback” so as to avoid having a past participant read the blog and say you were specifically writing about him or her. We will adhere to our policy of “what goes on a NITA programs stays within the program”.
Additionally, with help from many in the NITA community, we have already established a “Quick Tips” theme of posts, NITA publication reviews, and Studio71 video posts, and are working on more concepts for blog posts that will aid in the teaching and learning of advocacy skills.
Although I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to online technology, I have come to view the NITA blog as a wonderful online brainstorming session. All of us at NITA hope to get a variety of views on what is effective for our teachers and participants. NITA will act as an editor to assure quality control, but we look forward to an open and diverse online discussion.
Please follow the NITA Blog by clicking on the “follow” button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and then providing your email address. (See images below)
John T. Baker
Every quarter, NITA and Martindale-Hubbell announce the recipients of the Advocate Designation. This designation requires completion of NITA’s Building Trial Skills program, Deposition Skills program, and one of the following: Articulate Advocate, Writing Persuasive Briefs, or another specialty program.
Join us in congratulating the following new Advocates:
If you have any questions on how you can receive the Advocate Designation please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a busy (and rather prestigious) past month for members of the NITA Board of Trustees. Since the last edition of NITA Notes, one Board member was named Interim Dean at a law school and one received a Best Lawyer® Award.
Barbara Bergman was recently appointed as the Interim Dean at the University of New Mexico School of Law. She has been teaching at the school since 1987 and was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the school prior to this appointment. Dean Bergman has been a program director for NITA as well as a faculty member at many child advocacy and other public service programs. In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees, she is the Chair of the Board’s Public Service Committee. More info on Bergman’s appointment can be found here.
Fresh off being the program director at the National Session this year, Ben Rubinowitz has been named the 2013 New York City Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers. This award is given to only one lawyer in each practice area in each community. Rubinowitz, member of the NITA Board of Trustees, program director, faculty member, and author, was also named by his peers to be included in 19th edition of Best Lawyers in United States in the following categories: Legal Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs, Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs, Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs and Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs. To read more about how one gets named to the Best Lawyers® list click here.
Over the last few months NITA has published several new case files that we wanted to tell you about. Each file comes with a CD containing additional content, and are all available for purchase through LexisNexis. These files are an excellent addition to any law library or classroom.
Addison v. Peyton By Elizabeth I. Boals
Addison v. Peyton is a civil case version of State v. Peyton. This negligence case includes two witness for both the Plaintiff and the Defense, as well as optional expert testimony. The file also includes previous recorded testimony, medical expert testimony, and bias impeachment.
State v. Bloodworth By Sharon Cammisa and Joseph E. Taylor
State v. Bloodworth is a new criminal case file examining the death of Kenneth Fletcher. The Defendant, Gene Bloodworth, has been charged with murder. There are four witnesses for each side of the case, including forensic pathologist experts.
Love v. Regency By Edward Stein, JD and Jonathan Rest, MD
Love v. Regency is another brand-new file. This infringement case is based on the use of similar slogans in a competing market. The Plaintiff claims the Defendant violated their common-law trademark. The case file includes two witnesses for each side, including liability expert and damages expert witnesses. The CD includes impeachment slides and problems, as well as video clips of depositions.
Potter v. Shrackle By Kenneth S. Broun and Frank D. Rothschild
The 6th Edition of this popular case file is now available, with updates to reflect the issues that are relevant today. Katherine Potter was struck and killed by Charles Shrackle while he was driving a company vehicle. Potter’s Estate has files a wrongful death action against Shrackle and his company. This file includes six witnesses for the Plaintiff and four witnesses for the Defendant. (Revision based on original file by Kenneth S. Broun and James H. Seckinger.)