Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey
This month’s review will spotlight three Oscar-winning films that feature family court- type situations. (It does not include Kramer v. Kramer. I still have to decide if I want to review that one.)
We’ll start with The Philadelphia Story, from 1940. It’s perhaps the apex of a sort of subgenre popular in the ’30s and ’40s that revolved around the idea of remarriage as a springboard for romance. Directed by George Cukor, this movie has a cast that truly deserves the label “all-star”: Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey. The movie revolves around Tracy Lord (Hepburn), a divorced woman getting ready to remarry. Her former husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), shows up, planning to stop the wedding; he’s helped by Tracy’s mother and younger sister. James Stewart and Hussey play reporters from a People-type magazine, who (though something akin to blackmail) are permitted to write a story about the upcoming wedding. As one might expect, much confusion and comedy ensue. (And believe me, this is a way oversimplified summary of the plot!)
The Philadelphia Story is highly acclaimed, with reason. It’s number 44 on AFI’s 100 Years One Hundred Movies list and in 1995 was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The movie was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director. It won two: James Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart (no relation) for Best Screenplay. I really can’t recommend this movie enough: it’s a wonderful example of what happens when great actors have great lines to deliver and a great director to guide them.
The struggles of single parenting (multiplied by about a million) are at heart of Paper Moon (1973.) It stars Ryan O’Neal and his real-life daughter, Tatum O’Neal, as itinerant con artists selling Bibles to bereaved widows in rural Kansas during the Depression. Tatum O’Neal won the Oscar for Best Actress at the age of ten, thus becoming the youngest actor ever to win a competitive Oscar. Peter Bogdanovich directed.
Ryan O’Neal plays Moses Pray, who at the beginning of the film is working his scam alone. He meets Addie at her mother’s funeral and discovers that Addie might be his daughter. Moses, somewhat against his will, agrees to deliver Addie to her aunt. On the way, they meet up with a scatterbrained hooker played by Madeleine Kahn and a bootlegger and his nasty brother, who just happens to be a sheriff, both played by John Hillerman of Magnum, P.I. fame. Watching Moses and Addie interact—and bond—is what the movie is all about. The ending will warm your heart—and make you laugh out loud.
The last movie we’ll consider won only one Oscar, for Best Makeup. But although it’s a comedy, it highlights the agonies that often surround custody and visitation—or as many states (including mine) now call them, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.
The movie is 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire, starring the recently lost and much-lamented Robin Williams as Daniel Hilliard, an irresponsible actor whose ex-wife is initially given custody because at the time of the divorce he has neither a job nor a home. Daniel is so desperate to spend more time with his children that he disguises himself as an elderly Scotswoman and becomes his children’s nanny and confidant, without his children or his ex-wife (Sally Field) figuring out the deception, at least initially. As he interacts with his children as Mrs. Doubtfire, he grows as a person and as a father and his children learn how to handle their parents’ divorce. He also becomes his ex’s best friend and confidant. Of course, Daniel’s disguise is eventually discovered and the judge, bothered by Daniel’s actions (what a surprise!), gives him only supervised parenting time. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the ending. Rest assured, however, that it’s happy—and even a little uplifting.
Hope everyone enjoyed this year’s Oscars and that your favorite film/actor/actress/song came out a winner!
 Stewart always felt this Oscar was a “make-good” for his not winning in 1939 for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. When you look at the other 1940 nominees, he may have had a point. They included Henry Fonda for The Grapes of Wrath, Charlie Chaplin for The Great Dictator, and Raymond Massey for Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Stewart said he voted for Fonda. I would have, too.
 One caveat: there’s a scene at the very beginning of this movie that we would now recognize as domestic violence. Even though we understand that now, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of the audience didn’t see it that way in 1940.
The team at NITA is thrilled to announce the return of our National Program for Legal Services Corporation affiliated attorneys. The program is offered tuition free to lawyers working for grantee organizations affiliated with the Legal Services Corporation. This year’s course is being offered Tuesday, August 11 through Friday, August 14, 2015, at NITA’s Education Center in Boulder, Colorado. Future programs will be offered each years in other locations around the United States.
Faculty for the program are among NITA’s finest instructors, including a number of NITA Award winners and members of NITA’s Next Generation instructor team. All have extensive practice and teaching experience. Most have work experience with public service organizations. The team includes practicing lawyers, trial judges, and law teachers.
Participants are selected through a nomination process by each grantee organization’s Director. Organizations have a limit of two nominations. The program has forty-eight (48) slots available for participants.
NITA’s teaching format has been acclaimed as the most effective means of training advocates. This program follows NITA’s famous learning-by-doing format. The National Program for Public Service will make use of several awarding winning techniques newly developed by NITA. Each day every participant will have several opportunities to perform in a simulated trial setting. Following each performance, program instructors will offer suggestions on how the participant could be more effective. Many performances will be recorded. Participants will review these videos in a one-on-one setting with a member of the faculty. They will also spend time getting individualized coaching.
Our program focuses upon those trial skills necessary for effective representation of clients in federal and state courts. Included will be workshops on witness examination, use of exhibits, dealing with witness problems, opening statements, and closing arguments. Case analysis, story telling, and issues of professionalism and ethics will also play a central role in the training.
Materials for the 2015 program are designed for use in training public service attorneys. The facts of the case file are a landlord/tenant issue, common to many legal service providers.
NITA’s continuing emphasis on public service comes directly through our Board of Trustees. In addition to an on-going resolution to offer public service programs, the Board has recently allocated additional funds to support programs developed specifically for lawyers who represent clients from under served communities. These include legal services lawyers, lawyers who represent the interests of children, lawyers and lay advocates who appear in tribal court, and those who work on death penalty cases. NITA’s goal is to develop a closer synergy with the Legal Services Corporation to expand the scope and number of programs for public service providers.
You see, NITA’s founders emerged from that first meeting over 40 years ago and started being program directors. They created the special ways that NITA teaches skills. They developed it over years of programs, working together to constantly verify, refine, and supplement their NITA-unique methods and content. NITA thus earned its legacy of collaboration. It has owned the fruits of that early collaboration ever since, with strong allegiance to our mission.
NITA is larger now, yes. Yet that legacy is as clear to us as ever.
Indeed, we carry forward that same warmth, excitement, and collaboration, vigilant to refine, and expand our method, and support our legacy’s growth. Thanks to this unique collaboration and trust among NITA program directors, NITA’s excellence in teaching trial advocacy skills is unlike anything you will find elsewhere.
This year, the program directors’ meeting focused on how we best bring the benefit of over 40 years of designing our NITA method of teaching to lawyers who may not know our breadth. We focused on how live advocacy takes its shape in courtrooms and meeting rooms across the country. We focused on how learning takes effect through live in-person programs. We shared insights on how the learner can profit from other learning tools presented online. And we talked in detail about the needs of various law practice specialties when their lawyers stand up to take on live advocacy.
Thank you to the program directors. Your warmth with each other is palpable — true to the trial lawyer‘s style of ideas, counter-ideas, stories, suggestions and counter-suggestions . Your focus on NITA’s unique station in the loose landscape of lawyer training is laser-sharp, true and “NITA-blue.”
We will continue to take our warmth, our spirit of collaboration and critique, and our support out to lawyers across the country. Lawyers who want to freshen, hone, or start learning stand-up live advocacy skills. We will find lawyers who may not even know how much they will learn with us. 2015 will be another very important year.
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
Our family of lawyers who teach, write, and administer for NITA is superb and close. NITA’s collaboration of talented trial lawyers, judges, and law teachers who share their skills at programs illustrates the true meaning of professionalism. At the Program Directors meeting this weekend, we are creating new course concepts. This work exemplifies how NITA continues to lead the field in advocacy teaching. Thank you for a superb and successful 2014.
Each year NITA recognizes our “best of the best” by presenting three distinct awards to those who have distinguished themselves from our cast of stars. I invite you to nominate candidates for the 2014 Awards from among those you know to have been leaders in 2014.
Our awards recognize Excellence in the Development of Teaching Techniques and Program Design (The Hon. Prentice H. Marshall Award), Outstanding Service in Instruction (The Hon. Robert E. Keeton Award), and Outstanding Service to NITA (The Robert E. Oliphant Award). The qualifications which further detail the standards for each award are described in the Nomination Form. This detail is new this year, will be helpful to your case for nomination, and will help the committee to distinguish among many fine nominees.
The Hon. Robert E. Keeton Award for Outstanding Service as a NITA Faculty Member acknowledges excellence in teaching. This award is named for Robert Keeton, one of the original teachers at the National Session and a long-time contributor to many programs. Judge Keeton authored one of the first texts on trial advocacy and was NITA’s Director from 1973-1976.
The Hon. Prentice H. Marshall Faculty Award is for Development of Innovative Teaching Methods or Programs. It recognizes a person who has developed and instituted new ideas in NITA’s methods for teaching trial skills, or has created new courses. It is named for the late Prentice Marshall, one of the original teachers at the National Session and a fixture on the NITA faculty. Judge Marshall pioneered efforts to support pro bono advocacy and teaching at major law firms and the judiciary. Marshall was one of the developers of NITA’s four-part teaching methodology.
The Robert E. Oliphant award is for Outstanding Service to NITA in all areas, including program directorship, public service, writing, and support. It honors Professor Robert Oliphant, NITA’s first administrator, who has taught at the University of Minnesota and William Mitchell law schools for over 35 years. Recipients of this award demonstrate dedication to NITA’s mission through instruction, program administration as Program Director or as a Team Leader, or writing.
Nominations are now open for each award. The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 3, 2015. Please submit a nomination by using our Nomination Form, providing sufficient detail to honor the nominee and describe how that person exemplifies the ideals supported by the award you propose. We receive increasing numbers of nominations each year; e-mails that simply suggest a name do not do justice to the person you wish us to consider. The Committee members want to know what you like about your nominee and to understand your case for their deserving the award.
If you propose more than one award for any person, please use a separate form for each award pertaining to that person. Nominations will be closed on Friday, April 3, 2015, so please submit your nomination to Mark Caldwell by then. Our goal is to announce the award winners by the end of June.
Many talented faculty and NITA volunteers contribute their time, energy, and expertise to NITA. These awards are a small way of acknowledging the important work that keeps NITA as the leader in advocacy training and continuing legal education. The Committee looks forward to receiving your nominations. Please do take the time to draft and to submit your nominations.
Thank you. We look forward to seeing another year of record-breaking numbers of nominations.
The four Next Generation Faculty (NGF) Class of 2015 has been chosen from a dozen candidates. This year’s outstanding class of young, up-and-coming NITA faculty members consists of:
Shareema Abel is a litigation attorney with the General Counsel’s Office of the New York City Department of Education. She serves as a legal representative of the Chancellor, handling disciplinary hearings under the Children First reforms and providing training and counsel to school administrators.
Prior to her work at the Department of Education, Ms. Abel was an Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. During her ten-year career at the District Attorney’s Office, she served in the many bureaus, including the Gang/Major Case/Homicide Bureau. She served as lead trial counsel on violent felony cases including homicides, robberies, burglaries, and gang assaults.
Ms. Abel has been an instructor for NITA since 2004 and currently teaches Building Trial Skills in San Francisco, California, as well as Deposition Skills in Berkeley and San Diego, California. Ms. Abel also served as an adjunct professor at Hofstra University School of Law in the field of trial advocacy.
Ms. Abel is a proud member of the largest public service sorority in the world, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and serves as chapter co-chair of the Social Action Committee. She is also a member of the National Black Prosecutors Association, where she serves as the New York State Representative.
After graduating from Binghamton University (SUNY) in 1996, Ms. Abel went on to receive her JD from Hofstra University School of Law in 1999, where she was a member of the Labor and Employment Law Journal and several award-winning trial teams.
Alex Barney is a 2008 graduate of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. He received his BA in Political Science from Swarthmore College. Since 2008, he has taught in trial advocacy skills programs through Emory University School of Law, both in the United States and internationally.
During law school, Alex took a year off to teach civics and human rights to the Armed Forces of Liberia, as part of a State Department-funded project. He completed his last year of law school as a visiting student at Emory University School of Law, where he then held a two-year graduate fellowship at the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution. As part of the fellowship, Alex co-wrote a successful grant to USAID to create a partnership between Emory University School of Law and Universidad Panamericana School of Law in Mexico City. He helped to develop a trial advocacy skills program at Universidad Panamericana, where he was a visiting professor during the fall semester of 2009. As part of the grant, he also taught in three week-long trial skills programs at Universidad Panamericana.
Since 2008, Alex has served as an instructor in Emory’s yearly Kessler-Eidson Program for Trial Techniques. In 2013, he was an instructor in a week-long trial advocacy skills program for Chinese judges, lawyers, and law students at Emory University. He has also taught in trial skills programs in Liberia and Russia.
Alex has been an associate with the Karmel Law Firm, a Chicago union-side labor and employment law firm, since 2010. He represents unions and employees in state and federal courts, in labor arbitrations, and before administrative agencies.
K. Amanda (Mandy) Herndon Barton
Mandy Herndon Barton graduated law school from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and earned her BS in accounting from Springhill College in Mobile, Alabama. She started her law practice in 2003 at a medium-size firm in Jackson, Mississippi, where her practice consisted mostly of insurance defense litigation and various bankruptcy matters. In 2006, she moved to Mobile to practice with a large, full-service firm, where her practice consisted mostly of insurance defense and construction litigation matters. In 2009, Mandy joined the small firm of Holston Vaughan, LLC. She has maintained a civil litigation practice focusing on complex commercial, contract, and construction matters, as well as creditor’s rights and currently represents several corporate clients as their outside general counsel. Mandy’s practice involves matters in state and federal courts all over Mississippi and Alabama. During the last five years, her firm has been heavily involved in defective Chinese drywall state and multi-district litigation. She has received favorable verdicts for her corporate and individual clients in bench and jury cases tried in Mississippi and Alabama. This is Mandy’s fifth year serving as a faculty member for NITA. During these five years, Mandy has taught at LSU’s NITA Trial Advocacy Class and NITA’s Deposition Skills and Trial Advocacy Classes held in New Orleans. Mandy was a student of NITA before becoming a faculty member and was recently elected to serve as a part of the 2015 NITA Next Generation Faculty Development Program.
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
Professional & Bar Association Memberships
Alabama Bar Association
Mississippi Bar Association
American Bar Association
Mobile County Bar Association
Mobile Bar Association Women Lawyers, Annual Professional Women’s Networking Event Chair
National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Faculty Member
Advisory Board for the Women’s Business Center of South Alabama
March of Dimes, 2014 Chair and 2015 Committee Member of Annual Chef Auction Fundraiser
Partner Kyle Bogdan wins cases. As an AV-rated litigator, he spends all his time competing in state and federal trial courts and arbitrations on matters critical to his clients’ businesses. He has successfully prosecuted and/or defended matters where millions of dollars, and often the viability of the client, are on the line. These have included major construction disputes, gas explosions, product liability suits, trade secret claims, lease and contract cases, and class action defense.
In 2012, Kyle achieved a complete dismissal of a major property damage a case in New York where his client paid nothing. In 2011, he spent his time getting several clients out of messy condominium-defect cases throughout Southern California without paying a cent in damages. That same year, he used the often overlooked remedy of replevin and tried the matter before a federal judge to recover critical pieces of equipment holding up a major penitentiary project in southern Mexico.
Prior to that, he and other Warden Grier lawyers won significant pretrial decisions that led to a confidential resolution for their client in a major trade secret action in federal court. Before that, Kyle and his partners, after a multi-week hearing, won an arbitration award of in excess of $7 million for their client, a general contractor, against a developer arising out of a luxury hotel and condominium project in Minneapolis.
In 2009, he and his partners, after months of hearings before a seasoned arbitration panel, obtained an arbitration award in excess of $15 million for a general contractor on a highly publicized construction case involving a hotel, office, and retail project in Kansas City. During that same year, Kyle also obtained a complete dismissal in federal court of a class action lawsuit asserted against a leading manufacturer, thus saving his client several million dollars.
Kyle was honored by inclusion in Ingram’s Magazine (Kansas City’s premier business publication) “40 under Forty” Class of 2010, in recognition of professional and personal leadership.
Kyle is a long-time Kansas City resident. A 1997 cum laude graduate of Missouri’s Truman State University, Kyle played college football and baseball, and spent his post-graduation summer playing Independent A ball in Massachusetts. Following that, he entered law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. While at UMKC, Kyle was a member of the UMKC law review and The Urban Lawyer. During law school, he clerked with Blackwell Sanders Matheny Weary and Lombardi (now Husch Blackwell Sanders). He joined that firm as an associate in 2000.
From the beginning of Kyle’s career, he worked on significant “bet-the-company” litigation matters, those which generally had between $10 million and $500 million at stake. He quickly compiled subject-matter expertise in areas ranging from the design and construction of complex power facilities and landmark bridges to catastrophic explosions. Mentored by some of Kansas City’s premier litigators, Kyle was entrusted to take key depositions and make arguments before the courts in his first year, something quite unusual for first-year, big-firm lawyers. In addition to working on the bet-the-company cases, he also took selective smaller cases and first-chaired them. These early experiences honed Kyle’s litigation skills and developed in him a very strong client services mentality.
In March 2002, Warden Grier, comprised of several former mentors, was formed. Kyle was offered the first and, at the time, only, associate position. From the early days of the firm, Kyle was asked to take on leadership positions and increased responsibility, including head of recruiting and of associate development. He was elected partner after his fifth year of practice.
Publications and Presentations:
Author, “Sometimes, there is no way to avoid arbitration,” Ingram’s Magazine, November 2009.
Co-Author, Kansas, Chapter 19, Cumulative Update to State-by-State Guide to Architect, Engineer and Contractor Licensing, Aspen Publishing, 2003 to 2005.
Co-Author, Kansas, Chapter 18, 2006 Cumulative Update to State-by-State Guide to Construction Contracts and Claims, Aspen Publishing, 2006 to 2007.
Faculty Member of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, Washington DC Advanced Advocates Program 2010 to 2013
Missouri Bar CLE Practical Evidence for Civil Litigators, May 3, 2012 (Kansas City).
Presenter, Ethical Issues in Joint Representation of Multiple Parties on a Construction Project, Session E31, 2012 Construction SuperConference (San Francisco)
Presenter, Ethical Issues Associated with Limited (or Assuming that You are Limiting) Your Scope of Representation, Session E31, 2013 Construction SuperConference (San Francisco)
Truman State University, BA, 1997, cum laude
University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2000 (Top 15% of Class)
Member of UMKC law review
As members of the NGF Class of 2015, Shareema, Alexander, Kyle will be trained and invited to teach at the geographically diverse NITA trial and deposition programs between January 1 and December 31, 2015, to gain more experience to NITA learning-by-doing teaching.
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 Goals are to: