The Legal Advocate

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

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Welcome the Newest NITA Advocates

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NITA is proud to announce the 2015 1st Quarter recipients of the Advocate Designation. This designation is awarded to a person who has taken a well-rounded set of courses, proving they are serious about trial advocacy.

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  • Robert Goss | Law Office of Robert B Goss PC
  • Amanda Harding | Commodity Futures Trading Comm
  • Moamar Tidjani | Moamar
  • John Paul Arcia | John Paul Arcia PA
  • Ehsan Chowdhry | Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Marie DeForest | Deforest & Koscelnik

If you have any questions on how you can receive the NITA Advocate or NITA Master Advocate Designation, please review the information on our Advocate Designations page, or email Pam Rowinski in educational sales.

April 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Clarity of Purpose

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Lockwood_KarenIn “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder introduces us to the aspiring new doctor who grew up in a family that lives in a bus and on a ramshackle boat. The family could afford that residential style, and played and worked with a somewhat bizarre optimism. They firmly believed the reality that their lives were meaningful and normal enough. Paul Farmer goes on to use his instinct to excel by pointing it toward Haiti. The story is now paused at the election of Aristide following the fall of Papa and Baby Doc, Farmer, a PhD anthropologist and top MD grad of Harvard, has already built a center of medical help and community in the heights of Haiti’s central plateau. He and two others had founded Partners in Health to raise private funds for this effort.

I clipped this line to share with you. They talked late into the nights.

Some things were plenty black and white, they told each other — “areas of moral clarity,” which they called AMC’s. These were situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seemed perfectly clear. But the doing was always complicated, always difficult. They often talked about those difficulties. How Paul and Jim should balance work for PIH with going to school and getting their degrees.

I feel their pain, NITA has great AMC’s to combine.  Doing them at once seems complicated. Choices must be made. Resources must be increased. Yet our purpose must always remain clear.

It is perfectly clear to us that every client in civil and criminal arenas alike needs and deserves highly skilled advocates; the company faced by unfair competition needs a lawyer always ready to go to court; the accused need excellent defenders and fair accomplished prosecutors, the individual and family know skilled advocacy when they see it. It is obvious that an economy of skewed incentives and uneven access to capital makes a more polarized continuum between those who have and those who need help to find a civil lawyer. It is a truism that justice if enabled stabilizes new governments and nations under stress. Law students and professors need us as much as ever, in the most relevant ways. Corporate law departments have a huge voice in demanding and partnering to create better advocates.

NITA, founded on the vision of advancing excellent advocacy throughout the nation’s courts and hearing rooms, has the responsibility to flex and grow to aim clearly for our purpose. We watch carefully the systemic changes in legal education, private practice, constitutional and statutory assurances of fairness in the criminal law realm, and global political conflict and violence.

Everywhere, lawyers remain assets for the voiceless. Courage feeding fair and balanced governments. Talent for holding steady the prism of fairness through which conflict resolution systems must be seen. (Call me if examples of this truth do not immediately come to mind — Egypt, Selma, Kosovo, Ferguson, Death Row ….)

As we seek to bring NITA learning to the best productive mix of these lawyer sectors in the US and outside its borders, we constantly balance. We measure who we reach. We know all lawyers trained in our public and custom programs must will bring their best trial skills to serve their clients. They will advance their skills for a lifetime with NITA-confidence. They will have wide influence throughout their careers, and will move among practice sectors. We know those who are in public service need training now. We understand the imperative of training for criminal advocates on both sides. We seek relationships with organizations having nuanced understanding of nations engaged in reforms, because they can help NITA target, aim, and provide intensely relevant advocacy training in key global regions.

Our purpose is clear. Our choices are many. We need you, all of you and your friends. Know that our work is motivated by this clarity of purpose, focused yet broad in potential.




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

NITA Movie Review: “Why, that’s bigamy!” “Yes, and it’s big of me, too!”

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

“Why, that’s bigamy!” “Yes, and it’s big of me, too!”[1]

myFavoritWife§ 18-6-201. Bigamy
(1) Any married person who, while still married, marries
or cohabits in this state with another commits bigamy,
unless as an affirmative defense it appears that at the time
of the cohabitation or subsequent marriage
(a) The accused reasonably believed the prior spouse to be dead; or
(b) The prior spouse had been continually absent for a period of five years during which time the accused did not know the prior spouse to be alive; or
(c) The accused reasonably believed that he was legally
eligible to remarry.

(2) Bigamy is a class 6 felony.

Know anyone who might fit into that definition? I’ll bet you do. That’s a still-viable, still-enforceable Colorado statute, although you’d probably have to have a pretty aggravated case before a DA would try to enforce it. Our ideas about marriage and cohabitation (living together as spouses although not legally married) have softened and mellowed over time. But those issues have always been grist for the Hollywood mill. And what came out of the Hollywood mill when bigamy was the issue was almost always a comedy.

The premier example of this is My Favorite Wife (1940), from RKO. It starred Cary Grant, Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. Directed by Garson Kanin, it was nominated for three Oscars, although it didn’t win any. The movie was a huge hit and when you watch it, you’ll see why.

Grant plays a lawyer, Nick Arden, whose wife Ellen (Dunne) has been missing after the ship she was one disappeared. In the interim, Nick has fallen in love with Bianca (Gail Patrick.) They want to marry, so Nick goes to court and has Ellen declared legally dead. The judge enters the order, Nick and Bianca marry, and leave on their honeymoon. (You can see this one coming from a mile off, can’t you?) Ellen returns, finds out about Nick’s marriage and locates him on his honeymoon night – and before anything honeymoonish happens between Nick and Bianca. Now Nick has to figure out how to discuss the situation with Bianca, but he just keeps putting off both an explanation and the consummation of their marriage. But it’s even more complicated than that. It turns out that Ellen has been shipwrecked on a tropical island with Stephen Burkett (Scott) and while there they referred to each other as “Adam” and “Eve.” Nick, now jealous, has to find out what – if anything — happened on the island. (One reason this screwball plot worked was that Randolph Scott was one of the few stars who was regarded as being as handsome as Cary Grant.)[2] Hilarity ensues, but it all works out in the end.[3]

From a legal perspective, this sounds a lot like a question on the Bar Examination. The movie uses the legal conundrums of the situation to give some wonderful scenes with the befuddled Judge Bryson who first declares Ellen to be legally dead, then has to deal with the aftermath of her not being dead, legally or otherwise. This poor black-robed nebbish is played by Granville Bates, and he’s one of my favorite screen jurists.

I know that some of the social issues that form the plotlines of movies from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s seem more than a little archaic to modern sensibilities. But folks, funny is still funny. And My Favorite Wife is very, very funny. Find it and enjoy it!


[1] This quote is not from this month’s movie. It’s from Animal Crackers (1930), a Marx Brothers movie. I used it for several reasons: it fits the subject matter of this month’s movie; I absolutely love the Marx Brothers; and mostly because it’s funny!

[2] Scott worked in many different genres, but is most remembered as a rugged star of Westerns. He and Grant were very good friends, at one time sharing a beach house.

[3] Stuff like this can make real-life cases difficult, too. I had a hearing recently where an earlier marriage and divorce for husband came to light while testimony was being taken. The parties to the case knew all about it – but husband sort of forgot to tell his lawyer. Hilarity did not ensue.

Board Support – 100% Board Giving

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The NITA Board of Trustees guides NITA as a whole in pursuing our vision of extending our reach to accomplish the public service aspect of our mission. To fulfill this mission, we rely upon donor commitment. Once again, for 2014, the Trustees led by example through generous donations to The NITA Foundation. This marks the fourth year in a row that they have achieved their 100% Board-Giving goal. Collectively, our current Board members, Emeritus Trustees and past Board Members donated $61,245 in 2014, making up over forty percent of contributions made to the Foundation. 

We are deeply thankful for the continual generosity, commitment and support shown by our leaders – the Trustees. Thank you once again to all members of the Board, as well as the Emeritus Trustees who made this a reality. 

Board Commitment – Public Interest Programming

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NITA remains committed to our annual scholarship program and aims to add abundant public service programming. The NITA Board and NITA Foundation Board members, in their regular 2014 fall meeting, acted with certainty and insight to dedicate additional NITA funding to our public service training work. We are proud to announce their allocation of a percentage of its reserves annually toward pre-budgeted means to plan ways to expand NITA’s public service projects. 

This action represents our Board of Trustees commitment to the NITA public service mission. This is innovation in action. It also is preparation – broadening our public service platform and showing you the strong impact of your individual donations. This work will include NITA-initiated public service training programs, aimed at particular groups of attorneys, or particular client groups who are caught in a tradition of under-representation. In 2015, we have established new partnerships with public interest organizations and have trainings on the calendar along with the reinstatement of two Legal Service programs. 

These are exciting years for NITA, and years that bode well for targeted, wise and expanded advancement of our mission now and into the future. We ask you to join NITA’s effort, supported by our Board of Trustees, to exceed the Board’s leadership gifts and thus expand our reach to public interest organizations to support advocacy on both sides of the courtroom. 

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:

  • 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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