Peters v. Denver, written by Professor Thomas Jay Leach and Professor Cary Bricker, both of Pacific McGeorge Law School, is a civil action charging legal malpractice on the part of attorney D.C. Denver. Paul Peters was tried and convicted on charges of aggravated battery and attempted murder. Along with his co-defendant, Carl Chastis, Peters was co-represented by Denver the time of their arrest through the verdict. Neither defendant testified in the criminal trial and both men were convicted on all charges, furthermore, Peters received a prison sentence of life with parole after 20 years.
In this suit, Peters charges that Denver provided his defense under an impermissible conflict of interest between his duties to the two criminal defendants, depriving Peters of proper representation which led to his conviction. This well-balanced case could go either way, and its ethics issues are a subject for challenging questions to witnesses as well as well-reasoned closing arguments.
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Reading back through my monthly letters to you this year, I note how actively they engage you and our world around us. They represent NITA’s leadership across the country.
Today I turn the lens around to talk a bit about the home front.
More than 1600 lawyers have already enrolled in our 2016 public regional programs – we organize these programs early and encourage enrollments far in advance to maximize your preparation. Get your spot here.
New program topics now appear steadily every year. Our new approach to creating exciting programs is underway. From our NITA Network of faculty, we select volunteers to work together with me in creating new programs. These trial advocacy teaching stars contribute their creativity, sweat equity, and NITA-expertise to produce new programs that will speak to your evolving needs. Again, stay tuned!
A year ago, we increased the strength of our outreach by appointing experienced NITA staffers as our three Client Relationship Managers. Wherever you live and work, you are in a region that has the special attention of one of these folks. Their purpose is to learn the particular approach of every firm, solo practitioner, agency, law school, and other law practice group in their region. Please reach out to them. You will find them by calling us – or email Wendy McCormack, Associate E.D. for Operations.
How about on-line learning? Many of our programs include on-line videos selected just for your program, and featuring our NITA faculty teaching core principles. You have them as you prepare to stand up and perform throughout the program itself.
How about “studio71”? Our webcasts are both in demand and on-demand! So far in 2016, we have registered 3200 learners to join the live webcasts. Indeed, this audience continues to grow so quickly that we are adding capacity to allow us to take even more than 250 live webcast attendees. What’s more you can view 68 past webinars on demand, on-line here. (But you get to ask questions when you are live!)
In each of these and many other ways, we have expanded and deepened NITA’s prowess over the last four years. While maintaining our busy program and publication schedules, we have worked behind the scenes to groom the talent and leadership, the creativity and innovation, the technology types and capacity, and above all the depth of our awareness of what you need. All of this – and the loyalty of our NITA Network of faculty – make us the place to be in trial advocacy. Our non-profit mission thrives. It does so thanks to a great concept 45 years ago, a very loyal excited Network, and a lot of diligent focus and growth. Thank you to every one of you – you know who you are
Best wishes for a stupendous 2016!
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
In Steven Lubet and J.C. Lore’s fourth edition of Modern Trial Advocacy: Law School Edition, the authors present a realistic and contemporary approach to learning and developing trial advocacy skills. In representing the law student, the book contains a chapter on “Trial Basics” which discusses what happens in a trial and the role the advocate plays. The Law School Edition also has a checklist which guides students in their performance.
With a brand new chapter on using electronic visuals in the courtroom as well as new enhanced video content, top NITA faculty demonstrate the core techniques discussed in the book so you can observe and learn these skills in a new way.
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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau made ten movies together, most memorably The Odd Couple in 1968. Both of them were Oscar Winners and they were also good friends in real life. But their on-screen partnership began with the movie I picked for this month’s review: The Fortune Cookie (United Artists, 1966), a movie produced and directed (and co-written) by the brilliant Billy Wilder, whom I’ve written about before. The Fortune Cookie is most emphatically not a drama, but is instead a black comedy, featuring one of the sleaziest movie lawyers ever. Matthau plays that lawyer, “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich, the epitome of the ambulance-chasing plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer – and he played him well enough to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Lemmon stars as Harry Hinkle, a sideline cameraman for CBS who get run over and knocked out by a player for the Cleveland Browns while working on a game broadcast. Harry wakes up in the hospital and finds out that his brother-in-law, Whiplash Willie, has already filed suit against the league and the player for Harry’s injuries. Harry protests, saying that he’s not hurt and that he wants to leave the hospital. Willie argues with him, urging him to pretend to be injured to rake in a big settlement. Harry is opposed, until it’s suggested that perhaps a monetary windfall would help Harry reunite with his estranged wife, Sandy. Harry agrees – and the manipulations and chicanery begin. These include Harry being injected with Novocain by a dentist on parole, the use of old x-rays of a childhood injury as evidence of Harry’s recent problems, the hiring of private detectives and examining doctors. Sandy does return to Harry, but Harry becomes more and more disturbed by what’s happening, in part because the football player, Boom-Boom Jackson, is wracked by guilt for what he thinks he did to Harry, putting the player’s career in jeopardy. It also becomes clear that Sandy is only interested in reuniting with Harry because of the money that Harry will receive when Willie settles with the insurance company and its lawyers. The movie ends with positive and just results, although not before Willie comes up with one last money-making scheme.
The Fortune Cookie does not show lawyers at their best. Willie Gingrich is an ethical nightmare, to put it mildly. His cynicism, greed and willingness to manipulate the justice system, are, unfortunately, what far too many people think lawyers are like. (The title of this review is how Harry describes Willie.) And the lawyers representing the insurance company are hardly portrayed in a better light. But with all of that, this movie is gut-bustlingly funny in places and, since it’s directed by Wilder and acted by Lemmon and Matthau, artistically first-class as well.
But for all its negative portrayal of lawyers, I still wholeheartedly recommend The Fortune Cookie to you, if for no other reason than to remind you how many good, professional, ethical lawyers we interact with every day, how lucky we are to work with them – and how dedicated we should continue to be to improving the quality of trial advocacy.
 Yes, I know that in real life Hinkle’s first remedy likely would be Worker’s Compensation, with a lawsuit perhaps coming after that. It may surprise you to learn that Hollywood doesn’t always follow real life legal procedure.
 Mark Caldwell and I have used Willie’s initial interview with Harry in the hospital in a number of our ethics presentations.