The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: November 2016

J. C. Lore in Kenya—In His Own Words

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Earlier this month, Executive Director Karen Lockwood received a letter from J. C. Lore, a favorite Rutgers Law School and NITA faculty member, that is simply too stirring not to share with our larger community. J. C. wanted to report on his experience in Kenya, where he served as faculty at a Lawyers Without Borders training program last month. In 2017, Lawyers Without Borders and NITA will celebrate ten years of alliance. We continue to feel honored to support LWOB’s devotion to the global rule of law and look forward, in the spirit of cooperation toward our shared vision, to our second decade of friendship. J. C.’s letter on the Kenya appears in its entirety below.

jc-lore-in-kenyaI have been very fortunate to be a small part of NITA’s mission during the last twelve years. I have seen NITA continue to achieve great things by raising the level of advocacy throughout all areas of our profession. NITA has improved the quality of legal services for traditionally vulnerable communities, while raising the level of legal practice and professionalism in general, by making the highest quality training accessible to public interest legal professionals. In recent years, drastic state and federal budget cuts have led to extreme reductions in the amount and quality of essential skills training programs available to organizations providing legal services to low-income people and our other government agencies. In recent years and under your leadership, NITA has helped address this crisis, as many public interest organizations throughout the country have absolutely no or very limited training funds—an almost untenable position, as our adversarial legal system depends on all parties having highly skilled attorneys who can zealously advocate for them.

I also have seen the tremendous impact of NITA at the law school level. The NITA model of teaching, materials, and faculty have all become the bedrock foundation for skills teaching at law schools throughout the country. Each year, a higher percentage of law students graduate with the skills to effectively and ethically represent clients, due in large part to NITA’s influence.

Again, I feel very fortunate to be a small part of NITA’s impact on our profession and within the law school community. However, I am writing because I wanted to share a few thoughts about my most recent experience reaching a global community by teaching for NITA in Kenya. I have a great deal of experience and deep commitment to donating my time to teaching and training public interest lawyers around the country. Teaching in Kenya was the most professionally and personally enriching teaching experience of my entire teaching career.

I met a tremendous group of Kenyan lawyers and judges who were committed to the betterment of the Kenyan legal system, and who demonstrated a deep passion and love for Kenya. They were warm, welcoming, and receptive to our ideas, commitment, and passion. Teaching in this program wasn’t simply about raising the level of the profession in Kenya, but it also was about empowering a group of people to protect and improve the country that they love. The importance of this global mission and NITA’s support for it cannot be overstated.

I also wanted to mention the partnership with Lawyers Without Borders. Alyson Finley, Amy Hirst, as well as others at Lawyers Without Borders are simply superstars. Their leadership, support, and knowledge were instrumental in making the program such a huge success. They provided the organization, structure, and flexibility that a program needs to thrive. What they were able to pull off, thousands of miles from home, in developing and supporting the core components of the program is something few others could do. Lawyers Without Borders has created high-quality materials to support both the faculty and participants. They provided educational materials to support the lectures and workshop sessions during the program, but also amazingly effective materials the participants could take with them as quick reference guides. Their knowledge and support made this a stress-free experience for the faculty. We were simply able to show up and do what we do—teach, connect with the participants, and connect with each other. Their on-the-ground knowledge, commitment to providing the highest quality training and materials, and passion and love for what they do made this program the great success that it was.

In addition to the relationships we established with the people of Kenya, getting the opportunity to teach alongside so many wonderful lawyers from around the world was a fantastic experience. As you know, spending time with members of our “NITA Family” is one of the things that bring us back together to teach all around the world. By extension, working with the law firms who partner with Lawyers Without Borders felt like we were adding to that big teaching family. I think what was most exciting was to see and hear about the impact the program had on them both professionally and personally. In teaching for NITA and at Rutgers, I am inspired by program participants and students on a regular basis. For many of the law firm faculty, it was a first, or at least unique, experience teaching in this format, being part of such an inspiring and transformative project, and being part of a teaching team that quickly started to feel like a family. Our team quickly and easily bonded around our shared mission. At night and in the morning, I heard the personal stories about how this type of experience made them feel energized, impassioned, and even more committed to the mission of Lawyers Without Borders and institutions like NITA. They spoke about the emotional impact of helping a legal system continue to advance, protecting one of Kenya’s greatest natural resources, and providing the level of training to individual lawyers and judges that is commensurate with the best training money can buy.

NITA’s impact on students, lawyers, and the rule of law throughout the world is something that I feel very proud to be a part of. I look forward to spending the rest of my professional life being a small part of NITA’s impact on our wonderful profession here in the United States by training law students and lawyers. If called upon again, I look forward to being a part of NITA’s global mission to improve the rule of law and advocacy around the world—a mission that I was honored and proud to be a part of. I hope that NITA is able to dedicate the resources to continue this work and reach people around the world.

State v. Bloodworth

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statevsbloodworthIn Joseph E. Taylor and Aleshandra Griffith-Reed’s second edition, State v. Bloodworth, a frantic 911 call about an unconscious intruder brought police to Gene Bloodworth’s home, but was that the real story? Readers will investigate and find that Kenneth Fletcher was found unconscious on the floor of Bloodworth’s condo but Bloodworth claims that Fletcher broke into his home and had a knife. Three days after the break-in, Fletcher is found dead from blunt force trauma to the head. As Bloodworth insists he acted in self-defense, what will you believe?

The second edition now includes extensive social media exhibits, giving participants a chance to work with this new and important form of evidence and the challenges it presents.

Retail Price: $38

Order Here: Print or Epub

November 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: What Can A Lawyer Do For Democracy – when you want to be non-political?

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Lockwood_KarenThis is not about the 2016 presidential election, which is an act now done.

It is about the question, “What do we do now?”

We who are lawyers must use our knowledge and our experience about the U.S. Democracy to educate entire communities. Seems hopeless. But remember the Chautauqua movement? Like that, a movement is needed to spread the talent of listening and the courage of speaking across disagreements. Say, a Listening for Democracy movement.

1. Do voters understand our democracy? Do they know that the grand experiment of the U.S. Constitution has worked for 240 years because it has three branches, and is built on an educated body of “We the People”?

There is a broad lack of knowledge about this, and it directly affects our choices as citizens and voters. It is non-political, completely, to say that we must re-educate our entire nation of residents. Sandra Day O’Connor called this issue out even before she retired in 2006. She founded the important initiative of “iCivics” education for children and youth.

But we have eroded more quickly than expected toward a predominantly gut-level basis for exercising one’s vote, not interested in actual facts. We have isolated ourselves into narrow belief groups, unable to find, much less listen to, separate belief groups, as an unforeseen and harmful symptom of social media communication channels. We are a nation of separate belief groups, not of states. And we are in trouble.

2. How can lawyers prevent our society — local, regional, and national – from fracturing? Think of these forces to start with:

  1. Purely value-based truisms used to skip education and vote by “gut“;
  2. Caustic individualism that acts out of pure self-interest;
  3. Internet sanctums of values-based reference points that do not talk to each other, but evolve ever more extremely to a closed set of beliefs among narrow factions in the democracy;
  4. Use of the vote (or the appointment power) by a population (or an official) to elevate leaders mostly from within one faction who will hold excess power without balance;
  5. Like-breeds-like communities that grow more understanding of others when they are diverse (think high population regions) and more intolerant when they are less diverse. This is how the human brain processes what is normal versus what is frightening, and is called implicit bias;
  6. . . . (there is a lot more).

This list is frighteningly real. It needs a nationwide re-messaging. Our nation needs to re-learn how to listen without voicing disagreement. Those who know democracy as a governing system must teach how to debate while refining our disagreements. We must be sure to preserve our democracy. We will always be more diverse, and the internet will always drive toward isolation in beliefs.

Lawyers can teach this. For now I don’t know how to create energy or a process to start a “movement.”

At NITA we know that we learn new ways – in the courtroom or out – by practicing them. Desired habits of learning, and understanding through listening, grow as we model and practice them.

Reach out. Listen. Teach. Advocate listening. Build listening in your community. Write to me about how to start a movement. As officers of the courts, in our non-political selves, we must step up.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

Gary S. Gildin named dean of Dickinson Law

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NITA would like to congratulate Gary S. Gildin on the appointment as dean of Dickinson Law by the Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gildin is not only a professor of law, but he is also an author to multiple NITA publications including Stucky v. Conlee and Trial Advocacy Basics, Second Edition. Gildin has also taught at NITA’s ACLU public service program for many years. To read The Sentinel’s article on Gildin and his many accomplishments at Penn State, please click here.

NITA Movie Review: MILITARY JUSTICE, AGAIN

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

With November and the Veteran’s Day holiday upon us again, I thought I’d go back to movies about military justice for this month’s review. As always when I write on this topic, I confess to having never been in the military, so my knowledge of the process is limited[1]. We’ll start with a movie about a military rebel who was a real person, then we’ll talk about a fictional movie about a real issue, racism, that we still encounter in the justice system.

the_court-martial_of_billy_mitchellWilliam (“Billy”) Mitchell was an American Army officer who was an early and fierce proponent of the value of air power in war; he’s sometimes referred to as “the father of the U.S. Air Force.” At the end of World War I, Mitchell was in charge of all military air combat forces in Europe and was a highly regarded officer. After the war, he advocated strongly for a powerful air force, and he became embroiled in intra-service disputes between the Army and the Navy. Mitchell claimed that defense dollars would be better spent on airplanes than on battleships and, more radically, that bombers could sink battleships with little difficulty. Mitchell was a man who expressed his opinions in blunt terms – and publically. Those blunt and public statements eventually led to his being charged with insubordination and court martialed.

sergeant_rutledgeIn 1955, Warner Brothers released The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, which told a somewhat fictionalized version of Mitchell’s story. The film was directed by the great Otto Preminger, and one of America’s iconic leading men, Gary Cooper[2], was cast as Mitchell (which should give you an idea of how the story would go.) Other then or future A-list actors like Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy and Rod Stieger were in the cast, too[3]. The movie generally shows Mitchell as a prophet without honor, railroaded by politicians and generals who didn’t possess Mitchell’s vision of what was necessary to keep America’s military strong, perhaps not surprising, since the film was released at the height of the Cold War. The court-martial scenes are especially troubling for lawyers, since it’s clear that Mitchell will not get a fair trial and will only be acquitted if he gives up his public fight for air power. Mitchell will not do that and is, of course, convicted[4], but the ending of the film is intended to show the viewer that Mitchell was ultimately correct about air power and ultimately the winner of his fight.

We’ll next take a look at a John Ford[5] western, Sergeant Rutledge (Warner Brothers, 1960.) The movie centers around an African American cavalry trooper at a fort on the western frontier. The trooper, played by Woody Strode, is wrongfully accused murdering his commanding officer and of the rape and murder of the commanding officer’s daughter. Rutledge is eventually brought to trial before a panel of bigoted officers who will be happy to see him hang. A young officer, Lt. Cantrell (Jeffrey Hunter) is assigned to defend Rutledge and in spite of all the potential for a miscarriage of justice, succeeds in proving that Rutledge is not guilty. The movie’s structure is interesting, since it’s told in flashbacks, which reveal what really happened at any given point in the story.

The movie is, in my opinion, another attempt by Ford to examine issues of racism and prejudice in American society[6], while allowing Ford to tell a story in one of his favorite settings, a cavalry unit on the American frontier[7]. It’s interesting to note that Sergeant Rutledge was released the same year as To Kill a Mockingbird, which features a very similar basic plot – and is also a courtroom drama. Ford’s film is less focused and its trial scenes certainly are not as memorable; you’ll never confuse Lt. Cantrell with Atticus Finch. But the underlying concept of how racism can corrupt the process of seeking justice comes through clearly.

Sergeant Rutledge suffers from some flaws, including some plot turns that make no sense and generally weak performances from the two main actors. Strode was an ex-football player who’s acting is serviceable at best; it’s hard to wonder why Ford cast him instead of Sidney Poitier or Harry Belafonte, who were preferred by the studio. Hunter was a blue-eyed, square-jawed American hero type, who had an extremely checkered career. He had co-starred with John Wayne in Ford’s The Searchers, but really put a crimp in his career by choosing to play Jesus in King of Kings (1961). He ended his career making low-budget movies on Spain and Italy and died at age 42 after falling at his home and fracturing his skull.

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell and Sergeant Rutledge both remind us that the principles of justice, farness and due process of law belong in every American courtroom, be it a civilian courtroom or a military one. We are a nation founded on respect for the Rule of Law, and any reminder of that is worthwhile.

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[1] I’d welcome it if any of you with JAG experience want to weigh in on my reviews of military justice movies. So, Mike Roake, Charlie Rose, Chris Behan: be my guest!
[2] See, for example: The Virginian, Sergeant York, The Westerner, Pride of the Yankees, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and most memorably, High Noon. Cooper was a two-time Oscar winner and one of the most popular movie stars ever.
[3] Future TV stars Jack Lord (Hawaii Five –O) and Peter Graves (Mission Impossible) appeared as well – as did Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) in her first movie role.
[4] The actual court-martial board included future WW II commander Douglas MacArthur, who would later say that he voted to acquit Mitchell.
[5] I know Ford had his flaws, but he’s still the director of many of my favorite movies.
[6] The Searchers (1956) was much better at this. As I’ve said before, it’s my favorite movie.
[7] See Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy”: Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950).

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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