by guest blogger and NITA faculty Doris Cheng
NITA provided advanced trial advocacy training to thirty-two attorneys from the Trinidad and Tobago Legal Aid and Advisory Authority (LAAA), a unit of the Ministry of Legal Affairs that provides affordable legal assistance to indigent citizens in criminal and civil cases, including family and property matters. The program was funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) through the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) as part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). The three-day skills program furthered the CBSI’s intention to improve the rule of law by supporting the development of the justice sector. Similar programs have been held for prosecutors in the Bahamas, Antigua and Jamaica for prosecutors in the Easter Caribbean.
The Advanced Criminal Trial Advocacy Program for the LAAA was held in Port of Spain on January 26–28, 2017. Dignitaries from the U.S. Embassy, Ministry of the Attorney General, LAAA, and NCSC gave opening remarks, describing their respective commitment to creating and sustaining a fair and just legal system. Members of the LAAA’s Head Office, Arima District Office, San Fernando District Office, Couva Office, as well as the Legal Aid Clinic, participated in the training. NITA provided the case file, State v. Baker, an intricate murder case with claims of domestic violence and self-defense.
Five NITA faculty members—Doris Cheng, J. Michael Roake, JoAnne Roake, Cynthia Goode Works, and Hon. Teri Jackson—lectured on opening address, oral presentation techniques, examination in chief and cross-examination of lay and expert witnesses, contending with difficult witnesses, and summation. The faculty led workshops with video review in each of these areas with immediate results. NITA Program Director Cheng remarked, “The LAAA attorneys were quick studies and implemented many of the techniques seamlessly. The workshops helped the participants develop a ‘muscle memory’ of the skills that the participants deftly integrated into their performances. As usual, NITA’s trademark learning-by-doing process brought to life the effectiveness of great advocacy.”
The closing ceremony was filled with enthusiastic praise for the success of the training program. The LAAA attorneys expressed an interest in gaining additional NITA training. The legal advocacy training in Trinidad, as with others held around the world, is part of NITA’s ongoing commitment to improving justice by helping lawyers develop and refine their advocacy skills.