Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving for nonprofit organizations. It’s in this spirit that we ask for your support of the NITA Foundation and its important work of awarding scholarship assistance and creating programs for lawyers working in public service professions.
Did you know that since 2003, the NITA Foundation has disbursed over $3.3 million in support of our programs and scholarships? Thanks to our donors’ generosity, we have been able to:
When you give to the NITA Foundation, 100% of each dollar you donate supports these crucial activities.
So, whether you’ve come to know NITA by attending a trial skills or program, using a NITA book in your practice, teaching at one of our programs, or even winning a scholarship yourself, we hope you’ll pay it forward on #GivingTuesday by contributing to the NITA Foundation.
Please visit www.nita.org/donate and make a difference today.
NITA once again joined forces with LEAP, a non-profit organization in New York, to provide a public service program. NITA and LEAP worked together in 2015 on a Teacher Training and a Trial Skills program but this year the topic was Trial Evidence. The training took place October 2-3 in New York and was generously hosted by the law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Senior Vice President of CAMBA, Inc., Janet Miller, was instrumental in working with NITA to put the training together.
NITA Program Director Barbara Barron, who has been a NITA Faculty member on over 100 programs, brought her knowledge and advocacy skills to lead this program. Some of the skills taught included: direct examinations, evidentiary foundations, direct examination with exhibits, and more. As is true NITA fashion, the participants were able to practice these skills and received direct feedback.
One participant stated, “I really liked the course and am glad I was able to attend… The faculty was excellent at demonstrating and pushing us to perform.” Likewise, others agreed they gained many skills from this training
How does a network of 900 trial law faculty and authors, 35 staff and 23 Trustees have a Soul? NITA remains agnostic of faith as well as party and practice type. And to think of that argumentative trial law crowd – no multi-party advocacy could settle the essence of “a single soul.”
But you feel it, right? Lacking words, I named it “NITA-Love” when I interviewed with the Board five years ago. Everyone in the room got it. And no one needed to define it. And since, I have heard and read the phrase “NITA-Love.”
But you know what? The truth is this: NITA does have a soul. Every person with NITA has the same soul. It is this:
It is all giving. Of talent, imagination, time, funds, and . . . well, of loyalty and friendship. My proof point (the “QED”) is at the end – please read this straight through.
Faculty. They give because it thrills them to create transformative moments, every moment they can. They give from their deepest intuition, their highest level of experience. When they nail a perfect diagnosis of not only what but why to teach a particular person in a particular way on a particular skill, they swell with joy to see the result. We teach because we are hooked on the reality of making an immediate and permanent difference. Individually for each lawyer
Authors and Studio71 guests. They give original topics and comprehensive knowledge, NITA-like fresh ideas, imaginative case files. They know NITA owns, keeps, and cares for these works including how and when to go forward with updates, and will groom, trim, and tailor the collection for modern audiences and changed courtroom skills. They are proud to join the continuum of talent behind the publications NITA uses to teach in and outside a classroom.
Staff members. I am proud of them and asked for their examples! Yes, they share the soul of NITA with faculty, authors, law firms, law schools, visible leaders and hidden gems around the country. But in their private lives, they are givers too. Just some of their Time, Talent and Tribute gifts are . . .
. . . Donating to organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center, the Manatee Foundation (yes, for one particular Manatee over the years with a visit to that ‘family member’ during a college tour), supporting a start-up helping families after the loss of a child, Nature Conservancy, Public Radio and Television, Planned Parenthood, hurricane emergency funds for Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, The Humane Society of Boulder County, the Denver Rescue Mission, small non-profit projects like Suzie’s Senior Dogs, and artists who are doing creative works, especially filmmakers, musicians,
. . . Volunteering individually or as a staff in community service, such as farm work at Three Leaf Farm (which grows organic foods for local restaurants), stuffed backpacks for new students at Crayons to Calculators, coaching school athletes in Ultlmate Frisbee and baseball, leading hockey leagues for elementary age players, coaching mock trials for high school, law school, and bar association students, and presenting ethics lectures to judicial groups, assembling donated items into toiletry bags for those without homes.
. . . Leading or advising organizations such as the non-profit Growing Home, (focusing on the whole family through services for “Parents as Teachers” (a food bank, mentoring, emergency shelter, and gifts and gatherings such as Thanksgiving baskets), the Nanda Center for International Law, the Colorado State Board of Education, a small mountain town’s water board, and Penguicon (an annual convention that provides an eclectic mix of computer education, life skills, and geeky fun.
. . . Plus, as one staffer wrote, “I work at NITA so I get to feel like I am giving back every day – very cool!”
Trustees. They too give Time, Talent and Tribute. Of course. Plenty! But I have not shared before how extensively they give of their personal donations as well as their time and guidance. Our Soul is deeply shared across the Board, and we rejoice in their collegiality and the contributions.
Friends and Family. Every one of the groups above, and others who care for NITA, double-down through donations to NITA’s Foundation. Each and every one of you gives priceless value to us, and your gifts too sustain our Public Service Program and scholarships. Our public service lawyer program line-up grows every year, and now attracts requests from more and more groups than ever. The immigration advocacy training programs exemplify our great pride in expanding public service offerings to serve client groups in great need. Scholarships to public programs also always challenge us – there is a great need. Thank you for every gift, of every size.
Here’s the Soul Thing!
In 2017, NITA-Love has taken a shape so distinctive that we can declare and trust the NITA Soul to be Giving. In a stunning call this summer, a group of veteran faculty quietly explained that together they had committed to a campaign to establish a memorial scholarship fund commemorating the life and talent of Bob Vanderlaan. The idea, the working plan, and the “go” button were all created outside staff’s usual work to shepherd gifts to our Foundation. It arose from NITA-Love. And it is about to achieve the ambitious campaign goal.
I am overjoyed. As a personal matter, I have to say that I tear-up writing this paragraph. Your bonds, your trust, your generosity and your commitment have strengthened NITA. It strikes my heart and I take in shorter breaths. Thank you.
As I step out of the Executive Director role and pass the beloved baton to Wendy, I know . . . I KNOW that NITA-Love is those things that we give. Of everything. And your spirit, loyalty, and pride are our most precious gifts. Please help us grow that Soul and trust it . . . I will be out there with you, doing the same as you do.
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
Outgoing President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
Part of the mission of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) is to promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy as a means of improving the adversarial justice system. We believe in due process, adequate representation, and access to justice for everyone, including immigrants who wish to remain in the U.S. NITA supports the immigration position of the American Bar Association:
The ABA supports measures to improve the immigration court system and to increase due process safeguards, including access to counsel, for those in removal proceedings. The ABA opposes mandatory detention of those in removal proceedings, supports alternatives to detention, and supports strengthening the ICE National Detention Standards and promulgating them into enforceable regulations. The ABA supports comprehensive immigration reform that promotes legal immigration based on family reunification and employment skills and that provides for new legal channels for future workers, a path to legal status for much of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States, and enhanced border security.
In response to an article that recently appeared in The Washington Post, The Legal Advocate asked Losmin Jimenez, Project Director and Senior Attorney for the Immigrant Justice Project at Advancement Project, to explain the impact on due process and access to justice on persons appearing before such a tribunal, should the DOJ proposal go into effect.
Shortly on the heels of the presidential inauguration in January, the Trump Administration issued Executive Orders 13767, 13768, and 13769 delivering on its promise of ramped-up enforcement on immigration matters. Some of the Administration’s enforcement measures include limiting the number of refugees and other foreign nationals from Muslim-majority countries. In September 2017, the Administration rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), impacting the lives of 800,000 Dreamers and their families. DACA was originally instituted in a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security titled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children” in 2012 under President Obama.
The current immigration system is experiencing a seismic shift. One such development is a Department of Justice (DOJ) proposal to use “numeric performance standards”[i] and “establish performance metrics for immigration judges.” It is in this vein that this blog post provides a brief discussion on the current status of immigration court and outlines the likely impact these proposed measures would have on 1) due process and access to justice for immigrants seeking protection in the U.S. and 2) those fighting deportation to remain with their families in the U.S.
The Immigration Court system is referred to as the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), an agency within DOJ. Immigration judges are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General; thus, immigration judges are DOJ employees. Immigration judges are administrative law judges who do not have the same protections, such as life tenure, as members of the federal judiciary. However, the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), a voluntary organization, is designated as the recognized representative for collective bargaining for all immigration judges.[ii]
At the end of September 2017, the Immigration Court backlog had grown to 629,051 cases.[iii] This number may prompt one to ask, “How is this possible?” Over the last decade, the immigration courts have been severely underfunded in comparison to the exponential increases Congress has provided for immigration enforcement. Case in point: the budgets of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection exceed $20 billion.[iv] In contrast, the budget for EOIR is estimated at $420 million. [v] To provide scale of the disparity in funding, consider the Baltimore Immigration Court, the immigration court for all respondents in immigration proceedings residing in Maryland. This court has five immigration judges tending to, at present, 23,074 pending cases.[vi]
Meanwhile, armed conflicts, natural disasters, gender-based violence, and other root causes for migration have resulted in 66.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, and of these 22.5 million are refugees.[vii] Consequently, thousands of people, especially women and children, have sought asylum in the United States in recent years.
Adding to this underfunded and overwhelmed court system is the fact that respondents in immigration court have a right to be represented by an attorney in immigration court, at no expense to the government;[viii] there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings, even if the Respondent is a child. Approximately 37 percent of immigrants nationally and 14 percent of immigrants in detention have counsel.[ix]
As every judge and trial lawyer knows, pro se litigants slow things down for the court—yet, pro se litigants have a right to procedural due process and must be afforded some opportunity to present their case. At a master calendar hearing, which is a respondent’s first hearing in immigration court, respondents often appear without an attorney and, if English is not the language they know best, participate in the hearing with the aid of a court-provided interpreter. Respondents almost always request a continuance to secure pro bono counsel or a private attorney. For those respondents who managed to secure counsel prior to the first hearing, counsel will often ask for a continuance while they wait for documents from the respondent’s home country to arrive, begin to evaluate case strategy, and await documents from the client’s Alien File in the custody of the government.
Challenges for due process in immigration court are even more complex for detained immigrants. Detention centers are sometimes in remote locations, far from respondents’ families, removed from immigration lawyers and pro bono counsel, and provide prohibitive telephone costs just to communicate with a loved one or a lawyer. The law library at a detention center may be comprised of several immigration law books in English.[x]
In my experience representing immigrants, I recall a time in 2011 that an immigration judge in a detention center told an unrepresented Honduran woman seeking asylum that she needed to complete the asylum application in English and that she needed to have some documents translated from Spanish to English by a competent translator, as required by the Immigration Court Practice Manual.[xi] This unrepresented woman did the best she could and found a fellow detainee who spoke her native Spanish and a Spanish-speaking detainee translated the documents for the pro se Respondent.
Was the translation accurate? Did the unrepresented woman have a choice? What if she spoke Amharic, Mam, or Nepali—would she have been able to find a fellow detainee to translate documents from her home country? What about issues of confidentiality? Where do unrepresented, detained immigrants find counsel and translators?
It would be unfair to initiate deportation proceedings against an immigrant, detain him, not provide him an attorney, not allow him time to try to secure pro bono counsel or a private attorney, and not allow him sufficient time to gather evidence for his case. What about when a three-year-old facing deportation shows up to Immigration Court without a lawyer? Granting a continuance is the only sensible and human thing to do. An immigration judge would, and should, grant a continuance to a person whose life is at stake and where she may be returned home to face religious persecution, torture, or death.
If the DOJ proposal to establish performance metrics for immigration judges is approved, immigration judges will be forced to grant fewer continuances, rush through an already crushing docket, and decide cases in which respondents are more likely to be pro se and without all of the evidence necessary to present their case. This will result in more respondents being deported from the United States without, in contravention of existing human rights obligations, first having a meaningful opportunity to be heard.
It is easy to see how the immigration court backlog has come into existence. It naturally follows that establishing performance metrics for immigration judges is not a solution. Immigration judges should be focused on the facts of the case and be provided with sufficient time and resources to afford due process to those who appear before them. They should not be under the threat of metrics and numeric performance standards to evaluate their performance. The legal profession must push back against this proposal by the Trump administration.
Losmin Jimenez is currently the Project Director and Senior Attorney for the Immigrant Justice Project at Advancement Project, a next-generation, multi-racial, social justice organization. In this role, Losmin works to advance immigrant justice as a part of the broader struggle for racial justice. Previously, she was a Litigation Attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) in Miami, working on impact litigation, appeals, policy, and advocacy defending the basic human rights of immigrants. This summer, Losmin wrote about immigration relief for unaccompanied minors for The Legal Advocate. Her free studio71 webcast, Introduction to Immigration Advocacy—Overview of Humanitarian Relief, is available on demand.
[i] Maria Sachetti, Washington Post, “Immigration judges say proposed quotas from Justice Dept. threaten independence,” Oct. 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/immigration-judges-say-proposed-quotas-from-justice-dept-threaten-independence/2017/10/12/3ed86992-aee1-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.c10b81209fe7.
[iii] See Backlog of Pending Cases in Immigration Courts as of September 2017, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/apprep_backlog.php.
[iv] Department of Homeland Security Budget in Brief, Fiscal Year 2017, https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/FY2017BIB.pdf.
[vi] See Individuals in Immigration Court by their Address, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/addressrep/.
[vii] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Figures at a Glance, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html.
[viii] Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 240(b)(4)(A).
[ix] Ingrid Ealy and Stephen Shafer, American Immigration Council, Access to Counsel in Immigration Court (2016), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/access-counsel-immigration-court.
[x] Author’s personal knowledge from visits to an immigration detention center as an attorney.
[xi] EOIR, Immigration Court Practice Manual, Filings with the Immigration Court, § 3.3 (a), https://www.justice.gov/eoir/office-chief-immigration-judge-0.
On October 26-28 NITA headed to Kansas in order to conduct a public service training which was funded by a grant from the Kansas Bar Foundation. This training has been conducted for many years and was once again led by NITA Program Director, Judge C. William Ossmann who worked alongside longtime NITA Faculty Mark Caldwell and Judge Robert McGahey from Colorado, as well Public Defender Jessica Glendening, Assistant United States Attorney Dustin Slinkard, and Criminal Defense Attorney Paul Oller. Together – this team trained a diverse group – 6 legal aid attorneys, 3 public defenders, 4 prosecutors, and 4 attorneys from the Attorney General’s office.
The faculty came from a variety of backgrounds which brought immense knowledge on trial skills to the training. Of the diverse faculty, one participant stated, “The faculty worked well together and I appreciated that their feedback and remarks had consistency.”
The trial skills training was held at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kanas. This three-day training included skills such as: direct and cross examination, analyzing exhibits, and opening and closing arguments – following the tried and true NITA Method. One participant stated, “This course was fantastic and I was able to use the tips and tricks I learned that weekend as soon as I was back in the office on Monday. I already feel more confident going into court because I am following the steps NITA laid out for me.”
Furthermore, Program Director C. William Ossmann stated, “It was rewarding to see everyone using their time together to improve their trial skills to benefit their clients, no matter where they might be seated in the courtroom.”
The Kansas program shifts year to year from eastern Kansas to western Kansas and will return to Topeka in 2018.
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: