The Legal Advocate

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

All posts by Kathy Behler

Get To Know NITA’s 2017 100 Hour Club Part 2

Posted On By

Here at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy we are fortunate enough to have over 800 volunteer faculty each year. We would like to take a moment and introduce to you those faculty who have given us over 100 hours of their time in 2017 to help train advocates all over the globe. In part two of this series we highlight three more of these faculty members. If you missed part one, find it here.

MICHAEL WASHINGTON
San Diego County Superior Court
Oceanside, CA
Volunteered 177 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Building Trial Skills: Los Angeles, our 2017 National Session, and Building Trial Skills: San Diego.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
I was first invited to teach at a NITA program by my former law school professor and trial team coach, Janeen Kerper. She believed that I might have something to share as a young trial attorney. I am forever in her debt.

Why do you teach for NITA?
I teach for NITA because I think with my experience I can help others be more effective and more ethical advocates. Teaching allows me to connect with old friends while making new ones. Teaching for NITA also made me a much better attorney, and now a better judge, by exposing me to individuals that I probably would have not otherwise had an opportunity to meet.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
This is tough for me because I’ve had the chance to teach at so many amazing NITA programs. If I had to pick one it would be Building Trial Skills: Southern California at Loyola Law School. This is the program that I have taught most often, and this year marked my twenty-year anniversary teaching there. I started as a wide-eyed young attorney struggling to apply the NITA method consistently to becoming the Program Director in 2017. Of course, I am forever grateful to the previous Program Director, the amazing Professor Gary Williams.

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
Joy. The legal profession so stressful and we often lose sight that it can enjoyable. I was fortunate enough to always have a legal job that brought me joy, and I want others to learn how they can have fun while dealing with the stress of learning new skills.

CHRISTOPHER WHITTEN
Superior Court
Phoenix, AZ
Volunteered 136 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Building Trial Skills: Los Angeles, our 2017 National Session, and Building Trial Skills: San Diego.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
In 2003, one of my favorite law school professors, Allen Snyder, asked me to help with the Pacific Regional (San Diego) Trial Program. I had been doing trial advocacy training on a much smaller (and much lower quality) basis in Arizona for about twelve years. That first faculty meeting hooked me. There were so many great trial lawyers and advocacy teachers. I was in awe a bit. In 2006, about the same time I was appointed to the bench, I started to get more invitations to help in other programs. For some reason, people seem to think judges intrinsically know how to be effective advocates (mostly wrong, or we would still be advocating). Since 2006, it has been a rollercoaster of amazing experiences, people, and opportunities to serve. I’ve made a lot of good friends and learned from some great teachers over the last fifteen years.

Why do you teach for NITA?
When I was a kid, my father helped run an orphanage in La Paz, Mexico. A big part of my upbringing, and probably anyone else’s who was Jesuit-schooled, was “women and men for others.” I’ve always gotten far, far more out of volunteering than I’ve given. That’s especially true with NITA, where I constantly get the good feeling that accompanies helping that lightbulb pop over a young lawyer’s head when she figures out a skill, but also where I get to learn from world-class faculty for free. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve been able to hear lectures and feedback from living legends of advocacy training. I only wish I could put some of the golden nuggets I’ve heard into practice myself . . . maybe someday.

Oh, and the faculty dinners. NITA people are generally fun people.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
There are three. San Diego is where it all started for me. Now, every year, I get to work with one of those living legends, Mary Jo Barr, to put on the best trial program we can there. Dom Gianna began inviting me to New Orleans a decade ago, and has yet to figure out how little I add. Those programs are special for a number of reasons, but mostly for the people Dom and Lisa Marcy invite every year―a real familial vibe. The National Program is the cream of the crop. The level of talent on the faculty, top to bottom, is always so impressive. Karen Steinhauser and Michael Washington will shepherd it well in the future. I always pick up three or four things to steal while I’m there and use at other programs as if they were my own.

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
Without getting too corny, we really are privileged to work in a noble and important profession. Along with physicians, people entrust to lawyers, and trial lawyers in particular, to some of the biggest, scariest problems in their lives―literally life-and-death or bet-the-company issues. It’s truly humbling, but can also be stressful. Sometimes that stress makes us treat each other poorly. It would be great if, at the end of my career, I could say that I helped move the needle towards a more courteous bar. But really, like a physician, my goal is “first, to do no harm.”

ROBERT MCGAHEY
Denver District Court
Denver, CO
Volunteered 181 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Deposition Skills: Rocky Mountain, our 2017 National Session, and Building Trial Skills: Rocky Mountain.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
It’s far enough back that I can’t even remember the exact year, but sometime in the ’80s, Mark Caldwell [NITA Program Development and Resource Director] called me up and asked me to be a last-minute replacement for the Rocky Mountain Regional. Someone (and I can’t remember who) had recommended me. I agreed to do it and found the experience terrific. NITA became an important part of my life from then on.

Why do you teach for NITA?
The smart-aleck answer is: “Self-defense. The better I can train lawyers, the easier my job is.” The bigger answer is that I am devoted to trial advocacy and its value to people. I wanted to be a trial lawyer from age nine, which was when Perry Mason started on TV. I thought that was the coolest thing I ever saw, and I wanted to do it. I’ve been fortunate to be able to spend my adult life involved in the legal system, first as a lawyer, then as a judge, and I’ve been able to teach advocacy as well. The value of “advocacy” is profound. The word “advocate” comes from the Latin “ad-vo-cate,” which means “to be called to speak for.” How cool is that? Since I care about advocacy, I want to see it done properly, which is why I teach. Maudlin though it sounds, the people I teach will be practicing law after I’m dead. It’s important to me to know that the advocates who come after me will be doing the job right.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
Any public service program, any one at all. Lawyers at public programs and custom programs are great to work with, too, but they frequently have resources supporting them that public service lawyers lack, including the chance to attend NITA programs. Since public service lawyers frequently represent underserved segments of society, being able to help those lawyers get better is very, very rewarding. And given how quickly public service lawyers can be thrown into court, the improvement they make on Friday in Nita City translates immediately to better advocacy for their clients in court on Monday!

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
Experience, concern, a dedication to justice, and a passion for advocacy done right.

Welcome the Newest NITA Advocates

Posted On By

NITA is proud to announce the 2018 3rd quarter recipients of the Advocate Designation. These designations are awarded to a person who has taken a well-rounded set of courses, proving they are serious about trial advocacy.

advocates_header copy

  • Vecdet Tasel | AVSA LAW FIRM
  • Eric J Eastham | Mintz Levin PC
  • Wanda Cannick | US Dept HHS

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 customerservice@nita.org.

Whether Police Accident Reports Admissible in Evidence under the Business Records Exception to Hearsay Rule: An Analysis of the Law in Three States

Posted On By

by NITA guest bloggers Michaela Vrazdova and Michael J. Dale

In trial practice, the question often arises as to whether police accident reports are admissible into evidence under the business record exception to the hearsay rule, and if they are not, why not. It turns out that there is no single answer, as states differ. Therefore, this article analyzes the law regarding this issue in three representative states—New York, Florida, and Illinois – in the context of civil litigation and demonstrates differences in these states.[i]

New York Law

In New York, accident reports can be admissible into evidence under the business record exception to the hearsay rule in civil cases when certain requirements are met. Under § 4518 of New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, a police accident report can be admissible if “it was made in the regular course of any business,” “it was the regular course of such business to make it,” and it was made “at the time of the act, transaction, occurrence or event, or reasonable time thereafter.”[ii]

Case law in New York qualifiedly supports police report admissibility. In Johnson v. Lutz, the New York Court of Appeals ”read into the then existing statute a requirement, not expressly found in it, that, to be admissible, the person making the police report be the witness or that the person supplying the information to the entrant be under a business duty to do so.”[iii] Admissibility in New York is based upon the following factors.

  1. Police officer’s own observations while carrying out police duties

An accident report is admissible “so long as the report is made based upon the officer’s personal observations and while carrying out police duties.”[iv]

For example, even though she did not witness the accident itself a police officer may state in the accident report that she smelled alcohol and that the person in question seemed to be intoxicated because such statements were based on the officer’s own observations and were not hearsay.[v]

Moreover, a diagram of an accident scene in an accident report may be admitted if the police officer personally observed the location upon his arrival on the scene of the accident and the diagram had been made immediately after the accident and before there had been any movement of the vehicles.[vi] Thus, when a vehicle involved in an accident is moved prior to the police officer’s arrival, such diagram is held to be inadmissible.[vii]

When there is a dispute between parties involved in a car accident as to where exactly the accident occurred and the police officer stated in the accident report certain information about the location of the accident, a New York appellate court excluded such information on the basis that there was insufficient evidence that the “information was derived from the personal observations of the responding police officer, who did not witness the subject accident.”[viii]

  1. Witness has personal knowledge and is under business duty to report

Statements of a witness from accident reports are admissible “where it is demonstrated that the informant has personal knowledge of the act, event or condition and he is under a business duty to report it to the entrant.”[ix] This is a basic business record exception provision.

  1. Witness’s statement fall under another hearsay exception

The witness’s statement in an accident record may also be admitted into evidence when the statement falls under another hearsay exception.[x] The party who wants to admit the witness’s statements into evidence has to prove that the statement falls under another hearsay exception and that such an exception applies in a particular case.[xi]

 

For example, in one case, a defendant’s employee who was involved in an accident testified during his deposition that he observed the plaintiff driving next to him, when he felt an impact to his car and saw the plaintiff talking on her phone.[xii] The plaintiff was seeking to introduce a statement of the defendant’s employee from the accident report, in which the witness stated that he did not observe plaintiff’s car prior to the accident.[xiii] The plaintiff was arguing that the statement should be admitted into evidence because it fell under the party admission exception to hearsay under New York’s rules of evidence, as it inculpated the defendant, and that it also fell under the prior inconsistent statement exception to hearsay.[xiv]

Similarly, the statement of the defendant that “he had fallen asleep while driving and that his vehicle had crossed over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic and struck a telephone pole on the opposite side of the road” was admissible, as the statement fell under the admission of a party opponent exception to hearsay.[xv]

A party in New York may also seek to introduce statements found in the police accident report under the spontaneous declaration and declaration against interest exceptions to hearsay.[xvi]

What if the identity of the source is unknown?

To determine whether some hearsay exception may apply in New York, one must identity the source of information, and thus the problem arises when the source of the information stated in the accident report is unknown.

In one case, the plaintiff was claiming that a traffic light was green in his favor and the defendant was saying that the light was green in her favor.[xvii] The police accident report contained a statement that the light was green in the defendant’s favor.[xviii] However, it did not state who the source of this information was, and the police officer did not witness the accident.[xix] The New York court ruled that this information “may have been supplied by defendant, by plaintiff, by an unidentified eyewitness, or by some combination of these persons.”[xx] Thus, such statement from the accident report was not admissible, as it could not be determined whether some hearsay exception could apply.[xxi]

In another case, the plaintiff claimed that defendant’s car rear-ended his car, whereas the defendant claimed that plaintiff backed into her car.[xxii] The police accident report contained a statement from an unknown source that the “defendant rear-ended the plaintiff.”[xxiii] Because the court could not determine who the source of this statement was and whether some exception to hearsay could apply, the court ruled that such report should not have been admitted into evidence.[xxiv]

Lastly, for the accident report to be admitted into evidence in New York, the report must “bear a certification or authentication by the head of . . . department.”[xxv]

To conclude, the police accident reports are admissible in evidence in New York when certain requirements described above are met.

Florida Law

The law in Florida differs dramatically from the law in New York, as there is an express statutory provision in Florida prohibiting the admission of crash reports into evidence in any case—civil or criminal.

Section 316.066(4) states that

[e]xcept as specified in this subsection, each crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report required by this section shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting. Such report or statement may not be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal. However, subject to the applicable rules of evidence, a law enforcement officer at a criminal trial may testify as to any statement made to the officer by the person involved in the crash if that person’s privilege against self-incrimination is not violated.[xxvi]

Thus, the police report remains inadmissible in a civil case. In a criminal case, however, certain non-inculpatory statements of a defendant may be admissible. In addition, one Florida court has held that crash reports are also not admissible in administrative proceedings.[xxvii]

The rationale for adopting § 316.066(4) Florida Statutes and excluding the crash reports in civil cases was “to encourage true and uninhibited reports of accidents, the ultimate goal being to make highways safer.”[xxviii]

The rationale for application of this section to criminal cases was “to ensure that accident information could be compelled without Fifth Amendment violations.”[xxix] That means a person involved in the crash can make statements to a police officer and “that the state does not violate an individual’s constitutional privilege against self-incrimination when he or she is compelled to truthfully report to law enforcement the facts surrounding an automobile accident.”[xxx]

A question that arises next is whether personal observations of the police officer who comes on the scene of an accident after the fact are admissible.

In State v. Edwards, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that a police officer’s observations (e.g., the officer smelled alcohol from defendant’s breath, defendant’s speech was slurred, defendant had problem with balance, defendant’s eyes were bloodshot) were admissible, as they were observations of the officer and not statements under § 316.066, and also that the results of sobriety tests are admissible into evidence, as such results are not communications protected by § 316.066(4) of the Florida statutes.[xxxi]

Similarly, the court ruled in State v. Cino that only statements are protected under § 316.066(4) and thus observation of person’s “physical appearance, general demeanor, slurred speech or breath scent” are not protected by this section and, in addition, do not violate the defendant’s right against self-incrimination.[xxxi]

Furthermore, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that observations of a police officer on the accident scene―such as the location of the vehicles involved in an accident when the police officer arrived, whether there were any skid marks, and the extent of how much were the cars damaged―are all admissible in evidence because they are personal observations of the officer and do not fall under § 316.066.[xxxii] As the court said, “[a]ll this information ordinarily appears on the accident report prepared by the investigating police officer and it is clearly admissible at trial.”[xxxiii]

Finally, it is possible that a party involved in a crash waives this privilege when the party “opens the door by introducing inadmissible information contained in the accident report.”[xxxiv]

Illinois Law

Rule 236 of Illinois Supreme Court Rules deals with admission of business records into evidence and enumerates certain requirements a record has to meet to be admitted into evidence as a business record. With regard to police accident reports, subsection (b) of Rule 236 states that “[a]lthough police accident reports may otherwise be admissible in evidence under the law, subsection (a) of this rule does not allow such writings to be admitted as a record or memorandum made in the regular course of business.”[xxxv]

It follows that police reports are generally not admissible in either civil or criminal trials.[xxxvi] Interestingly, in certain cases a “mere attempt to introduce such an exhibit may be considered reversible error.”[xxxvii] Thus, in one civil case, when a defendant’s attorney repeatedly asked the plaintiff “in the presence of the jury to introduce the police report into evidence,” the Illinois appellate court ruled that such conduct of the defendant’s attorney was prejudicial to the plaintiff.[xxxviii] However, “where a proper foundation has been laid, certain portions of a police report have been admitted into evidence as past recollection recorded.”[xxxix] Moreover, in Illinois certain portions of the police accident report may be admissible for the purpose of impeachment.[xl]

Conclusion

Every state has different legislation when it comes to the question of admissibility of police accident reports under the business records exception to hearsay.[xli] New York has a statute that allows accident reports to be admissible when the report was made in the regular course of business, it was the regular business to make such record, it was made at the time of the act or a reasonable time thereafter, and it was based upon the police officer’s own observations and while carrying out her official duties. Moreover, statements of other persons (not a police officer) in an accident report may be admitted into evidence when the person had a business duty to report to police officer or when the statement falls under another hearsay exception (e.g., admission of party, spontaneous declaration).

On the other hand, Florida has a statute that states that a crash report made by a person involved in a crash or a statement of such person to a police officer is not admissible into evidence in any trial—civil or criminal. The rationale for the rule in Florida is to encourage truthfulness of people when making statements to police officer after the incident and in criminal cases to protect the defendant’s right against self-incrimination.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 236 discusses admissibility of business record explicitly, stating in subsection (b) that a police report may not be admissible under the business record exception to hearsay.

In conclusion, the best practice regarding the admissibility of police report under the business record exception to hearsay is to check the appropriate state statute and case law in the appropriate jurisdiction. As this discussion shows, states can differ significantly about the admissibility of police accident reports.


Michaela Vrazdova is a graduate in law from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and a dual degree graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Law, where she was until recently a research assistant to Professor Michael J. Dale. She can be reached at michaela.vrazdova@gmail.com.

Michael J. Dale has been a member of the faculty at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law since 1985. He teaches regularly for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He can be reached at dalem@nova.edu. If you’d like to know more Professor Dale, please read his “Asked and Answered” interview with The Legal Advocate here.

[i]. As this research is limited to three states, counsel must check the law in their own jurisdiction.
[ii]. N.Y.C.P.L.R. 4518(a) (McKinney 2017).
[iii]. Toll v. State, 299 N.Y.S.2d 589, 591 (N.Y. App. Div. 1969) (discussing Johnson v. Lutz, 170 N.E. 517 (1930)).
[iv]. Memenza v. Cole, 16 N.Y.S.3d 287, 289 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015).
[v]. Bhowmilk v. Santana, 33 N.Y.S.3d 51, 51–52 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016).
[vi]. Mooney v. Osowiecky, 651 N.Y.S.2d 713, 714 (N.Y. App. Div. 1997). See also Campbell v. Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, 438 N.Y.S.2d 87, 88–89 (N.Y. App. Div. 1981).
[vii]. Mooney, 651 N.Y.S.2d at 714.
[viii]. Shehab v. Powers, 54 N.Y.S.3d 104, 106 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017).
[ix]. Matter of Leon RR, 397 N.E.2d 374, 378 (N.Y. 1979).
[x]. Toll, 299 N.Y.S.2d at 592.
[xi]. Tyrrell v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 97 N.Y.2d 650, 651 (N.Y. 2001).
[xii]. Brown v. URS Midwest, Inc., 18 N.Y.S.3d 704, 705–06 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015).
[xiii]. Brown, 132 A.D.3d at 927.
[xiv]. Id.
[xv]. Scott v. Kass, 851 N.Y.S.2d 649, 651 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008).
[xvi]. Cover v. Cohen, 461 N.E.2d 864, 870 (N.Y. 1984).
[xvii]. Gagliano v. Vaccaro, 467 N.Y.S.2d 396, 397 (N.Y. App. Div. 1983).
[xviii]. Id.
[xix]. Id.
[xx]. Id.
[xxi]. See id.
[xxii]. Noakes v. Rosa, 862 N.Y.S.2d 573, 574 (2d Dep’t 2008).
[xxiii]. Id.
[xxiv]. Id.
[xxv]. N.Y. C.P.L.R. 4518(a) (McKinney 2017).
[xxvi]. Fla. Stat. § 316.066(4) (2014).
[xvii]. Nelson v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 757 So.2d 1264, 1265 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2000).
[xxviii]. Vedner v. State, 849 So.2d 1207, 1211 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2003).
[xxix]. State v. Norstorm, 613 So.2d 437, 440 (Fla. 1993).
[xxx]. State v. Cino, 931 So.2d 164, 168 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2006).
[xxxi]. State v. Edwards, 463 So.2d 551, 554 (Fla. 5th Dist. Ct. App. 1985).
[xxxii]. Cino, 931 So.2d at 167.
[xxxiii]. Brackin v. Boles, 452 So.2d 540, 544 (Fla. 1984).
[xxxiv]. Id.
[xxxv]. Salama v. McGregor, 656 So.2d 215, 216 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1995).
[xxxvi]. Ill. S. Ct. R. 236(b) (eff. Aug. 1, 1992).
[xxxvii]. People v. Richardson, 362 N.E.2d 1104, 1106 (Ill. App. Ct. 1977).
[xxxviii]. Johnson v. Plodzien, 175 N.E.2d 560, 563 (Ill. App. Ct. 1961).
[xlix]. Smith v. Johnson, 120 N.E.2d 58, 60 (Ill. App. Ct. 1954).
[xl]. Wilkinson v. Mullen, 327 N.E.2d 433, 435 (Ill. Ct. App. 1975).
[xli]. Hall v. Baum Corp., 299 N.E.2d 156, 160 (Ill. Ct. App. 1973).
[xlii]. See George J. Blum, Admissibility in State Court Proceeding of Police Reports as Business Records, 111 A.L.R. 5th 1 (originally published 2003).

NITA Volunteer Spotlight: September Neil Kodsi

Posted On By

As part of NITA’s efforts to recognize our vast volunteer community, we have initiated a monthly volunteer faculty spotlight. Recommendations come from our programs department staff, who work closely with our volunteers on our public, public service, and custom programs. NITA is pleased to announce Neil Kodsi as our September Volunteer Faculty Spotlight. Here are just some of the comments our staff used to describe Neils’s work with NITA

He taught at our Americans for Immigrant Justice program at the beginning of August. He was available to be Program Director in a pinch and received amazing praise from the attendees & faculty. It was especially helpful of him because he didn’t have much immigration law experience but was able to work with their faculty to teach an effective program.

When asked about how he was introduced to NITA, why he continues to teach for us and a little background of his teaching career, Neil had this to say:

I am truly honored and humbled by this. I have been a big fan of NITA for more than 20 years. As a young attorney, I was a student in all of the programs – Deposition, Motions practice, trial and Advanced trial, etc.. Then, as I became more seasoned, I volunteered to serve as faculty for programs at Wake Forest and I helped my law firm (Womble Carlyle) conduct in-house training. Then, after moving to Miami in 2005, I started an in-house NITA program at Carlton Fields with Jeff Cohen and I volunteered for the NITA deposition and trial practice programs at NOVA University whenever I could. Since 2005, I have served as a NITA faculty member about 15 times.

I participate in NITA because I feel it is the best litigation training program available for lawyers. At NITA, we give lawyers a chance to get on their feet and perform. There is no better way to learn. I also have enjoyed getting to know the other NITA faculty with whom I have worked and I am honored to think of myself as their peer. I think all good trial lawyers have to be good teachers. That is, in reality, what we do in trial. I come from a family of teachers and I have taught adjunct at Wake Forest School of Law, assisted them with their trial team and coached the R.J. Reynolds High School Mock Trial Team. NITA gave me the tools I needed to do all of this and I enjoy serving as a NITA faculty member where I can help give those tools to the next generation of trial lawyers.

We want to thank Neil for his continued passion and support of NITA’s mission. With 800+ faculty members and over 20,000 hours volunteered each year, we could not do what we do without people like Neil Kodsi.

Get To Know NITA’s 2017 100 Hour Club Part 1

Posted On By

Here at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy we are fortunate enough to have over 800 volunteer faculty each year. We would like to take a moment and introduce to you those faculty who have given us over 100 hours of their time in 2017 to help train advocates all over the globe. In part one of this series we highlight three of these faculty members.

Allison Rocker
Assistant Director of the Prosecution and Code Enforcement unit at the Denver City Attorney’s Office
Volunteered 110 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Building Trial Skills: Philadelphia, Deposition Skills: Bay Area, Building Trial Skills: San Diego, and our 2017 National Session.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
I was invited to attend teacher training by a close mentor and friend. From the first hour, I was hooked. I loved the method, I loved the people, and I loved the idea of better preparing those in our field in an effective and inclusive way.

Why do you teach for NITA?
I’ve worked in the public sector for my entire career―I see NITA as another way to serve my community. Hearing from students after courses―either with feedback or questions about how to put together an opening for an upcoming case―is incredible. The impact NITA has on the individual as a whole is obvious to me, and I find it inspirational to watch our students improve just in a matter of days.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
I was invited to teach at a program on the Navajo Nation. The participants ranged drastically in age, skill, and legal knowledge. Yet, they were all deeply hungry to learn so they could better represent their community and their culture which they cared deeply about. I was teaching with a group of people who were so energizing and committed―it was a true honor.

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
It’s a privilege to do what we do―to work in the legal profession. If I can encourage an attorney to have more confidence in themselves by providing them with the tools and knowledge to be a more effective advocate―that’s a win.

Jayme Cassidy
Director of the Veterans Law Clinic and Legal Incubator at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law
Volunteered 178 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Deposition Skills: Florida, Building Trial Skills: Philadelphia, Building Trial Skills: Florida, and Deposition Skills: New Jersey.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
I was invited to teach in the NITA Fort Lauderdale Trial program when I was a public defender. I would teach off and on when I had time. Longtime NITA faculty member, Mike Dale, reintroduced me to NITA when I launched the Veterans Law Clinic at Nova Southeastern University. Mike helped me appreciate that teaching for NITA is not something you do sporadically . . . it is a lifestyle.

Why do you teach for NITA?
The ability to work alongside attorneys who have the passion and ambition to teach and learn is rewarding. Each program is a dynamic opportunity to enhance my legal skills and cultivate relationships. Every program is an enjoyable, fulfilling experience.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
I have met fabulous people through NITA programs. I look forward to seeing friends annually at some of my favorite programs. The public service programs are dear to my heart because the attorneys in those firms advocate for vulnerable groups, special populations, and social causes.

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
I hope to foster access to justice and make an impact on the current justice gap through innovation. Effective and ethical advocacy can be delivered in many platforms. Training lawyers and developing unique ways to help fellow attorneys deliver fair administration of justice will promote “justice for all.”

Michael Dale
Faculty at Nova Southeastern University Law Center
Volunteered 199 hours in 2017, teaching at several programs including; Deposition Skills: Florida, Next-Level Trial Techniques, ABA Family Law Trial Advocacy, and Building Trial Skills: Florida.

How did you first become involved with NITA?
My first encounter with NITA took place at Hofstra Law School, when, as a trial lawyer practicing in Phoenix, I traveled east and took NITA’s trial skills program on Long Island. After becoming a law school professor and teaching trial advocacy, I took the NITA teacher training program.

Why do you teach for NITA?
I teach for NITA for two reasons. First, it is categorically the most effective means of teaching litigation skills to lawyers and law students. Second, for decades NITA has included in its mission training lawyers who could not otherwise afford the training NITA provides. This includes lawyers representing parties in child abuse and neglect cases, immigration cases, legal aid matters, and cases on Native American reservations.

Is there a particular NITA program that’s dearest to your heart?
Representing the whole child independence and juvenile delinquency cases at Hofstra Law School.

What do you hope to bring to the legal profession?
It’s simple. A commitment to the most professional and ethical practice possible.

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.
Feature Products