The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: NITA Community

NITA Past Board Members Recognized at The American Law Institute

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NITA Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe

NITA would like to congratulate Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe who became Life Members at The American Law Institute (ALI) during their 95th Annual Meeting. The ALI is the nation’s premier law reform organization which is limited to 3,000 members –  elected from judges, law professors, and practitioners from throughout the United States and abroad.

An ALI Life Member is someone who has been a member for 25 years. LaMothe and Bankoff’s class was selected in 1993 and celebrated its 25th year during the Annual Meeting. According to LaMothe, “It’s been a great honor to participate in the ALI’s many contributions to the law.”

LaMothe and Bankoff both served on the NITA Board for many years and we congratulate them on this amazing achievement and for their dedication to advocacy.

Breaking: SCOTUS Justice Kennedy Announces Retirement

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States this morning.

Since his appointment to the high court bench in 1988 by President Reagan, Justice Kennedy has frequently served as the crucial swing vote in decisions. His retirement is predicted to recast the leanings of the majority.

Please see the New York Times for more information as this story develops.

[Photo credit: By Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Anthony Kennedy – The Oyez Project) [Public domain].]

Welcome the Newest NITA Advocates

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NITA is proud to announce the 2018 first 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.

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  • Melinda DeAtley | US Patent & Trademark Office
  • Sean M. Fisher | Brenner Saltzman & Wallman Llp.
  • Amber Candelaria | Candelaria Law Group LLC
  • Denesha James | Dept. Of Transportation FMCSA

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

NITA’s 2017 Faculty Award Winners Announced

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Wendy McCormack, Executive Director, announces the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Award winners.

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy annually recognizes outstanding contributions to NITA by making three acclaimed awards. Honoring members of NITA’s faculty, author, and staff communities, the awards highlight exceptional teaching, innovation in teaching, and service to NITA through contributions other than teaching.

Members of NITA’s faculty, authors, and staff, including trained NITA teachers and their appointed Program Directors, and Team Leaders, are eligible for nomination by their NITA colleagues. These creative and dedicated lawyers, many serving as volunteers, provide the rigor and originality in advocacy for which NITA is known. They fan across NITA’s public programs, custom programs, and public service programs. Their case files and books are used by practitioners and law students alike across the nation.

Nominations from the NITA community speak to the nominee’s work in one of three areas, each award year honoring the prior year of service.  Each is named after one of NITA’s pioneers who exemplified the teaching, innovation, and service that the awards honor.

The awards for 2017 work are:

Robert Keeton Award for Outstanding Service as a NITA Faculty Member (recognizing exceptional work as a NITA faculty member):

Hon. Christopher T. Whitten, Superior Court of Arizona. Below are some comments that highlight Judge Whitten’s talent, enthusiasm, friendliness, and dedication to improving the quality of advocacy and NITA<br/ >“Chris simply shows up and gets to work helping . . . the participants, the P.D., other faculty or the support staff. And, it’s not as if Chris is merely a “good worker.” I’ve seen him interact with the participants and his method is sound, his comments are creative and on target, and his demeanor creates a trusting bond with the lawyers who he assists. It’s fairly common to see Chris after a breakout session walking with some of the participants and going deeper on an issue, answering a question or just listening to their experiences.”

Robert Oliphant Award for Outstanding Service to NITA (recognizing service to NITA in ways other than teaching, such as program administration, authorship, business support, and volunteer service, each of which enhances NITA’s mission):

Mary Jo Barr, The Law Offices of Gilbert & Barr. While the process of selecting an award winner is a challenging job, the final decision is often difficult, as many nominees merit recognition. Below are comments from Mary Jo’s nominator and just a few reasons as to why she is so deserving of this award.

“MJ has devoted countless hours to serving NITA over the past quarter century, as a Program Director, instructor, and general goodwill liaison.”

“Having taught at NITA’s Teacher Training, MJ frequently becomes a mentor to new faculty, including the Next Generation faculty that she invites to teach in San Diego every year.”

“Few, maybe none, have been as active as MJ in teaching, mentoring, improving programming, or contributing to the success of NITA and the legal profession.”

Prentice Marshall Faculty Award for the Development of Innovative Teaching Methods with NITA (recognizing creativity in program development or teaching methodology):

Karen Steinhauser, Law Office of Karen Steinhauser. The below quote speaks to Karen’s innovation in developing and implementing an implicit bias session at the 2017 National Session:

“The session was very powerful and the participants gave very strong positive reviews. It is likely that the success of the session will be a catalyst for NITA to repeat the program and/or further develop opportunities to take on this important issue. Karen is deserving of recognition for her courage in pursuing this innovative idea.”

Of the pool of 2017 nominees, NITA Executive Director Wendy McCormack said: “Out of the nominations that come in, it’s very hard to pick just one. Our awards committee does a great job reviewing and weighing many criteria. Mary Jo Barr, Judge Whitten, and Karen Steinhauser join a long list of NITA greats who carry out the NITA mission consistently with passion and inspiration.”

Please join us in thanking them, and extend your congratulations.

NITA Remembers Faculty Jim McElhaney

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James “Jim” W. McElhaney, Professor at SMU and Case Western and NITA Faculty member in our early days, passed away in New Mexico, late October. Jim taught with NITA from the beginning and is remembered and loved by many who taught alongside him. NITA Faculty Robin Weaver stated that Jim is a part of NITA history, and many agree.

According to NITA Faculty Tom Geraghty, Jim was a stalwart NITA teacher in the early days. In the early 2000’s Jim struck out on his own and began writing, lecturing, and consulting. However, his early years at NITA made a big impact on many.

NITA Faculty Jamie Carey stated, “I met Jim at the Midwest Regional program in the early 1970’s, where I was a faculty member and Tom [Geraghty] was program director. Jim gave lectures on evidence, essentially following in Irving Younger’s footsteps… Jim who was already at the time famous for his witty, erudite articles on trial advocacy in the ABA Journal, was a worthy peer of Younger’s. He had the gift of all great teachers: to simplify, to interweave apt anecdote, and infuse the dry stuff with humor.”

Likewise, NITA Faculty Patricia Bobb fondly remembers teaching with Jim. “To say that Jim was a stalwart of NITA is an understatement. Jim was one of the core members of the NITA family and gave his heart and soul to the organization for many years as one of its’ most talented and passionate teachers. He leaves a legacy of having made thousands of trial lawyers the better for his commitment to excellence in trial advocacy. He will be missed by all.”

Similarly, NITA Faculty Judge Ann Williams stated that Jim was a magnificent teacher and an even better mentor. “Funny, creative, witty and knowledgeable are four words that describe him. His lectures were spellbinding and the articles he penned during his many years as editor of chief of the ABA Litigation magazines were legendary. I was his Assistant Team Leader for at least four regional and national programs and had the extraordinary opportunity to see him interact with participants and faculty. He was thoughtful and kind and knew how to bring out the best in people. An added plus and key part of Jim was his love of music. He was a great piano player and we all loved singing with him. He often brought to NITA sessions his double bell euphonium! I am the teacher I am today because of Jim.”

So many of NITA’s longtime faculty members felt their lives impacted by Jim’s gift as a teacher, writer, and speaker. We are so thankful to have had Jim as an integral part of NITA. Please click here to read the memorial page.

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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