The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: NITA Notes

January 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: Introducing our Professional Staff – Stellar Program Department!

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Meet our staff members! While NITA is the faculty and author network that brings you learn-by-doing programs and materials, NITA’s professional staff in Boulder is the engine, director, and glue that makes it all possible. We coordinate, expand, envision, and deliver highest quality and efficient support of NITA’s mission. We direct our amazing network of lawyers, as they teach in the unique NITA way.

Over the next few months, I will be introducing you to NITA’s staff. This month, I bring you greetings from our Programs Department. As you work with them, you will admire their dedication – just hear what they have to say!

Alicia Branch

Program Specialist II
My eagerness to further NITA’s Mission engages my full support as I administer my programs, and “lend a hand” in the department’s other projects and goals.
I see NITA’s mission, creating the best advocates for our legal system, to be a constantly evolving goal. As we set the level of excellence in legal advocacy training, I draw great satisfaction from knowing that it means so much to so many people.


Mark Caldwell

Resource Director
Given my familiarity with program content, case files, materials, and other faculty resources, I consult with staff to help them support programs that succeed, and help support program directors.
NITA’s leadership in improving the quality of trial practice is unquestioned. Our philosophy of inclusion, regardless of the lawyer’s position in a case, means that NITA constantly strives to improve the quality of representation for all, including the underserved client base.


Katie Grosso

Senior Program Specialist
I contribute through pitching in on some of the more strategic aspects of our department, along with administering programs.
NITA for me is a job, a mission, and a vision. What makes it important personally is the big, awesome family; I value my NITA friendships inside and out, and enjoy seeing the program participants bond. As we face a changing market, it is our relationships and dedication to mission that carries us into the future.


Cindy Knaisch

Senior Program Specialist
In addition to running my programs, I support the team from my customer service and IT background, helping enhance the client experience as well as our staff’s efficiency.
I’m proud to work at NITA. We truly help empower attorneys to better serve clients, including the underserved. I picture my work as an integral part of that mission, as NITA continues to grow as the premier CLE provider in the legal profession.


Christine McHugh

Program Specialist I
I work to be a fun, awesome, sassy member of Programs, engaging with my team and my faculty, and working to create a well-oiled machine as we organize our programs.
I personally feel the most important role we have here is providing excellent customer service to our participants. It’s a pleasure coming to NITA each and every morning!


Michelle Rogness

Director of Programs
As the lead director of this amazing Program Department, I coordinate our goals and our work to provide consistently excellent programs for both public and private programs.
NITA provides chances for lawyers to get on their feet and learn. We have the teachers and the method to help advocates speak for others. We are aiming to provide relevant training for a changing playing field in all areas of advocacy.


Donielle Swires

Program Specialist I
I add to the group’s success by working to run each of my programs smoothly, and helping other specialists on the team.
NITA is a great opportunity for lawyers to build new skills and strengthen techniques they have used in the past. I feel NITA increases their comfort going into a courtroom. We at NITA expand into the future as we perfect what we do by working together.


As ED, I am proud of these Programs team members. Please say “thanks” the next time you talk to them!

And thank YOU.





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

NITA, LWOB Train Public Defenders in Nigeria

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In November, NITA sent two faculty, Judge Michael Washington and Geraldine Sumter, to Nigeria in support of an advocacy training program organized by Lawyers Without Borders and the Office of the Public Defender of Lagos State. We’d like to share the opening remarks to this successful program that Olubukola Salami, the director of the Office of the Public Defender, delivered on the first day of the sessions. We are grateful for receiving Mrs. Salami’s permission to share her welcome address with you, along with photos taken during the trainings.

The Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kareem,
The Representative of the Ambassador of the United States of America, Ms. Rosalyn Wiese, the Director, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, The United States Embassy, Abuja,
The Judges of the High Court of Lagos State,
The Judges of the United States of America,
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice,
Our Distinguished Guests,
All the Participants,

I am highly delighted and honoured to address you on the occasion of the Trial Advocacy Training Course organized by the Office of the Public Defender in collaboration with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America.

The Office of the Public Defender (the first in Nigeria) was established on the 24th of July, 2000, to provide qualitative legal aid through free representation in court and to ensure that all persons resident in Lagos State irrespective of means, sex, tribe, or religion have equal access to justice.

Our practice scope cuts across most areas of legal practice consisting of both criminal and civil litigation. This requires that our advocacy skills be optimum. The Office provides legal services for matters in the criminal and civil divisions of the courts sitting in Lagos State. We institute divorce petitions, debt recovery cases in the Magistrate Court, and employee–employer cases at the National Industrial Court, where in a year and a half we have prosecuted over one hundred cases and counting.

As advocates and public defenders, it is important that we represent our clients who are the common man to the best of our abilities, as every Nigerian has a constitutional right guaranteed by section 3(6)(c) and (d) of the 1999 Constitution to representation and participation at the trial of his case.

A lawyer without the basic advocacy skills both for trial purposes and otherwise is a disaster waiting to happen, as he needs to stand for his client and make a convincing case on their behalf before a court.

As an office, we have been keen to raise and improve our advocacy skills as a unit, especially as this office is the only department within the Ministry of Justice that is consistently involved in trials in almost every court across the State.

Ladies and gentlemen, the timing of this training course could not have been more appropriate, with the introduction of Section 268 and 269(1) into the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2015 for the first time in Nigeria.

We are quite excited that this reputable international Institute are here in Nigeria to train us and are doing so at no cost to us. We are immensely grateful. At this point, I must extend my sincere appreciation to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and Lawyers Without Borders who put together such a distinguished team and the Government of the United States of America. We indeed count it as a privilege and a gift. We hope that this would be a continuing collaboration.
It is our expectation that the training would assist us to become better lawyers both inside and outside the courtroom. We hope the training will inspire confidence and improve our capacity as lawyers both for trial purposes and our written addresses.

Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my singular honour and privilege to welcome you all. Thank you.

NITA Movie Review: A Baby Without Parents, and Ginger Without Fred

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

In December, I like to review a movie that features the law and Christmas, but after Miracle on 34th Street and Remember the Night, the pickings are pretty slim. So I started thinking about movies that feature family law, since my tenure as Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Denver District Court is coming to a close soon[1]. Then inspiration hit me: Bachelor Mother would cover both bases – and as a bonus, it’s from the best year for movies ever, 1939[2].

Ginger Rogers plays Polly Parrish, who’s working as temporary salesgirl during the Christmas season at Merlin’s Department Store in New York City. Laid off because the season is ending, Polly sees a young woman leave a baby on the front steps of what were then called “foundling homes” – places where abandoned children could be raised in safety. The young woman flees and Polly, afraid the child will roll down the steps, runs over the make sure the baby doesn’t. Of course, as she does this, the door of the home opens and the people inside decide Polly must be the mother, in spite of her protests to the contrary. When they find out she’s recently lost her job, they get in touch with David Merlin (David Niven) whose father, J.B. Merlin (Charles Coburn) owns the store. Polly goes back to work, and giving in to fate, starts to raise the child. Not surprisingly, David and Polly begin to care for one another. And J.B., who’s long wanted his playboy son to “settle down,” decides that David must be the baby’s father – and won’t take “no” for an answer. (In a terrific scene, David and Polly each suggest to J.B. that some other man is the baby’s father, to which J.B. exclaims; “I don’t care who the father is, I’m the grandfather!”) Since this a Hollywood movie made in 1939, you can guess how it all turns out.

Bachelor Mother was released by RKO and directed by Garson Kanin. It’s a surprisingly sympathetic treatment of some issues that had a different significance in 1939 (unwed motherhood) and some that we are still trying to figure out (child abandonment.) Throughout the movie, Polly is treated with sympathy and respect, and never condemned for (allegedly) having a baby “out of wedlock.” This is no longer the moral issue that it once was; indeed, in most states, domestic relations law takes for granted that an allocation of parental responsibility or custody can be made in cases where the parents were never spouses[3]. But we still wrestle with what can be done with children abandoned by their parents. Although foundling homes are pretty much a thing of the past, many states now have “safe haven” laws that allow children to be left by their parents in a safe and secure place without legal consequence to the parents[4]. And even J.B.’s line anticipates some modern concepts of family law, including such ideas as grandparents having visitation rights[5] or even, in some circumstances, being allowed to battle birth parents for custody[6].

Bachelor Mother was nominated for one Oscar (Best Original Story) and features some first class actors. We tend to think of Ginger Rogers as Fred Astaire’s partner, but forget that she was an excellent actress, both in comedies and in dramas. Indeed, she would win a Best Actress Oscar in 1940 for her role in the drama Kitty Foyle. David Niven had a long and distinguished career, appearing in nearly one hundred films as diverse as Around the World in 80 Days and The Pink Panther. Niven would win an Oscar in 1958 for Separate Tables. Charles Coburn was no slouch, either. He was a constant supporting presence in movies from the ‘30’s through the ‘50’s, usually, but not always, in comedies. And Coburn, too was an Oscar winner: Best Supporting Actor in 1943 for The More the Merrier.

Bachelor Mother is an interesting take on some important issues in family law, presented in a comedic format. Sometimes laughing while we consider serious matters can help us understand them better. That’s a good reason to find and watch Bachelor Mother. I think you’ll enjoy it[7].


[1] As I write this review, that would be in 20 days, 11 hours, 57 minutes and 27 seconds, according to the timer I have on my phone – not that I’m counting or anything.
[2] No, I won’t bore you with another argument about why I think this is true.
[3] In Colorado, C.R.S. § 14-10-123
[4] Colorado’s “Safe Haven” statute can be found at C.R.S. § 18-6-401(9).
[5] In Colorado, C.R.S. § 19-1-117. And see, generally, Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), which deals with the constitutional rights of grandparents in custody cases, among other things.
[6] In Colorado, C.R.S. § 14-10-123(3).
[7] And in case you think this is just another example of me picking out some obscure old black-and-white film that no one’s ever seen, when I told my colleague, Judge Karen Brody that I was going to review Bachelor Mother she said: “Oh, I love that movie!” And Mark Caldwell has seen it, too – which I suppose is no surprise.

Kansas Bar Foundation Awards Scholarship Grant to NITA

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We wish to thank our friends at the Kansas Bar Foundation for awarding an $8,000 grant to NITA that will be used to hold a trial skills program next year for public service lawyers in Kansas. The services that governmental, nonprofit, and legal aid lawyers perform is essential democratic “bedrock” work, and NITA is honored to support these advocates again next fall with scholarships to attend trial skills training at no cost to them or their agencies.

Thanks to a grant award NITA received last year, we trained 24 lawyers at the 2016 Kansas Bar program in Topeka this past October. Here is a snapshot about the three-day program.

  • Judge Bill Ossmann of the Third Judicial District served, as always, as Program Director. He was supported by faculty members Mark Caldwell (NITA’s Program Development and Resource Director), Duston Slinkard from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Bob McGahey of the Second Judicial District in Denver, Judge Amy Hanley of Kansas’s Seventh Judicial District, and practitioners David Cooper, Richard Lake, Paul Oller, and Tom Swett.
  • Eighty-three percent of the program attendees work for governmental agencies. The remaining seventeen percent work for nonprofit or legal services agencies.
  • Nearly all attendees had between one and five years of legal work experience.

And while we at NITA express our gratitude to the Kansas Bar Foundation for its generosity, it is the attendees themselves whose words carry the most meaning.

  • “While I was nervous to practice and deliver closing argument or examine a witness, it was incredibly helpful to be able to practice such things in this setting.”
  • “I do not have any trial experience. My objective was to gain the knowledge and experience that would help me to effectively prepare for a trial. Not only do I feel I have more knowledge to prepare for a trial in the future, I learned skills that will be valuable in other everyday aspects of my practice, such as depositions and even in drafting motions.”
  • “The drills were extremely beneficial. The drills allow the student to implement the lessons learned, obtain valuable feedback, and improve.”
  • “I really enjoyed having to think on my feet and perform on the fly. I thought the drills regarding foundation and admitting exhibits were very effective because they made us more comfortable by repeating the process over and over again.”
  • “I signed up for this course to expose myself to more trial experience and polish skills that have been dormant since law school, as I’m not in trial on a day-to-day basis. My objectives were met because I had the opportunity to learn from others who were more comfortable with their trial advocacy skills and by being around them, my confidence and comfort level increased, as did my knowledge.”

Our deepest appreciation goes to the Kansas Bar Foundation for its scholarship support. We look forward to hosting another great program for Kansas public service lawyers in October 2017.

Beasley Blog Peeks at Jury Trials from the “Outside In”

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Author Melissa M. Gomez recently had a chance to talk about Jury Trials Outside In, her book published this year by NITA, when she was interviewed by the Advocacy & Evidence Blog at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Jules Epstein is a Professor of Law, Director of Advocacy Programs, and blogger at Temple. His many years of criminal law practice made him skeptical of the value most jury consultants bring to trials—and then he read Jury Trials Outside In.

He spoke with Dr. Gomez about her view that psychology makes all the difference in seating a jury. She said:

As a psychologist, I work with lawyers on the educational, social and emotional issues involved in the litigation. There is learning involved in trials. There are interpersonal interactions involved in trials. There is stress involved in trials. This is all because there are people involved in trials.

Lawyers spend years learning about the law. I help them understand that, while the law needs to be the basis of the trial for the court and the record, the psychology of the people is what creates the story.

Click here to read the full interview.

NITA shares a deep history with Temple, as many of our past and present faculty and authors have been based at Beasley School of Law, including David Sonenshein, Tony Bocchino, JoAnne Epps, Sara Jacobson, Ken Jacobson—and even Mr. Epstein himself. Our thanks go to Mr. Epstein for his ongoing interest in NITA and Dr. Gomez’s work.

Purchase Jury Trials Outside In here.

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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