For several years, NITA and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) have partnered on public service training programs in order to help improve the skills of these advocates. NDRN is a nonprofit membership association for the 57 Protection and Advocacy system agencies (P&A), a system which was established in 1975 by federal statute specifically to protect the legal and human rights of persons with disabilities.
This year, Program Director Cynthia Goode Works, led the NITA faculty team in a 2-day deposition skills program training 16 advocates. The program took place in Baltimore, MD. Goode Works has served as a faculty member at over 100 NITA programs and continues to be a part of the NDRN program year after year.
“For almost 20 years I have had the opportunity to teach for NITA. Teaching in the NDRN Public Service Program is the most rewarding and most meaningful program I have taught. Some of the advocates have physical and mental disabilities but all of their clients have disabilities. These advocates represent this most deserving populations with tenacity and dedication to ensuring they receive the best representation possible. I commend all of them for their commitment to excellence in their craft and profession,” stated Goode Works.
NITA is very grateful to have had the chance to join forces for another year with NDRN and we hope to continue our partnership for many years to come.
NITA had the opportunity this year to partner with the Colorado County Attorneys for a public service program. The program took place June 7 – 8 in Grand Junction, CO as part of the Colorado County Attorney’s Annual Conference. Over 40 Colorado County attorneys were in attendance for the trial skills program led by NITA Program Director Tom Swett who had great things to say about the program.
“With a great team of experienced NITA volunteer-faculty, we provided focused trial skills training to Colorado county attorneys who often don’t have the resources or time to get skills coaching on how to be better advocates to protect children in dependency and neglect cases. The catch – we only had eight hours to teach and practice case analysis, direct and cross-examination, impeachment, and exhibits. The NITA training was offered as part of the Colorado County Attorney’s Association annual meeting so we only had a day’s worth of time to do what normally is taught in three days. So, instead of 45-minute lectures, we have mini-lectures and demonstrations (5 minutes at the beginning of each session) and used the majority of our time to have the attorneys practice these skills and receive individual feedback from F. Stephen Collins, Judge Robert McGahey, John Watson, Judge D. Brett Woods, and myself. With tight schedules and budgets, it takes extra creativity and dedicated volunteers to make this work. Luckily, since NITA’s start in 1971, it has had 47 years to nurture the collegiality and relationships so that attorneys jump at the chance to volunteer their time and talent to help continue this tradition for the next generation of attorneys,” stated Swett.
Likewise, Assistant County Attorney Rebecca Wiggins, who first reached out to NITA for this program opportunity, said that each faculty member was great and the program received very positive feedback.
One attendee stated, “The learning-by-doing method was outstanding, and the faculty did a good job of pointing out various areas of improvement with each student so everyone could benefit.”
NITA will be doing a follow-up program this fall with the Colorado County Attorneys and we hope to continue this great partnership for the future. Thanks again to NITA’s outstanding faculty members!
For the second year in a row, NITA joined forces with the New Mexico Public Defenders in Albuquerque for a trial skills public service program. NITA Program Directors Joleen Youngers and MJ Barr led the 32-person program and worked hard to develop a schedule that would help improve skills including how to present expert testimony and how to cross-examine experts.
Barr stated that, “The New Mexico Public Defenders are chronically out-numbered by their caseloads and the prosecutors while the state of New Mexico struggles to even the playing field. NITA, through its Public Service Programs, stepped in to lend a hand. This year’s two-day program focused on improving advocacy skills for examining experts at trial. Scientific advances continue to be injected into our courtrooms and lawyers need special skills to examine these special witnesses.”
Similarly, after the program concluded, the participants felt the NITA Faculty were of high quality and that the practice with objective feedback was an amazing learning tool.
Furthermore, Training/Recruitment Manager at the Law Offices of the Public Defender in New Mexico, Patricia Anders, stated, “Far too often public defenders are demoralized by the lack of resources available for high quality training on complex litigation matters. The hands-on NITA program reinvigorated and inspired our attorneys and provided them with the practical litigation skills necessary to achieve justice for indigent defendants in New Mexico.”
NITA had the wonderful opportunity to partner once again with Hofstra University Law Clinic for a public service program, “Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Family.” This program took place June 4 – 8 and was offered at a highly reduced rate to attorneys who work primarily in the areas of child protection, custody, or juvenile justice. The program was led by NITA Program Director Theo Liebmann for the 11th year in a row.
As the program director, Theo stated, “One of the best parts of this program is being a part of such an inspiring group of practitioners. Both the faculty and the participants do more than improve crucial skills – including trial techniques and child interviewing – they remind each other of how vital family advocacy work is, and how it deserves to be approached with at least as much intensity, passion and diligence as any other field of law.”
Furthermore, the program aimed to develop the skills necessary to be competent and skillful attorneys for families and children involved in these proceedings. Participants worked with a faculty made up of nationally recognized experts in family and children’s legal issues while covering topics such as: opening statements, closing arguments, direct and cross examinations of fact, expert and child witnesses, impeachment, interviewing skills, and much more!
At the conclusion of the training, one participant stated, “NITA was a wonderful training, I feel like it helped remind me of the fundamentals and I emerged a more confident litigator.”
Likewise, another participant stated, “By far this has been the best CLE program I have taken in my six years of practice. I am confident that my litigation skills have improved as a result of the 5 days I spent in the program, and I believe my clients will be better represented in court as a result.”
NITA continues to be grateful for our ongoing partnership with Hofstra University Law Clinic and for the opportunity to continue training family law advocates.
On May 21 – 24, NITA continued our partnership with Southern University Law Center (SULC) in Baton Rouge, LA, by putting together a trial skills training public service program for over 30 attorneys. NITA Program Director Jude Bourque led the training which was met with high praises from the participants. The 4-day training aimed to improve trial skills for both new attorneys, and refine those skills for attorneys who have been in practice for several years. Some of the skills taught included: direct/cross examination, exhibits and laying foundations, opening statements and closing arguments.
Jude also worked with Director of Clinical Legal Education at SULC, Virginia Listach, to put together a schedule that would suit the needs of the participants. Virginia stated, “This is the 3rd year Southern University Law Center has hosted the NITA trial skills training for law students and public service attorneys. The skills training and NITA instructors were again outstanding lending themselves as a tremendous source of information, innovative skill techniques and positive motivators. Our participants expressed an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in the skills training they received.”
At the conclusion of the training, one attendee stated, “This training was remarkable. As you know I have little trial experience but I feel like I could handle a short trial right now. I was exposed to direct examinations, re-direct, cross examinations, as well as impeaching a witness. This training was by far the best one I have attended in my short career. The instructors were great, realistic, and very non-threatening. I highly recommend this training for first year attorneys.”
Likewise, another attendee stated, “The NITA training was an excellent refresher and enhancement to my trial skills. As far as assisting legal aid clients, it will help because the training gave me new and different perspectives on trying a civil case… many thanks to everyone who made this training experience possible.”
NITA is grateful to have had the chance to continue working with SULC for the third year in a row on a public service program as we continue in our journey to providing access to justice for all attorneys.
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: