This year, NITA worked with the Navajo Nations Department of Justice for a public service trial skills program, September 28-30 in Window Rock, New Mexico. During the three-day program, the attendees learned skills such as case analysis, opening and closing arguments, direct and cross examination, and more. NITA Program Directors JoAnne and Michael Roake led the program while working with both Katherine Belzowski and Gertrude Lee, of the Navajo Nations Department of Justice and the Navajo Nations Office of the Prosecutor. The program was originally slated for 32 participants but was able to accommodate and train 40 attorneys.
Program Director JoAnne Roake stated, “It was a wonderful experience and all appreciated the selflessness of this stellar faculty to drop everything and operate at full throttle. The gratitude of the participants was a rich reward to the faculty. Thanks also to Donielle (NITA Program Specialist) for brilliant support and coordination.”
JoAnne Roake said the program was a major success – with NITA faculty flying in from all over the country to teach in order to offer the very best experience to the participants.
Not only did the NITA Faculty truly enjoy the experience in Window Rock, but the attendees, as well as Katherine Belzowski, also had a great experience during the training. Attendee Barb Willeto stated, “I thoroughly enjoyed the training. It was work but so worth the effort!”
Likewise, Katherine Belzowski stated, “The NITA training provided an excellent opportunity for Navajo Bar practitioners to receive litigation training. The trainers did an amazing job engaging with the practitioners. Practitioners enjoyed the opportunity to receive feedback from seasoned litigators and walked away feeling they had improved their litigation skills.”
Written by NITA Program Director, Mark Caldwell, who served as program director of both the July and September public service programs with CLINIC.
The third of NITA’s collaborative immigration programs with Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) was held September 26, 27 and 28 in the Chicago offices of Baker McKenzie. Attending the program were forty-seven (47) participants drawn from legal service organizations from throughout the United States. Eight of these advocates were men and the rest women. Four were fully accredited reps and the rest attorneys. The advocates represented 16 states. Between the first NITA/CLINIC program held in July in Boulder and Chicago, participants came from twenty-five states. Each represents people fleeing to the United States seeking asylum or protection from oppressive regimes or gang violence.
The NITA Foundation provided tuition funding for this program. The law firm of Baker McKenzie allowed the use of their beautiful Chicago conference facilities and provided breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. NITA’s partner, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., recruited and supported the costs of half of the teaching team.
The collaboration of NITA, CLINIC, and Baker McKenzie made the program truly special. The melding of NITA and CLINIC instructors assured a strong learning experience for participants – who called upon the expertise on trial skills and substantive immigration laws and procedures. The exceptional staff at Baker McKenzie assured a smoothly run program in beautiful surroundings.
The Teaching team was comprised of great NITA instructors Jeanne Jordan, Suzanne Katchmar, Jaclyn Pampel, Thomas Swett, and Whitney Untiedt. The CLINIC team included Bradley Jenkins, Eliza Klein, Michelle Mendez, Rebecca Schultz, and Claudia Valenzuela.
The attendees had amazing things to say about the NITA faculty for this program. One attendee stated, “The content was extremely on point, and every single member of the faculty was extremely knowledgeable, talented, and collegial… I hope this training will be offered again, and I will very strongly recommend it to anyone who anticipates litigating an immigration case.”
Similarly, another attendee stated, “This is definitely a learning experience for a lifetime and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of something that I know and experience, that is good and wonderful… I have been recommending NITA to attorneys I know.”
Michelle Mendez was the principle author of a new NITA case file focusing on immigration issues. It presented a realistic set of facts, drawn from issues currently confronting immigration advocates.
The program presented a timely focus on a subject that is at the forefront of political and legal issues. Those who attended left the program with enhanced skills they could immediately put to use in the difficult world of immigration advocacy.
The NITA Foundation would like to recognize the generosity of a longtime supporter, the Kansas Bar Foundation. The organization recently awarded a $10,226 grant to the NITA Foundation to fund next year’s eighth annual Kansas Public Service Advocacy Skills Program. Under the grant, twenty-four attendees—comprised of Kansas prosecutors, public defenders, legal services lawyers, and other advocates for justice—will attend a three-day, NITA trial skills training at no cost to their respective agency.
The NITA Foundation and the Kansas Bar Foundation since 2011 have shared a great camaraderie as they worked toward their common goal of supporting legal service lawyers in Kansas through this program, which is held each year in October. Later this month, Judge William Ossmann will reprise his role as program director for the program, which will be held October 26–28 at the Steinberg Museum in Hays, Kansas. This program is funded by a Kansas Bar Foundation grant awarded last fall.
The Kansas Bar Foundation supports programs that provide access to the legal system for low-income Kansans, advocacy for children in need of care and victims of domestic violence. Funding also provides scholarships, educational materials and teacher training for public and private schools about the role of law and lawyers in society. Founded in 1957, the foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations, and IOLTA. Click here to learn more about the Kansas Bar Foundation.
This year, NITA’s National Program for Legal Service Attorneys was hosted in Boulder at our headquarters and successfully trained a core group of 32 legal service attorneys from across the nation in trial skills. This program, which took place August 29 – September 1, was led by NITA Program Director Jude Bourque of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. Jude has taught over 50 NITA programs since 2004, including public, custom, and public service. He has been involved in 10 of NITA’s Legal Service Corporation programs; this year was his first as Program Director of the Legal Service Corporation program.
“The faculty was incredible. The instructors included a rotation of seven Program Directors, two judges, six law school instructors, and seven full-time practicing attorneys. NITA’s best instructors came out to teach,” stated Jude.
NITA’s learning-by-doing method has always been implemented in our programs in order to get all attendees on their feet and practicing the skills they learn. This program was no different. As Jude stated, during the four days there were 14 workshops in which the participants performed different trial skills, culminating in dynamic closing arguments. Jude believed the participants were eager to learn, willing to experiment and improve, and really supported each other.
Many of the participants had wonderful things to say after attending the program. “The course was absolutely amazing! It was a wonderful, engaging experience that I won’t forget! I had the chance to meet many wonderful advocates… and many wonderful mentors. I came away from my time in Colorado feeling more enthused and have gained the confidence in myself and my work. Thank you!” stated one participant.
Likewise, others said they learned a lot during the four-day program and felt they gained the confidence they needed to go to trial.
This year’s Legal Service Corporation program was both a success for the 32 participants, as well as the diverse NITA faculty. Of Jude’s time as Program Director he stated, “I have been blessed to teach NITA programs from coast to coast and even overseas. The programs I’m most honored to teach are the Legal Service programs, by far. The 2017 NITA National Legal Service Trial Skills Training was one of the best groups of lawyers ever.”
For the first time, NITA and Esperanza Immigration Rights Project joined together to offer a public service program for legal service attorneys in Los Angeles. This trial skills program was held August 7-9 in Santa Monica, CA for 19 attorneys. Program Director, Whitney Untiedt, who has taught at over 50 NITA programs since 2008, brought her knowledge of advocacy skills and passion for NITA, to this training program.
At the conclusion of the program Whitney Untiedt said, “The participants in the Esperanza Immigration Advocacy Program were exceptional learners – dedicated to their clients, and excited to try new techniques to advance their skills. The participants embraced the NITA learning-by-doing method, raised thoughtful questions about best practices in bench trials, and participated in meaningful discussions. They were well-prepared for the performance sessions, and as a result each and every participant was able to demonstrate measurable growth over the course of the three-day program.”
Not only did Whitney see the growth of each individual after the program, but the participants as well saw their skills improve. One participant stated, “[This program] was an incredible opportunity that will reap rewards not only for me, but also for all of my future clients.”
Some of the skills taught during this trial program included: direct examination, making and meeting objections, witness preparation, cross examination, and more. NITA is thrilled to have had the pleasure to work with Pro Bono Coordinator, Kimberly Plotnik, on putting this program together.
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: