The Legal Advocate

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Welcome NITA’s NextGen Class of 2017

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NITA is thrilled to announce NITA’s Class of 2017 Next Generation (NextGen) faculty: Solomon Chang, of the San Diego Office of the Primary Public Defender; Allison Rocker, of the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Rose Andom Center; and Moe Spencer of the Spencer Palace Law Office.

Our congratulations go out to Solomon, Allison, and Moe. We welcome you to the NITA family and look forward to hearing about your adventures as you travel from coast to coast in support of programs, mentor attendees through the rigors of NITA training become lifelong friends with your fellow faculty members.

Get a preview of Moe as an instructor in his webcast on killer opening statements. It airs this Thursday, January 19. Register now.

Solomon Chang
Solomon is an experienced trial attorney for the San Diego Office of the Public Defender. His practice focuses solely on representing individuals charged with the most serious criminal offenses. He has tried over forty cases to verdict, including homicide and child sexual assault cases.

Solomon’s unique skillset as a gifted advocate first became apparent while attending California Western School of Law. In his first year, he became the first student to win two separate advocacy competitions. In his second year, his trial team won first place in the American Association for Justice’s Student Trial Advocacy Competition. In his third year, Solomon worked abroad in Santiago, Chile, assisting in trial skills training for Chilean public defenders. At the time, Chile had just begun transitioning toward an adversarial criminal justice system modeled after the United States.

After graduation, the school brought Solomon on as an adjunct professor to teach Trial Advocacy. He also began coaching competitive mock trial teams. His students have consistently won regional and national competitions.

Solomon’s passion for advocacy and teaching soon caught the eyes of his supervisors at the Public Defender’s office. He now assists with training and development for new attorney hires. In 2015, Solomon attended NITA Teacher Training in New York and was subsequently asked to teach at the NITA Pacific Regional Trial Skills Program in San Diego. His natural ability to assist students in honing their trial skills while using the NITA method ultimately led him to his nomination as one of this year’s NextGen rising stars.

Solomon received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005.

Allison Rocker
Allison Rocker was sharing a meal with a Bedouin tribe in a crowded grass and mud hut on the outskirts of a Moroccan desert when she decided that she wanted to be a prosecutor.

With over a decade of experience in motions and trial practice, Allison thrives as a public speaker and mentor. Her passion is ending violence against women and children, as well as the fair treatment of all those involved in the criminal justice system.

A Colorado native, Allison grew up skiing, hiking, and wanting to be outdoors as much as possible. Her undergraduate career started at the University of Oregon but, after eight months of solid rain, she decided to transfer to CU–Boulder. A combination of life experiences as well as advice she received from a mentor while attending the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law generated a growing interest in the criminal field.

The majority of her career has been focused on crimes against women and children. She is currently a Senior Deputy at the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Domestic Violence Prosecution Specialist at the Rose Andom Center—a collaborative center that houses both community organizations and government agencies that work together to end domestic violence. She has taught different aspects of trial practice to law enforcement, lawyers, interns, and advocates from around the state and outside of Colorado.

Prior to trial, she usually practices her opening and closing arguments in front of her dog, Kalla, who tends to provide very little in the way of feedback.

Moe Spencer
Merwin Moe Spencer is the principal attorney of Spencer Palace Law Office in Everett, Washington. Moe was brought up in the West Indies on the island of Trinidad and Tobago before moving to Texas as a child. During college, Moe went abroad for two years and lived in Cannes, France, where he studied art and languages before moving on to studying public policy at Oxford University in England. Moe earned his B.A. from Rice University in 1997, and began work as a high-tech programmer and software trainer for startups.

Moe attended the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene from 2002 to 2005. He was president of the Black Law Student Association and a member of both the Street Law Club and the Criminal Defense Clinic. While in law school, Moe worked as a public defender in Lane County and at Davis Wright Tremaine in Portland as a summer associate, where he worked on class actions suits, toxic torts, mediations, business litigation and arbitrations, and trial work. He later clerked for the Honorable Chief Presiding Judge Ancer L. Haggerty of the U.S. Federal District Court of Oregon in Portland, preparing summary judgments motions and writing opinions for the judge on Title VII discrimination, Social Security benefits, and personal jurisdiction issues. He received his J.D. in 2005.

After law school, Moe was the Assistant to the Secretary of State of Oregon, Bill Bradbury before becoming the State Director of Government and Legal Relations for the American Cancer Society (ACS), where he lobbied and helped pass bills in the Oregon legislature in Salem on cancer issues for two years. Moe then went back into law practicing as a criminal defense, family, and trial attorney in eastern Washington for the Davidson Law Firm in Pasco.
Moe trained with Gerry Spence in Wyoming at his Trial Lawyer’s College in 2007 and attended National Criminal Defense College at Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia, in 2012.

Now having his own firm, Moe has completed over forty trials to verdict in both federal and state courts and now focuses on representing marijuana growers and processors, as well as speaking nationally at colleges and universities and writing on Washington State’s marijuana laws and social justice issues (including medicinal versus recreational use, state versus federal, edibles and oils packaging, child protection and juvenile marijuana issues).

Moe takes on select cases dealing with civil rights, protest law, criminal law, murder cases, sex cases, defending termination of parental rights, juvenile and restorative justice law, expungement of past criminal records, marijuana law, and contracts and LFOs (legal financial obligation of court fees) write-offs. Moe is represented by Kirkland Production for his speaking engagements.

Gary S. Gildin named dean of Dickinson Law

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NITA would like to congratulate Gary S. Gildin on the appointment as dean of Dickinson Law by the Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gildin is not only a professor of law, but he is also an author to multiple NITA publications including Stucky v. Conlee and Trial Advocacy Basics, Second Edition. Gildin has also taught at NITA’s ACLU public service program for many years. To read The Sentinel’s article on Gildin and his many accomplishments at Penn State, please click here.

2016 Industry Icon Awards

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The 2016 Industry Icon Awards on November 16th in Philadelphia will showcase an elite group of honorees including NITA’s very own, Joanne Epps. Not only has Epps been a NITA faculty member for over 50 programs, but she is first and foremost the Provost & Executive Vice President of Temple University Beasley School of Law. NITA would like to congratulate Epps on this high achievement as an inductee in this year’s Business Hall of Fame Winners. For more information preceding the event please click here and read The Philadelphia Inquirer’s article on all event details.

Here Comes the Judge! Amy Hanley Appointed to District Court in Kansas

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hanley_amyNITA faculty Amy Hanley will be sworn in as District Court Judge for the Seventh Judicial District of Kansas, in Lawrence, Douglas County. Amy was appointed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and will preside over a civil and domestic docket when she takes the bench on December 1. She is currently the Prosecution Section Chief for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s Criminal Litigation Division, a position in which she has served for five of her seven years at the Kansas AG’s office.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to continue my career in public service in my home state,” Amy said. “As a judge, I will remember what it was like to be an advocate and use my position to further improve the legal profession.”

Amy is a member of NITA’s NextGen Class of 2014 and is a NITA faculty regular, teaching six to eight times a year at Trial Skills programs in San Diego, Seattle, Boulder, and the Kansas Public Service Program, among others. She is much beloved by attendees, fellow faculty, and NITA, and we wish Amy all the best as she opens this transformative new chapter in her life. Congratulations, Amy!

Excerpts from Amy’s biography:
Amy Hanley’s courtroom highlights including her role as lead prosecutor in State v. Kahler, a capital case in which the death penalty was imposed, and State v. Seacat, a premeditated first-degree murder trial, resulting in conviction, that was nationally televised and featured on Dateline NBC. She has earned honors and recognition for her leadership, teaching, and work in the courtroom. In 2011, she was awarded the KCDAA Associate Member Prosecutor of the Year. In 2014, she was named a member of NITA’s Next Generation Faculty. In 2014, students voted her Adjunct Faculty of the Year at Washburn Law School for making the most difference in their lives and educational experience.

Ms. Hanley serves in numerous leadership roles in the prosecution community. She is an Associate Director on the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) Board of Directors where she has served on the Executive Committee. She was a co-founder of the NDAA Women Prosecutors Section and currently holds the office of Section Vice Chair. In July 2015, she received the NDAA President’s Award for her leadership in establishing and moving the Section forward. She is a member of the Continuing Legal Education and Best Practices committees for the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association (KCDAA). She directs all training for the Kansas Attorney General’s Criminal Litigation Division, implementing statewide capital litigation training and supervising a series of AG Calls. She leads the annual Focus Forum of Kansas capital prosecutors. She also serves as a voting member of the Kansas Sentencing Commission.

Gary Gildin, NITA Author and Faculty, on the Changing Law School Landscape

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gildin_garyAs acting dean of the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State, Gary Gildin is well positioned to the identify the reciprocal changes law schools and the legal market have endured over the past decade, and how law schools are responding to the new demands of the marketplace. You may know Dean Gildin through his two NITA texts, Trial Advocacy Basics, Second Edition (with Molly Townes O’Brien), and the Stucky v. Conlee, Parsell, and the City of Nita case file (look for the new Second Edition later this fall), or perhaps you’ve taught alongside him at a Trial Skills or Depositions program NITA runs each year with the ACLU.

He shared his insights in a recent interview with the Oklahoma Legal Group Blog. Of note to NITA and all things “learning by doing”:

“Due to the demands of the modern legal marketplace, there now is a greater expectation from employers (and their clients) that students will arrive at the workplace ‘profession ready.’ This requires law students in the space of three years not only to learn analysis, fundamental substantive doctrine, and legal research and writing, but also to acquire practical skills of lawyering as well as array extra-legal competencies necessary to be of immediate value to their enterprise. Of course, this poses an equal challenge to law schools to provide competent instruction in these added skill sets.”

Along those lines, Dean Gildin mentions the new ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools that now requires law schools to incorporate six credits of experiential learning into their degree requirements—which NITA can help law schools fulfill with our new, one-credit, “add-on” module in NITA-style experiential learning, available beginning Fall 2017 semester.

It’s a pleasure to have Dean Gildin as part of our NITA family.

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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