We recently enjoyed our first in-person national meeting in a year and a half in Chicago due to the pandemic. Immediate Past President Rodney Acker hosted a great program including former Secretary of State James Baker, General David Petraeus, journalist David Gregory, Guantanamo lawyer Nancy Hollander, and animal behavior expert Dr. Temple Grandin. You can still register for the virtual meeting here, granting you access to all the speakers on the program.
Since Past Presidents Doug Young’s and Rodney Acker’s presidential years were negatively impacted by the cancellation of many in-person meetings due to the pandemic, I have asked them to share with me the responsibilities of attending some of the state and province meetings this year. They have kindly agreed to accept my invitation.
So far, I have attended the Upstate New York meeting and Brett and I attended state meetings in Indiana and Kansas, as well as the Leadership Workshop in Arizona. Immediate Past President Rodney Acker has attended state meetings in Nebraska and Washington. The reception for Brett and me everywhere has been exceptionally warm and welcoming. It is clear that Fellows and our spouses/guests have been yearning for the unique brand of fellowship and camaraderie that can only be found at College meetings.
The Leadership Workshop was held at The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain, in Tucson, AZ, October 30-November 2. The Executive Committee provided training for our Regents, State and Province Chairs, and our General Committee Chairs that will help them fulfill their important duties in the coming year. We have a great leadership team committed to fulfilling the mission of the College with commitment and passion.
After the initial training session, we enjoyed a Halloween themed reception and dinner on Sunday, October 31. Despite my intent of wearing my standard Halloween costume (tall, bald lawyer), Brett and I wore cowboy attire which was quite tame compared to many of our more creative Fellows!
Former Regent and Advocacy in the 21st Century Committee Chair John Day moderated a passionate panel discussion about COVID and the Courts. The Judicial Panel included Judge Barbara Lynn, Chief Judge, US District Court for the Northern District of Texas; Judge Darla Wilson of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice; and Chief Justice Bridget McCormack of the Michigan Supreme Court. The Panel discussed a number of topics relevant to our new Advocacy in the 21st Century Committee, which seeks to outline the best court and technology practices going forward. The judges described the crown jewel of our system of government as the Rule of Law. They encouraged the Fellows to take lessons learned from the challenges of the pandemic and improve the administration of justice and access to justice going forward. Innovation, creativity, and collaboration will be essential tools. Click here for the mandate and activities of this committee.
Past President David Beck spoke to our Workshop participants about engagement and the responsibilities of leadership. David quoted Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” Regent Joe Caldwell addressed diversity in the College. Joe, along with Secretary Rick Deane, have been instrumental in the implementation and advancement of our diversity initiatives. Click here to download the presentation and here to view the College’s Statement on Diversity. The Workshop concluded with Regent Greg Lederer updating our leadership about the Task Force on Fellow Engagement. More information can be found on the College website.
The end of the year offers us an opportunity to “pay it forward” and consider donations to our United States and/or Canada Foundations. Both Foundations do important and inspirational work, as this link demonstrates.
Brett and I wish you and your families the very best for the holidays. May the New Year bring us together in fellowship. We look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones during our visits to states and provinces in 2022.
The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities recently honored Irving M. Blank with a Humanitarian Award. This award is presented to those individuals who have demonstrated a personal commitment to the promotion of respect and understanding among people of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Read the full press release here.
Past President Sam Franklin was featured in Behind the Trial, a podcast series featuring in-depth discussions with the nation’s most iconic trial lawyers. Franklin spoke on his nearly 50 years of trial practice, touching on many of his groundbreaking cases, many of which set legal precedent. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Judge Gary Jackson was recently inducted into the National Bar Association Fred David Gray Hall of Fame. Judge Jackson was honored for his professional achievements as a practicing lawyer and judge, his significant contributions to his community and his tireless work on behalf of diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession and the Colorado judiciary. It is worth noting that there are currently 246 members of the NBA Hall of Fame and only one other Colorado attorney, the late Irving Andrews, has ever been inducted into this distinguished body. The gentleman for whom the NBA Hall of Fame is named, the 90 year old famed civil rights attorney Fred David Gray, was in attendance at the induction ceremony. This is a rare, distinct and well-deserved recognition of Judge Jackson.
President Mike O’Donnell was recently featured in a Q&A with Litigation Daily, a publication of The American Lawyer. O’Donnell discussed the priorities for the coming year and shared insights on the fundamental importance of jury trials. To read the full article, click here.
The Honorable Jed S. Rakoff was presented with the Leon Silverman Award for furthering the administration of justice at the Downstate New York Fellows Dinner on November 18, 2021.
"A Republic, if You Can Keep it"
History tells us that, when the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Independence Hall in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government our new nation had. “A republic,” he reportedly responded, “if you can keep it.”
In recent years, our nation – the republic to which Mr. Franklin made reference – has struggled mightily with the deep fissures dividing a polarized populace. At times, events made his words seem more prescient than conjectural. Many of us, perhaps especially in the legal profession, have contemplated how we can find our way back to our core values in order to sustain our democracy.
For me personally, two related themes repeatedly rise to the surface as I ponder our national dilemma: The first is the moral imperative for each of us to recognize our obligation to respect and protect each other, especially those among us who are so often left behind. The second is that the most reliable path to ensuring universal recognition of that imperative is a good education for all.
Perhaps it is thoughts like mine that explain why the ACTL Foundation Board was so drawn to the grant application of the School Justice Project. The SJP is a Washington, D.C. based program dedicated to ensuring that 17-to-22 year-old students with disabilities who are incarcerated or detained by the court system still have access to a quality education so that they can receive their high school diplomas. Imagine the difficulties of incarceration and reentry for a group with disabilities who are too old to be treated as children but often too young to function as true adults.
While working inside DC’s secure juvenile detention facilities during their post-graduate legal fellowships at the DC Public Defender Service, SJP Co-Founders Claire Blumenson and Sarah Comeau saw a gap, and they stepped in to fill it with the establishment of the SJP several years ago. The model, which is readily reproducible in areas of need, uses education attorneys in the court context to ensure that this cohort of older disabled incarcerated or court-detained students can re-engage with education and critical special education supports.
Does it work? Well, reportedly about 85 percent of SJP clients released from incarceration re-enroll in school within sixty days of release. And, on average, SJP’s education law advocacy during sentencing and disposition hearings results in mitigation in 95 percent of the cases. Those are impressive odds that your Foundation is pleased to support.
We are proud that the Foundation grant will enable the SJP to employ another committed attorney to add to the dedicated group that started with Claire and Sarah. We hope that you are, too.
Because justice can’t wait . . .
The committee presented three professionalism CLE programs in the last six months. The programs are offered in person and by Zoom. Each program is presented by a panel of three ACTL Fellows and a moderator. The Jere White Trial Advocacy Program, originally scheduled for November 12, 2021, has been rescheduled to November, 2022, due to the pandemic.
The Committee is planning the 2022 Tri-State Meeting for Alabama, Georgia and Florida to be held in New Orleans January 20-22, 2022.
The ACTL Boot Camp Trial Training Programs Committee has been conducting boot camps throughout the country and will be co-sponsoring one in Denver on January 13, along with the Colorado Bar Association. The purpose of the boot camp is to conduct a comprehensive, one-day trial training program for young lawyers. The program consists of lecturers, demonstrations and panel discussions on all phases of the trial, except jury selection. The demonstrations will focus on a real case, the Rosenberg spy case. The faculty consists of ACTL Fellows and current and former federal and state court judges and justices.
Additionally, the Colorado Fellows, in collaboration with the Colorado Bar Association, is again presenting a half-day CLE on “Winning at Trial” on November 18. The program includes presentations from Fellows Rick Bednarski, Carolyn Fairless, and Kenzo Kawanabe, along with members of the bench, newer lawyers, and experts. Topics included Trial Themes and Storytelling, Observations from the Bench, and the Younger Lawyer’s Role at Trial. Colorado Fellows have presented this well attended program annually for many years in conjunction with CBA.
The Fellows are composing the second edition of the Connecticut ACTL Bulletin and planning a CLE panel discussion geared toward opening statements.
The Fellows held their annual meeting in Wichita, Kansas, on October 23-24, 2021, at the Ambassador Hotel. President Mike O'Donnell and his wife Brett, Immediate Past President Rodney Acker, as well as Past Presidents Doug Young and his wife Terry and Mike Stout were all in attendance.
The Kentucky Bar Association CLE Commission has approved the presentation of “Practical and Ethical Problems Arising in Remote/Zoom Litigation” by the Kentucky Fellows at the KBA Annual Convention on June 15, 2022, in Owensboro. Fellows Robert E. Stopher, Doug Morris, and Lou Anna Red Corn will serve as panelists.
Fellow John Aisenbrey organized and coordinated the presentation of a public interest attorney seminar which was extremely well received.
As part of its mission to establish relationships with the local law schools, educate students and promote the name of the College, the committee presented a seminar at Rutgers Law School on “Professionalism In Trial Practice” on September 29, 2021. The seminar was prepared by Fellows Bill Wallach and Dennis Drasco and moderated by Fellow David Kott. United States District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi was also on the panel.
The Downstate New York Fellows hosted their annual dinner on November 18th at the National Arts Club in Manhattan. The Honorable Jed S. Rakoff was presented with the Leon Silverman Award for furthering the administration of justice. Also, Fellows Elkan Abramowitz and Mary Jo White were the recipients of the Robert M. Morgenthau award at the 23rd Annual Legal Profession Luncheon sponsored by the Police Athletic League on November 3, 2021.
Fellows John Gismondi, Linda Hoffa and David Snyder each developed and presented a four-hour continuing education program to judges across the state in order to assist the judges in fulfilling their CLE requirements. The programs, respectively, were on the topics of expert witnesses, eminent domain/land valuation and privileges (civil and criminal).
The Fellows hosted a CLE program entitled Ethics, Civility and Professionalism – A Young Lawyers Guide to Navigating the Litigation Jungle, at the University of South Carolina School of Law on August 5. Fellows Dawes Cooke, Trenholm Walker, Regina Lewis, Robbie Foster, John T. Lay, Debbie Barbier and Wallace Lightsey presented together with U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Seymour and Law School Dean Rob Wilcox. Following the seminar, a reception was held for the attendees and law students which was attended by Immediate Past President Rodney Acker and his wife, Judy. While at the Law School, the Fellows were able to visit the newly dedicated "American College of Trial Lawyers South Carolina Fellows Classroom" which was inaugurated by a $100,000 gift from the South Carolina Fellows to the Law School. The classroom is decorated with exhibits which inform the students of the mission, history and purpose of the College.
The Tennessee Judicial Conference has re-appointed former regent and Advocacy in the 21st Century Committee Chair John A. Day of Nashville, Tennessee as a consultant to the Tennessee Civil Pattern Jury Instruction Committee. The committee prepares pattern jury instructions for all civil jury cases in Tennessee. John has served as one of two non-judges on the committee for twenty-eight years. The other lawyer serving the committee is Arthur Brock, FACTL, of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Fellows met virtually on November 10, along with President-Elect Susan Harriman, to hear from White House Photographer and Photojournalist Pete Souza. As White House Photographer for Presidents Reagan and Obama, Mr. Souza captured behind-the-scenes images from both Administrations. After completing his work with President Obama, Mr. Souza moved to Madison, Wisconsin so we proudly claim him as a fellow Cheesehead.
ACTL Boot Camp:
The Committee is actively looking for new materials to share in the ACTL Boot Camp Library, a free resource for young lawyers and others seeking trial knowledge. Contact Committee Chair Paul Sandler at email@example.com for more details.
Complex Litigation Committee:
The Complex Litigation Committee has largely completed its work on a treatise concerning the use of Electronic Evidence. The treatise is the result of several years of effort and has involved legal research in this evolving area, focus groups and interviews with judges to gain their perspectives from the bench, input from forensic consultants, and suggestions for future use of such evidence. The treatise has been accepted for publication by Bloomberg and we hope it will be available shortly. The Committee is now searching for its next project.
The committee continues to identify senior Fellows for recorded interviews that will be available through the College website. Considerations can be sent to Committee Chair Kent O. Hyde.
The Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeals held it 42nd Annual Conference at Boston, Massachusetts from October 26 to 30, 2021. The theme for the conference was Judicial Independence and Committee Chair John R. (Buddy) Wester was invited as the lead off speaker at the conference’s Education Session. His topic was “Judicial Independence: The Cornerstone of Democracy.” Buddy provided the audience the contact information for the state chairs of the College and encouraged members of the judiciary to reach out should they or a colleague find their independence under attack.
Additionally, 197 attended (in person or remotely) a presentation in Chula Vista, California, of our joint program with the National Association of Women Judges on the unique role of the judicial branch and the importance of fair and impartial courts. The two presenters were Fellow Virginia Nelson, a member of our committee, and Justice Judith McConnell of the Fourth District Appellate Court in California. This is our first program presented simultaneously in English and Spanish. Ginny Nelson has been joined throughout this effort by Former Regent Kathleen Trafford.
One of the seven initiatives developed by the Mentoring Task Force was a proposal that senior lawyers at major firms be encouraged to utilize younger associates to handle court appearances when it was consistent with a client’s interests. Recently, the Chief Justice of Ontario released a statement that said, in part, “Opportunities to address the Court are essential to the development and the retention of junior and intermediate litigation counsel. While the ultimate decision of who speaks on behalf of the client in a particular case belongs to counsel and their clients, the Court welcomes the chance to hear from newer counsel, who have often played a significant role in drafting written submissions and have in-depth knowledge of the case before the Court.” This opportunity aligns with the Committee’s directive to encourage senior Fellows to inspire and mentor younger lawyers in their firms. To read more, click here.
National Trial Competition Committee:
The committee is gearing up for the Regional Competitions that are scheduled for one of three weekends in February, 2022. This competition is co-sponsored by the ACTL and the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and is a major commitment of the College. Last year’s competition was conducted entirely virtually, but the hope is to return to in-person competitions this year. Each committee member has been assigned as a liaison to one of the 15 Regions to assist in securing Fellows to help judge this pre-eminent trial competition for the nation’s law schools. Host schools have been identified for 13 of the regions, but we are still missing a host school for Region 6 (Georgia, Florida, and Puerto Rico) and Region 8 (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Fellows who can provide assistance with finding a host school for these two regions would be most appreciated. The strength of this competition is the quality of the judges that volunteer to judge the law students in the various regions. Please say yes when you are asked to judge a round or two. For more information, contact Committee Chair Karen S. Townsend.
Public Defenders Committee:
Working jointly with the Federal Criminal Procedure Committee, the committee has issued a White Paper on Pretrial Diversion in the Federal system. The paper is now posted on the College website and ready for distribution. With new United States Attorneys now confirmed, it is hoped that Fellows and other influencers can impress upon the need for diversion in all districts.
Sandra Day O'Connor Jurist Award Committee:
The committee is pleased to announce that the award will be presented to Judge Barry G. Williams at the spring meeting in Coronado. Judge Williams is a member of the Circuit Court in Baltimore City, Maryland, and stood strong and independent in the face of angry protests and personal risk. Judge Williams' compelling story will be told in more detail in Coronado, and Judge Williams will participate in a panel discussion about current challenges to the independence of the judiciary.
Teaching of Trial and Appellate Advocacy:
The first annual ACTL Diversity Trial Advocacy Program – first announced in 2019 and oft postponed due to Covid – will be held in Chicago May 20-22, 2022. Recommendations and suggestions of diverse trial lawyers whom you believe would benefit from attending the (no cost) program taught by Fellows are needed and welcome.
Tri-State Regional Meeting
(Alabama, Florida, Georgia)
January 20 to 22, 2022
The Windsor Court Hotel
New Orleans, LA
3rd Circuit Regional Meeting
(Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
April 8 to 10, 2022
Region 6 Regional Meeting
(Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas)
April 22 to 24, 2022
The Windsor Court Hotel
New Orleans, LA
Region 9 Regional Meeting
(Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee)
April 29 to May 1, 2022
Northwest Regional Meeting
(Alberta, Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)
July 7 to 10, 2022
The Hotel Alyeska
Arkansas Fellows Dinner
December 2, 2021
Little Rock, RL
Mississippi Fellows Dinner
December 3, 2021
Texas Fellows Luncheon
December 3, 2021
San Antonio, TX
Louisiana Fellows Dinner
December 4, 2021
Oregon Fellows Dinner
December 4, 2021
Philadelphia Fellows Holiday Event
December 15, 2021
Pittsburgh Fellows Holiday Dinner
December 15, 2021
Please click here
for a listing of all upcoming events.
Indiana Fellows Dinner, Indianapolis: On October 22, 2021, State Chair Tony Patterson welcomed about forty guests at The Columbia Club of Indianapolis for the Indiana Fellows dinner, including President Michael O’Donnell and his wife, Brett. Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff, a Judicial Fellow, served as the keynote speaker. His theme was civility and he requested the help of all the fellows in the room. President O’Donnell then introduced the vice chair and all state committee members and thanked them for their service. He then discussed current initiatives of the College, such as Just The Beginning Internships, Access to Justice Pro Bono Fellows and Judicial Independence. All were encouraged to try to join the meetings in San Diego and Rome.
Kansas Fellows Meeting, Wichita
: On October 23-24,
2021, thanks to the hospitality of Past President Mike Stout
and his ranch, as well as the welcoming nature of the Kansas contingent, the Annual Dinner at the Ambassador Hotel in Wichita was a great success. President O’Donnell
and Brett were joined by thirty-five Fellows and guests, including three past presidents! State Chair Robin Fowler
served as master of ceremonies. Regent Dan Folluo
and President O’Donnell
also spoke. It was certainly an honor to have Past Presidents Mike Stout
, Doug Young
and Rodney Acker
in attendance. Immediate Past President Acker
discussed the financial state of the College, indicating it continues to be strong.
Nebraska Fellows Cocktail Reception and Dinner, Lincoln:
On Friday, October 8, Immediate Past President Rodney Acker
and his wife Judy visited Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Fellows hosted spouses, guests, and several members of the Judiciary for cocktails and dinner. Susan K. Sapp
, first year State Chair, hosted the dinner in her hometown at the Wilderness Ridge Country Club. Approximately twenty fellows and a total of fifty people were in attendance, including a federal judge and a member of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Following dinner, Susan spoke about the activities in Nebraska. Regent Greg Lederer
then spoke effectively and impressively about the duties of a Regent, and how the Fellows could help him. Immediate Past President Acker
discussed the success of the recently concluded Annual Meeting in Chicago and the upcoming Spring Meeting.
Downstate New York Fellows Dinner, New York
: On Thursday evening, November 18, 2021, Treasurer William Murphy
attended the dinner meeting of the Downstate New York Fellows at the National Arts Club, near Gramercy Park, in Manhattan. State Chair Rich Strassberg
acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, which included the presentation of the Leon Silverman Award to U.S. District Judge (and Judicial Fellow
) Jed Rakoff
. The event was very well attended with at least fifty New York Fellows present, including Past Presidents Bob Fiske
and Greg Joseph
, Regent Larry Krantz
, and Former Regent John Siffert
. Treasurer Murphy
spoke about the successful Annual Meeting in Chicago, the stellar work of the Advocacy in the 21st
Century Committee in producing white papers on trial advocacy during the pandemic and beyond, and the Boot Camp Trial Training Program Committee, which had included a mock trial in New York over which Judge Rakoff
had presided. Treasurer Murphy
also thanked Federal Criminal Procedure Committee Chair Sharon McCarthy
for her work in developing the Guidance Report on Brady-Giglio issues, and both she and Regent Krantz
for their work on the White Paper recently completed by the Public Defenders Committee promoting enhanced use of pretrial diversion approaches. Also touched on were the new initiatives to be undertaken by the Mentoring Committee, under the leadership of John Siffert
. Treasurer Murphy
closed by encouraging Fellows to attend the upcoming Spring Meeting and to sign up early for the Annual Meeting in Rome.
Upstate New York Fellows Dinner, Syracuse
: On October 7, 2021, twenty fellows attended and joined President Mike O’Donnell
and Upstate NY Chair Janet Callahan
for the Upstate New York Fellows annual reception and dinner. Regent Sandy Forbes
commented that Janet is doing a wonderful job. After dinner, President O’Donnell
recognized former regent Steve Schwarz
, thanked Janet and him for their work and spoke about several college initiatives. President O’Donnell
then encouraged the Fellows to join a committee of their interest and discussed the Leadership Workshop program to be held in Tucson. To close, he stressed the importance of working diligently to identify the best trial lawyers as candidates for fellowship, particularly women and diverse candidates.
Washington State Fellows Event, Seattle:
On October 28, 2021, Immediate Past President Rodney Acker
capably substituted for President O’Donnell
in the rain and cold of Seattle. Acker was able to spend extra time with new Regent Carey Matovich
before joining the rest of the Fellows at the Rainier Club in Downtown Seattle. State Chair Corrie Yackulic
made introductions to several new and experienced Fellows, including Rando Wick
and Judge Ron Leighton
Acker was asked to speak for two minutes but his southern drawl turned that into four. He focused on how the Fellows could help in the mentoring program and encouraged attendance in San Diego and Rome.
Wisconsin Fellows Zoom Event: On November 10, 2021, State Chair Ralph Weber organized a virtual event. President-Elect Susan J. Harriman filled in for President O’Donnell, as he was engaged in a jury trial. Dennis Maggi also joined the call. President-Elect Harriman spoke on volunteer opportunities in the College through committees and also spoke on the opportunities for Fellows to provide mentorship to younger lawyers. Harriman concluded by encouraging the Fellows to continuing seeking diversity among candidates to recommend for fellowship. The highlight of the evening was the guest presenter, Pete Souza. Pete worked as a photographer in the Reagan White House until 1989, and twenty years later became the chief photographer for President Obama. His work was stunning, historical and presented in a very entertaining manner.