Each student in my Comprehensive Trial Advocacy class creates a demonstrative exhibit that could be used in the murder trial of Edward Hard. The goal is to teach them how to bring reality into the courtroom using visuals. Here are some of the exhibits that they created displayed in the lobby of the faculty office area in the Seattle University Law School.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Sunday, April 12, 2015
This is a subject about which I’m totally unqualified to render an opinion. I’m perfectly comfortable discussing a man’s trial uniform. A man’s trial proper courtroom attire normally is a dark suit, white or blue shirt, a tie that may have a pattern but not a loud one, brown or black shoes coordinated with the suit and dark (not white) socks. Any accessories must not be distracting to the viewer. This works well for politicians also, and they, like trial lawyers, can only go wrong if they vary from it – see one who did above and who got criticized for doing so.
Although I’m unqualified to discuss women’s wear, that doesn’t mean I can’t pass on advice from others. Quite a bit has been written about women’s courtroom attire and here are some articles on the subject that you can read:
There is even a Law Review on the subject of women’s attire. See Gonzaga University School of Law Volume 45 (2009-2010) Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: One Size Does Not Fit All WhenIt Comes to Courtroom Attire for Women
Hale Starr and Mark McCormick’s Jury Selection 432-433 (3d ed., Aspen 2001) offers a good discussion of proper attire for women trial lawyers.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Today’s headline in the local newspaper is “Jury awards $3.7M to estate of Munchbar shooting victim.” The newspaper account describes how a jury awarded the estate of the deceased $3.5 million with the tavern being held responsible for 75% and other participants in a fight leading up to the shooting being responsible for the remaining 25%. The shooter was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
For a prosecutors and defense attorneys, one of the first murder cases that they may well handle will stem from a shooting in a tavern on a Saturday night. It’s part of what you do in your career as a pretrial litigator and a trial lawyer in the criminal justice field. In civil practice, wrongful death suits growing out of the same shooting are not unusual.
Because tavern shootings are common, high profile and involve a variety of legal and factual issues as well as a wide spectrum of witnesses, they are ideal for learning pretrial and trial advocacy skills through experiential learning in law school, prosecutor and defense counsel training sessions and civil professional development seminars. This is why we chose the shooting-in-a-tavern-on-a-Saturday-night case for our Pretrial Advocacy and Trial Advocacy books. Both books have this Advocacy website where trial lawyers and law students can access complete case files and role-play assignments. The Professors and CLE instructors who adopt a book are provided with not only a Teacher’s Manual but also an Actor’s Guide containing instructions for those who will perform the roles of witnesses.
The robust materials can be used for professional development continuing legal education and law school performance in class and mock trials. The tavern shooting scenarios are always challenging and an enjoyable learning experience.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
David Boies is America’s preeminent trial lawyer. His successes include cases, such as that against California’s Proposition 8 and the Microsoft antitrust case. In an interview with Katrina Dewey for Lawdragon, he described his belief that it was an honor to make a living and a difference practicing law:
“I’ve always believed that one of the great things about being a lawyer is you have an opportunity to really make a very comfortable living. at the same time, it allows you to make a real contribution to society and really make change. the opportunity is there.”
In the interview, along other observation, Boies provided five trial advocacy tips.
1. Outwork the Other Side
When asked how he achieved what he had, he answered: “Well, I will outwork the other side every single time. At the start of every trial, the other side starts out working as hard as I do. But at some point, they say, "I’m going to go out with my girlfriend," or spouse, go to the opera, go see the latest movie. And at every trial I’ve ever had, the other side stops working as hard as me – if they ever did, some- times they never do.”
2. Pick the Few Things that Matter
“In Microsoft, general counsel Bill Neukom, who I like, would go out and say after court, “My witness made 48 points,” and David Boies only attacked four of them. The problem was, those were the four important ones and when we attacked those four points, they had no credibility left. He was absolutely right – I had only four of his 48 points, but they were what mattered!”
3. Be Real
“. . . And what juries are looking for is authenticity, someone who is real. A jury is like 12 people who you lock into a boat in a storm and they have no idea how to get out. And then two people come along and one says I know the way, and the other says no, I know the way. If you understand your job is to be the one that the 12 jurors follow, then you can win your case.”
4. Be Patient
“The other thing is patience. I’m very patient. I will wait for the right opportunity. I don’t try to make things hap- pen or feel frustrated or impatient. Part of it is patience to develop your story in a way that maybe his is the most dramatic story in the beginning, but yours builds over time.”
5. Talk Sense
“. . .If I were a screamer kind of guy, it would be very hard to do what I have to do. What I have to do is change people’s minds. you very rarely change people’s minds yelling at them. You can excite your base by yelling. But you can’t change people’s minds. to change people’s minds, you have to talk to them. That’s one of the things I do, I talk to the jurors.
“Adlai Stevenson, when he was running for president, said he was going to talk sense to the American people. that didn’t work probably because he was against the most popular person in the country, but that has always been my goal: to talk sense to whoever you’re talking to. and what you find is if you trust people., a remarkable number of them actually respond to you. People actually like to be treated like thinking adults, even people who start off very antagonistic, you talk sense to them. you can slowly – not always, it’s not perfect, it’s a process, but one that succeeds remarkably often.”
For more advice from David Boies – this time on cross-examination, click here.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
An important manual concerning courthouse dogs has just become available to the public. Courthouse dogs provide emotional support for child and other vulnerable victims and witnesses in the legal system. In the not too distant past, vulnerable victims were given short shrift by the justice system. The manual recounts my experiences with children in the criminal justice system, which the manual accurately describes as the “Bad Old Days” as follows:
The Bad Old Days
While chatting about how the treatment of children involved in the legal system has evolved over the years, Ron Clark, a Distinguished Professor at the Seattle University School of Law, described what now would be seen as an archaic and traumatizing procedure that took place while he was working as a deputy prosecuting attorney during the early 1980s. At that time little or no thought was given to how intimidating the courtroom would be - that a child, seated just a few feet away from the defendant, might struggle to describe what had happened and that this experience could be retraumatizing to the child.
Ron’s story was about what happened to sexually abused children during District Court preliminary hearings.
You can read the rest of the account of what happened back then in the manual – just click here.
The manual is entitled Facility Dogs at Children’s Advocacy Centers and in Legal Proceedings: Best Practices. Funding for the manual was provided by the Office of Justice and Delinquency, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
Spearheading the movement for the use of facility dogs and the creation of the manual are friend Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, Founder of the Courthouse Dog Foundation and Celeste Walsen, DVM (pictured above).
The new manual covers, among other topics, best practices for facility dogs and how to incorporate facility dogs into a Child Advocacy Center. Of special interest to trial lawyers, particularly prosecutors, are these portions of the manual:
- · From Investigation to Prosecution - Facility Dogs Assisting in the Courtroom
- · Getting Off to a Good Start
- · The Defense Interview
- · Why Testifying in Court is Difficult for a Child
- · Preparing the Dog and Child for Testifying in Court
- · Convincing the Judge to Allow the Facility Dog to Assist the Child
- · What to Include in Your Motion
- · How to Minimize Potential Prejudice Against the Defendant
- · Make a Record of the Court’s Decision
- · Make a Record of the Dog’s Behavior While Present in the Courtroom
- · At the Conclusion of Testimony
- · Sample Jury Instructions
With the use of courthouse dogs, much of the Bad Old Days in the justice system’s treatment of vulnerable will be behind us.