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A Military Civilian Defense Counsel Takes a Trip to the Trial Lawyer’s College

It was not so long ago that I came across a copy of the commencement speech I gave in 2000 for the Louisiana Scholars’ College (no jokes, okay?  It does exist).  My theme? Resist complacency.  Keep the fire alive.  Never stop learning.  The message remains one of my passions.  It seemed natural to pursue application for a way to keep growing and when I had heard so many wonderful comments and such glowing feedback from all classes at the Trial Lawyers’ College, it seemed the perfect fit.

Below is the essay that I wrote as part of my application, and I offer it for public consumption in hope that you’ll come to learn more about me, about my passion, my history, and my journey.

TLC Application Essay

“In candor my greatest successes are the cases that are dismissed before we ever see the inside of a courtroom. My client is a human being and the stresses he faces while pending trial and during trial, even for the decorated combat veterans I largely represent, are the greatest they (hopefully) will ever face. Those successes in dismissal are not born of a place of weakness or fear in litigating a case to verdict. My success in achieving dismissal stems from my proven record as a trial litigator, my impeccable reputation for speaking candidly to prosecutors about the vulnerabilities in their cases, and my confidence in knowing the facts of my case inside and out.

But none of it means anything if I am not continuing to grow and to challenge myself as a litigator and courtroom advocate.

I currently teach trial advocacy as an adjunct professor of criminal law. In accepting this position in January 2017, I sought to grow as a trial attorney by honing my skills of instruction. If I can teach my craft, then I will know it better.  I am finishing a book on drafting motions in military practice, an undervalued skill that shows in practice; reflecting on my internal processes to understand them in order to communicate to those in the industry likewise has been transformative. I am forming a non-profit organization to launch in February 2018 that is a professional organization for military justice practitioners to “raise the bar” and to ensure that all service members receive impeccable representation and across all branches of service. It is my best effort to “save the world” for the men (and a few women) in uniform that are being railroaded by government resources and military command structure that largely go unchecked.

Despite all of my efforts and all of my successes, it never feels quite enough. I want to grow, I want to improve, and I want to stretch past the complacency that allows many to rely on a cut and paste approach to the practice of law.

My approach to trial work mimics my outlook on being in the industry: as soon as you expect to win, you should expect to lose. Once a trial attorney stops growing and stops seeking different ways to solve the puzzle, I believe they should find other work. As a criminal defense attorney, and one that specializes in defending those whom the military has cast aside, I am the last check on a system that in the last decade has evolved to provide excruciating advantage to the prosecution.

I am seeking the opportunity to attend this intensive course not only to improve my own skills, but also to carry the wisdom I gain to others to ensure only the highest level of advocacy enters military courtrooms. I am ready and emotionally prepared to allow this course to transform me, to shape me, and to permit me to take another step on the path to becoming the best trial advocate that I can be. Having sampled a taste of what your course offered from attending a weeklong course with Joshua Karton in the summer of 2006, I am open to the seemingly unorthodox approaches to understanding how we as trial advocates communicate most effectively, how we find that connection to assist the jury member in finding a reason to feel comfortable in siding with an accused, and in understanding ways to facilitate that dialogue, rather than to serve as an impediment to it.  Please allow me to take the next step to becoming an even better courtroom advocate.”

End of Essay

I am ready, and I feel exhilarated that I have this opportunity.  I can hardly wait to report back (while maintaining the utmost confidentiality of those who will endeavor on this journey with me) about how truly life-changing it will be.