Dean’s Address 2017

I am honored the serve this College as its 23rd Dean, and I am here today to tell you that the state of the National College for DUI Defense is Strong.

I look around me and I see some of the best trial lawyers and legal minds in the country.  I see younger lawyers who are eager to learn and experienced lawyers who are just as eager to share.  College membership is at an all-time high and now has over 2000 members, but aside from the numbers, it is the members of this College that every day created the environment of cooperation, learning and teaching, and camaraderie that is unlike any other.  This is your College, and like anything, it is what you make it.

The National COLLEGE for DUI Defense.  This is a College, not a Bar Association.  I want everyone here to remember that: we are a College, not a Bar Association.  It is why we come to Harvard Law School every summer.  Think about that.  Think about this place and what it means to our profession.

This year, Harvard law school is celebrating its 200th anniversary, as it was founded in 1817.  Austin Hall, where you are seated here today, was established in 1884.  That means that 133 years of the teaching of the law has taken place in this very room.  The room directly above us, the Ames Courtroom was originally a vault for the volumes of law books, treatises, and court decisions stored at this institution for many years, until it grew too large to be held there. Today, Harvard is home to the largest academic law library in the world.  On a far smaller scale, but no-less important to our practices, the National College for DUI Defense is home to the largest library of resources for DUI defense lawyers in the world.

And it is the only organization recognized by the American Bar Association to certify lawyers in DUI Defense.

It is fitting that we hold our premier seminar at Harvard as both institutions stand for learning and advocacy and striving to teach the best of the best. Think about who has passed through the halls of Harvard University:

8 Presidents of the United States: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

16 of Harvard law school’s graduates have served on the Supreme Court of the United States, more than any other law school. 5 of the current 9 members of the court graduated from HLS: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who also served as Dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2009. Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School for two years. Past Supreme Court justices include Antonin Scalia, David Souter, Harry Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Lewis Powell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., among others.

Why do we hold our annual Summer Session at Harvard?  We are at Harvard because Harvard is the epicenter of learning.  The National College for DUI Defense is just that – a College.  We are an institution of higher learning.  We are not, have never been, and never will be, merely a bar association.

The NCDD is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year.  Our motto is simple, yet powerful:  Justice Through Knowledge.  We are not here to pad our resumes by saying we attended a seminar held at Harvard Law School.  We are here seeking knowledge on how to better defend our clients against junk science, poorly-trained police officers, overzealous prosecutors, and what Larry Taylor, one of the founders of the College, first coined the phrase, the “DUI exception to the United States Constitution”.

Our clients are no longer presumed innocent by the public.  The Fourth Amendment has been chipped away so many times for so long that our Founding Fathers would barely recognize it.  Many of the trial judges we practice in front of were once prosecutors, and many carry that pro-prosecution mind set upon taking the bench.

Our clients are routinely punished more harshly for exercising their constitutional right to a jury trial.  In short, the deck has been stacked against the citizen accused of DUI for a long, long time.  For many years, it seemed that there was nothing that could change the morbid environment of minimal due process afforded to DUI defendants.  And then in 1994, an idea was hatched to do something about it.

The National College for DUI Defense has been a catalyst for more than 2 decades in combatting against the tide that has turned for those who face DUI charges in the criminal justice system.  A couple of important dates to recount in the history of the College:

The College’s First Summer Session at Harvard Law School was held here in July of 1995 – and proved a resounding success. An annual Winter Session was soon added, to be held in different locales across the country, and the College partnered with NACDL to jointly sponsor an annual national seminar in Las Vegas as well.  Ten years later, in 2005 William “Bubba” Head, my colleague from Atlanta, Georgia turned over the reins of the Mastering Scientific Evidence (or MSE) program to the College and we partnered with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA).

It is these 4 annual seminars that our members have the option of choosing from – and each seminar is unique.  For example, the MSE seminar in the Spring, features a live jury trial with jurors brought in thru a local temp agency.  If you have not seen it, it is amazing to actually watch live jury deliberations.

This next year NCDD Winter Seminar will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on January 19-20 and will focus on the defense of prescription drug DUI cases.  The recent arrest of Tiger Woods has shined a light on the prevalence of these cases, and the need for DUI defense lawyers to broaden their knowledge in order to defend them.  Advances in medical treatment for pain, anxiety and depression are a wonderful thing, but the widespread use of prescription drugs that can impair driving ability requires us to increase our skill set to successfully defend them.  Recent studies show that opioid abuse kills more people in this country than guns or auto accidents.  That is a staggering statistic, and one that we need to pay attention to.

Several years ago, we began to notice that many of our members were repeat attendees at many of our 4 annual seminars.  The idea of “graduate level” courses was introduced, and Andrew Mishlove, Don Ramsell, Joe St. Louis,and several of our others board members began formulating a curriculum that goes well-beyond the basics, or intermediate level of DUI defense.  The NCDD now offers a Certificate of Completion of the NCDD Advanced Curriculum in Forensic Science and Trial Advocacy. The requirement is the completion of the four following science-based seminars, in any order: Mastering Scientific Evidence; Metrology; The NCDD Advanced Course on Blood Alcohol Analysis and Trial Advocacy, and; Serious Science Blood Drug Analysis.  If the sessions on Metrology piqued your interest this week, let me encourage you to look into attending these courses.

New for 2017 is the NCDD’s cooperation with the Mississippi College School of Law to create: Mastering DUI Trial Skills. The Mississippi Commission on Continuing Legal Education has approved this course for 18 CLE hours and also for 2 credit hours toward the LL.M. Trial Advocacy Program at Mississippi College School of Law.

I want to talk next about a subject that is dear to my heart.  Board Certification.  In 2004, through the extensive efforts of Fellows James Campbell, Jess Paul, and Steve Oberman, the American Bar Association approved certification of DUI Defense as a specialty, with the National College for DUI Defense as the sole authorized certifying body.  For the last decade and a half, the College has administered the ABA-approved board certification program. For the last (6) years, I have served as Chair of the Board Certification Committee.  I can share with you that the exam is difficult, as it should be.  But everyone in this room is capable of passing it if you set your mind to it and prepare for it.  Even the process of preparing for the exam will make you a better lawyer, as it will allow to identify those areas where you are proficient, and those areas where you need to focus on learning more in depth.  I encourage everyone here to apply.

Perhaps no other branch of the NCDD has more of an overall impact on the profession than the Amicus Committee. The hard-working and brilliant members of the Amicus Committee have participated in landmark cases including Illinois v. Lidster, Melendez Diaz v. Massachusetts, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, Missouri v. McNeely, Beylund v. Levi, Bernard v. Minnesota, and Birchfield v. North Dakota. The Amicus Committee has also filed in support of petitions for cert in Napier v. Indiana and O’Maley v. New Hampshire.

The NCDD’s commitment to Public Defender Education is real, it is strong, and it is free! Public Defenders are probably the most underappreciated group within our ranks. Hard work, long hours and lower pay go largely unnoticed by the public. But, we at the NCDD know how hard PDs work and we have made it our mission to give them the tools to succeed by providing free DUI seminars in their hometowns.

Our Website and Virtual Library are unparalled in the DUI defense arena. No other organization can match the breadth and depth of our library. On our email listserve, members can post in-depth questions and receive answers within minutes. Referrals and networking among more than 2,000+ members means that we can give our clients top-notch advice and explore advanced defense strategies.

The State Delegate Program offers assistance to our members on a more local level and has became a valuable resource for recruiting new attorneys who want to learn and give back to the College.

Thru the efforts of Bill Kirk, our Asstistant Dean, the NCDD now has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and other social media that serves both the public and the members of the College.

And now a few thank yous, and then I will wrap up with some concluding comments.

Thanks to:

To our Board of Regents for entrusting me to lead the College, and for their deep-seated commitment to maintaining this incredible environment of learning and sharing we are a part of.  We will work together to maintain the high standards of teaching and advocacy, and to share what we have learned from those who taught us.

To the Fellows of this College for mentoring me, for encouraging me, and for the invitation extended to me years ago to serve the College.  In particular to SteveOberman, Flem Whited, Phil Price, Larry Taylor, Les Hulnick (who helped me write this address), Steve Jones & Barry Simons, who nominated me to serve on the board 10 years ago.

To my law partners, Justin Spizman and Matt Kilgo, mostly for keeping my practice afloat over the next year as I assume the awesome responsibility of assisting with the daily operations of this great College for the next year.

To my Dad and his wife, Gail who came up from Maryland where I grew up.  And for those that don’t know me well may not know I was raised for the most part without a mom.  I understand the value of being a good dad to my boys because I have experienced how important having a strong father figure can make a difference in a child as he or she grows.

And finally, and most importantly, to my wife, Jennifer, and boys Ryan and Will, who are the reason I get up every day to do what I do.  If you have not met my wife, well, in Bill Kirk’s words, I way outkicked my coverage in finding Jennifer.  And because of what a great mom she is we have 2 great boys who always say please and thank you, eat all of the food on their plates, make high marks in school, and always throw strikes when they pitch.  Okay they may not do all that, but they’re my boys and I love em.

Its gonna be a busy year for us honey, but it is a labor of love for the profession and for the people that make up this incredible institution that has become so much more than just a teaching organization – the National College for DUI Defense.

I love being a lawyer.  I love lawyers.  I can’t believe that they pay me to get up everyday and go play lawyer.  I also love to teach.  It challenges me.  It makes me a better lawyer.  Sometimes I can’t believe that other lawyers actually want to hear what I have to say.  It motivates me to know that there are other lawyers who care about the law and care about their clients.  That there are other lawyers out there fighting the same fight that I am fighting every day.

“The concept of due process is not static; it evolves as times and circumstances require.  Over the years the public’s perception of drunk driving has evolved. What the public once viewed as a common indiscretion it now views as a serious crime and public health hazard. The state’s drunk driving statutes now are enforced rigorously, prosecuted zealously, and provide for substantial punishments. That is proper. It is also proper, however, that we remain vigilant in safeguarding the rights of individuals and ensure that those accused of serious crimes such as DUI have the aid of the process necessary for them fairly to defend against such charges.”

Take what you learned here and carry that torch back to your state.  Renew the fight to protect the rights of those accused of DUI.

We find ourselves as lawyers, and as citizens and neighbors living in an era of incivility.  Everyone seems to have an agenda, and so much of our agendas seem to be in such sharp conflict.  So what is the agenda of the College?  My hope is that membership in this college will not be a part of a marketing strategy, or something to post on your website that you are a member.  My hope is that membership in the College will mean that as lawyers we are charged with maintaining the integrity of our corner of the profession.  That we operate in a spirit of cooperation and desire to learn and better serve our clients rather than involve ourselves with disputes between competitors in our respective jurisdictions.

In Atlanta, as lawyers we compete for cases.  And that’s healthy.  When a client tells me that they are meeting with several lawyers and one of them is Bubba Head or Ben Sessions, I will politely say – that’s good.  You are talking to the right people.  And then I will say please feel free to ask them about me and my firm.  Because I know that they will say the same things I say about them – you are talking to the right lawyers.  And clients are taken aback by the fact that we don’t boast about how we are better than the other lawyers they are talking to – they are actually comforted at the confidence we have to offer that up.

In short – by genuinely raising those colleagues in your area that care enough about their practice and their clients to be a member of this College, you raise the bar.  You raise the bar for clients, and you raise the bar for your colleagues.

What can you do in your home state to foster that type of environment?

Ask Not What the College Can Do For You, But You Can Do for the College.  By the way, John F. Kennedy – Harvard graduate.

If you are experienced, teach!  If you see a bright young lawyer, take her under your wing and help her.

Make it a goal to teach at an NCDD seminar by speaking in your state and submit your presentation and reviews to the board.  Write a DUI article for The Champion Magazine and submit it to Steve Oberman to consider for publication.  Contact your state delegate and ask him or her if there are opportunities to help grow your state level DUI defense bar organization.  If you don’t have a state level DUI defense organization, call me, or Bill Kirk, and we will do everything we can to help you create one.

If you are still learning, don’t let CLE be an afterthought – find seminars where you can actually learn something!  Find seminars where you can communicate with others who do what we do and develop relationships with lawyers all over the country that do what you do.

Offer to teach a brown bag lunch seminar to your local public defenders office on a topic that you learned here.

Our primary goal at the NCDD is to teach and to learn and to become better advocates.  The NCDD also places great value on respect for each other, for the profession, and for protecting the rights of those accused of DUI.

I have seen many of you on the patio of the Charles Hotel and I hope you will have the same fond memories I have had for many years from coming here.  I hope to see you in Vegas this fall, in Atlanta this January, and in New Orleans next Spring.  We are not a bar association.  We are the NATIONAL COLLEGE FOR DUI DEFENSE.  I am proud to serve as your Dean.

Thank you.