Congratulations to the NCDD on its Twentieth Anniversary
Early tomorrow morning, I’m off to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the 20th Annual Summer Session of the National College for DUI Defense, on the premises of the Harvard Law School.
I love the NCDD, and I am dedicated to its continuing success. The NCDD has become like family to me.
I’ve been practicing law for thirty-four years. Thinking back to the days before the founding of the NCDD, it was difficult. DUI defense practitioners were isolated from each other, and often felt like we were lesser members of the criminal defense bar. The level of camaraderie, scientific knowledge, and trial advocacy was sometimes outstanding, but more often it was mediocre.
I think back to those days, fighting DUI cases with good success, but a feeling of being alone. It was almost two decades ago that I wrote my article, "How to Win a Drunk Driving Case, a Guide for the Layperson." I posted that article on what was very new at the time: a website. Viola, I got noticed nationally, and began to participate in the national DUI defense group that was just coalescing.
It was a revelation! My first national meeting was the Mastering Scientific Evidence conference, then being promoted by William "Bubba" Head in Atlanta (and now being produced annually by the NCDD, in New Orleans). My next program was my first NCDD Summer Session, presented at the Harvard Law School. In those days, the expense of traveling across the country to go to high-priced conferences was barely within my reach. It was, however, more than worth it, for so many reasons.
First and foremost, I discovered that I was part of a great group of attorneys, nationwide, who were there to support each other, educate each other, and hang out with each other. I made better friends with lawyers from the other side of America, than I had with lawyers from the other side of Wisconsin. I suppose it was because there was no element of business competition.
Second, I discovered a whole world of advanced training in trial advocacy and DUI defense. The level of this training was astounding – and it continues to get better every year. The eye-opener was the high level of scientific training at my first MSE conference – along with a mock trial with actual jurors! That was followed by the incredible small-group trial skills workshops at the NCDD Summer Session.
The NCDD provided a standard of excellence for lawyers practicing DUI defense. In 1999, Steven Oberman, of Knoxville, Tennessee, put together a certification program that is the most challenging, rigorous program of its kind in any legal specialty. That program was accredited by the American Bar Association in 2003; and it remains the only program of its kind in America.
In 2011, I was named a Regent, one of fourteen members of the board of directors of the College. I do not claim that I was the most deserving candidate. No doubt there are others who will agree with that assessment. I hope, however, that I have grown into the role. It has been quite humbling, and an extraordinary amount of blood, sweat, and tears.
Another incredible experience afforded to me by the NCDD was the opportunity to be on the faculty. I had organized criminal defense seminars for the State Bar of Wisconsin; but as good as these were, the NCDD took it to another level (and it continues to do so). It was the NCDD that introduced me to the very advanced trial advocacy methods of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, and the NCDD that supported my attendance at the TLC last September. The NCDD allowed me to use TLC instructors and methods and do something new: teach advanced trial advocacy skills in the area of forensic science. It took almost two years to put together our Serious Science trial advocacy course, and it was a great success. I hope to continue to improve it, and perhaps even expand the curriculum.
Now, after twenty years, DUI defense is recognized as a specialty by the American Bar Association. DUI defense practitioners are acknowledged as some of the elite members of the criminal defense bar. DUI defense lawyers are a national community, dedicated to excellence. We the NCDD to thank for all of these great accomplishments.
The Twentieth Anniversary Summer Session will be a celebration of all of this, and more. Our keynote speaker will be the outstanding, and controversial law professor, Alan Dershowitz. We will, again, hone our public speaking skills with Paul Homoly. Most of all, we will hang out together and get to know each other, on the patio of the Charles Hotel.