By Rory S. Gallagher, Marion County Public Defender Agency
This fall, I had the esteemed privilege of attending the annual summit of the Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) in Atlanta, Georgia. The Appellate Practice Section of the Indianapolis Bar Association generously provided me with a scholarship to make this experience possible. The summit was invaluable to my work as an appellate public defender, and I thank the IndyBar and the Appellate Practice Section members for their support.
Indiana was well represented at the summit. Of the 277 judges and lawyers in attendance, 35 were Hoosiers, including Judge David Hamilton of the Seventh Circuit, two Indiana Supreme Court Justices, four Court of Appeals judges, several staff attorneys and law clerks, two law professors and many other public servants and private attorneys. The attorneys and judges that I met from around the country were impressed by Indiana’s commitment to continuing legal education, as well as the excellent presentation by our own Justice Steven David, who serves on AJEI’s Board of Directors, about how advocates might improve their clients’ chances on discretionary review.
The summit honored the lawyers and appellate judges from the Fifth Circuit whose work contributed to the civil rights movement during the 1950s through the 1970s. Hon. Herbert E. Phipps, who currently serves as a Senior Judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, discussed the many difficulties African-American attorneys faced during this time period. He explained to the summit that in the early days of the civil rights movement, he was not allowed to address the bench from same tables as white attorneys. Instead, he often had to make his arguments while standing in the back of the courtroom. When he was asked how these experiences impacted his judicial philosophy, he told the audience that he always tried
“to treat people a little better than they deserved.” This maxim undoubtedly holds true both inside and outside the courtroom.
A session that was of particular interest to my practice was entitled, “It’s my life, it’s my trial, why won’t my attorney let me have it?” The panel discussed the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCoy v. Louisiana, which held that a defense attorney may not concede a client’s guilt to the crime of murder over the client’s objection to gain credibility with the jury in the hopes of avoiding the death penalty. The panel was composed of two attorneys who had written amicus briefs on behalf of Mr. McCoy and was moderated by Hon. Colleen O’Toole of the Ohio Court of Appeals. This small-group setting allowed the audience members, who were mostly public defenders and appellate court staff attorneys, to discuss the implications of the court’s holding and how it may affect professional responsibility beyond the context of capital prosecutions.
I would highly recommend this annual summit to any attorney or judicial official who is interested in appellate practice. AJEI’s 2019 summit will be held in Washington, D.C., from Nov. 14-17.
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