Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_June/July 2013

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Noteworthy > VSB NEWS Justice Cleo E. Powell Opens the Ninth Annual Indigent Criminal Defense Seminar The Ninth Annual Indigent Defense Seminar on May 3, 2013, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center was again a sellout. Sessions covered a variety of topics, from "Making the Most of a Preliminary Hearing," led by defense attorney Craig S. Cooley; to "Litigation Ethics: Claims and Settlements," led by Thomas E. Spahn of McGuire Woods LLP. Other sessions covered "Eyewitness Identification"; "Field Tests, the ECIR2 and You"; "Scientific Methodologies for Drug Detection"; and "Discovery, Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Misconduct." The seminar was opened by the Honorable Cleo E. Powell, Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Her remarks follow. Good Morning. It is my pleasure to bring you greetings at your ninth annual training session. I have looked at the line-up and you are in for a wonderful opportunity to learn from a group of dedicated men and women who are masters of their topics, dedicated to their craft and to our profession. That does not just include the names listed on the agenda, however, but it also captures the person to your left and to your right — those who labor in the trenches with you daily. I encourage you as the day goes on to not only listen/learn/share with the presenters but to listen/learn/share with the folks who do what you do every day. When I attend judicial conferences, it is always great to hear from the presenters, but I often find that I learn the most, or at least as much, in the informal discussions with those who walk in my shoes every day. I am delighted to stand where my friend and mentor, former Chief Justice 40 VIRGINIA LAWYER | June/July 2013 | Vol. 62 Leroy R. Hassell Sr., stood for so many years. As you know, Leroy had a deep seated love of the law. He had a keen devotion to the principles of justice and equality under the law and a deep seated desire that the law operate fairly, that it be applied impartially, and that blind justice perform her role as designed. To that end, he developed this seminar and it is in that tradition that we carry on today. Imagine for a moment … the individual enters the courtroom alone, facing the crowd, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that it probably would not be good, with no one there to coach or with whom to commiserate, no one to champion her cause … and that was just my first day as a judge. … I can only imagine how the criminal defendant felt. Having sat in both general district court and circuit court, I have witnessed first-hand the angst of the criminal defendant. To the untrained, appearing in court, accused of a crime, facing loss of reputation, liberty, or life, it must be like arriving in a foreign country where you do not speak the language and do not know the protocol. Everyone around you is speaking Latin and you only took two years of Spanish. … It is a frightful scenario. It took us three years to become comfortable with the subject matter, a time or two at the bar (exam) and a few years of hard knocks. … We had to appear in court more than a few times before we knew when to stand/sit, speak/hold our peace, fight vigorously/ throw ourselves on the mercy of the court. The criminal defendant comes into the pretrial; the judge advises them of the charge and asks them what they are going to do about a lawyer. Often they are unemployed or underemployed and Justice Powell cannot afford one. I have witnessed firsthand the uncertainty, the unknowing, the abject fear on the face of the man or woman standing clueless before the bar as if in a foreign country. And then to the relief of everyone — the defendant, the family, and even the judge — a champion arrives ready to give wise counsel, ready to translate, ready to do battle; in short, you come in. The playing field is leveled, and there is a learned advocate to intercede on their behalf. I have sat on the bench and watched you enter and what I have seen is this: 1. A sense of relief overcome a criminal defendant, who before had a dazed, lost, forlorn, all alone expression; 2. I have watched you, just by your presence, restore a sense of dignity and even humaneness to a criminal defendant; 3. You entered the courtroom, gave them a warm handshake, as if greeting an old friend (and perhaps you were) whispered something in their ear (probably "do not say anything") and at the appointed time made an argument that restored a degree of dignity and respect by painting a picture of a human being with redeeming qualities and characteristics that deserved to be balanced on the scales along with whatever accusations were being made against them;

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