Aug 19

Board Retreat

Board Retreat

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President's Message

Thank you for your confidence as we look forward to another year. As President Bill Broome steps aside, he leaves a ship well­righted and on­course. His tenure and that of his predecessor, Amber Ladner, were marked by great uncertainty. However, their steady hands helped guide our organization through the loss of one Executive Director and the hiring of another. Of course, this was a time of inherent uncertainty. Although some tenures such as theirs are marked by large or pressing issues, others are not so defined. At this time, none appear grand. Fortunately, we are well­positioned to increase the knowledge and effectiveness of our members. We have a full year’s experience with our new Executive Director, Mary Beth Wyatt. She has proven herself time and again, and Mary Beth has shown herself to be an excellent addition to our ACDLA.

In addition, the past year has been marked by other successes, including the hiring of our lobbyist, Ted Hosp. His involvement has amplified our already­good standing with the legislature. Our voice is sought out, heard, and respected by legislators and others at the Capitol. Through a group of members our ACDLA had a consistent presence and contributed significant input on the Prison Reform legislation that will affect the practice of criminal law and the representation of our clients. Although it is not yet in effect, one particular benefit to many of our members is the new 90­day time limit on State payment of approved bills. This should help ease the financial burden that indigent defense work imposes upon many of its practitioners.

We also continue to have a voice at the State Bar. Several of our members are Bar Commissioners and many of these serve on a variety of committees and in other leadership roles. Various of our members have helped select the past two Directors of the Office of Indigent Defense Services and serve on other committees or sections. These roles are important as they bear directly on the quality of indigent representation and on other criminal defense processes.

Additionally, the Death Penalty committee is moving along full steam ahead. We will follow last year’s success with what should prove to be another exceptional program. As with the contributions of so many, the work of each of the committee members is great, and greatly appreciated. This year, the committee’s focus is expanded beyond the seminar and its members are now contemplating other death penalty issues which may be ripe for addressing.

Other members are striving to emulate the success of the Death Penalty seminar. We hosted ACDLA’s first DUI and Traffic Homicide seminar; this was another top­notch product. Combined with the NHTSA Practitioner’s Course in October, this will help our members enhance their DUI knowledge and skills tremendously.

Beyond this, we should host a first­rate Prison Reform seminar in November. The CLE committee is working hard to provide quality continuing education for our members. I expect that our members will continue to be the most knowledgeable and best prepared criminal defense lawyers in the state.

Despite these successes, work remains. A particular issue regards the fundamental fairness of the criminal discovery process. I am not opposed to convictions, but I am opposed to unfair convictions and to those won because of an uneven playing field. Unfortunately, the discovery process does not mandate disclosures which are essential to a fair trial. There are many things within our system about which reasonable and well­intentioned people can disagree. However, I see no such legitimacy supporting an argument in favor of our current discovery rules. No civil lawyer would go to trial armed only with the paltry information to which a criminal defendant is entitled.

Clearly, the current Rules support this limited disclosure of information. However, the question is begged, other than the mere fact of its existence, what is it that supports the Rule? How is it defensible? If discovery rules were being propounded today, who could argue in favor of this system? How is a defendant assured a fair trial without the production of all information?

I hope in the coming year that we can make progress in this area particularly. I know that others have indicated an interest in revamping the discovery rules in criminal cases. I do not expect it overnight, but I believe that we can eventually effect this result. If you are interested in serving on a discovery­issue committee, please let me know. I think that if successful, this will cause a sea change in the criminal arena. It will make us more effective, the system more efficient, and most importantly, it will help assure that fairness and justice prevail.

In closing, thank you again for all that you do. Doing the right thing is not always easy . However, we can take an especial pride in the part that we play within the system. Here is a quote from our nation’s second President, speaking of the pride resulting from his successful

but unpopular defense of British soldiers following the Boston Massacre: “The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches,anciently.AstheEvidencewas,theVerdictoftheJurywasexactlyright.” –JohnAdams

As an organization, we exist to further our knowledge and to enhance the the quality of our representation. Our role in the system is not always popular, but it is always essential to our treasured American freedom.

Hays Webb, President of ACDLA

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Board Retreat

August 19, 2016
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
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RSA Dexter Ave.- Historic Supreme Court Lobby
445 Dexter Avenue,
Montgomery, AL 36104

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