President's Message


I have read many “From- The- President” articles over the years. The truth is I never appreciated how difficult writing my own would be. I admit that I sat for the longest time staring at my keyboard praying for an epiphany; some insightful word or observation that would provoke some new revelation in the minds of those who read this. I would write a few paragraphs and then start over concerned that I might appear disingenuous in my effort to impress. Eventually I settled on the idea of simply speaking from the heart and trusting that some part of what I say might resonate with our membership and encourage their support in fulfilling the goals and objectives I have for our organization.

To keep what’s important, important I have comprised a list of my top Five Goals.

First Goal: Increase ACDLA’s value to membership and future members.  ACDLA is an organization that is active and offers much to its members. How we convey this message is important.

How We Get There: With that in mind, and with the permission of the board and the assistance of our Executive Director, we have set out to update our webpage.   This will assist the organization in making sure that information about what we are doing stays current, relevant and informs our membership. Our website is often the first point of contact for a lawyer looking to join ACDLA. It is an extension of our brand and should show what type of value we offer our membership.   

Second Goal: Increase ACDLA’s visibility to the public.

How We Get There: I proposed, and the membership recently approved, increasing the number of District’s and District Vice Presidents in our organization. This increase allows for better focus by each district VP on his or her district members, potential members, bar associations, and organizations that dovetail with ACDLA’s purpose and message. Before the increase District VP’s were responsible for several counties which spanned hundreds of miles. This made it a logistical nightmare to fulfill their responsibilities.

Third Goal: Continue offering exceptional quality CLE programs to our membership. Practicing in a small firm I realize the importance of time and financial resources. ACDLA must ensure both are well spent.

How We Get There: To listen to the membership and provide CLE programs they need. In fact, our membership should celebrate the fact that ACDLA has become the go to resource for educating and training those members of the criminal defense bar who handle death penalty cases in Alabama. In January of 2018, John Lentine and the Death Penalty Committee continued the tradition of excellence and put together a program where a record number of attendees heard from nationally recognized speakers in the area of capital litigation. 2019 promises to be yet another banner year of exceptional speakers for the Death Penalty Seminar. We have listened to the membership and this year there will be a concentration on topics related to the guilt phase of capital cases. This is not to say we won’t address specific issues related to mitigation but we need to focus on what our membership wants.

ACDLA also listened to its membership and through the efforts of Gar Blume developed an exceptional CLE program that will now be offered annually in the area of Juvenile Justice. Attendance to this seminar grows each year and early registration numbers indicate 2019 will be no exception.

Fourth Goal: Increase the strength of our voice in Montgomery. Through the efforts of our Lobbyist and our legislative chair Michael Hanle, ACDLA’s voice and presence in this state is becoming impossible to ignore.

How We Get There: Encourage membership contact with legislators and political leadership when needed through email, letters, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings. More specifically ensuring that the membership is made aware of when legislation is proposed that has the potential to impact the criminal justice system in Alabama.  Michael Hanle has agreed to remain as the chair of our Legislative Committee and continue building on the momentum he has worked so diligently to create.

Fifth Goal: Grow ACDLA’s membership.

How We Get There: Develop a method of outreach to members of the criminal defense bar in each district. This will be a tremendous challenge requiring the resources of existing membership to achieve. ACDLA depends on you, our members, to reach out to lawyers in your district and tell them how valuable and worthwhile ACDLA is.  

            In closing, I hope that all my brothers and sisters in ACDLA will join me over the term of my presidency in keeping what’s important, important. I am honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to lead this organization and promise that I will be diligent in working to grow its membership and in maintaining the standard of excellence we all expect.


Wendell Sheffield