President's Message


It is with great humility that I assume the presidency of ACDLA. I attended my first Annual Meeting and Summer Seminar some twenty years ago as a young inexperienced lawyer. I had just moved my family to Birmingham on a wing and a prayer. Prior to making the move, I had met a group of criminal defense lawyers while visiting my wife’s sister and her husband. Tommy Spina and Steve Salter, giants in the legal community, extended a friendly hand and offered to help me start a career, and ultimately a life, in Birmingham, Alabama. I quickly met other outstanding lawyers in the criminal justice world, the likes of Tommy Nail, Don Colee, David Luker and Richard Jaffe. As my practice has grown, so have the list of excellent lawyers I have had the benefit of working with. Many of these lawyers would go on to serve as President of ACDLA and become Beddow Award recipients; each sharing a wealth of knowledge, talent, and character with the membership along the way.

As Paul Young steps into his role as Immediate Past President, his guiding leadership remains evident in so many ways. Paul’s steady hand can be seen in the great successes our CLE programs enjoyed over the past year. Paul also contributed to the victories of our legislative committee and the growth of our membership. Under Paul’s watchful eye, ACDLA members worked very hard on the Alabama Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure, as Bar Commissioners, members of the Indigent Defense Commissions, and numerous other State and local committees and programs. Members across the State zealously fought to protect and grow the legal and substantive rights of those individuals that we represent, whether indigent or retained. I was given the opportunity to spend quality time with Paul at CLEs and board functions, giving us the opportunity to become better friends and allowing me yet again to learn from one of the best. It truly was a great year and I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to follow in Paul’s footsteps.

As I begin my term as President, I do so knowing I am standing on the shoulders of giants. It is with this understanding that I am working to create the “Council of Past Presidents”. It is my desire to foster a continuing relationship with those giants who have served as President of ACDLA over the past 35 years. It is my hope that they will grasp this opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with members, young and old. To mentor new lawyers seeking to become better criminal defense lawyers. To educate those who attend Loosening the Death Belt and the other outstanding CLEs presented by ACDLA. To engage and participate in ACDLA in whatever way they are able to ensure the continued success of this organization. We are fortunate to have some of the best lawyers in the State at our fingertips and we should not let this opportunity slip away. To this end, I am planning on hosting the Inaugural Council of Past Presidents dinner the evening of January 19, 2018 following the opening day of Loosening the Death Belt XXII.

I will be stepping down as Chair of the Legislative Committee, but I will not be stepping away. We have some very big issues we have been working on for the past couple of years. I have complete trust in our new Chair, William “Chip” Bradford, and the other members of the committee. I know they will continue to work with Ted Hosp, Edward O’Neal, and Bethany Penick. I look forward to continuing our efforts to “bust the cap” on felony cases tried to a jury verdict. I also look forward to trying to correct the injustice that excludes juveniles from the provisions of Rule 32, leaving many without any post- appeal means of addressing substantive and procedural errors.

My law partner, Richard Jaffe, has decided to end his run as Chair of the Death Penalty Committee after almost 20 years at the helm. This past January, Loosening the Death Belt XXI was attended by over 250 attorneys from across the State and the Southeast. Capital litigators from across the country provided valuable information that will serve the members of this organization for years to come. I have appointed John Lentine to chair the Death Penalty Committee. I am excited about the seminar that John and the other members of the committee are putting together. They have already confirmed speakers and are working on getting Anthony Hinton, a death row exoneree from Alabama.

I am very excited about the coming year, and everything that ACDLA has to offer. We experienced another huge turnout for our Juvenile Justice seminar on October 7, 2017 in Huntsville. Gar Blume and Mary Beth Wyatt put together an outstanding program. I am looking forward to meeting all of the great speakers lined up for Loosening the Death Belt XXII to be held in Birmingham on January 19-20, 2018.

As criminal defense lawyers, we stand ready to defend the rights of our clients on a daily basis. This job is a difficult one and the odds are usually not in our favor. Often times we feel alone in our fight. Often times we are the only thing standing between our client and the full resources of the State of Alabama. Let me assure each and every one of you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You only need to ask for help to see the 500 plus lawyers of ACDLA who have your back. This organization may not have the numbers of other organizations, but there are none more compassionate and willing to give of their time, knowledge and experience than members of ACDLA.

I will do my best to make each and every one of you proud of your membership in ACDLA. I will also be asking each and every one of you to become more involved. There are a number of opportunities coming up that will require your voice, your time, and your knowledge. I look forward to working with each of you during the coming year.

Michael Hanle

President, ACDLA