03 May 2013

Halfway Thru the CLE Season

Last Friday was the second part leg of this year's three part CLE teaching schedule. The first was a two hour presentation that I do every year for the 30th Circuit's Bench-Bar CLE in March (when you're in far Southwest Virginia it's not practical to go where most Virginia CLE's are held, so we do our own). For that one I provide the local Bar with a written summary of all of Virginia's published appellate court crimlaw decisions (as well as pertinent 4th Circuit and US Supreme Court cases). Then I do a two hour presentation of the cases which are the most interesting or that most affect crimlaw practice. Usually, this is broken down into Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Substantive Law, Probation, Appeals, and Habeas sections (dropped Habeas this year & may also drop Appeals next - just feel like the time could be better spent on the other topics). Preparation is time intensive, but it's a fun lecture to give. It's particularly good that I know almost all the people in the room and don't have to worry about any appellate court judges being in the audience so things can be a little more candid then you typically see in a bigger CLE. There's always at least one case that makes it into the presentation as the most illogical decision of the year, just so that I can gently poke fun at it while the attorneys in the audience groan and roll their eyes. Although, I must admit that this year the fun case wasn't an illogical case. Instead, it was the Great Motorcycle Helmet Slapdown in which the Virginia Court of Appeals issued the most defendant friendly opinion I've ever seen out of that court (I won't say the only one, no matter how tempting it is) and struck down a whole pack of convictions for having unapproved motorcycle helmets.

Last Friday's CLE was the Solo & Small Firm Regional Bench-Bar Conference for the 28th, 29th, & 30th Circuits. I presented a quick half hour on Virginia case law with some new legislation thrown in. Then an AUSA did some of the same for federal matters and then Judges Dotson & Moore as well as Dean McGough from the Appalachian School of Law made some comments and the audience posed questions to the panel. Of course, this time I only knew about 10% of the people in the room and I'm pretty dang sure there were appellate court judges in there. So, my comments were a little more restrained, although I must admit that I was sorely tempted to say something snarky about the case in which in which the Court of appeals rejected an appeal because the defense attorney objected that a juror would be biased and the appellate court said the proper objection should have been that the juror would appear to be biased.

Next comes the CLE in which I travel to each of the local counties and tell the attorneys what new criminal laws passed by the General Assembly of Virginia. I comb through the new laws and put together a summary of those which will affect criminal law and procedure. Then I present it (usually over lunch). This started out as something I was doing for our county's deputies and police officers. It's always interesting to hear the questions the officers have as compared to the questions the lawyers have. The officers tend to ask questions like, "How the heck are we supposed to do that?" and I have to admit that more than once I've had to look them square in the face and shrug my shoulders. Of course, there is usually a new statute or two which leaves you shaking your head. So far, the one I've had the most fun with was the nobody can drink your beer outside your house statute. The lawyers thought it was funny, but the officers got to the meat of the matter immediately: "So, what you're telling me is that every backyard cookout has to to be BYOB? You hear that Bob? You don't get to mooch beer off me anymore. It's a law."

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