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Rest and relaxation between semesters at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law? Not with the school’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, the annual two-week drill that’s a cross between boot camp and a master class. This year, some 150 incipient litigators, mostly third-years all dressed up in lawyerly pinstripes, were guided by a makeshift “faculty” of 200 veteran attorneys and judges from New York and beyond. They imparted hard-won wisdom, ranging from cagey courtroom tactics to the litigious discipline of thinking inside-out. The program was begun 20 years ago by Professor Barry Scheck, solo criminal defense attorney Michael S. Ross and Lawrence A. Vogelman of the Exeter, N.H., firm Schuchman, Krause & Vogelman. The proceedings — earnest study and verbal preparations by students, all leading to a Jan. 20 conclusion of 36 mock bench trials and an equal number of mock jury trials — constitute a “transformative experience,” according to David Rudenstine, dean of Cardozo Law. “You take even the shyest of our students,” said Rudenstine while threading his way through a lobby full of judges, trial lawyers and students hanging on their every word. “They come to this [trial program] and suddenly they’re given license to go for the jugular.” Meanwhile, upstairs, Ellen Yaroshefsky, co-director of the program, would soon be wriggling forward in her observer chair, whispering encouragement as she watched a favorite student work to impeach a female witness in a mock cross-examination. “Yeah — you go get her! Kill her!” enthused Yaroshefsky, now an associate professor in the criminal law clinic at Cardozo and a former practitioner who specialized in homicides involving battered women’s self-defense. She explained to a fellow observer, “At heart, I’m such a litigator.” Beyond such lively support, students come away with a wealth of staged experience in witness control, trial pacing, examination tactics, body language and vocal tone in the courtroom. They learn, too, by watching how the pros do it. A lesson in deflecting the protests of a hostile cross-examination witness was offered by Matthew I. Menchel, formerly the director of legal training for New York City’s Office of Special Narcotics and now an assistant U.S. Attorney in Miami. To a man who sputtered objection to repetitious questions, the no-nonsense Menchel lowered his voice to rebut, “Yeah, but here’s the way it works: I get to ask questions — again and again and again.” Still, the witness protested. Menchel put him away, finally and softly, “I’ll ask the questions, sir. You answer any way you want to.” This, agreed a beaming Yaroshefsky, was a skillful cross! In the same mock trial context, Menchel’s opposing counsel was David L. Berkey, a civil litigation partner at Gallet, Dreyer & Berkey. He conducted the direct examination of a man accused of torching his business to collect more than $1 million of insurance money. The defendant was played by Steven Fromewick, a one-time professional actor and staff attorney with the city’s Department of Investigation. Berkey opened with a simple question to calm his jangled client. “Why are you here testifying?” he asked. To which Fromewick replied, convincingly and tearfully, “To clear my good name.” On post-exam analysis, Berkey was asked if tears were plotted during witness preparation. “If it’s honest, it can’t hurt,” said Berkey. Judging the mock case was Joel Blumenfeld, acting justice of Queens Supreme Court and a former supervisor and staff attorney with the criminal defense division of the Legal Aid Society. Justice Blumenfeld, who has participated in the Cardozo trial advocacy program for all of its two decades, dispensed a torrent of advice. “Don’t ever be afraid to object,” he said. “When you ask to approach the bench and your mind is blank — well, just take your time, walk slowly. Only the judge will know.” Blumenfeld added, “You have to have a good manner with witnesses, you have to establish rapport. That’s how you sell yourself [to jurors] … When you make the witness your friend, she’s going to answer yes … Cadence is important … Get [the witness] into a yes rhythm … We give out a lot of advice, as you can see. It’s like a smorgasbord.” In another mock case, a jurist was likewise expansive. Judge David C. Mason of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis, Mo., and an adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law, had this to say: “Your tone lets the jury know that you’re in control … . On redirect, it’s always a good thing to come forward without notes … The more your witnesses know where you’re going, the more they open up … Only look away [from a witness] when you’re trying to make a point to the jury, when you look over to the jurors to let them know it’s important.” USING TECHNOLOGY One of most popular sessions of the trial advocacy program was given Jan. 12 by Joshua E. Dubin, a young litigator from Florida who moved north to New York to establish Dubin Research and Consulting, a specialist in the developing field of PowerPoint presentations at trial. Dubin, 28, a graduate of the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, was introduced by Scheck, who praised him for “finally tagging” Don King, the boxing promoter found to have defrauded heavyweight fighter Lennox Lewis. “There’s a concern that PowerPoint might be too fancy, that lawyers might have too many resources,” Scheck said of Dubin’s expertise. “But it’s just good television graphics.” Besides that, said Dubin, “There’s a sea change occurring, with most federal courts across the country open to new technology — and state courts following the trend. It speeds up trials. “You’ll have a distinct advantage by embracing technology now,” Dubin added. “You’ll be speaking a language that jurors understand. “Ninety percent of registered voters have daily interaction with the Internet. That’s your jury pool. People expect information to be served up to them quickly.” The cost of designing an effective series of PowerPoint charts to help in a complex case, Dubin said, ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. The advantage of electronic charts over standard printed charts mounted on easels, said Scheck, is the ability to instantly tweak an illustration found objectionable by a judge or opposing counsel. Technology must be used judiciously, Dubin noted. “Jurors get bored real easily. But you don’t want numbers dancing across the screen to music. Technology should not trump your place as an advocate, it should complement it. “I’m a big fan of the blank button,” he said. “As soon as you’ve got your point across, you blank the screen and the jurors’ eyes are right back on you.”

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