Category Archives: Miscellaneous

THE SPENCE TRIAL COLLEGE

In 1994 Gerry Spence asked me to participate in teaching at a new trial college he was creating for lawyers to teach them the right way to  be plaintiff trial lawyers. It was to be a non profit college and we would volunteer our  time  and transportation. I had known him for some time and quickly agreed even thought I had no real idea of what he had in mind.

The other people, in addition to Gerry and I,  invited for this first college were: Judge Joseph Cardine, Judy Clark, Bobby Lee Cook, Phil Corboy, Morris Dees, Alan Dershowitz, Vince Fuller,  Nancy Hollander, Garvin Isaacs, Joe Jamail, Rikki Klieman, Al Krieger, William Kuntsler, Judge Miles Lord, Terry McCarthy, Charles Ogletree, Steve  Rench,  Judge Robert Rose, Jim Shellow, Kim Taylor-Thompson, John Teirney, Bill Trine and Howard Weitzman.

His ad for the college said: “These  great lawyers will be at Gerry Spence’s ranch in Wyoming in August to help you become a winning trial lawyer for  people.”

He said in  this advertisement: ” We believe every trial lawyer has the potential to become an effective and winning advocate for justice. We  are committed to help people’s lawyers become winning lawyers who will ethically and  nobly champion the cause of the injured, the forgotten and the damned.”

From that original group Bill Trine has continued to  participate to date. Since that  invitation 19 years ago I’ve been privileged to have been invited back each year to teach, although I had to miss  two years, as well  and it has benefited me far more than it ever benefited the lawyers who attended.

Originally there was only a July college session lasting thirty days, but in recent years there  are two sessions a year in July and September,  plus many other shorter sessions. I wasn’t able to go in July this  year as planned due to a  trial  so, instead,  I leave tomorrow for  the September session. I’ll fly from Seattle to Salt Lake and take a commuter to Jackson Hole. From there I’ll drive my rental car two and half to three hours to Dubois, WY, population 971. After something to eat there I’ll continue driving another ten miles until I turn on an unpaved  gravel road another ten miles to the Thunderhead Ranch where the main structure used for  teaching and living quarters  for the attendees is the huge two story barn moved from miles away to this location by Gerry’s son Kent. Other outbuildings  are also used as classrooms.

We’ll  start early and work late including sessions after  dinner. The group is broken into units with graduates of the College acting as teaching  leaders.

There is  no TV, no WiFi and  cell phone  use  requires driving some distance  away up a mountain so I’ll not be  posting something this  week  while at  the ranch. I’ll give you a report when I get back.

 

THE NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS HALL OF FAME

I have been a trial lawyer for over fifty years with a law practice focused on those who have suffered damages or harm due to the fault of someone else. I’m usually content with what I have done for others during this last half century of being a lawyer until I go to an affair like the one I just attended. Last year I was inducted into the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame along with Phil Corboy, Chicago; J.B. Spence, Florida; Russ  Herman, New Orleans and Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, Texas – all great and nationally known plaintiff trial lawyers. Past inductees include Edward Bennett Williams, Melvin Belli and Gerry Spence. It was a humbling experience  to be included with these lawyers when I was made a member of the Hall of Fame last year

This year, in Las Vegas, Joseph Cotchett, California; Fred David Gray, Alabama; Elaine R. Jones,  Virginia and Sheldon Schlesinger, Florida were inducted. Cotchett was the lead trial lawyer on behalf of senior citizens against Lincoln Savings & Loan, represented 8,600 Filipino children abandoned when the Island Naval base closed and has a life long history  of pro bono legal work. Gray has dedicated his life to eliminating racial discrimination in Alabama. He represented  Rosa Parks in he bus boycott and was the lawyer for Martin Luther King. He hs been involved in every major racial discrimination matter in his home state and performed a life time of professional pro bono work. Elaine R. Jones has led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund and was the first black woman to defend death row inmates. She  has spent her life doing pro bono legal work in the civil rights area of law. Lita and I have known Shelly Schlesinger and his family for  over thirty years. In addition to his record setting jury verdicts he had dedicated his work and his money to civic and charitable causes in Florida.

As I sat on the stage with these people while their accomplishments were given I felt out of place with people who had dedicated so much of their life to free legal work because they knew it was the right thing to do. When we hear about trial lawyers who have dishonored their profession, think of these lawyers who have contributed so much for others.

Gerry spence&the 2009 washington association for justice convention

From Thursday July 30th through Sunday August 2nd the Washington State Association for Justice held it’s annual convention. John Budlong as President, put on a wonderful conference at Suncadia Resort near Cle Elum. The new incoming President is Brad Fulton, son in law of Dan Sullivan. Dan is one of this state’s finest plaintiff lawyers, now retired, who was my mentor and has been my good friend for thirty years. Brad has long been active in the organization and received the President’s award in 2007. I was flattered to receive the same award this year at the convention. Carol Johnson is the president elect. Blaine Tamaki & Betsylew Miale-Gix were co-chairs of the convention which featured a series of seminar speakers Friday and Dr. Arin Reeves on diversity in the legal profession on Sunday.

On Saturday Gerry Spence and I did a seminar the called "A morning with Paul Luvera and Gerry Spence." We put it on from 8:00 am to 11:30 that morning. I was pleased the attendance was the largest in the history of the organization and it was rewarding to see all the lawyers who were in the room.

The night before we spoke, Lita, who ismy wife of thirty years as well as mylaw partner, fixed dinner forGerry andme at a house we rented.Over dinner we discussed what we were going to do the next morning. We decided that we would each make a brief introductory talk. After that wewould askthe audience what topics they wanted discussed. From that list we would each gave a response. There were a lot of topics todiscuss the nextmorning. We coveredeverything from how to argue money to what to do about problem clients. It was a free flowing discussion with demonstrations and examples.

It was a pleasure to see Gerry at his finest. He was brilliant and he had the audience’s complete attention at all times. I’ve been his friend and admirer for twenty eight years. I’ve worked with him at the TrialCollege and watched him try lawsuits. Ihave seen him speak many times, but he was in top form at this seminar. He was inspiring as well as captivating. The audience loved him. I was proud just to be on the stage with the greatest trial lawyer of the this century since Clarence Darrow.

Not only that, I enjoy being around Gerry. When we made our photography trip to Mexico a year ago and had time for just the two of us to spend time together we found out how much we have in common and enjoyed the leisure time. However,when he is talking to lawyers with passion and enthusiasm, hecarries you along with him. When the seminar was over, I shared avery long standing ovation,but wanted to join the audience in applauding him. At eighty years of age, he continues to amaze me with his energy and charisma. This seminar was video taped by the Washington State Association for Justice. (www.wstla.org) I don’t know when it will be available, but it’s worth owning just to see a master trial lawyer like Gerry.