CDAM’s 2017 spring conference was in Troy in March. I went to it.
The main speaker: Brock Hunter
The conference’s main speaker was Brock Hunter, a criminal-defense attorney in Minnesota. He concentrates on representing veterans in criminal cases. He talked about a murder case he had in Minnesota where he represented the veteran charged with the crimes. Simply put, his talk was very educational and motivating. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, go. No hesitation at all in recommending him.
He talked about the sorts of issues veterans have, including the ones who don’t see combat. I’m already a huge and proud military supporter (with many friends and family who have or are serving) but this helped me appreciate what they go through on a whole new level. For example, I didn’t know the extent of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that are rampant throughout the branches. While I have experience with TBIs in our personal injury practice (which are common in car crashes), it didn’t occur to me that each time a rifle, improvised explosive device (IED), or other weapon fires, that could cause a brain injury. Further, these injuries over time can lead to drastic problems for the veteran, including alcohol and substance abuse, risk taking, and crime.
Again, I highly recommend him and if you can hear him speak, go.
Mitigation: most attorneys overlook it
There were other speakers there as well and, of them, the mitigation presentation was also eye opening. “Mitigation” is another way to put a criminal-defense lawyers job at sentencing. Yes, the client may have been found guilty of a crime or pled to one, but the job isn’t over. The attorney still has to persuade, such as on jail time. This is the mitigation process at work.
I can’t remember the exact percentage of criminal-defense lawyers who focus a lot of time on mitigating the client’s sentence as much as possible, but I do remember that it was very low. Something like less than 40% low. And this is of the people who
- are CDAM members; and
- responded to the survey.
I can only imagine what the numbers are like if all Michigan criminal-defense lawyers are surveyed.
This means three things:
- a lot of attorneys aren’t helping their clients as much as they should be;
- courts are sentencing people with only one side (the victim’s, prosecutor’s, police officer’s, etc.) Not the client’s version; and
- courts are sentencing people with minimal understanding of the person’s life, diagnoses (if needed), goals, plans, support from family and friends, etc.
So, the spring conference was definitely a good time and another learning experience. It also confirms for us that we’re doing something right when we ask our clients what their goals are, what the most important thing about the case is for them, and that our experience with our personal injury clients also helps our criminal-defense clients, and vice versa.