President's Report Winter 2009



Dec. 21, 2009

The President's Report,
ABOTA's official newsletter, is now an electronic publication that is e-mailed to members.






1963 National President

Robert C. Carlson
Sept. 10, 1918 - Dec. 1, 2009


Robert C. Carlson passed away in Claremont, Calif., on Dec. 1. He was National President of ABOTA in 1963 and a Diplomate-ranked member.


He was born of Swedish immigrants and raised in Gadsden, Ala. He received his A.B. Degree (Political Science) and LL.B. in 1941 from the University of Alabama where he was active in R.O.T.C. and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. He volunteered for active duty with the Army Air corps on July 22, 1941, and he served as a Commandant of Cadets in Florida and overseas with the Air Transport Command. He saw service in India, Burma, and China, where he served as a Wing Judge Advocate. He achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel.


Carlson was admitted to both the Alabama Bar (1941) and the California Bar (1947). He spent most of his career as a defense civil trial lawyer and was a prominent insurance defense attorney. Robert was a retired senior partner with the law firm of Veatch, Carlson, Grogan & Nelson of Los Angeles.




Ortrud Morgan, the wife of 1972 National President Kermit Morgan, passed away on Oct. 19. She was 89. She became extremely active in ABOTA and did her best to make ABOTA a social, lovable organization where every member knew each member personally. Until she was unable to do so, she attended almost all the national board meetings.




State organizations deliver honors to judges, trial lawyers


Trial Lawyer of the Year

Dennis A. Schoville, San Diego Chapter

(see related story below)



Trial Lawyer of the Year

William E. Hahn, Tampa Bay Chapter


Jurist of the Year

Judge Belvin Perry Jr.



Trial Lawyer of the Year

Wayne E. Windle Jr., El Paso Chapter


Jurist of the Year

Judge T. John Ward





What's going on in D.C. that impacts
trial by jury?

Receive up-to-date
Legislative Updates
written by William H. Edington, Edington, Peel &
Associates, Inc.,
Washington, D.C.

Updates are sent to contributors to the American Board of Trial Advocates' Legislative Analysis Fund, which supports ABOTA's long-standing and successful efforts to preserve and promote the people's right to a civil jury trial.

To join the LAF, call
(800) 93-ABOTA (932-2682)




Give ABOTA the ultimate in
travel freedom (and savings) by using American Airlines' Business ExtrAA program.  

ABOTA earns Business ExtrAA points every time you fly American... and you continue to earn
AAdvantage miles.

When you book online at,  
enter the ABOTA account number in the Business ExtrAA box. 

Because ABOTA members have used this award incentive, the National Office has saved thousands of dollars in travel costs.

Business ExtrAA No.

If you book by phone 

(800) 457-7072

If you book online

You can use the Business ExtrAA number for ABOTA, business, or personal travel.




ABOTA adds Continental Airlines as a travel rewards partner.

Check out Travel Rewards for ABOTA when you fly Continental - Incentives Count!


When you choose Continental Airlines for travel, ABOTA will earn points in the RewardOne program. All you need is a Continental OnePass account number.


ABOTA's performance in RewardOne is tracked and you still earn frequent flyer miles for your travel.


To enroll in the RewardOne program, please call the American Board of Trial Advocates at (800) 932-2682.  Have your OnePass number handy.


To enroll in the OnePass frequent flyer program, go to



Elevation in Rank

The fee for elevation in rank from one level to the next higher level is $100. To download the ABOTA Elevation in Rank form, click here.

Should you have any questions about the process, contact James Fairfield at or call (800) 93 ABOTA (932-2682).




John L. Holcomb


Craig Lewis

Vice President

Harry T. Widmann


Mark P. Robinson, Jr.


Michael T. Callahan


Editorial Board
John M. Bickel, Co-Chair
Jack Wurgaft, Co-Chair
Christopher J. Day
David Grant Halpern
Jay Harris
James M. Hartman
Steven J. Kirsch
Bruce R. Pfaff
Donald R. Shultz
Grady F. Tollison
Harry T. Widmann
Lish Whitson

Executive Director

Brian W. Tyson


Planning and coordination at the chapter level demonstrate ABOTA's true zeal and focus

By John L. Holcomb
2009 National President


As we conclude our 51st year, I am happy to report that the state of ABOTA is strong. I have observed this firsthand while visiting several chapters throughout the country. In addition, we continue to add more new attorneys to the organization than we lose. In a very tough financial year, our members have shown the value they place in ABOTA by timely payment of their dues. In fact, I am happy to report that we will have a surplus for the fiscal year ending in December.


I have many people to thank for this successful year. I have had a tremendous Executive Committee. I say thank you and goodbye to Lewis Sifford, Bill Callaham, Mike Maguire and Mick Callahan. Of course, all four will remain active with the organization. Mick Callahan is spearheading a James Otis Lecture Series for Florida in 2010. Mike Maguire continues to be active in communicating with our chapters and will play an active role in the Presidential Task Force, which Craig Lewis has established for 2010.


ABOTA's leadership will be in excellent hands in 2010. Craig Lewis and Harry Widmann are committed to continue serving this organization. Mark Robinson did a marvelous job as your Treasurer (budget surplus) and will help steer Craig through 2010.


Chapter Visits

Since my last report, I have had the privilege of traveling to Minnesota, New Mexico, Laredo, Texas (our newest chapter), New Jersey, Baltimore (for the Arkansas annual meeting), Boston, South Carolina, Pensacola, Richmond, Seattle, Philadelphia, Sarasota, Hawai'i, Montana, Dallas, Austin and San Francisco. It is a true pleasure to see how our members interact with one another and the judiciary.


International Convention in Austria

We had a beautiful trip to Slovenia and Austria for our international convention. Highlights included a visit to the Palace of Justice in Vienna and gala dinners with incredible music in both Vienna and Salzburg.


TEX-ABOTA CLE Conference

I had the pleasure of participating in a wonderful seminar put together by Dicky Grigg of the Austin Chapter in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


FLABOTA Convention

The FLABOTA convention was a huge success in Longboat Key, as the Florida chapters celebrated a great year with Pat Crauwels as President. Recognized at the meeting were the Trial Lawyer of the Year, Bill Hahn of Tampa, and the Jurist of the Year, the Hon. Belvin Perry Jr., of Orlando.


Executive Committee Meeting in La Jolla, Calif.

We had a productive Executive Committee Meeting in La Jolla. It was highlighted by a visit at the home of Craig McClellan, where the Executive Committee had the opportunity to mingle with members of the San Diego Chapter.


American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable

We had our second American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable meeting of the year in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, it was suggested that we look to update the white paper which Craig Lewis has agreed to undertake in 2010.


James Otis Lecture Series

Once again, Chris Duggan of Massachusetts is to be congratulated for a wonderful James Otis Lecture Series in Boston. This year's event focused on the works of Robert Morris - the second African-American lawyer licensed to practice in America - who fought to desegregate schools in Massachusetts prior to the Civil War. On Constitution Day, we left Boston for South Carolina, where Joel Collins spearheaded an excellent lecture series. These events are very well received by student audiences and are excellent examples of how ABOTA continues to educate about the importance of the Constitution.


Collaboration with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System

We had the opportunity to hear from the Executive Director of the Institute, former Supreme Court Justice of Colorado, Rebecca Kourlis. She explained how the institute is working to streamline jury trials with new innovations. Both the American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable and ABOTA have agreed to continue a dialogue with the Institute as part of our mission to improve the administration of justice.


Teachers Law School

David Halpern of the Austin Chapter was the leader of the Teachers Law School. The event occurred in Austin, Texas, and was extremely well received by the attending teachers. David developed the idea when he learned of the tremendous success of the Journalist Law School.


National Board Meeting in Aspen, Colo.

We had a beautiful weekend in Aspen and appreciate our sponsors. Special thanks to the Colorado Chapter, which sponsored our Friday evening cocktail party. One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation by Brian Steller of the Northern New Jersey Chapter concerning the upcoming ABOTA Trial College on the campus of Princeton University. In addition, ABOTA elected its new National Secretary, Dulin Kelly of Tennessee. Bill Callaham announced that Bob Stone was elected to serve as our National President in 2012.


CAL-ABOTA Convention in Hawai'i

I had a memorable visit with the members of the California Chapter in Hawai'i. David Casselman did an excellent job serving as President of CAL-ABOTA in 2009. Denny Schoville of the San Diego Chapter was honored as the California Trial Lawyer of the Year.


Hawai'i Ha'aheo Award Banquet

I had the good fortune to dine with The Honorable Ron Moon, Chief Justice of the Hawai'i Supreme Court, and his lovely wife, Stella. Ha'aheo means "noble, proud" and the award is presented annually to a person who has excelled in his or her profession. This year it was presented to internationally recognized civil rights and racial justice law professor, Eric Yamamoto of the Richmond Law School at the University of Hawai'i.


Austin Chapter Visit

It was a special treat to visit the Austin Chapter and recognize the accomplishments of Foundation President, Tom Harkness. The Foundation exceeded its fundraising budget in 2009, quite an accomplishment given the current economic situation. It has been delightful to travel around the country and wave the ABOTA flag with Tom. His participation on the Executive Committee has been greatly appreciated.


Thank You

I want to thank everyone in this organization who has helped to make 2009 the most rewarding year of my professional career. We have an incredible group of members in all 50 states. We are working hard to preserve the Seventh Amendment and to promote civility and professionalism in the practice of law.




ABOTA tackles concerns with attorney advertising


What began as a group of ABOTA's National Board members gathered in a committee room to discuss issues, ethics and obstacles related to attorney advertising has resulted in a statement for the profession to use throughout the country.


The ABOTA Attorney Advertising Committee studied the issue of attorney advertising and related issues. As a result, the Principles of Good Practice in Attorney Advertising were drafted in an attempt to balance the public's right to be informed with truthful, ethical and professional practices by attorneys and law firms.

"ABOTA recognizes attorneys' and the public's right to advertise and believes that minimum standards and guidelines will encourage attorneys' adherence to those standards," said John L. Holcomb, ABOTA National President.

The Committee began drafting the Principles and went through several versions for more than 18 months. The Committee, chaired by A. Russell Blank of the Georgia Chapter, analyzed the advertising rules with the overall objective of creating a template for consideration by the various state bars.

Blank said the Attorney Advertising Committee meeting discussed the Supreme Court's decision in Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980), which set forth the three-pronged test of whether an advertising restriction is sustainable: (1) Is there a substantial state interest to be achieved by the restriction; (2) Does the restriction materially advance the state's interest; and (3) Is the restriction narrowly drawn.

The committee also discussed the case, Alexander v. Cahill, 2007 WL 2120024 (N.D.N.Y.), as to what role, if any, ABOTA can and should play in the development of rules that would have widespread distribution.

The Principles were adopted by ABOTA's National Board of Directors on Oct. 3, 2009. Please click on the following link to download a PDF version of the Principles of Good Practice in Attorney Advertising.




South Carolina honors moot court winners; scholarships awarded to black law students


The South Carolina Chapter has partnered with the University of South Carolina Law School to sponsor the Reece Williams Trial Advocacy Team Award. Students at the USC Law School participate in a trial advocacy competition involving a mock trial. Two law students make up each team. The best team in the competition is named the winner of the Reece Williams Trial Advocacy Team award. The two student lawyers on the winning team each receive a check for $750 from the South Carolina Chapter and their names go on a plaque in the law school lobby. This will be an annual award sponsored by the SC Chapter of ABOTA.
Additionally, this year the South Carolina Chapter contributed $1,400 to sponsor the Black Law Student Association's mock trial competition team at the University of South Carolina Law School  to compete in the BLSA Southern Mock Trial Competition in Baton Rouge, La.  Because of budget shortfalls, the  BLSA  trial advocacy team from the USC Law School lost their funding and would not have been able to attend this competition without the chapter's sponsorship.

Collins-WilliamsJoel W. Collins, Jr. (left) and Reece Wililams




Laredo becomes ABOTA's 94th Chapter


The Laredo Chapter became ABOTA's 94th Chapter at its charter meeting on Sept. 3. The charter members are:

·         Hon. Micaela Alvarez

·         Patricia Alvarez

·         Martha Cigarroa de Llano

·         Stephen Lee Dittlinger

·         David E. Garcia

·         Arnulfo Gonzalez, Jr.

·         Richard G. Morales, Jr.

·         Donato D. Ramos

·         David D. Towler

·         Carlos M. Zaffirini, Sr.





Blue Columns
CAL-ABOTA volunteers on Nov. 3.

CAL-ABOTA members reach out to Hawaii residents with community service project


Attendees to the CAL-ABOTA Convention volunteered Hawaii took part in a community service project to plant vegetable gardens for the Kawaihae Transitional Housing Facility on the Big Island on Nov. 3. Volunteers shoveled, hauled, dug, watered and planted to produce five flourishing herb and vegetable gardens


CAL-ABOTA members and their families and master gardeners from the University of Hawaii contributed their time, and local businesses and nurseries donated materials and support, including the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel


The facility provides temporary housing to 24 families (including more than 50 children) as they develop skills, education and income to obtain permanent housing, said Patrick Hurney, Director of the Kawaihae Transitional Housing Facility.


The Kawaihae Residential Housing Facility is located just minutes from the Mauna Kea Beach Resort Hotel where the 2009 CAL-ABOTA Conference was held.


"CAL-ABOTA wanted to give something back to the Hawaiian community that we have enjoyed visiting for so many years," said David Casselman, CAL-ABOTA President.


Gloria Rowe of Creative Travel Planners made advance arrangements and was the liaison between all parties for the CAL-ABOTA community service project. Kawaihae residents, staff and a local Boy Scout troop built the wood frames and did general clean-up 


Rick Kraemer of Executive Presentations took a group photo, which was enlarged, framed and presented to Hurney at the conference's final night dinner. Hurney reported that residents have already harvested some vegetables, and some families have planted individual gardens from seed.


The following link will take you to a video about the event:







Louisiana MIT

The Lighter Side

Louisiana Professional Education Program takes stage at Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The above photo shows Roxanne Hinson of the Georgia Chapter participating in a Louisiana Masters in Trial Program...with a barn and snowy scene in the background. That's the Hon. James J. Brady, a Baton Rouge federal judge in front of the barn door.

The MIT took place at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in New Orleans' French Quarter on Dec. 4. It is the nation's oldest community theatre. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was playing at the theatre that night. Wait, it gets better. T
he case study used in the MIT was Grace Joplin v. Frank Zappa and Montana Floss, authored by ABOTA member Rick Topper of the Ohio Chapter.  The fact pattern uses lots of names from rock in the 1960s and  1970s. For example, Country Joe McDonald is a CPA and Jerry Garcia, M.D., Ph.D., is a radiologist.

Only in New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps roule.




Blue Columns2010 ABOTA Calendar

Keep track of ABOTA's National, Regional and State meetings. The 2010 ABOTA Calendar is available in color. Just click on the link below to download your copy today.



 2010 ABOTA Calendar