On January 19, 2019, Gideon’s Promise hosted their annual Trainer Development Conference (TDC) in Atlanta and offered Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (AJMLS) students the unique opportunity to volunteer and participate. At the conference, AJMLS students played the role of young attorneys where they conducted opening statements, cross examinations, as well as role played some challenging ethical hypotheticals. They received feedback and coaching from the seasoned public defenders and law school clinicians at the conference.
The President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise, Professor Jonathan Rapping, is the Director of the Criminal Justice Certificate Program at Atlanta’s John Marshall and the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.
*Gideon’s Promise is one of the nation’s leading public defender education programs. It uses a comprehensive, interactive curriculum to prepare new public defenders to raise the standard of representation in challenging environments. The program teaches values, substantive knowledge, skills essential to being a public defender, and helps its lawyers develop strategies for implementing these lessons in the courthouses where they work.
The Trainer Development Conference teaches cutting edge techniques for legal professionals who educate existing or future lawyers who represent poor people accused of crimes. TDC is only offered to members of the public defender community. It is open to public defender trainers and clinical professors who teach exclusively in criminal defense clinics.
The effectiveness of Gideon’s Promise training is evidenced by its support from leading foundations such as the Open Society Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the United States Department of Justice. Gideon’s Promise has partnered with over 45 offices to provide training to young public defenders across 17 states.
When asked about working with the AJMLS student volunteers, here’s what a few conference participants had to say:
“I could not believe that these students had come in for a full day on a holiday weekend, and they had come in prepared (more than many attorneys I’ve worked with in NIDA trainings before) – and then they were THANKING us. I was impressed by their diligence, their openness to feedback, and the improvements that they made during each session, and I think we are in very good hands if they represent the next generation of lawyers.”
Elizabeth Nevins, Associate Clinical Professor, Attorney-in-Charge, Criminal Justice Clinic, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
“One of our students prepared a cross-examination that was on the advanced level, she asked one fact per question and when the witness got squirrely, she naturally looped to keep him on track. It was an incredible cross-examination.
Beyond being prepared for their exercises, our students were all-in on listening to each other when the others were presenting. You could see the growth happening in real-time.”
Brent Getty, Deputy Training Development Coordinator, Office of the State Public Defender, Montana
“The John Marshall law students I met at the Gideon’s Promise Trainer Development Conference exceeded my expectations in every way. They were well prepared, smart, and engaging. I hope to see them at our office in the future.”
Christopher Hernandez, Deputy Public Defender, El Paso County Public Defender’s Office
“The John Marshall Students were far and away the most prepared law students I have seen at a training event. Many of them had never taken a trial advocacy course, but they had strong ideas and were dedicated to improving their skills to benefit their future clients. Never have I seen such dedication from such a group of young students.”
Ray Ibarra, Education Supervisor, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy