2018 Pegasus Scholar Report
The Pegasus Scholarship was by far the most valuable professional experience I have had in my career. Admittedly this career spans a rather short five years however I cannot imagine that I will have a comparable experience for some time, if at all.
The remarkable itinerary arranged by both the American Inns of Court (AIC) Pegasus Committee and the individual American Inns of Court included: a meeting in San Francisco with the Chief Justice of California, Tani Cantil-Sakauye; a discussion of the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed with Mark Martins, Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay; meetings with Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein and Solicitor General, Noel Francisco; conversations with Congressman Jamie Raskin and Senator Kaine’s Chief of Staff, Mike Henry; and exchanging pleasantries with Justice Gorsuch in Justice Thomas’ Chambers. Name dropping aside, the experience was often surreal but truly unforgettable.
The first leg of the scholarship was a swift trip to Washington D.C. where members of the AIC Pegasus Committee briefed my co-scholar, Jamie, and I on what to expect over the next six weeks. Before we knew it, we were on a tour of George Washington’s former home at Mount Vernon and a tour the Capitol Building the next morning. That evening we attended a meeting of the D.C. based Bryant Inn of Court, hosted by the former president of the Inn and prominent attorney, Cynthia Wright.
We then travelled the breadth of the country to Sacramento, California, where we lodged in the home of a distinguished medical malpractice attorney Parker White (and his noble companion, Maggie, a loyal Australian Shepherd) and were hosted by Justice Arthur Scotland, the retired Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. Justice Scotland arranged for us to spend the week shadowing judges in various federal and state courts as well as meetings with the United States Attorney, the District Attorney, the Federal Defenders Office, the Legislative Counsel for California, Counsel for the California Assembly and Counsel for the Governor of California, Jerry Brown. The most entertaining of the experiences was attending class at the McGeorge School of Law where the incisive one-liners of a witty professor reminded the students of the importance of preparing for class (and the potential embarrassment of failing to do so).
During a brief trip back to D.C. and the states of Maryland and Virginia we shadowed judges in Alexandria and Annapolis, attended the Alexandria Bar Association drinks reception, met with lawyers at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Pentagon and dined at the Supreme Court for the AIC Celebration of Excellence. Congratulations to Justice Scotland who received the A. Sherman Christensen Award for providing distinguished, exceptional and significant leadership to the American Inns of Court movement.
Next destination on the list was Richmond, Virginia, where we were hosted by retired Judge Catherine Hammond of the Henrico Circuit Court. On the first evening we were welcomed by members of the John Marshall Inn of Court and Justices of the Virginia Supreme Court at none other than John Marshall’s former home. Chief Justice John Marshall was a Virginian who served on the United States Supreme Court for 34 years and is an inspiration to a vast number of legal professionals. In Richmond we observed proceedings in Henrico District and Circuit Courts and were taken on tour of Henrico County Jail. Having previously only attended the bleak meeting rooms of Her Majesty’s Prisons, wandering around the cell blocks of a state jail in a three-piece suit was quite the experience.
Other eventful moments from the visit included watching a morning of appellate advocacy in the Virginia Supreme Court, meeting the Commonwealth’s Attorney and members of the Office of the Attorney General, attending a meeting with both federal prosecutors and federal public defenders, visiting a plantation in Jamestown and taking a tour of the historic Williamsburg.
Our subsequent pitstop in D.C. did not involve refuelling from our flat-out schedule in Richmond. Instead we were sent straight to the United States Supreme Court to witness two riveting cases in a crowded courtroom where each side was limited to 30 minutes of oral submissions. This courtroom was a theatre where the stage and actors did not disappoint: it was a bombardment of visual, auditory and intellectual stimulation.
We subsequently flew to Pittsburgh where we were hosted by Beverly Weiss Manne and the Judith K. Fitzgerald Western Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Inn of Court. I had some trepidation about spending a week with bankruptcy attorneys and judges, who had taken time out of their busy schedules to speak to a junior barrister with an inferior knowledge of federal bankruptcy law to most American undergraduate students. The trepidation was quickly replaced with relief thanks to the members of the Inn for their affability and hospitality. The stint in Pittsburgh comprised of tours of the Bankruptcy Court, United States District Court and the Allegheny County Courts, a meeting with Allegheny County Chief Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and a visit to the Warhol Museum. The highlight of the trip was attending a mock trial organised by the Inn of Court. After the trial, Jamie and I spoke to the attendees and the panel of judges (United States Court of Appeals Judge Jordan, Superior Court Judge Olson, and District Judge Hornak) on the differences between our two legal systems.
During the final week of our scholarship we met the president of the George Washington Inn of Court, Jaunita George, and attended an Inn meeting. We met with Jeff Lamken of MoloLamken, and Dan Khan, head of the FCPA unit at the Department of Justice. We had the opportunity to shadow Judge Brodie and of Fairfax Country and the judges of Montgomery County Court.
The last Inn of Court visit on the itinerary was the I’Anson Hoffman Inn of Norfolk, Virginia where we lodged in Judge Hudgins’ home and were hosted by Polly Chong. In Norfolk we met federal and state judges and the members of the Inn during their amusing and informative monthly meeting.
In terms of social activities over the two months the Pegasus Scholarship is by no means a holiday; most days consist of back to back meetings in court buildings and government offices in various locations. That said the AIC clearly appreciate that the finest way to become truly acquainted with attorneys is to accompany them for social events. During the scholarship we hiked around Lake Tahoe, caught an NFL Pittsburgh Steelers game (eventually learnt to stop calling it a match – my apologies, again), taught how to crack open a Maryland blue crab (like a local, might I add) and took a ‘Halloween tour’ (i.e. bar crawl) of Richmond.
As a final note on this section, to my new stateside friends – please do not feel the need to apologise for the age of your celebrated buildings. Unlike the minds of our judges, buildings do not necessarily get better with age.
As you may have read from the reports of the scholars from previous years, there are many differences in the legal systems of the United States and England and Wales. The United States has juries for civil cases, for example. As indicated above, time limits are frequently imposed on oral submissions in the appellate courts. There are also major differences in law, procedure and sentencing from state to state and between the state laws and the federal legal system.
Rather than addressing ground covered by past reports I will discuss three areas from which I believe we can learn from our American counterparts.
First, the right of elocution. This is the right of a defendant to offer mitigation directly to the court after the plea in mitigation by his or her advocate. It took observing less than half a dozen sentencing hearings before it dawned upon me that no matter how capable defence counsel is, no person can express feelings such as remorse, or deliver an apology to a victim, in as persuasive a way as the person facing the sentence. I do wonder, therefore, whether, in all appropriate cases, the defendant should be offered the opportunity to address the court directly.
The second area of interest is depositions. The potential results of deposition include clarifying issues in witness statements, obtaining information not present in a witness statement but relevant to a matter in issue and promoting early settlement by exposing weaknesses in the other party’s case. Yes, there are disadvantages: namely expense, exposing lines of cross-examination and revealing information about a case which would otherwise have been withheld for tactical reasons. Having said that, attorneys I spoke with provided numerous examples of where depositions resulted in parties reaching out of court settlements. The potential benefits are therefore manifest: depositions can enable parties to avoid the expense and stress of a trial, and can consequently ease pressure on deluged courts.
The final point is not strictly related to the legal system but rather to the American Inns of Court. The individual American Inns of Court were originally modelled on our Inns of Court however there are now some major differences. Each Inn meets once per month. Members of each of the Inns are divided into teams and each team presents at one Inn meeting per year. The schedule of the monthly meetings includes a drinks reception and dinner, a presentation by the team of the particular month followed by an interactive session with all present members to discuss the issues raised in the presentation. Presentations deal with civility, ethics and recent cases of interest. They are often highly entertaining. I was struck by the patent collegiate atmosphere at all of the meetings we attended. I believe this can be attributed to the fact that each team comprises of attorneys and judges of varying levels of seniority. This arrangement enables junior attorneys to converse and learn from senior attorneys and judges (thereby shaping attorneys into more effective advocates). It also enables judges to learn from other members about, for instance, new technological developments becoming increasingly prominent in cases. I think it would be worthwhile for us to consider replicating this system, particularly in a city such as London where it is can be more difficult for junior barristers to have access to and learn from the judiciary.
At the Celebration of Excellence in D.C. I was asked by one of our esteemed Court of Appeal judges whether the Pegasus Scholarship was a worthwhile investment for the AIC and four Inns of Court. The answer was an obvious ‘yes’ however it was difficult to satisfactorily explain ‘why’ in such a short window of time (a scenario that I hope the Right Honourable Justice has not grown accustomed to). In an attempt to redeem myself, I offer this.
The Pegasus Scholarship benefits scholars by enabling us to learn about the practical workings of other legal systems. I strongly believe however that the scholarships can and should ultimately benefit many more than just the scholars. Firstly, it should benefit our clients; we have witnessed and learnt new styles of effective advocacy and client care which we should all endeavour to put into practice. Secondly, it allows us to form enduring links with attorneys, judges and professors in different jurisdictions; where a need for a connection abroad arises, we should endeavour to share our network with solicitors, fellow members of the Bar and other associates, in order to facilitate the building of bridges between legal professionals.
The Pegasus Scholarship has been important for me, personally, for another reason. Whilst I was in Virginia, I witnessed attorneys being called to the Virginia State Bar in the Virginia Supreme Court by Chief Justice Lemons. In his address to this new cohort the Chief Justice talked of the problem facing those who do not have access to legal assistance. He encouraged each of the attorneys to use their skills to help those in the greatest need by offering pro bono advice and representation. To coin an American idiom, his message hit home. It highlighted that there is a staggering number of individuals with neither the means to secure legal representation nor the ability to adequately represent themselves. This issue is equally prevalent in England and Wales where the number of applications for assistance to the Bar Pro Bono Unit is shockingly high. I have attempted to do my small bit to address the problem by taking on pro bono cases since the conclusion of the scholarship. I will continue to do so for as long I can afford to. If you are able, I encourage you all to do the same.
Finally, although there are far too many individuals to thank for the privilege, I would like to personally thank the following: General Malinda Dunn, Cindy Dennis, Jessie Binnall, Ellen DelSole, Richard Schimel, Adam Pearlman, Edgar Gonzalez and Eric Nitz. I would also like to thank the following remarkable individuals for their generosity: Justice Art Scotland, Parker White, Judge Catherine Hammond, Beverly Weiss Manne, Polly Chong, Judge Steve Hudgins, as well as the members of the Anthony M. Kennedy, John Marshall, Judith K. Fitzgerald, I’Anson-Hoffman, Bryant, George Washington and Montgomery County Inns of Court. You have been unanimous in your generosity, primarily by sacrificing so much of your time for us. Lastly, thank you to the four Inns of Court for this opportunity. I am immensely grateful to you all.