On the Road in Missoula

Just returned to Seattle after serving on the faculty for the 24th Advanced Trial Advocacy course at the University of Montana Law School in Missoula. Pictured here are three key people, without whom there would be no trial school. From right to left, they are the law school’s Dean, Irma Russell, who champions the trial school, Judge Karen Townsend, the course director, and Randy Cox, a Missoulian lawyer who devoted many hours to preparing this year’s course.

The trial school ran a week, May 21-25. Besides lectures, the course features demonstrations of jury selection, opening statement, direct examination, cross and closing argument by Montana’s finest trial lawyers. Faculty demonstrators included Mike Cok, Randy Cox, Natasha Prinzing-Jones, Steve Harman, Randi Hood, Sean Coicoechea and Gary Zadick. Judges Ted Lympus and Douglas Harkin presided over the demonstrations. For example, there was a demonstration of direct and cross of a firearms/gun expert.

The attendees were predominantly new practicing lawyers with some select University of Montana law students. The attendees were on their feet during much of the course in workshops where they did everything from jury selection through closing argument and received faculty critiques. A unique aspect of the course is the involvement of the three communication faculty, led by Melinda Tilton who has been with the program since its inception, who both make a presentation and critique students during the workshops.

Judge Dana Christensen lectured on ethics, focusing on counsel’s obligation to divulge conflicting authority to the court. Justice Jim Nelson (pictured here) delivered the reception remarks on “Winning the Battle and Losing the War.”

Faculty member Mike Cok concluded the course with what has become known as the “Mike Cok rant,” which urged the attendees to maintain the integrity of our justice system.