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2016 Lummi Island Seminar Review

2016 Lummi Island Seminar Review (July 14 - 17, 2016) 

On June 7, I was at the San Bernardino Courthouse, when I ran into Nick Rowley. During our conversation, Nick was kind enough to invite my wife/law partner Robyn and me to attend the Lummi Island Seminar that he puts on every year with his wife, Courtney. 

After I returned to the office, I contacted Karl Malling, who, along with his wife Susie, were hosting the seminar. Karl told me that there was still time to attend, but that accommodations were filling up quickly. So I told Karl to book my wife and me for the seminar, and he did. 

The seminar took place on Lummi Island in Washington. Lummi Island is located just about 10 miles south of the Canadian border, in the Puget Sound. The Island is called Lummi Island, as Spanish sailors saw fires on the Island when the sailed by. The fires illuminated the Island, and as the word "illuminate" is "iluminar" in Spanish, the illuminated Island became known as Lummi Island. 

The name rang true, as I can say without a doubt the seminar was illuminating. For example, I have learned about voir dire from attending Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College. I have read books, including Nick's book, Trial By Human and Gerry Spence's Win Your Case. I have watched others conduct voir dire in trials and focus groups. I have conducted voir dire in my own trials and focus groups, but have always had some level of confusion with the process. 

In other words, I understand the concept that the answers the potential jurors give are gifts. The potential jurors may say things that hurt and/or scare me, but nevertheless, they are gifts. I understand that our job is not to judge jurors, nor to cross examine them into changing their answers. So, my confusion lied in what I am suppose to do with those "gifts" when they scare me, and they make me wonder if my client can even have a fair trial. Of course, I could just boot that juror who gave me a "gift" from the jury with a cause or peremptory challenge. And in fact, that is what I often times would do. But if the goal is inclusion, it always struck me disingenuous to ask the jury for truth, and then when they give it to me, I get scared and boot them. 

The first day of the seminar, Nick and Haytham Faraj (Nick's partner and a very talented trial attorney) taught voir dire. Their stories, explanations and demonstrations finally made voir dire clear to me. I now understand what to do with those "gifts." Nick and Haytham illuminated my mind, and I was blown away with their explanation of how to respond to juror "gifts." 

Now, if that had been all that I received from the seminar, just that knowledge, it would have made the seminar incredibly valuable. However, I receive much more. I learned about brain injuries from Dr. Ronald Fisk, pain management from Dr. Zachary Fisk, and emergency room medicine from Dr. Andrea Fisk. Trust me, there are no defense experts that can beat "trip Fisks." 

During the seminar, Nick and Haytham addressed direct examination, cross examination and how to discover the story. They shared stories from their trials about preparation, team work and being brave. Their stories recharged my batteries, and got me excited to get back to working on my cases, using the tools they shared. 

In addition to the class time, the time on Lummi Island was amazing. The accommodations (a three bedroom house) that my wife and I shared with another couple (Steve McElroy and Ashley Parris) were both beautiful and homey. The back yard was right on the water and when I looked out the window, all I saw was the crystal blue Sound. Those accommodations were made by Karl and Susie. All we had to do was drive to the house and open the door. Karl and Susie even had gift bags for us. 

The food was even better. Fresh crab, shrimp, barbequed steaks and ribs, salads, desserts, a bar, etc. It turns out that Karl's wife Susie was a caterer, and let me tell you, she is an amazing hostess, and the food that she and her helpers prepared was insane. I gained 6 pounds and Nick emailed us all telling us he gained 5. 

As good as the accommodations, food, hospitality and lessons were, the people really made the seminar. Of course, Nick and Courtney were kind enough to put on the seminar. Haytham and Steve were also generous teachers. The rests of the guest were from many states, including Washington locals. In fact, one of the attendees is currently in a two person race for attorney general of Washington (go Josh Trumbull!!) Getting to know those other attorneys, and sharing their stories and experiences felt like basking in the fires that the Spanish first saw on Lummi Island. 

If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend next year's Lummi Seminar, absolutely go. And when I say go, I mean book it right away. 

- Jonathan Lewis
J. Lewis & Associates, APLC Riverside, CA

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