The American Society of Trial Consultants Annual Conference

Number 6 of “19 for 19”
#weshowup #robustagenda #ASTCEnrichingEnhancingPromoting


  • A 4.5 hour CLE program on cutting edge uses of trial consulting services
  •  A Speed Meet so younger members could meet more senior consultants
  •  A very inspiring keynote speech from Judge Mark Bennett
  • The history of Dred and Harriet Scott, the Plaintiffs in the historical Dred Scott v. Sandford case; we were honored by the attendance of Lynne Jackson, Dred and Harriet Scott’s great, great, great-granddaughter and founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation
  • Talks on the impact of bias on various aspects of legal decision making and what we see as “the truth”
  • Interview techniques for detecting deception
  • A refresher on ASTC’s Ethics Guidelines
  • A report on original ASTC research on the Western District of Washington’s video on unconscious bias
  • Networking opportunities, a panel on business tools, and a fun and delicious banquet


Soon after this year’s American Society of Trial Consultants annual conference in St. Louis, I embarked on a two week trip to Italy and France. I am eager now upon my return to reflect on the conference while the energy and optimism I felt during the content rich sessions is still a source of potential for the year to come and fuel for our current membership drive. Stay tuned for thoughts about my voyage to Europe in a future post.

The ASTC agenda was robust (thank you Sandra Donaldson, Ph.D., our driven, indefatigable program director). It began with an impressive effort on the part of longtime consultants to
deliver a CLE presentation (Illinois and Missouri credits) that demonstrated insights, tips, techniques and practice guidelines through a well thought-out sample case that highlighted our
ASTC Standards on voir dire, mock jury research, witness preparation and visual presentation strategy.

Combatting bias to achieve what our country’s founders had envisioned by their construction of system of justice – a fair and impartial jury – came at me like a freight train when the Hon. Mark
W Bennett, , gave an impassioned keynote, which included the idea, “the bar for cause should be very low.”

Essentially, he was saying people will find the trial for which they can sit, but they should not end up on a jury unless they start from a place that looks as much like “tabula rasa” as possible.
When contemplating how to teach jurors about the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” he told the audience that he was intent to find the most effective way. He once got down from the
bench, and stood in front of the defendant’s table, looked at the defendant directly, and told the jury “this man is innocent.” He went on to explain after shaking the defendant’s hand, that until
they heard evidence that made them feel otherwise, that he would remain innocent. Judge Bennett is a special person. My favorite part of his keynote was his describing one of the first things he did as a judge after studying all of the judicial portraits that lined the halls of the entrance to the courthouse. He relocated them to the place where judges ate, and replaced them with photographs shot by a local portrait photographer, of people who were sworn as
citizens in that courthouse.

Just brilliant.

Every single year, I leave with more than I brought.

One last highlight (though admittedly I could probably fill my remaining 19 for 19 with thoughts from this conference) was meeting the great, great granddaughter of Harriet and Dred Scott,
who attended at the request of Hon. Bennett. She founded the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation to promote the commemoration, education and reconciliation of our histories, “with an eye
toward healing the wounds of the past.” I felt honored to meet her and to consider my role in our jurisprudence that supports her

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