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DOAH Trial Academy refines participant’s administrative litigation skills

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DOHA Trial Academy participants

The Division of Administrative Hearings Trial Academy, an intense, week-long course intended to simulate an administrative hearing and teach litigation skills, was recently held at DOAH’s Tallahassee headquarters.

The academy, held in partnership with the Administrative Law Section, brings together a dedicated group of professionals, including approximately 60 attorneys from across the state. The primary objective is to refine the participant’s administrative litigation skills under the guidance of experienced coaches, including administrative law judges, judges of compensation claims, and seasoned administrative law attorneys.

The Division of Administrative Hearings Trial Academy award winners.

Marshawn Griffin, from the left, won Best Direct Examination, Benny Ortiz took home the prize for Best Opening Statement, and Ian Waldick was recognized for Best Cross Examination.

Throughout the week, the attendees engaged in personalized training, emphasizing the practical application of basic trial skills such as opening statements, the examination of witnesses, objecting, and offering exhibits. Each team, consisting of around five to six members, worked closely with three coaches, who brought their experience to the table.

The week’s activities commenced with intensive coaching sessions designed to prepare the teams for the mock hearings.

“We were fortunate enough to staff three coaches for each team this year, and were able to provide more one-on-one coaching than we had in past years,” said Division of Administrative Hearings Chief Judge Brian Newman. “The volunteers really showed up for us. We had about three volunteers for every attendee this year. I was blown away and hope this enthusiasm continues to build to make next year even better.”

The heart of the academy consisted of 20 separate mock hearings, which served as the platform for participants to put their newly acquired skills into practice. Representing either the petitioner or the respondent, each team engaged in simulated legal proceedings, going head-to-head with one another.

Following each mock hearing, attendees reflected on their performance and received comments from the judges and their coaches. Newman said the evaluations and feedback are instrumental in the attendees’ development as it allowed them to identify areas for improvement and refine their litigation skills.

Camp DOHA sign post“With each hearing, participants had the opportunity to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses, resulting in significant growth,” Newman said.

The highlight of the event occurred Friday when each team nominated two members of their team to participate in one of two distinct hearings. The first hearing, held in the morning, introduced an unexpected element of humor, with witnesses, administrative law judges, and litigators adopting quirky and outrageous personas.

In the afternoon, each team presented their chosen representative in a final mock hearing witnessed by all attendees.

“The final mock hearing was the best performance we have seen at the Trial Academy,” Chief Judge Newman said. “I credit our volunteers and the talented young lawyers who attended the program this year.”

Afterwards, all attendees voted for the best representative in three specific categories. The recipients of the awards were: Marshawn Griffin for “Best Direct Examination,” Ian Waldick for “Best Cross Examination,” and Benny Ortiz for “Best Opening Statement.”

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