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What the OACDL Means To Me by Joseph Humpolick

Joe is retiring as the long-time treasurer of OACDL. 

What the OACDL means to me

Many years ago I attended a seminar at the now gone and probably forgotten Hollenden House in Cleveland. At the end of the day’s session there was a meeting to see if there was significant interest in forming a statewide association of criminal defense lawyers. There were meetings like this in other places in the state as well about that time. After that there were other meetings in other places and from all of those the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers was born.

I am proud to say that I was one of the many lawyers who was at that meeting in Cleveland and that I was involved in the meetings that formed the OACDL. I was a public defender then but I am retired now.

So as a founding member of this association let me explain why I got involved in its formation and why I have been a loyal member ever since even in my years of retirement. To begin with I come from a very strong union family. I learned growing up from a father who was a union steward that people working together in numbers can bring about great change for the good of all. So when I heard that there were discussions going on about organizing the criminal defense bar in Ohio I saw it as an opportunity to improve the quality of criminal defense advocacy for myself and us all.

I felt that it would be great if we could have an organization that looked out for the interests of criminal defense advocates like myself and provided support for criminal defense attorneys who were faced with difficult and challenging situations in courtrooms all over the state. I also felt that it would be great if we had a network of defense lawyers who could and would exchange ideas and observations with us all so we all could be better at what we do. In addition I felt that we needed seminars on issues of interest that were unique to the criminal defense bar so that we could do a better job of representation for our clients.

So what we did was create a network of skilled and dedicated lawyers who would look out for one another, who are of service to one another, who help one another, who share assistance with one another and teach one another. We did this before there was an internet and email and iPads and iPhones and Facebook and Instagram and whatnot.

So on any given day look at the list serve and you will find an exchange of ideas, and assistance and offers to be of service to an advocate in need. You will also find lawyers praising other lawyers for accomplishments well done and honors well deserved. On any given day members email other members who are in need of advice. And at any given seminar you will see criminal defense advocates networking with fellow criminal defense advocates like themselves.

Maybe many members of this association take that for granted, especially those of you who were not even born when we formed it. Yet think of how difficult it would be to practice law and defend your clients if you didn’t have the support of almost seven hundred advocates for justice just like yourself. Who would you go to for advice if you had a difficult case, or if you needed a pleading to cover a situation, or if you needed a referral for an expert witness, or if you had a problem with a difficult judge, or if you needed help on an appeal or you just needed a forum to vent or seek support.

We have put on some great seminars over the years that make us all better as advocates because we learn well what we learn from others like us. Just think of how many lives have been saved because of something taught to us at our annual death penalty seminar. Just think of how many law abiding citizens had their reputations and their livelihoods saved because of something someone learned at one of our many OVI seminars. And for that matter just think of something you did well because of something you learned at any of our seminars that you attended.

Speaking only for myself I can say that I left every seminar a better lawyer than I was before I got there. I can’t thank the people who organized them and spoke at them enough for putting in their time and teaching me how to be what I would want for a lawyer if I were any one of my clients.

We also have advocates who give of their time to lobby the General Assembly on behalf of issues of concern to us all. We have an amicus chair who will recruit someone to write a brief for a member who has a compelling appellate issue. We have a strike force committee that will go to bat for a member in need. We have lots of dedicated attorneys who serve on our board of directors and on the many committees that serve our members overall.

I feel that all of this is overlooked by members or others who take the work of this association for granted. Yet just think of how difficult it would be to practice criminal defense if we didn’t exist. I mean without us, then who?

I have often thought of the criminal defense bar  as the Tom Joads  of the legal profession. We are there when someone is getting a raw deal or someone is in need of someone to stick up for him or when someone is in a fight and he needs someone to fight side by side with him. We’re everywhere where someone is in need and we’re there because we were called to do this.

The OACDL is an alliance of Tom Joads just like you and me and everybody else who have been fighting to get justice for their clients. We have accomplished a lot for us all over the years and if we had more members we could do a lot more and if we had more members who would be willing to volunteer their time we could accomplish a lot more for all of us.

So I am proud to be a founding member of the OACDL. I am proud of what we have done over the years as an organization and I am proud of my service to it and I regret that as a senior member that I have fewer years ahead of me to serve it better.

So if you are not a member please join. If you are a member please volunteer some of your time to lead or be of service to it and to us all. And if you are a member please consider all that this association is to you and reach out to others to get them involved.

Joseph A. Humpolick

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