When we hear about antitrust cases the news often seems to focus on high-powered attorneys from private law firms defending a corporation with deep pockets.
But what about the government attorneys who must them face these “big guns” in a trial? Often these attorneys handle a variety of cases for the government agencies they work for and don’t have the luxury to only focus on antitrust matters. A prosecutor for a municipality or state agency, for example, handles a wide variety of issues. Without the proper training and experience, government attorneys can be at a disadvantage against a private practice attorney who is a specialist, says Andrew Rossner, the director of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute.
That also is the basic theory behind the Advocacy Institute, an eight-year-old program that works to provide training to government lawyers, paralegals, and investigators on a wide variety of legal issues. The institute will hold a five-day Antitrust Trial Skills Program beginning Monday, August 4, at 9 a.m. at Princeton University.
The seminar is held in conjunction with the National Attorney Generals Training and Research Institute. It is open to all government attorneys in the state.
If space is available, attorney from other states are also welcome to attend any of the Advocacy Institute’s programs, says Rossner. In fact, the institute often has attorneys from several states attend its programs along with other New Jersey state employees, such as paralegals and investigators. The institute’s programs are not, however, open to attorneys from the private bar and are offered free to employees of the LP&S. To register for the Antitrust Trial Skills program call 609-984-3974.
Rossner says that along with his interest in the law, he has also always been interested in education. His work at the institute has given him the opportunity to combine those two areas. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy from Cornell University in 1978 and then simultaneously studied for both a master’s in philosophy and his law degree. He was awarded both in 1982 from the University of Michigan.
After law school Rossner worked as deputy director of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice. From 1983 to 1986 he served as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
His antitrust experience includes representing New Jersey in several cases, including United States of America and New Jersey v. Waste Management Inc. and Allied Waste Inc.; New Jersey v. Exxon Corp., and New Jersey v. the Butcher Company. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall, Temple, and Rutgers law schools. He has been the director of the Advocacy Institute since its founding.
“We began at the institute by offering fairly general classes and over time we’ve developed and expanded our programs to include a great variety of topics that are very necessary for government lawyers,” says Rossner. “It is very easy for lawyers in the private bar to find continuing educational opportunities, but it is often more difficult for government attorneys to find things that are specifically tailored for their needs.”
The antitrust skills seminar will focus on all of the areas involved in taking an antitrust case to trial, from how to present exhibits in the courtroom to how to present the complex economic principles involved in such a case to a jury.
Presenting the case. “The level of sophistication often needs to be much higher in an antitrust case than in other types of cases,” says Rossner. “The attorney must understand and translate the work of an expert economist in a way that the jury understands.”
In most antitrust cases, he adds, “one side has more of an emotional appeal than the other.” If your side has the lesser appeal you must frame and develop your case in such a way that the jury understands the economic and legal issues, rather than emotional ones.
Think of a murder trial. We all know that murder is wrong, and we can easily see and sympathize with the victim. But, in an antitrust an attorney “often must show that a series of economic transactions that, on the surface seem reasonable, are not reasonable under the law,” Rossner says.
Courtroom mechanics. Anyone who has ever watched a television courtroom drama is familiar with the type of exhibits the attorneys present to the jury in a murder case. Photographs and physical evidence such as clothing or a murder weapon make dramatic exhibits on TV.
The real-life exhibits in an antitrust case are much more complex, and don’t lend themselves to the visual drama a murder weapon can provide. “You may have a series of market transactions that are important evidence but are very difficult to illustrate,” says Rossner. A portion of the seminar will focus on developing charts and graphs for a jury to easily study and understand.
Mock trial. During the five-day course the participants will be divided into groups to develop a case for a mock trial that will be held on the last day of the event. Each of the participants will be videotaped and critiqued by the facilitators. The program will give the participants to have experience in both direct and cross examinations as well as opening and closing statements.
Rossner is proud of the fact that the Advocacy Institute has become a model for training public sector lawyers. Several states, including California, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Arizona, have used New Jersey’s program as a model to develop their own training institutes. “The New Jersey Supreme court has mandated continuing education for attorneys by 2010,” he adds. “The Attorney General’s office has consistently shown that it values continuing education for its attorneys a decade before it is mandated.”