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2014 Law Conference for Alabama Practitioners: Materials Only

2014 Law Conference for Alabama Practitioners: Materials Only

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2014 Law Conference for Alabama Practitioners: Materials Only

Held in Birmingham, December 11-12, 2014

Your materials are ready to order! Get practice tips, insider information on “hot button” issues, and important legal developments from an all-star cast of prominent Alabama judges and attorneys.

Highlights included:

  • Practice tips from prominent Alabama judges and attorneys
  • Changes to Alabama’s LLC Act
  • Alabama’s new DUI statute
  • How to discover assets in divorce cases
  • How to conduct an effective voir dire
  • Little known VA benefit
  • Judge’s view on technology in the courtroom
  • Protection of debtors from creditors
  • Recent developments in Alabama tort law
  • Hot topics in probate litigation
  • The smoking guns of social media
  • Ethical considerations – attorney speech, conflicts of interest, and attorneys changing firms




  • Marcus Chatterton, Balch & Bingham LLP, Birmingham
  • Judge Michael G. Graffeo, circuit court, 10th Judicial Circuit (Jefferson County)
  • Erik Heninger, Heninger Garrison Davis LLC, Birmingham
  • Stephanie Hunter, Hunter Law Firm PC, Bessemer
  • Patrick Mahaney, Law Office of Patrick Mahaney, Montgomery
  • Judge Dennis O’Dell, circuit court, 23rd Judicial Circuit (Madison County)
  • Max Pulliam, Maxwell H. Pulliam, LLC, Birmingham
  • Mike Roberts, Cusimano Roberts Knowles & Mills, LLC, Gadsden
  • Tripp Watson, The Watson Firm, Birmingham
  • John Watts, Watts & Herring, LLC, Birmingham
  • Peter Wright, Sirote & Permutt, PC, Birmingham


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Your Faculty

Marcus ChattertonMarcus Chatterton is an Associate in the Litigation Section of the Birmingham office of Balch & Bingham, L.L.P. He is active in both the Business Litigation Practice Group and the Products Liability and Casualty Litigation Practice Group. His practice focuses on intellectual property disputes and cases involving damage to and ownership of real property. He has been actively involved in defending several large corporations against lawsuits alleging property damage related to underground coal mining activities. In addition to his intellectual property and real property practice, he also represents businesses of all sizes in product liability, personal injury, breach of contract, economic loss claims, and construction disputes.

Judge Michael GraffeoJudge Michael Graffeo assumed the bench in January 2007, as a Circuit Judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama. In November 2012, Judge Graffeo was re-elected without opposition. He is a Birmingham native. He received his B.A. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1976. He earned his J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1979 and was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1979. Judge Graffeo clerked in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, for two U.S. Magistrates and then worked for the Mayor of the City of Birmingham. He entered private practice in 1984, practicing with two Birmingham firms for over 10 years and as a solo, general practitioner for 13 years. Judge Graffeo was active in Bar programs, particularly the Volunteer Lawyers Program, and remains an Associate Member of the Alabama State Bar and Birmingham Bar Association. In 1987, Judge Graffeo was elected to the City Council of the City of Birmingham. His civic activities include Leadership Birmingham, 2004, and serving on the Board of Directors for: Friends of Rickwood Field, 1995-2006; We The People (Alabama) 2010-present (selected as one of 72 judges for WTP 2013 National Competition); Birmingham Aids Outreach, January 2013–present; and, Alabama Center for Law & Public Education, April 2013-present. He is a member of the Alabama Circuit Judges Association (Education Committee and presenter at new judge orientation and bi-annual meetings). In February 2010, the BBA Young Lawyers Section honored Judge Graffeo with The JUDGE DRAYTON N. JAMES AWARD, given annually to a current judge who actively supports, mentors, and befriends young attorneys.

Erik HeningerErik Heninger is with Heninger Garrison Davis LLC in Birmingham. Mr. Heninger is deeply involved in the litigation practice of the firm. He is a trial lawyer and has a practice representing clients involving wrongful death, personal injury, insurance disputes and business litigation throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The variety of his practice includes trucking collisions, medical negligence, bad faith, premises liability and automobile collisions. Mr. Heninger serves in various service capacities with the local, state and national organizations devoted to upholding the high standards of lawyer competency and to protecting the right to trial by jury in civil cases. He currently serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Alabama Association of Justice. He was also recently named a “Rising Star under 40” by Birmingham Magazine listing lawyers of several practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a B.A. degree in 1999, and he earned his J.D. degree from Cumberland School of Law in 2001.

Stephanie HunterStephanie Hunter is a attorney with Hunter Law Firm, P.C. in Bessemer, where she focuses on probate law, family law and personal injury. Ms. Hunter has worked in the legal field for more than 10 years and has held a number of leadership positions with various organizations. She is a frequent seminar instructor and is currently on the board of the Alabama Lawyers Association. Ms. Hunter earned her J.D. from Miles Law School, her B.S., in criminal justice, from Virginia College, and her AAS degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College (Birmingham location).

Patrick MahaneyPatrick Mahaney is an attorney in private practice in Montgomery, Alabama, concentrating his practice in defense of DUI, traffic violations, and driver license issues. Mr. Mahaney served 22 years as a state trooper with the Alabama Department of Public Safety (1978-2000), including duty in uniform patrol, criminal investigations, and as assistant legal counsel for the Department. After retirement from state service, Mr. Mahaney served overseas with the U.S. State Department’s civilian police operations in Kosovo, Jordan, and Iraq. Mr. Mahaney received his B.A. from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, and his law degree from Jones School of Law in Montgomery, Alabama.

Judge Dennis O'DellJudge Dennis O’Dell serves as Circuit Judge of the 23rd Judicial Circuit of Alabama, Madison County, in Huntsville. He was appointed by Governor Bob Riley to a District Court position in March 2005. He was elected District Judge, Place 2, in November 2006. He served on the District Court until his appointment to the Circuit Court in February 2010. He was serving as Presiding District Judge for Madison County when he received his new appointment to Circuit Judge, Place 4. He ran without an opponent for this position in 2010. He received his undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University in 1973 and his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1976. Prior to taking the bench, Judge O'Dell was engaged in the private practice of law in Huntsville for over 28 years. He is a member of the Alabama State Bar Association and the Huntsville-Madison County Bar Association. While practicing, he was admitted to all Alabama State Courts, the U.S. District Court for Northern Alabama, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge O'Dell has held many positions of leadership in his community. including PTA President of Chapman Elementary School, President of the American Heart Association of Huntsville-Madison County, President of the Huntsville High School's "Big Red" Football Booster Club, District Two Commissioner for the Babe Ruth Baseball, and President of the Huntsville International Recreational League. Judge O'Dell regularly participates in the Sanctuary Choir at First Baptist Church in Huntsville where he has served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, personnel committee member, Living Christmas Tree singer and as a member of the Hospital Visitation Ministry.

Max PulliamMax Pulliam, of Maxwell H. Pulliam, LLC in Birmingham, practices family law, criminal defense, and civil litigation, with a concentration in tax matters. Prior to practicing law, he was a tax manager with Deloitte and Touche. He has been included in Best Lawyers in America® since 2013 for White Collar and DUI Defense, and is a member of the Alabama State Bar. Mr. Pulliam received his J.D. and LL.M in taxation from The University of Alabama School of Law.

Mike RobertsMike Roberts, with Cusimano, Roberts, Knowles & Mills LLC in Gadsden, has maintained a general litigation practice since 1978, including tort, personal injury practice, commercial litigation, consumer litigation, business disputes, fraud/misrepresentation, negligence and contract litigation. He has written extensively on legal topics in treatises, articles and journals, and has authored the reference book Alabama Tort Law, published by Lexis Law Publishing, now in its fourth edition, a two-volume, 50-chapter treatise analyzing the historical background and current status of tort law in Alabama. Mr. Roberts has lectured extensively in continuing legal education programs on various legal topics, including tort law developments. He was awarded the Walter P. Gewin Award by the Alabama Bar Institute for Continuing Legal Education in 2003 and the Alabama Trial Lawyer Association Professionalism Award in 2001. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America® since 2001.

Tripp WatsonTripp Watson is the founder of The Watson Firm in Birmingham. He is an “Entrepreneur Attorney,” which means that he is an advocate and counselor to risk-takers. Mr. Watson is one of the only individuals in the county who offers business consulting and legal advice specifically tailored to entrepreneurs of all sizes. From a family of entrepreneurs, Mr. Watson went to law and business schools with the explicit purpose of opening a firm dedicated to advising aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with high-growth businesses. Unlike many attorneys who only advise on business law matters, he is also a business owner who personally knows the stresses and demands of running a small business and who can advice on both the legal and management issues entrepreneurs face. Because of his legal and business training and years of experience, he provides his clients unique insights into the problems that keep entrepreneurs up at night.

John WattsJohn Watts, of Watts & Herring, LLC in Birmingham, has extensive experience in litigating and trying personal injury and wrongful death cases but primarily focuses on representing consumers against abusive debt collectors and against credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, etc.). He concentrates on the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, defending consumers against collection lawsuits, suing mortgage companies for wrongful foreclosures and representing personal injury victims.

Peter WrightPeter Wright, with Sirote & Permutt PC in Birmingham, focuses on trust and estate litigation matters, with particular emphasis on will contests, estate and trust administration matters, joint account or joint ownership of property disputes, power of attorney litigation, and general representation of fiduciaries (including trust institutions or corporate trustees), and beneficiaries of estates and trusts. Additionally, Mr. Wright routinely handles adversarial and non-adversarial guardianship and conservatorship matters, and has been appointed to mediate various trust and estate administration disputes.

Law Conference for Alabama Practitioners: Full Agenda

December 11 (Day 1):

8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.: Discovering Assets in Divorce

Max Pulliam, Maxwell H. Pulliam, LLC

When dividing marital property in a divorce case, one of the most daunting tasks confronting any attorney is uncovering all of the opposing party’s assets. This could involve following a paper trail to uncover hidden cash or analyzing financial statements of a business. Mr. Pulliam offers useful tips and practical suggestions on how to find those “hidden” assets in divorce cases.

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: Voir Dire

Erik Heninger, Heninger Garrison Davis LLC

  • Preparing for voir dire
  • Making a good first impression
  • Getting to know jurors
  • Disclosing possible biases that could either help or harm your case
  • Discovering jurors’ attitudes about possible defense themes
  • The big DON’Ts of voir dire
  • Airing difficult factual issues that may arise at trial
  • Standard questions to always ask
  • Strategic questions tailored to your specific case
  • Developing themes

10:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.: Morning Break

10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.: VA Pension: How to Use a Little-Known Benefit to Aid Your Clients

John Watts, Watts & Herring LLC

  • What is the benefit?
  • The three key requirements
  • Change in the law
  • How the VA pension differs from state Medicaid
  • Add this to your practice

11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Judge’s View on Technology in the Courtroom

Judge Michael Graffeo, Circuit court, 10th Judicial Circuit (Jefferson County)

  • What is today’s definition of “technology” to use in court?
  • Laws on technology use
  • Effective use of technology in the courtroom
  • What do judges think about technology in the courtroom?
  • What do attorneys think about technology in the courtroom?

12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. LUNCH (on your own)

1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Three Acts Creditors May Violate

John Watts, Watts & Herring LLC

  • FDCPA (Fair Debt Collections Practices Act) violations: Calling family members or co-workers, using deception in collection calls or letters, refusing to mark an account as disputed on credit reporting, and filing bogus collection lawsuits
  • FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) violations: Continuing to credit report false information after your client has properly disputed the debt
  • TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) violations: Using robo-dialed calls against a cell phone of your client without permission

2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Recent Developments in Alabama Tort Law

Mike Roberts, Cusimano Roberts Knowles & Mills, LLC

  • Current status of wantonness criteria
  • Challenges to punitive damages awards in business tort cases
  • Immunity and other liability limitations from recent legislation
  • Negligent misrepresentation and other recent fraud issues

December 12 (Day 2)

8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.: Changes to the Alabama LLC Act

Tripp Watson, The Watson Firm

Alabama significantly changed its limited liability company law this year. Effective January 1, 2015, the new law is one of the most unique in the country, providing for the addition of series within an LLC, the removal of many statutory defaults, and a more pronounced shift to contract theory, among many other changes. Mr. Watson, an Entrepreneur Attorney with The Watson Firm, will discuss how the changes will affect Alabama LLCs formed in 2015 and beyond.

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: The Smoking Guns of Social Media

Marcus Chatterton, Balch & Bingham LLP

  • Basic areas of social media: Research, collection/preservation, authentication, hearsay, and defensibility
  • Case law addressing discovery and admissibility of social media evidence
  • Best practices for preserving and collecting social media evidence
  • General trial practice issues related to practical use of social media evidence

10:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. (Morning Break)

10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.: Tips from the Bench

Judge Dennis O’Dell, Circuit court, 23rd Judicial Circuit (Madison County)

Judge O’Dell will share some of his (and his colleagues’) likes and dislikes in pretrial, trial and post-trial tactics and approaches.

11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Alabama’s New DUI Statute

Patrick Mahaney, Law Office of Patrick Mahaney

Act 2014-222 has significantly changed DUI practice in the state of Alabama. Ignition interlock is now required in nearly every DUI conviction, and driver license sanctions have been modified. Mr. Mahaney will discuss all related statutory changes to Alabama’s DUI laws plus recent court decisions of note. In addition, he will discuss evidentiary breath testing and Alabama’s breath test program as it relates to DUI practice.

12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Lunch (on your own)

1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Hot Topics in Probate Litigation

Peter Wright, Sirote & Permutt PC

  • What NOT to do in probate litigation
  • Will contests
  • Undue influence claims
  • Will formalities
  • Testamentary capacity
  • Court interpretation of will provisions

2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Ethical Considerations for Alabama Attorneys - ETHICS CREDIT!
(Earn 1 hour of ethics at this session.)

Stephanie Hunter, Hunter Law Firm PC

  • Attorney speech - what lawyers can and cannot say
  • Conflicts of interest: Recent developments
  • Attorneys changing firm affiliations

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