GEORGIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS LEGAL EDUCATION FUND "GCDLEF"
At the end of 2008, The Foundation, Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers Legal Education Fund “GCDLEF” was formed. This is a tax exempt, 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation formed for the purpose of supporting three GACDL-sponsored educational programs, the Al Horn Scholarship, the Bill Daniel Trial Advocacy Program, and the Debra Blum Program. All contributions to these programs are fully tax deductible. These contributions enable scholarships to be awarded for criminal defense lawyers to attend these valuable educational programs.
The Al Horn Scholarship enables deserving criminal defense lawyers in Georgia to attend the National Criminal Defense College (NACDL), a two-week, intensive trial practice program held each summer and run by Bill Daniel faculty member Natasha Silas and Karen Smolar. A number of GACDL members and attorneys outside of Georgia serve on the faculty of NCDC. The Al Horn Scholarship enables four or five GACDL attorneys to attend NCDC and is designed for experienced lawyers with substantial trial experience, having tried as many as fifty trials.
The Al Horn scholarship began in 1985, as a tribute to Atlanta legal legend and founding GACDL member, Al Horn. In addition to being colorful, Al was a dedicated and gifted criminal defense lawyer, practicing out of the Healy Building in downtown Atlanta with current GACDL members Bruce Maloy, Jim Jenkins, former Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane, Atlanta attorney Amy Totenberg, and others. Al Horn believed in confronting the inequities in the legal system head on. He knew how to fight hard but fair and won the respect of judges and prosecutors. He was a pioneer in attacking “unwinnable” cases with motions to suppress, jury challenges, and motions for independent lab analysis.
Al waged a courageous fight with cancer, but died at age 55, long before his time. At his memorial service, Andrew Young said, “Al Horn saw it as his duty in life to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” Since 1985, the Al Horn Scholarship has helped send more than 190 GACDL members to NCDC. Donations to assist lawyers in attending NCDC help improve the quality of criminal defense in Georgia and continue to honor the memory of a gifted trial lawyer and even better person, Al Horn.
The Bill Daniel Trial Advocacy Program was created in 1999 and allows 30 criminal defense lawyers to attend. This four-day, intense program is designed for criminal defense lawyers with little trial experience. The program was directed by Tony Cueto, a New York criminal defense lawyer and charter member of GACDL from 1999-2007, and by Jill Travis from 2008-2021. Many GACDL members serve as faculty for this program.
The Bill Daniel Trial Advocacy Program is named for GACDL founding member William W. “Bill” Daniel. His vision launched GACDL by holding a breakfast meeting at the cafeteria of the First National Bank Building in downtown Atlanta in about 1971. Daniel’s vision for a collegial group of criminal defense lawyers has ultimately grown into our current organization with more than 1,600 members.
Daniel later served as Fulton County Superior Court Judge and began publishing Criminal Trial Practice, an essential criminal law reference book which, as Jack Martin once observed, is the “Old Testament”, while Georgia Criminal Law Case Finder, the work of GACDL member, Don Samuel, serves as the “New Testament.” Contributions to the GACDL Bill Daniel Trial Advocacy Program improves the quality of criminal defense in Georgia, while honoring the name of GACDL founder, Bill Daniel. Nearly 600 scholarships have been awarded to this program.
The third and most recent program sponsored by GACDL is the Debra Blum Scholarship,created in 2005. Initially this program sponsored a GACDL member to attend a weekend program in New York based on the New York School of Law’s “Survey of Mental Disability” law, a semester-long course. Now, the GACDL seminar includes a thorough analysis of all aspects of mental health law within the criminal justice system. The GACDL seminar last occurred in Atlanta and in 2014, 70 criminal defense lawyers and judges were able to attend due to scholarships from the Foundation. Another GACDL seminar is being held in Atlanta in May 2020.
This scholarship is named after Debra Blum, a dedicated and talented attorney committed to mental health advocacy. Debra was married to 2016 GACDL President Bob Rubin. Debra was instrumental in forming the Mental Health Advocacy Division (“MHAD”) of what was then the Georgia Indigent Defense Council (now the Georgia Public Defender Council). The division is now known as the Office of Mental Health Advocate, (“OMHA”), which oversees the treatment and review process for those acquitted in Georgia courts by reason of insanity. Debra had previously attended the New York School of Law’s mental disability law course and found it valuable. Sabrina Rhinehart, a GACDL member who is employed by the OMHA division of the Georgia Public Defenders Council, now oversees the effort begun by Debra Blum. Quite fittingly, Debra and Sabrina each attended the New York course. Debra died in 2005 after waging a lengthy and brutal fight with cancer. Because mental health issues are so often intertwined with criminal defense matters, this scholarship improves the quality of criminal defense in Georgia, while honoring the memory of Debra Blum.
Each of these scholarship programs were created to honor the legacy of someone special whose efforts contributed substantially to the quality of criminal defense, while enhancing GACDL in the process. Each donation serves the dual purpose of continuing to improve the quality of criminal defense while honoring individuals whose good works are worthy of remembrance and tribute.
All contributions to GCDLEF support these very worthwhile programs and enable persons to attend who may otherwise not be able to do so. Please donate! Make your check payable to GCDLEF and mail to 215 Church St. Suite 111, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Indicate your preference as to which scholarship you wish to support. If you do not indicate a preference, your donation will be divided equally among the three.
GCDLEF may also be part of your estate planning. Will Codicil
Joe Habachy serves as the current Chair of the Board of Directors of GCDLEF. Ben Sessions is the Vice Chair. Jason Sheffield is the secretary/treasurer. Other Board members include: Wes Bryant, John Garland, Suesan Miller, Jill Travis, Dwight L. Thomas, and Delisa Williams.