I will always remember OACDL’s 2020 DUI seminar. Near the end of the first day of the three-day event, Ohio’s governor banned gatherings of 100 or more people. Our gathering had more than 100 people. As the president of the organization, I had the responsibility of informing those 100+ people the next two seminar days were cancelled. It was not a popular decision. It’s better to make decisions on principle rather than popularity. The attendees will ultimately receive the remaining two days of continuing legal education, and I expect they will also realize the cancellation decision was correct.
The Cancellation Decision Was Principled
It followed the letter and spirit of Governor DeWine’s prohibition against mass gatherings. The seminar was held by a group of lawyers, so we naturally found ways around the prohibition. Those work-arounds would permit us to continue our seminar. On the other hand, we also learned two important bits of information. First, the Ohio Director of Health estimated there were 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state of Ohio, with that number expected to double every six days. Second, an effective strategy for slowing the spread of the virus is social distancing. Based on that information, we decided to ditch our work-around strategy and cancel the second and third days of the seminar.
The Seminar Was Not Completely Cancelled
The second day of the seminar was held, but without attendees. The speakers made their presentations for a video camera instead of an audience. The video will be formatted in a way which satisfies the Ohio Supreme Court and then provided to the attendees by email. They will be able to watch the video from their offices or homes (hopefully not stocked with excess toilet paper) and receive continuing legal education credit. The third day, a trial skills workshop, is being rescheduled.
The First Day Went Well
Suzanne Perry shared a helpful checklist for reviewing blood test laboratory records. Mark Thiessen explained his approach to defending vehicular homicide and vehicular assault cases, and Joe Patituce discussed techniques for jury selection in OVI cases. Ron Moore taught what defense attorneys should know about drug recognition evaluations, and Kyla Lee demonstrated the Drager Drug Test 5000 roadside drug tester.
The last presenter, after the dreaded cancellation announcement, was field sobriety testing expert Josh Ott. Ott conducted a live demonstration of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test with multiple participants and panelists. Three participants drank alcohol (under supervision) and took breath tests on two different breath-testing machines. The results of the breath tests were not shared with Ott or the three panelists (two prosecutors and a judge). Ott then conducted the HGN on each participant with close-up video of the participants’ eyes live-streamed so it could be seen in real time by the panelists and the audience. Based on their observations, Ott and the panelists predicted the breath alcohol concentration of each participant. Ott’s presentation was engaging and ended the day with a positive vibe.
We needed a positive vibe. The cancellation announcement was very disappointing to everybody at the seminar. The attendees paid in advance, re-arranged schedules, and made plans for travel and lodging. The speakers spent countless hours preparing and honing their presentations. There was also a ton of preparation by the OACDL executive director and the seminar chairs. I publicly thank the OACDL executive director (Susan Carr), the seminar chairs (Tim Huey and Dan Sabol), and the CLE chair (Doug Clifford) for their teamwork addressing the unexpected situation with the cancellation based on the coronavirus.
The coronavirus is affecting much more than our three-day seminar. It’s impacting the hospitality industry, many other trades, and the economy as a whole. Sadly, the virus is infecting the most susceptible members of our communities. Thankfully, we have observed many acts of kindness, understanding and generosity in response to the pandemic. The coronavirus is bringing out the good in many people, except for those hoarding toilet paper.