In 1992, the practice of Criminal Defense was very different. There was no significant Criminal Defense Organization in place
for Jefferson County and there was no unified voice for defense lawyers. Accordingly, significant policy decisions involving
Criminal Law in Jefferson County were being freely advanced through meetings between the D.A's office and the Jefferson County
Judges. At that time, defense attorneys were not invited to these meetings and they (and their clients) learned about these
decisions only after the fact.
A few issues to come out of these Judge's meetings were: whether or not to have a Deferred Prosecution Program, policies
regarding guilty pleas, and many other changes that periodically occur in the practice of Criminal Law. Also in 1992, there
was no organization in place to defend Defense Attorneys who were being threatened, harassed, held in contempt of court, or
even jailed by a local judge. Luckily, a group of courageous lawyers took a stand to organize!
It all started on a drive back from Walker County. Richard Jaffe and Roger Appell had been representing Capital Defendant
Jerry Baker. Driving home, they vented back and forth about the lack of any real voice in the Jefferson County Criminal Courts
and of the continuing, unchecked policy decisions that were being made at the time. On that very day it was decided that they
would try to form a local Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
The first official meeting of the GBCDLA occurred early in 1993 and was held in the conference room at Jaffe, Burton,
and Digiorgio. Early on, it was decided that the GBCDLA would be patterned after the NACDLA and the ACDLA. It was also decided
that the GBCDLA would remain separate from the Alabama Bar as the focus was to remain on Jefferson County. During the meeting,
David Luker moved to seed the organization with everyone contributing $500 each. Richard Jaffe then drafted the bylaws, circulated
them to those present, and the GBCDLA was born on March 1, 1993!
Those attending the first meeting of the GBCDLA reads like a "Who's who in Criminal Law" and contains several
award winning and nationally recognized Lawyers: David Luker, Richard Jaffe, Roger Appell, John Lentine, Bill Dawson, Dan
Turberville, John Robbins, Erskine Mathis, Tommy Spina, Steve Saulter, Mark Polson, Tommy Nail, Larry Sheffield III, and Don
In the years that followed, the GBCDLA became a unified and meaningful voice in the Jefferson County Criminal Courts.
The GBCDLA was invited to attend Judge's meetings, the Press began to take notice of our organization, and our mere existence
and presence was enough to give us power in influencing the Criminal Justice system in Jefferson County. One policy the GBCDLA
was instrumental in changing was to push for reinstatement of the Deferred Prosecution Program. After much effort, Roger Brown
and David Barber finally did this!
In addition to influencing policy decisions, the GBCDLA organized a Task Force of two or three lawyers. Members of this
team stood ready to defend, at no cost, fellow GBCDLA members who were being harassed, threatened, intimidated, or jailed
by a local Judge. The Task Force was modeled after the NACDLA's Strike Force, which did the same thing, but only on a national
level. Additionally, the GBCDLA has gone on to champion various other Criminal Law causes in Jefferson County throughout the