November 15, 2012
David F. Everett was an assistant district attorney for more than 12 years in Queens and Brooklyn before he launched his own civil trial and criminal defense law practice in New York more than 15 years ago. He is a retired colonel, U.S. Army Reserve, having served in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 1999, he joined CUNY Law School’s Board of Visitors and has been a longtime advocate for and generous supporter of the Law School. His most recent gift supports the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic in its work to allow victims of human trafficking to have their criminal records expunged if those convictions were a result of their being trafficked. In recognition of his generous and ongoing commitment to the Law School and its mission, the moot courtroom has been named the Everett Family Moot Courtroom. Everett discusses the role of moot court in his legal education and the importance of the new laws that expunge records of trafficking.
What do the Everett Family Moot Courtroom and the moot court experience mean to you?
As a litigator, I believe that participating in moot court is a critical component of one’s legal education. It’s a really exciting part of the law school experience. You’re not just writing, but you’re experiencing what you’d actually do in a real courtroom situation. In a certain sense, moot court epitomizes what litigation and appellate work are about. It is an essential part of litigation and appellate training to be up there on your own, get questioned intensely by the panel of judges, and have to defend your position. Moot court was an important part of my own legal education. It’s where the rubber meets the road. If you mess up, there is no one to blame but yourself.
When I was bureau chief in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, I tried to impress upon the assistant district attorneys assigned to my bureau how critical preparation is for trial work and oral argument on motions. The importance of preparation is to me the greatest lesson of the moot court experience on how you win cases. In trial and appellate practice, there’s a winner and there’s a loser, and there’s no prize for second place. As a litigator, you can’t be afraid to get in there and mix it up. But if you do lose—and that does happen to everyone at some point—you at least want to know you gave it the best that you had. One of the key takeaways from the moot court experience is that if you lose, you try to figure out what you did wrong and could have done better. If you win, you try to figure out those same things, too, so you’re even better the next time.
I hope the Everett Family Moot Courtroom will be a significant factor in providing a meaningful experience to those who cross its threshold and take on the challenge of oral argument.
What inspired you to become a lawyer?
When I was choosing a career, I wanted to be in a profession where I could help people. I specifically wanted to become an assistant district attorney and serve the community in that way. I wanted to be part of an endeavor where I could really make a difference in helping to ensure that justice was done.
When I was in the Homicide Trials Bureau of the Queens District Attorney’s Office, I tried 17 jury and three non-jury murder cases in a 13-month period. The homicide rate was much higher at that time than it is now and there was a great need to get those cases thoroughly investigated, prepared for trial, and tried in the proper way so that the guilty were convicted.
At the same time, I was fortunate enough to conduct several investigations as an assistant district attorney where I was able to have cleared of criminal charges people who had been accused of crimes they had not committed. My desire to become a lawyer so I could help ensure that justice was done could not have been better satisfied than by those experiences.
What inspired you to support the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law?
I became aware of a new law that was passed, New York Criminal Procedure Law Section 440.10(1)(i), which allows judges to vacate convictions for prostitution and loitering of individuals who can show that these convictions are directly related to their being victims of human trafficking.
When I became aware of the law, I thought it was a good one that made a lot of sense and that spoke to the essence of justice and compassion. I thought it was important for the school to get involved with its implementation as part of a program of legal services to women who want to avail themselves of this legislation. It’s a horrible thing for a person to first be a victim of human trafficking and then have to bear the burden of a degrading criminal record for something he or she had no control over.
Because CUNY Law is a school dedicated to law in the service of human needs, doing work in support of this law is a wonderful thing. Students will benefit from doing handson legal work that will really make a life-altering difference to the victims of human trafficking whose cases they bring to a successful conclusion in court. At the same time, it’s helping clients who might not otherwise be able to benefit from the new law. It’s a win-win situation. And as an added benefit, CUNY Law students will get the experience, as advocates, of feeling good themselves by doing good for others, especially those in great need of their help.
What are some of the key issues in the area of international women’s human rights that need urgent attention?
There are so very many women’s rights issues throughout the world today. I’m a veteran of the Afghanistan war and I’ve seen firsthand some of the terrible treatment suffered by women. The fact that girls cannot attend school in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban is as evil as it is heartbreaking. There is so much work to be done to bring about gender equality in the world, but education of girls is certainly a very important issue that needs to be addressed.
What do you hope your gift will achieve for the IWHR Clinic and for CUNY Law?
I hope it will further the ability of CUNY Law and the IWHR Clinic to perform their core mission of public interest law, which is unique to CUNY Law as a stated goal. By providing these initial funds, I hope to enable students to utilize what they learn in the classroom to do good in the real world for those who have suffered, need their help, and can be helped by them.