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Bryan Tipp (left) and Rich Buley

12 April, 2024
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2024 Timer Moses Award - Bryan Tipp and Richard Buley

12 April, 2024

On March 14, 2024, Sarah Lockwood presented the MTACDL Timer Moses award to Bryan Tipp and Rich Buley to recognize a lifetime of service to their clients and the profession.

Continuing to mentor young attorneys to this day, the pair has not rested on their laurels.  But one of their career accomplishments merits special discussion in this forum: they were instrumental in founding MTACDL.  The following description from Bryan Tipp shows what the profession faced years ago and what led to this organization’s existence:

Before returning to my home state of Montana, I had practiced for several years in Seattle. While there, I was actively involved in the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL), and greatly benefited from that association in my practice development and education.  

The practice of criminal defense is, by its nature, a lonely venture.  The combination of Montana’s small population and the state’s large geographic area led to a criminal defense bar that was isolated and disjunct.  There was not a unified public defense system, as courts typically assigned cases to local practitioners that had general practices in the locale.  There were a few actual public defense offices, but they were limited to the more populated cities, and were (as usual) understaffed and underfunded.  

There was at that time a State Bar Criminal Law section that included both prosecution and defense attorneys, and was not particularly active.  There were not CLE programs within the State that focused on the specifics of criminal defense only.  In some larger cities and towns there were pockets of colleagues that might meet up occasionally to discuss changes to the law, strategies and other issues germane to the practice of criminal defense.  But, for the most part, criminal defense practitioners were on their own.  By contrast, prosecutors had all the resources of their individual counties available to them, plus they had an association of county attorneys that met periodically for training, and even engaged in lobbying the legislature for changes to the law.

One of the more active in the Missoula area was Mike Sherwood – with whom I had been acquainted while growing up in Missoula.  I approached Mike with the idea of starting a NACDL affiliate organization that would facilitate open communication and collaboration among the criminal defense practitioners across the state.  

At a minimum, the goal would be to educate those actively involved in criminal defense through continuing legal education programs, and foster an active dialogue through an email list server.  After talking about the situation for several months with Mike Sherwood, Rich Buley and I decided to promote a criminal defense CLE where we could get a group of lawyers from across the state to meet in one place, and where we would then propose the formation of a NACDL affiliate association for the State of Montana.

Rich and I formed a corporation we called the Montana Institute for Criminal Justice, and scheduled a CLE titled “The Ultimate DUI Seminar” for February 28, 1997.  We were able to solicit speakers that included several colleagues I had met or worked with through my involvement with WACDL, and some additional nationally known practitioners and experts I was acquainted with through the National College for DUI Defense, to come and present.  We decided to hold the CLE in Bozeman, as we determined that it was the city most accessible to most of the attorneys across Montana.  

Once the speakers had been set, we sought and gained approval for the program from the State Bar of Montana, and put together a brochure that was mailed to every licensed attorney.   The brochure prominently stated that the seminar was limited to those who were not prosecutors.  This exception had also been prominently noted on the CLE Accreditation Form sent to the State Bar before certification.  

The backlash from the prosecutorial ranks was immediate.  The best summation of what happened next can be taken from the story written by Sally K. Hilander that appeared in the March 1997 edition (Volume 22, #7) of the Montana Lawyer.  (A reprint of the text of that article is attached.)   

The crux of it is that multiple prosecuting attorneys’ offices from across Montana filed complaints to the Bar for accrediting the seminar, and sought to have the accreditation revoked.  A letter signed by 13 Yellowstone County Attorneys (cited extensively by the article) stated that the “no prosecutors” limitation was “outrageous,” “offensive” and “insulting”.  Mr. John Connor, who was then the chief of the County Prosecutor Services Bureau similarly took issue with the exclusion.  

The Chief Deputy Prosecutor in Missoula County at that time (later a judge) dressed me down in the lobby of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office saying (among other things) that a defense attorney organization is unnecessary, and that creating such an organization would engender divisiveness.  When it was pointed out that the Montana County Attorneys Association invited only prosecutors to their seminars, the Chief Deputy persisted that defense counsel were never excluded, and could attend if they wanted to.  

A similar refrain was echoed by many prosecutors in their various complaints, and in the Montana Lawyer article.  The duplicity of the prosecutors’ hypocritical position was laid bare in Letters written and published in subsequent issues of the Montana Lawyer, when multiple members of the bar wrote in to recount instances where the County Attorneys’ Association actively excluded non-prosecutors from attendance.  One even went so far as to tell of an instance where he (as a former prosecutor) was told personally by Mr. Conner that the speaker would not begin the presentation until the former prosecutor left the venue.  

Ultimately, as explained in the attached article, the Bar did not decertify our CLE program, and everything went forward as planned.  We did have an organizational dinner/meeting after the CLE, and numerous attorneys from across the State joined in to establish MTACDL later that year.  

As an aside, MICJ did co-sponsor a two-day DUI seminar on September 5-6, 1997, at Fairmont for all members of the bar; there were no limitations on prosecutors attending.  Only two prosecutors (from the Missoula City Attorney’s Office) attended.  

In the Spring of 1998 MTACDL sponsored its first ever Meeting and CLE – again in Bozeman.  We were able to procure then-President of NACDL, and renowned author, Larry Pozner, to present a program titled: “Killer Cross-Examination.”  Once again, prosecutors were excluded.  Nobody complained.    

From my observation, MTACDL’s future is bright as a consequence of our strong, unified membership.  The tools MTACDL provides to its members in the form of education, an open forum for discussion and support are, in my view, the glue that holds the organization together.  The value of MTACDL (again in my view) is immeasurable – especially for those of our colleagues that are so geographically dispersed across our large state.  

From all of us at the association you helped conceive, thank you and please accept the 2024 MTACDL Timer Moses award in appreciation of all you have done in two distinguished careers.

Bryan Tipp

 

Rich Buley

 

Timer Moses, Inspiration for the Timer Moses Award

Montana Lawyer Article Reprint (186.19 KB)

Montana Lawyer Article Scan (253.2 KB)