Jason Sheffield- PRESIDENT, GACDL
It is an incredible undertaking to be a criminal defense attorney. It requires self-care, continuing education, steadfastness, bravery, and a big heart. In order to be successful, you must work with and against people who have more resources, support, and decision-making power than you. At times daunting, at other times exhilarating. None of it can be accomplished alone.
I was an honorary member of GACDL since I was a child, coming to GACDL seminars with my mother, Linda Sheffield. Because of her, I met a handful of mentors who were willing to guide me early on in my career. They were my first employer, Dwight Thomas, and my current partners, Doug Peters and Bob Rubin. Their advice and hers was clear: you must put yourself in the client’s shoes; embrace the law; and get involved with GACDL. Nothing has served me better than being encouraged to invest my time, energy, and heart into GACDL.
The darkness of every case comes with the promise of illumination – motive, bias, and facts brought to light – that will hopefully lead a prosecutor, judge or jury to rule your way. The operative word being “hope.” Said to be a “dangerous word,” yet we must all have hope. Having hope still means we have to work to accomplish its promise. It comes with risk and fear. We fear outcomes we cannot control, and much about what we do we cannot control. In GACDL, we produce hope like a fire. We invite one another to sit at its warmth. A place of discussion, of insight, of passion, of opinion, of strategy, of welcome. GACDL burns with a desire to fuel your ability to be the best person and lawyer you can be. It’s an honor for me to serve as President.
We are on the precipice of a momentous time in GACDL’s history. It is a time of great turmoil. Of unknowing. Many people feel hopeless about the current state of honesty in conversations about subjects that create hurt amongst many, if not most of our membership. We must strive to achieve understanding, sympathy, and empathy in these conversations. It’s a time that requires thoughtful discourse, careful listening, strategic thinking and purposeful execution. As lawyers who stand bravely before our trembling clients, we must defend creatively, boldly, and intelligently, based not on ill-motives but upon our best interpretation of all available evidence. We shouldn’t undermine our calling by assuming the worst in our peers; rather we should embrace the difficulty of doing what we do, using our synergy as defense attorneys to achieve our mission.
As president, along with our very talented leadership, executive committee, and Board of Directors, I am eager to continue to promote the best of GACDL, to ensure that all voices are heard and that GACDL meets its mission goals with excellence: to promote fairness and justice through member education, services and support, public outreach, and a commitment to quality representation for all.
Once an organization of a few dozen in 1974, we are now more than 1,500 members strong, and ready for the challenges ahead in 2022. From adding to our stellar staff, to provoking and informative seminars, to growing in our empathy and understanding of the ills that plague the criminal justice system, we will unite to be a voice of law and order and change. In all that we do, we should remember that blind faith in authority has no place in the law. The law functions on skepticism – on disagreement – and after much debate, on accord. We are in this TOGETHER. We will all rise together in GACDL.