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Civil Defense Lawyers for over 30 Years.



Letter From The President

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . . 

Dear Members:

When I was ten years old I sat in a movie theater and watched the original Star Wars on the big screen.  I saw it three more times in the theater and collected the action figures (I was a bit of a tomboy).  I was thirteen when I saw the Empire Strikes Back and remember the sinking feeling I had while watching the lightsaber duel at Cloud City when Luke Skywalker learned Darth Vader is his father.  Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that as an adult pursuing what I consider to be an honorable career, I would be compared to Darth Vader. 

George Lucas’s conceptualization of “the dark side” in Star Wars referred to the evil aspect of the underlying controlling power of the Universe, which he called “the force”.  As a civil defense attorney, I have come to understand that many members of the plaintiffs’ bar consider my role as being on “the dark side.”  Over the years I have heard other classic good versus evil metaphors in reference to the civil defense bar, which are equally unflattering.  Now, I can take a joke as well as the next guy.  Moreover, I am confident in my chosen profession, believe there is virtue in what I do, and strive to do my work with integrity.  However, I pose this rhetorical question:  is referring to another member of our profession as being on “the dark side” professional? 

I raise this issue because it recently came to my attention that the Student Chapter of the NMDLA launched a discussion series at the law school called, “Make Friends with the Big Bad Wolf.”  I understand the series was inspired by a desire to encourage more favorable discussion about civil defense work at the law school.  In my own experience as a practicing attorney, civil defense work is often portrayed as having less redeeming value because, it is suggested, civil defense attorneys are “helping big companies get rich” rather than “fighting for the little guy”, and defense attorneys are motivated by “making money” rather than “helping others.”  Whether it is in the form of express statements or just a vibe at the law school, I would like to believe students are not left with the impression that they would be compromising their principles if they take a job with a civil defense firm. 

The objective of the “Big Bad Wolf” discussion series is to create a forum for students to talk among themselves and with civil defense attorneys about how they can work as civil defense attorneys and still “fulfill the ideals of justice.”  The first student/lawyer discussion was held on October 25th and was co-sponsored by the NMDLA Student Chapter and the UNMSOL Office of Student & Career Services.  The flyer advertising the event proclaimed: “Civil defense is a great career!  Clients include big AND small enterprises.  You can do good AND do well.  The defense bar is important to justice and fairness in civil cases.”  While I am gratified to know the first event was a resounding success with a packed house, I believe it is important for the law school administration and faculty to otherwise articulate such themes.  

I respectfully suggest we need to step up and support the students who are interested in pursuing civil defense work.  Individuals can get involved by volunteering to lead a discussion in the “Big Bad Wolf” series.  Firms can get involved by sponsoring individual memberships in the NMDLA Student Chapter and by encouraging and supporting their associates who are interested in serving as mentors to members of the Student Chapter.  If you would like more information about the Student Chapter or would like to offer your support, please contact me. 

Finally, thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2017 NMDLA Annual Meeting at Hotel Chaco on September 29th, particularly our panel Judges Jerry Ritter, Wendy York, and Michael Bustamante.  Congratulations to Mark Mowery and Justin Goodman, this year’s recipients of the NMDLA Outstanding Civil Defense Lawyer and Young Lawyer of the Year awards.  From my perspective, neither of you resemble Darth Vader in the least.  

Courtenay L. Keller, Esq.
Riley, Shane & Keller, P.A.
2017 NMDLA President

Christopher J. DeLar

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Congratulations to our 2017 NMDLA Lawyer of the Year Award Winners 

Winner of the Outstanding Civil Defense Lawyer of the Year Award is 
Mark Mowery, Esq. of Rodey Law Firm. This year’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award goes to Justin D. Goodman, Esq. of Stiff, Keith, & Garcia, LLC . The awards were presented at the NMDLA Annual Awards Luncheon on September 29, 2017, at the Hotel Chaco in Old Town, Albuquerque.

CHICAGO – (May 16, 2017)—Stating “. . . we are gravely concerned that many provisions contained in ALI’s Restatement are at odds with the common law of insurance, and will impede the ability of our members to represent policyholders pursuant to the tripartite relationship . . .,” DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar...Read the full News Release from DRI

DRI Honors NMDLA with Diversity Award  

The New Mexico Defense Lawyers Association has been selected by DRI, the Voice of the Defense Bar, to receive the 2016 SLDO Diversity Award. The award was presented at the DRI Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon, October 20th in Boston.


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Jean Gibson, Executive Director
PO Box 94116 | Albuquerque, NM 87199-4116
Email: nmdefense@nmdla.org | Phone: 505.797.6021 | Fax: 877.245.5021


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