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MWELA Brown Bag Bench Bar Webinar - Civility from the Podium: Professionalism as a Strategic Tool in an Employment Appeal
Wednesday, October 06, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM EDT
Category: MWELA Events

In 2021, civility is under attack in the public square — and the effect is being felt in employment litigation, too, where high-stakes, emotional disputes unfold against an economic backdrop that has become increasingly fraught and polarized. Our system of laws relies on the professionalism and restraint of its practitioners, yet the boundaries of proper behavior are sometimes blurred. 

This CLE will explore the use of civility as a tool to gain advantage in litigation, not just for the benefit of clients — though that is a key outcome — but also for the overall good of the courts and the legal profession. 

Our distinguished panelists, federal judges at the appellate level, will explore how the practice of civility and professionalism is explicitly favored under their local rules, as well as by general court custom. They also will describe their expectations for courtroom behavior — as well as the consequences, for lawyers and for clients, of violating norms.

The result will be a roadmap for attorneys who wish to reap the benefits of courtroom civility and to capitalize on the errors of opponents who disrespect judges and the forum in which they seek justice.


Hon. Albert Diaz, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Judge Diaz, a native of Brooklyn, New York, joined the Marines after high school.  He attended the University of Pennsylvania on a NROTC scholarship, earning a B.S. in Economics.  Following graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Marines.  While in service, Judge Diaz attended law school on a full scholarship.  He received his J.D. from the New York University School of Law and also holds a Master of Science in Business Administration from Boston University, where he was later recognized as a distinguished alumni.

In the Marines, Judge Diaz served as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and appellate government counsel.  Judge Diaz left active duty in 1995 for private practice.  He remained in the Marine Reserves, serving as an appellate defense counsel, military trial judge, and appellate military judge.  He retired from the Marines in 2006 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

From 2001 to 2009, Judge Diaz served as a North Carolina Superior Court judge, including service on North Carolina’s Business Court.  President Obama nominated him to the Fourth Circuit in 2009, and he was confirmed on December 22, 2010.  Judge Diaz is past Chair of the ABA Judicial Division’s Appellate Judges Conference and serves as Chair of the Appellate Judges Education Institute.  He is a member of the American Law Institute.  Judge Diaz has been recognized as a Legal Legend of Color by the North Carolina Bar Association and as Latino Judge of the Year (twice) by the Hispanic National Bar Association.  He has also received his local bar’s Diversity Champion award, and has been honored as a Leader in the Law by the Elon University School of Law.  

Hon. Stephanie D. Thacker, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Judge Thacker graduated magna cum laude from Marshall University in 1987. She then graduated Order of the Coif from the West Virginia University College of Law where she served as a member of the West Virginia Law Review, and the editor of the coal issue of the West Virginia Law Review. For the 20 plus years she practiced law, Judge Thacker worked both in the civil and criminal litigation arenas. Judge Thacker served as a federal prosecutor for 12 years, both at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia and at the Department of Justice in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. During her tenure with the United States Attorney’s Office, Judge Thacker served as part of the trial team in the first federal domestic violence prosecution in the country. She also coordinated a number of prosecution initiatives aimed at combating crimes of particular import in West Virginia, including domestic violence, child support, and federal coal mine safety violations. In addition to the obvious charges, these types of crimes included prosecutions for firearms violations, tax evasion, fraud, and money laundering. While with the Department of Justice, Judge Thacker rose through the ranks from trial attorney to Principal Deputy Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. During her time with the Department, Judge Thacker prosecuted and went to trial on cases in multiple jurisdictions, spearheaded several nationwide initiatives, and ultimately was awarded the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. Following her tenure with the Department of Justice, Judge Thacker was a member of the law firm of Guthrie & Thomas in Charleston, West Virginia where she engaged in litigation practice concentrating on complex litigation, environmental and toxic tort, and criminal defense. In September 2011, Judge  Thacker was nominated by President Obama to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 16, 2012.

R. Scott Oswald, Esq., The Employment Law Group, PC (moderator)
Scott Oswald is an accomplished trial lawyer who has brought more than 40 trials to verdict. His cases have recovered more than $300 million in judgments and settlements. A fellow of the prestigious College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, he received his law degree from Howard University and honed his skills at Trial Lawyers College, founded by the legendary Gerry Spence. Mr. Oswald litigates employment and whistleblower actions nationwide. Among his results:

  • First jury verdict under new whistleblower protections in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.
  • First Sarbanes-Oxley Act liability verdict to withstand appeal.
  • First jury verdict under 2009 anti-retaliation provisions of False Claims Act
  • First Dodd-Frank Act retaliation lawsuit to reach discovery in federal court

Mr. Oswald is chair of the Federal Bar Association’s Qui Tam Section and immediate past chair of the FBA’s Professional Ethics Committee. Lawdragon ranks him as one of the top 500 plaintiff-side employment lawyers in the country.

Michal Shinnar, Esq., Senior Counsel, Joseph, Greenwald, & Laake, PA (Introductions)
Michal Shinnar is Senior Counsel in the firm’s Labor & Employment Law and Whistleblower practice groups. She has a long track record of vigorously advocating for the rights of employees in many sectors and stations, from executives to low wage workers, and has helped recover millions of dollars for her clients. Ms. Shinnar has successfully represented employees in sex discrimination, disability discrimination, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, race discrimination, age discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, non-compete agreements, and unpaid wages cases. Her practice includes all aspects of employment law, including discrimination, disability accommodations, employment contracts, non-competes, severance agreements, and wage and hour disputes. She was part of the litigation team that won the highly publicized $43.8 million settlement in Breen v. FAA, which made history as the highest settlement in an age discrimination case against the federal government. 

Ms. Shinnar has been recognized by her peers through appointments to leadership positions in her bar associations, and has been repeatedly invited to speak on key employment law topics. She currently serves as the co-chair of the National Employment Lawyers' Association (NELA) Disability Law Practice Group and on the board of the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers' Association (MWELA), where she chairs MWELA’s Luncheon Seminar speaker program.

This free event is co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.

CLE credit is not offered.

A copy of the session recording is available here: