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NEXT Advocates: Nurturing Excellence in Trial Advocates

Commission Office of Administrative Law Judges Launch

NEXT Advocates Program

To encourage greater participation by less-experienced attorneys in the trial phase of section 337 proceedings the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission) Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) created a program for Nurturing Excellence in Trial Advocates (NEXT Advocates).

The program has been established because Commission ALJs recognize that adjudication can be enhanced when parties draw on the talents of all parts of our society in choosing representation, and that when diverse perspectives are brought to bear on complex issues, better decision making can result.  Commission ALJs acknowledge the importance of providing training and oral advocacy opportunities to less-experienced attorneys – those that have given three or fewer substantive oral arguments or witness examinations in any federal tribunal – so that they can contribute effectively to administrative proceedings.  

Under the NEXT Advocates program ALJs will:

  1. Address with counsel opportunities for less-experienced attorneys to participate in substantive oral arguments or to examine witnesses at the evidentiary hearing;
  2. Entertain requests for oral argument on summary determination motions or other matters if a substantive portion of such oral argument is presented by a less-experienced attorney; and
  3. Permit a more-experienced attorney to assist a less-experienced attorney, if necessary, and will permit a more-experienced attorney to clarify any statements on the record before the conclusion of the session, if necessary.

Additionally, Commission ALJs encourage less-experienced attorneys to participate in the United States Patent and Trademark Office Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP), which includes training on preparing for oral argument and a mock argument practicum.  Commission ALJs will serve as judges in some LEAP mock argument sessions and will give feedback to attorneys participating in those sessions.

The NEXT Advocates program will be implemented by each ALJ in that ALJ’s ground rules, and those ground rules—not this announcement—are controlling in any investigation.  Parties to section 337 investigations should address questions about the NEXT Advocates program to the presiding ALJ.  Others may contact the office of Chief Administrative Law Judge Clark S. Cheney at Cheney337@usitc.gov.

About ALJs.  ALJs at the U.S. International Trade Commission are independent, nonpartisan adjudicators who preside over the trial phase of unfair import investigations under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.  Such proceedings may involve allegations of intellectual property infringement, trade secret misappropriation, false advertising, and antitrust.