Annual Wherry Lectures Offer Insight on Trial Advocacy Principles
Web Editor - Published: May 29, 2013
“At the end of the day, you are all advocates,” Middlesex County Prosecutor and 2007 Widener Law graduate Christopher F. Schellhorn told students in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program on the Harrisburg campus on Saturday, May 18th.

Each year as part of the Intensive Trial Advocacy Programs, a distinguished speaker is invited to each campus to deliver the E. John Wherry, Jr. Distinguished Lecture in Trial Advocacy and Professionalism. Schellhorn returned to the Harrisburg campus he graduated from to impart wisdom gleaned from his experiences as a prosecutor while Pennsylvania Innocence Project Legal Director Marissa Boyers Bluestine delivered the Wherry Lecture on the Delaware campus on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 22nd.

Schellhorn discussed six important guiding principles to keep in mind as a litigator, encouraging the students not only to be prepared, direct, persuasive, disciplined, and ethical, but also to be themselves. In discussing the importance of not trying to present a false front, he emphasized that it was important for a jury to feel that they could trust you.

“Your credibility is the number one commodity you have, and the way to make anyone find you credible is just to be yourself,” he stated.

“You have to remember to always be professional. You have to be courteous to the people in the courtroom,” he said, advancing professionalism as an important aspect of being disciplined, and he tied each of the six principles back to the importance of credibility with the jury and court officers.

In her remarks to students on the Delaware campus, Bluestine emphasized how important it is for trial lawyers to continue to seek out education and lamented the fact that trial advocacy education too often lends the impression that trials are a gladiatorial match.

“There are really no winners at trial,” she said.

Bluestine also echoed Schellhorn on the importance of reputation by saying, “Don’t hide stuff. Don’t lie. It’s not a game. It’s real life,” and adding, “The only thing you have is your reputation.”

Christopher F. Schellhorn is assigned to the Trial Team section in the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and is responsible for engaging in plea negotiations, Grand Jury presentations, and arguing both pre-trial and post-trial motions. He has worked numerous burglary, robbery, drug, and assault cases and served as second chair in the “Rutgers Cyber-bullying Trial” State v. Dharun Ravi. He previously worked for two and a half years as an Assistant District Attorney in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. While at Widener Law, Chris served on the Executive Board of the Trial Advocacy Honor Society as Vice President, was a finalist in the Hugh B. Pearce Trial Competition as a 2nd year student, and received the 2007 E. John Wherry Jr. Trial Advocacy Award for his interest and achievement in trial advocacy.

Marissa Boyers Bluestine previously served as a litigation associate at Duane Morris and as an Assistant Defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia for over 10 years prior to joining the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as Legal Director in 2009. She is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and a cum laude graduate of Temple University School of Law, where she served as Managing Editor of the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review.