Member in the Spotlight

Michelle Behan

Michelle Behan

This week's member in the spotlight is Michelle Behan of Tucson, Arizona. Shelley was destined to become an outstanding attorney in the footsteps of her father. Her earliest memory is running across the campus of Washburn University Law School in Topeka, Kansas, her father's alma mater. She also remembers living in Washington, DC while her dad studied at Georgetown Law School and worked for the Department of Justice. Growing up in the law, she was a debater and an orator in high school, and captain of the mock trial team. Before going to law school, she was an FBI agent. She remarks that going to court and working with the US Attorneys was her favorite part of the job. The courtroom for her is like water to a fish. "That's where I feed my soul," she said. Once she became an attorney, she knew she wanted to be a defense lawyer, no question about it. As she put it, "They always looked like they were having so much more fun than the prosecutors."

It's pretty tough to have a more patriotic resume than Shelley. Not only has she served the country in law enforcement before defending the Constitution as a defense lawyer, she also enlisted in the Navy from 1994 – 2003. She served close to ten years as a Cryptologist. Her time at the FBI earned her national recognition from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). She also received recognition from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of South Dakota for her work on many interstate crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

While in law school, Shelley was part of a group of students who served as the impetus behind the creation of the Tucson City Court Veteran's Diversion Treatment Court. Along with her fellow veteran students, Shelley served as defense counsel (under the supervision of a professor) for veterans charged with diversion eligible offenses. That treatment court has grown with its multi-million-dollar grant and receives national recognition as a "textbook" treatment court.


Kevin P. McKernan

Kevin P. McKernan

This week's National College of DUI Defense's Member in the Spotlight is Kevin P. McKernan of Staten Island, New York. Kevin is a born and bred New Yorker. He has lived there his entire life minus his college days at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Born to an insurance executive and homemaker, Kevin is very grateful for his parents, as well as mentor William Murphy, former Staten Island District Attorney. Prior to the law, Kevin held a wide variety of jobs, which he credits for helping with successful voir dire. These include store clerk, cashier, bartender, and camp counselor.

Kevin has been practicing law for over 42 years. Kevin’s practice is in Staten Island, New York. He started his legal career as a prosecutor. He rose to the level of Bureau Chief of Investigation and Senior Trial Attorney at Staten Island’s Office of the Richmond County District Attorney’s office. The movie To Kill a Mockingbird inspired him to pursue law.

Kevin is a member of the New York and New Jersey State Bars and local Bar associations. He serves as the Vice President of the New Jersey Municipal Court State Bar Association. Kevin graduated from Notre Dame and earned his law degree from Fordham University School of Law. He is a member of both of these Alumni Associations, in addition to the Kiwanis Club, the Warren Jacques Committee, Chamber of Commerce and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Kevin also sponsors several Bread of Life food drives, Kiwanis charities, Ancient Order of Hibernians charities, many road races, in addition to regularly funding financially needy children to summer camp. His hard work and selfless contributions have culminated in several awards, including the Hubert H. Humphrey Community Award, Fordham Law School’s Alumni Sullivan Murphy Award for the Distinguished Practitioner of Law (“For Total Commitment to Justice and Peace For All), and the University of Notre Dame’s O'Regan Award.


Chuck Strain

Chuck Strain

This week's member in the spotlight is Chuck Strain of Cincinnati, Ohio. He's heartbroken to have missed our Summer Session in person this month (he did attend online), which would have been his 20th year in a row. Prior to all those NCDD Summer Sessions, he likes to joke that everything he learned about courtroom techniques came from the original broadcast run of Perry Mason on CBS from 1957 to 1966. Other early TV inspirations were The Defenders on CBS from 1961 to 1965, and Judd for the Defense on ABC from 1967 to 1969. “Argumentative!” ruled some of his early schoolteachers, inciting him to go into law.

Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Chuck attended public schools, played baseball, and played French horn. His father was an accountant, but Chuck inherited absolutely no accounting genes. His mother groomed poodles and his two younger brothers went into business and music. He took his first job at age 16 as a soda jerk in a traditional drug store. Other school jobs included landscaping, selling dusk-to-dawn outdoor lighting, delivering the U.S. Mail (his favorite actual job, ever!), and proof-reading a professor's articles. At DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, he majored in philosophy and religion, studied in Vienna and Budapest, was president of his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and earned a B.A. with high honors in 1975.

After three years serving as a Social Security Administration claims representative in Cincinnati, Chuck moved to Columbus to attend law school. There, he was a judicial intern for a federal judge, a hearing officer in the Columbus City Attorney's Office, and a legal intern with the Ohio Attorney General. He graduated in the top third of his class at The Ohio State University College of Law in 1981. After a backpack trip to Europe while awaiting bar exam results, he turned down an offer from the Ohio Attorney General and returned to Cincinnati to immediately open a solo practice focused on DUI defense. (Yes, right out of law school.) Since then, he's never given himself a promotion.

Chuck has taught at lawyer seminars across Ohio—94 times since 1999—on traffic law, ethics, professionalism, and substance abuse. He conceived and single-handedly taught the Cincinnati Bar Association's DUI Academy, a three-session comprehensive course.

Chuck regularly advises other lawyers on traffic law and ethics on the listserv forum of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He proudly coaches new lawyers through the Ohio Supreme Court's mentoring program. He has appeared on radio, on TV, and in print media discussing DUI law.


George V. Laughrun, II

George V. Laughrun, II

This week’s National College of DUI Defense's Member in the Spotlight is George V. Laughrun, II, of Charlotte, North Carolina. George has been practicing law for over almost 40 years and “still loves coming to work”. George’s reputation in North Carolina is well earned and long lasting. George is board certified in federal criminal law and state criminal law in North Carolina. He has maintained an “AV” Preeminent rating from members of the Bar and Judiciary for more than 30 years. The Charlotte Magazine named him one of Charlotte’s “toughest lawyers”. The Charlotte Observer wrote that in 2004-2005, no other lawyer obtained more DWI acquittals and dismissals. He has been a member of “Super Lawyers” for the past eight years and the “Legal Elite” (Business North Carolina) for the past ten years.

George is a member of the North Carolina Bar, American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, North Carolina Advocates of Justice, associate member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers as well as the National College of DUI Defense. George was asked to serve on the Mecklenburg County Bar Executive Committee from 1994-1997.

George was born in eastern Tennessee, but at the age of five moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he has made it his home. His father was a high school guidance counselor and his mother was a pharmacy tech. His parents worked two jobs to put him through law school. His dad, his biggest influence and who taught him the value of hard work “was more proud of me being a lawyer than I ever was.” George graduated cum laude from both Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a prosecutor for two years in Mecklenburg County before joining the law firm he still practices in today.

George’s favorite aspect about being a trial lawyer is the fight. As he puts it, “a trial is a ‘war’ and I like to be in the middle of that war.” One of his most memorable victories was when his client, a Charlotte Hornet All Star basketball player charged with a DWI involving a serious automobile accident, flew on a private jet after the first day of trial to compete in a NBA game of which he scored a career high, to return the second day of trial to be acquitted. Another favorite Not Guilty for George was a three week jury trial for a University of North Carolina Charlotte football player charged with rape that made national headlines, heavily covered by the press. He tried that case with his daughter as co counsel.

George is the poster boy of solid values, chiefly: stability, hard work, and loyalty. George describes growing up like the “Waltons.” He describes it as lower middle class, but not wanting for anything. He worked his way through college as a store clerk at Food Lion and flipping burgers at Burger King. George met his wife on his first date at age 15. They have been together ever since, married for over 30 years. They have a son and daughter who both practice law. George’s son practices with him. His daughter practices family law with a large firm in downtown Charlotte. George speaks of the partner of his law firm with gratitude, “I was fortunate to work with the first named partner in my law firm, Arthur Goodman, who passed away in 2003. He took a chance on me and I have been with the same firm since 1982.”


L. Scott Pejic

L. Scott Pejic

This week’s NCDD Member in the Spotlight is L. "Scott" Pejic of Michigan City, Indiana. There are “lawyers’ lawyers” and the lawyers whom politicians turn to. Both are highly respected and in a league of their own. L. Scott Pejic has been busy representing a LaPorte County councilman, as well as a Michigan City mayor’s stepson, on top of handling his normal caseload. Scott became a lawyer because it is in his nature to speak out when something is wrong. He jests that “maybe it was watching too much A-Team or Equalizer as a child.”

Scott was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Due to his father’s work, he lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Grosse Pointe, Michigan before settling down in Michigan City, Indiana. Before law school, he did manual labor jobs including landscaping, roofing, and working a seafood deli. While in law school, he worked as a law clerk for the local Circuit Court judge and the local bank trust department.

Scott enjoys practicing other types of criminal law cases, in addition to his OWI (operating while intoxicated) practice. Scott’s favorite OWI case is both a felony and misdemeanor Not Guilty verdict for his client who accidentally hit a drunken man crossing the street. A witness in the trial testified that had Scott’s client not hit him, she would have. Of course, a very difficult scenario for all, but justice was obtained through Scott’s deft advocacy. Scott also relishes a self-defense murder Not Guilty where the accused was on an ankle monitor for another unrelated charge. As Scott puts it, “I appreciated this Not Guilty verdict because it validated the right to self-defense and that we as citizens are able to defend ourselves just like the police.”


Larry Forman

Larry Forman

This week’s NCDD Member in the Spotlight is Larry Forman of Louisville, Kentucky. He is featured because he is one of NCDD’s most enthusiastic young members. He has prioritized coming to NCDD seminars; not just for the training, but for networking. Anyone who has met Larry knows that he is a vivacious young man who is bursting with passion and boundless energy.

Larry was born in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia). His mother left the Soviet Union with him when he was three and a half years old. His mother is a Mechanical Engineer and his father is a horse trainer by trade. Both are currently on Larry’s payroll and work as paralegals in his firm. Before moving to Louisville, Larry lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Breckinridge, Kentucky. Before becoming a lawyer, Larry trained Thoroughbreds on the family farm for racing. While doing so, he served as the “on-premises” jockey. The thrill of “winning the race” runs deep in Larry’s blood.

Larry became a lawyer because, as he puts it, “I always helped my friends. When they would get in trouble I would help them because they always came to me since I would break down their issues to their constituent parts and analyze them ... I was like their godfather, if you will -- solving their problems. It was only natural that I would transfer this skill for the rest of my life solving people's real-life problems in the courtroom.”


Jerald Novak

Jerald Novak

The National College of DUI Defense's Member in the Spotlight this week is Jerald Novak of Chicago., IL. As Jerry describes it, he was born to parents that had little formal education, couldn't rub two nickels together, never owned a house and success was measured by moving up from a Chevy to a Pontiac! Jerry has lived his entire life in Chicago and many of its suburbs. He became a lawyer because he saw many people wrongfully arrested and much corruption in the police department.

Jerry has had all kinds of jobs. His first real business was a Singing Telegram Agency. He has delivered newspapers, jack hammered concrete, painted industrial buildings, sanded dry wall seams, worked in a curtain and drapery factory, detailed cars, sold cars and decorated party rooms with balloons and balloon drops. Jerry said owning a car detailing business helped him learn that the devil was in the details. This is where he developed a critical eye which he attributes to helping him become a great trial lawyer.

Jerry has been practicing law for 32 years. He is a member of the National College of DUI Defense, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Lake and DuPage County Bar Associations. Jerry is known for his magnanimous kindness. He once observed a rooky police officer get torn to shred on the stand. He asked that the officer meet him at his office and he trained him on some very important particulars. That police officer never forgot Jerry's kindness and his reputation for such is just an added bonus where he is known. Jerry recently shared his SFST expertise to public defenders at NCDD's most recent PD seminar in Chicago. Jerry is a solo practitioner, whose two long term assistants have been with him for a combined 24 years.


Steven Epstein

Steven Epstein

The National College of DUI Defense's Member in the Spotlight is Steven Epstein of New York City. As he describes it, "I was born and raised on the sidewalks of New York City. I think the most influential people in my life, besides my parents, were the multitude of different people I was surrounded by growing up and being exposed to- people of varying social and economic backgrounds." Steven is a true city New Yorker through and through. He has lived his entire life in New York and now gives back as one of the leading educators of lawyers within the New York State Bar and a top DWI attorney. Steven was torn growing up, deciding between a life on stage or one in the courtroom. Now he does both. His most recent stage performance was with The Minstrel Players in Northport, New York last month in the stage production of Twelve Angry Jurors.

Steven graduated from the State University of New York College at Oneonta with a degree in Speech Communications. He earned his law degree at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, NY where he currently teaches as an Adjunct Professor (since 1997) and also coaches mock trial teams. He is passionate about education. He also serves on the Board of Trustees at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY.

After graduating law school, he served as a public defender in New York for many years before opening his own private practice eight years ago. His commitment to public defense; however, is strong and ongoing. For the last 22 years he has run the DWI training program for the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, training every one of their lawyers for the past 22 years. In addition, he also does the training programs for most of the New York City area public defender offices, as well as CLEs throughout New York State on the topic of DWI. In total, he has trained well over three thousand attorneys who have come through the ranks of the public defender's offices in New York City in the area of DWI defense.

Steven is also a member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and serves as the chair for their CLE committee. In addition to serving on the faculty of the National College of DUI Defense, his other memberships include the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Nassau County and New York Bar Associations. In 2019, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers named him as of their top 20 CLE lecturers. A further honor includes being chosen by the U.S. Dept. of Justice as a peer reviewer for National Institute of Justice grant applications. He has been named a New York metro area Super Lawyer every year since 2014.

Steven has led success in the courtrooms on his own, in addition to his tutoring and mentoring of many of his colleagues. With respect to large scale victories, he successfully challenged New York's discovery statute and obtained and enforced an order directing the State to turn over to every defendant in New York State the full records of gas chromatography that relate to the certification of the simulator solution used for every person charged with a DWI who submitted to a breath test. This ruling subsequently resulted in a change to New York's legislation. The resulting new discovery statute now entitles every defendant to the full records of gas chromatography that relate to the certification of the simulator solution. But the wins he is most proud of are the wins at suppression hearings, where he successfully challenges the overreaching actions of the police, and in doing so brings to life the Bill of Rights for society.


Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols

This week's NCDD Member in the Spotlight is Mike Nichols of East Lansing, Michigan. Mike was raised in northern Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State University, working his way through college as a broadcast journalist. He earned his law degree from Western Michigan University's Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

When he worked as a broadcast journalist, Mike had the privilege of covering trials, presidential debates (Clinton/Perot/Bush), presidential speeches, governors and the legislature. It was through this work that he decided he wanted to be in the arena, not covering it. He chose to become a lawyer so he could fight for a cause.

In addition to defending his clients at the highest level, he is also a professor of the DWI course at his alma mater, Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He is the author of the Michigan OWI Handbook for West Publishing. He also serves on the Controlled Substance Bench Book Committee for the Michigan Supreme Court State Court's Administrator's Office, which publishes reference materials for judges.


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