Member in the Spotlight

Sara Compher-Rice:

This week’s Member in the Spotlight is Sara Compher-Rice of Knoxville, Tennessee. She is our newest Regent, newly assigned to the NCDD Awards/Recognition committee. It is quite fitting she receive a long overdue spotlight, as she will soon be writing Member in the Spotlight segments. Sara has been practicing DWI/DUI defense since 2002, alongside NCDD fellow Steve Oberman, straight out the gate. She was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio, a very small town in southern Ohio, with few professionals. She was an only child. Her mom had her young, sacrificing everything for her. When she was young, her mom worked part time serving Meals on Wheels in order to be able to meet and greet Sara on and off the school bus. She later retired as a CVS pharmacy technician. Her father worked management at the Dupont plant. He retired from a trim/carpentry business shared with Sara’s husband. Sadly, he passed this March.

As Sara describes it, she has always held some sort of job her whole life starting with cleaning neighbors’ houses as a kid, moving up to babysitting. Other jobs include being a server, cashier for a family business, a research assistant and administrative assistant at Denison University, and one of her favorites-a white-water rafting guide. Sara is a first-generation college student. She earned her B.A. from Denison University and her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she graduated in the top ten percent of her class. She decided to become a lawyer as she describes it, “I think the combination of the leadership I was able to develop in Ohio 4-H along with the world that opened up when I read To Kill a Mockingbird really sealed my fate to become a lawyer. If I’m being honest, Claire Huxtable had a part in my dream as well.” She has had one job her entire legal career. Fellow Steve Oberman hired her right out of law school, and now more than twenty years later she is a partner at Oberman & Rice.

Sara gives meaning to the word involvement. Like a magnet, she is attracted to the service of others in leadership. She is past President of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She has served the Phil Delta Phi Legal Fraternity since law school, working with students in her region promoting a high standard of ethics. In 2011, she was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve as a hearing committee member of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. On a personal level, she can always be found volunteering with organizations related to her boys. She is very active with the middle school PTSO, serving as President for two years and most recently as Membership Director. She currently chaperones with the Bearden High School Marching Band (where her son Jake is a mellophone player) and volunteers her time with the Appalachian Ballet Company (where her son Henry is a ballet dancer).

Sneh Patel:

This week's NCDD member in the spotlight is Sneh Patel of Savannah, Georgia. Sneh has been practicing law for 17 years. Sneh is quite the international man of the world. He was born and raised in Germany until the 2nd grade. He then lived in India for four years while his grandparents raised him. He returned to Germany until immigrating to Athens, Georgia in the 10th grade. He speaks multiple languages fluently, among them German, Gujarati and Hindi. No surprise that he majored in Political Science and German at the University of Georgia at Athens, while also managing to get a minor in Biology. Sneh went on to the Southern Illinois University School of Law on a full ride scholarship.

After school, Sneh’s love of Georgia called him back. He stayed in Atlanta for a year and then took a job as an Assistant Public Defender in Hinesville, Georgia. He honed his defense skills for three years before giving back to the public as an Assistant District Attorney in Savannah, Georgia where he stayed for five years. While an Assistant District Attorney, he mentored others and served as an interim Chief District Attorney. This is no surprise as Sneh has a magic with people. Sneh has a natural charm with folks, but some of it comes from learning about people from many angles. Sneh’s other jobs along the way include being a factory worker, book binder, cashier at Winn Dixie and a liquor store, research assistant and computer clerk at the University of Georgia (Athens).

The phrase “he could sell ice to an Eskimo” could literally apply to Sneh’s father. He worked in one of the largest ice cream factories in Europe for 31 years. Sneh gleams when he discusses how his dad always “knew a guy” and was the man who could sell or negotiate anything. He learned his stellar negotiating skills from him. His mother worked as a pharmacy technician for many years in a hospital. Sneh is very much a family man. His wife is a CPA, very successfully handling the business aspects of his solo practice. They have been married for fourteen years. Her mother lives with them. Sneh refers to his mother in law as his best supporter and often manages to sell that she is actually his mom and not his wife’s. Sneh and his wife have a daughter who is ten and the light of their world. Sneh is a hands on dad, the kind of dad you’d find in a Cookie Monster costume (see attached photo).

Andy Sotiropoulos:

The NCDD member in the spotlight is Andy Sotiropoulos of Chicago, Illinois. Andy is a top DUI/DWI lawyer in Chicago. Andy’s parents immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1963 from southern Greece. His dream was to see his son become an attorney. Andy’s father passed in 2000 and remains his inspiration today. His mother was a seamstress.

Andy grew up in Illinois. He graduated from St. Joseph High School, the University of Illinois in Chicago and Touro Law Center in Huntington, New York. Prior to law school he worked as a short order cook, truck driver, fork lift operator and landscaper. In addition to the NCDD, he is a member of NACDL, the Illinois State Bar Association (Traffic Laws Committee), The Society of Kaparelioton (a philanthropic organization from his father’s hometown in Greece), the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, and is a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the Philotimo Foundation (an organization providing assistance to children afflicted with cancer and their families). Some of Andy’s honors include being an Illinois State Scholar, Illinois Merit Scholar, Dean’s list in high school, college and law school. He graduated law school cum laude while being the President of the Hellenic American Law Students Association and received the Meritorious Service Award. He served as the Chairman of the Chicago Bar Association Traffic Laws Committee.

Andy has been practicing law for 24 years. As Andy describes it “Injustice, in just about any form, doesn’t sit well with me…especially when directed against marginalized segments of our society.” His favorite wins include a .32 and a .28 accident case, and an appellate court reversal on a .14.

Jonathan P. Dichter:

The NCDD Member in the Spotlight is Jonathan P. Dichter of Lynnwood, Washington. If you have never met Jonathan, look for the smiling face in the crowd. He welcomes everyone immediately with a warmth that has earned him a reputation for being one of the kindest and most caring lawyers by the judges in his jurisdiction. When one of his clients passed away, Judge McRae called to check on him remarking “I’ve been watching you for a few years now. You care more about your clients than most attorneys will ever learn how to.” It really is that obvious he has a special gift with people. Jonathan is on his 19th year practicing law. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Canton, Ohio when he was in the 6th Grade. His father practiced family medicine, passing in 2010. His mother is a retired registered nurse. Jonathan grew up learning how to deeply care for others by watching how his dad listened and tended to his patients. He also acquired his sense of humor and knack for storytelling.

Mid-course into a joint BS/MD program at Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine, Jonathan switched gears. The lure of debate and the art of storytelling was too ingrained into this high school mock trial and speech/debate champion. Before going to law school he performed stand-up comedy on weekends.

In addition to the NCDD, Jonathan is also a member of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He was recognized this year as a “Super Lawyer” for the first time after being a rising star from 2014-2018. He is also a NHTSA trained SFST instructor and has been through ARIDE. In 2011 the Washington State Bar Association recognized his work with The Pro Bono Public Service award. Before he was licensed, he was already winning recognitions. He was the recipient of the Silver Key from the ABA’s Law Student division. He was also a regional qualifier in the ABA’s international negotiation competition.

Kevin O'Grady

Kevin O'Grady

The NCDD Member in the Spotlight is Kevin O'Grady of Honolulu, Hawaii. Kevin has been practicing law for over 25 years. Kevin was born in Queens, New York, but grew up primarily on Long Island. His father was a chiropractor, and his mother was a paralegal for a small firm in New York. His mother served as one of Kevin’s primary influences in pursuing law. She wrote a book called Judicial Carousel, documenting her observations as a paralegal and challenges in the legal system. She instilled in Kevin the value of challenging unjust laws which violate the rights of the people.

Kevin earned a psychology degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson before earning a MS in Criminal Justice from Chaminade University in Honolulu. He then went on to obtain his law degree from Touro College in New York. Throughout his life, Kevin has been a reserve volunteer deputy sheriff, security guard, lifeguard, and EMT. He also served on active duty in the US Military as a Judge Advocate (and continues to do so with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel). The service brought him and his family back to Hawaii where Kevin decided to open his law practice upon completion of active duty.

Aside from the NCDD, Kevin is also a member of the Arizona State Bar (inactive), the Hawaii State Bar, Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Council of Second Amendment Lawyers, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Additionally, Kevin has practiced in the Federal District Courts of Arizona, the Northern District of Texas, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

Kim Benjamin

Kim Benjamin

The NCDD Member in the Spotlight is Kimberly Benjamin of Belton, Missouri. Kim has been practicing criminal defense for over 25 years. On top of her practice, Kim has committed herself to teaching trial skills as a faculty member of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College (TLC). She was born in Sacramento, California and was adopted by parents who were unable to have children of their own. Her father (an artist- illustrator) was in the US Air Force, which led her family to travel to Alaska, Virginia, and Washington D.C., before he retired and they settled in her mother's(a homemaker) hometown of Harrisonville, Missouri.

Kim's enjoyment of the television drama "LA Law" attracted her to the law. She grew up, like many, in the Midwest with little insight into the American criminal justice system and the belief that the police and prosecutors were the "good guys", as portrayed on TV. When she became a public defender in Kansas City, the illusion dispelled. She found her calling in following her huge heart to help the downtrodden and forgotten.

Kim graduated from Mizzou with dual degrees in Political Science and Speech Communication. She studied law at the George Washington University School of Law, serving as the Notes Editor for the Intellectual Property Law Journal while also working at the Pentagon.

Aside from the NCDD, Kim is also a faculty member for the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, which she attended as a student in 2000, and is a member and past President of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL), where she is the chair of the Missouri Bar's annual DWI seminar. She was honored with the Women's Litigation award by Missouri Lawyers Weekly, and the Atticus Finch Award by the MACDL.

John Eastland

John Eastland

The NCDD Member in the Spotlight is John Eastland of Tyler, Texas (east Texas). John has been practicing criminal defense for over 35 years, the last 13 years of which he exclusively represents citizens accused of DWI. John has a unique Texas heritage. His mother’s great, great grandfather was brother to Texas Founding Father Sam Houston. He can trace his Texas roots back five generations in Texas. John sees his clients as community. He said, “They all become my friends.” No doubt, the people of Tyler, Texas love him, as do we. 

John was drawn to the law because he saw his father, who owned Eastland’s Department Stores, fear financial ruin from attorney’s fees over litigation involving his stores. John vowed that would never happen to him. It also came natural to him as he grew up fighting whenever he saw a bully take advantage of a situation from elementary through high school. Courage is a prominent trait of John. His slogan is “Don’t get bit twice” with a picture of him holding a live rattlesnake on his website,

John graduated from Harding University with a double major in Accounting and Marketing. While there, he was on the college swim team for four years which required workouts of swimming over six miles per day. In part, this contributed to his ‘never stop, never give up’ attitude. He spent several years working as an accountant before he went on to law school at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. Outside of his education, he has resided in Tyler, Texas. When asked if he has spent his entire life in Tyler, he proudly responds “Not yet!” 

In addition to the NCDD, he is a member of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association, Smith County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (twice past president), Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (DWI Resource Committee and speaker on DWI issues) and the State Bar of Texas. He has received training on the NHTSA SFST(s) as both a practitioner and instructor, NHTSA DRE, the Intoxylizer, and gas chromatography (both Axion Labs and NCDD Serious Science). He has been named a Super Lawyer and two district judges have recently certified him to testify as an expert in DWI.

Tony Coleman

Tony Coleman

This NCDD member in the spotlight is Tony Coleman of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tony exemplifies the phrase "he could sell ice to an eskimo." Tony was working as a bellman at the Waterford Hotel when the then President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate spotted his charisma and offered him an internship. That turned into a full-time job as a senior staffer in the Oklahoma Senate for three Presidents Pro Tempores. During this time, Tony earned his degree from the University of Oklahoma and law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law. He had the entire Oklahoma Senate cheering him on to pass the bar. Politicking and learning the ins and outs of brokering deals was an education in and of itself which proved natural and greatly beneficial for his career as an attorney.

When asked what made him want to become a lawyer, he referenced his passion for solving problems and telling stories. Couple this with his uncanny memory in regurgitating facts verbatim, it was a natural fit. Tony describes his approach to law as a round of golf. "I have a goal in mind. I know where the hole is. Whether you are in a sand trap, out in the thickets or on a new course, you know that you may lose some balls, but you never, ever give up."

On the back of Tony's business cards, he has "Your Lawyer for Life." He strives to deliver the type of service in which his clients feel like family and can turn to him for anything. He gives everyone his cell phone number and answers every text, email and returns all calls despite a staff and very demanding practice. In addition to his stellar work and reputation, he has earned the trust and respect of many Oklahoma politicians which refer him their criminal case referrals keeping him extremely busy. In 2015, his Oklahoma peers voted him the state's highest legal honor, The Clarence Darrow Award (his acceptance speech ).

John Powers

John Powers

The NCDD is proud to spotlight John Powers of Long Island, New York. John has been practicing criminal defense for 23 years, all in the New York City and Long Island, New York region. John was born in Manhattan to parents native of Queens, New York. His father was an executive in the tobacco industry and his mother was a stay-at-home mom until John went to college. John grew up attending all boys Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens. His high school basketball coach, Joseph Giannuzzi, mentored and shaped him in influential ways (see at 25:00 his remarks at Giannuzzi's retirement party (YouTube).

John's leadership in his community is highly prized. His evolution from hometown boy to local savior involves one of John's favorite stories. His favorite DWI jury win is a client that knew him well from his days as a bartender. The trust factor from being a favorite bartender to being the lawyer who won an acquittal for a friend is one he relishes. He describes the experience of knowing everyone involved, including the witnesses, as a challenge for all to see him in a different light. Once the verdict came back in only a few minutes time, his reputation as John The Criminal Defense Lawyer was sealed.

John majored in Political Science at Adelphi University. His mother had taken a job at the University to earn him free tuition. From there, he received his law degree from Touro Law Center. In addition to his membership in NCDD, he is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Suffolk County Bar Association, and serves on the executive board of the Suffolk County Criminal Defense Association. He was handpicked to work for Joseph Caramango, Esq. before he passed the bar exam. In five years, when Mr. Caramango moved, he took over the practice expanding it to what it is today with an emphasis on DWI defense. John's father made an everlasting impression on him when he was young that would spur him to become a lawyer.


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