Speaker Bios

Tillman J. Breckenridge, AAAL Fellow
Stris & Maher
Washington, D.C.

Tillman J. Breckenridge is a partner at Los Angeles-based trial and appellate firm Stris & Maher, working from Virginia. He has represented clients in appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court, every federal court of appeals, and several state appellate courts. He has served as an adjunct professor at William and Mary Law School, where he directed the school’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.

C. Mitchell Brown, AAAL Fellow
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Columbia, South Carolina

C. Mitchell Brown leads the Appellate Practice group at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. He has made over 100 oral arguments in U.S. circuit courts of appeal and in state supreme courts and courts of appeal, and he has represented both Democratic and Republican governors before the South Carolina Supreme Court. He has served as chair of the DRI Appellate Practice Committee and president of the South Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society. He was one of the first law clerks for former South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal.

Donald N. Capparella, AAAL Fellow
Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella PC
Nashville, Tennessee

Donald N. Capparella leads the appellate practice team at Nashville’s Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella, and he has handled more than 450 appeals in state and federal courts. He has been recognized by Best Lawyers® as Nashville “Lawyer of the Year” in three categories: Personal Injury Litigation for Plaintiffs (2020), Appellate Practice (2018), and Insurance Law (2017). Mr. Capparella founded the Nashville Shakespeare Festival in 1988 and has remained actively involved as a director, actor, fundraiser, and board member.

The Hon. Julianna Michelle Childs
Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

Judge Julianna Michelle Childs has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina since 2010, having previously served as a South Carolina state court judge. Before being appointed to the bench, she was in private practice focusing on labor and employment law. She has been elected to the American Law Institute and served as an advisor to the Restatement Third of Employment Law. In 2020, Judge Childs was elected chair of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association (ABA). She has been mentioned as a short-list candidate to fill the next vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Laurie Webb Daniel, AAAL Fellow
Holland & Knight LLP
Atlanta, Georgia

Laurie Webb Daniel chairs Holland & Knight’s national Appellate Team from its Atlanta office. She has appeared in appellate and trial courts nationwide, including the U.S. Supreme Court. She has served twice as chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Amicus Curiae Briefs and served on the ABA’s Practitioner’s Reading Groups, which vetted the writings of U.S. Supreme Court nominees. She also has been a commentator for CNN on Supreme Court arguments.

Robert Dubose, AAAL Fellow
Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP
Houston, Texas

Robert Dubose is managing partner of the Houston office of appellate boutique Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP. A frequent national speaker on legal writing and appellate practice, Mr. Dubose authored the book Legal Writing for the Rewired Brain: Persuading Readers in a Paperless World. He also is the editor and chapter author of the book Texas Practitioner’s Guide to Civil Appeals.

Nancy W. Gregoire, AAAL Fellow
Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire, PLLC
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Nancy W. Gregoire chairs the appellate practice and litigation support divisions at Birnbaum, Lippman & Gregoire. She has served as president of the Broward County Bar Association and president of Legal Aid Service of Broward County, and she is currently chair of the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners.

Stephen P. Groves Sr., AAAL Fellow
Butler Snow LLP
Charleston, South Carolina

Stephen P. Groves Sr. is a partner in the Charleston office of Butler Snow LLP in the Tort, Transportation, and Specialized Litigation Group. He has handled appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court and all except one of the U.S. circuit courts of appeal. He has twice been named by Best Lawyers in America® as the “Lawyer of the Year” for Appellate Practice in Charleston, and once as “Lawyer of the Year” for Insurance Law. Mr. Groves also is a Fellow of the American College of Coverage Counsel.

Blake A. Hawthorne
Supreme Court of Texas
Austin, Texas

Blake A. Hawthorne is the clerk of the Supreme Court of Texas, where he has played a pivotal role in keeping Texas courts at the forefront of court technology. Texas courts were among the first to convert to electronic records, allow live-streaming of oral arguments, and convert to remote oral arguments after COVID. Mr. Hawthorne previously practiced with two private firms and the Texas Attorney General’s Office. He received AAAL’s Kathleen McCree Lewis Award for Appellate Justice in 2019.

The Hon. Nathan L. Hecht
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas
Austin, Texas

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht has acted in his current role on the Supreme Court of Texas since 2013. Serving on the court since 1988, he is the longest-serving member of the court in Texas history and the longest-tenured Texas judge in active service. Chief Justice Hecht has overseen revisions to the rules of administration, practice, and procedure in Texas courts and was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. He is currently president of the National Conference of Chief Justices.

The Hon. Jean H. Toal
Chief Justice, South Carolina Supreme Court (Retired)
Columbia, South Carolina

Chief Justice Jean H. Toal became the first woman to serve as a justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court when she was elected to that position in 1988. She broke another barrier when she became the first woman to serve as chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2000, serving until her retirement in 2015. When she was sworn into the bar in 1968, women were not allowed to serve as jurors in South Carolina trial courts. Before being elected to the appellate bench, Chief Justice Toal served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for 13 years.

John Kim
The Kim Law Firm
Houston, Texas

John Kim is a veteran trial lawyer in Houston who represents individuals and businesses as plaintiffs and defendants in civil litigation in Texas, nationally, and internationally. He was named “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by Texas ABOTA in 2018 and is president-elect of the ABOTA Foundation.

Wallace K. Lightsey, AAAL Fellow
Wyche, P.A.
Greenville, South Carolina

Wallace K. Lightsey is a trial and appellate specialist at Wyche, P.A. His practice emphasizes the representation of news media, including Facebook, Forbes, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and Time. In law school, Mr. Lightsey served as executive editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he served clerkships for Judge John Minor Wisdom on the Fifth Circuit and Chief Justice Warren Burger on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert M. (Randy) Roach Jr., AAAL Fellow
Roach Newton LLP
Houston, Texas

Robert M. Roach Jr. is the founding partner of Roach Newton, a Houston appellate and insurance coverage boutique. His practice focuses on Texas Supreme Court jurisprudence, legal consulting with trial teams, punitive damage law, and insurance coverage disputes for policyholders. For the last 30 years, he has taught appellate practice and advocacy at both the University of Texas Law School and the University of Houston Law Center.

Robert N. Rosen
Rosen Law Firm, LLC
Charleston, South Carolina

Robert N. Rosen is a Charleston trial attorney focusing primarily on family law, earning him recognition as a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Mr. Rosen previously served as counsel for the City of Charleston, the Charleston County School District, and the Housing Authority of the City of Charleston. He has published books about local history, including A Short History of Charleston, Confederate Charleston, and Charleston—A Crossroads to History.

Lauri Waldman Ross, AAAL Fellow
Ross & Girten
Miami, Florida

Lauri Waldman Ross is an appellate specialist with the Miami appellate boutique Ross & Girten. She has handled over 500 appeals and has been listed in numerous publications as one of the best appellate lawyers in Florida.

The Hon. Ravi K. Sandill
Judge, Harris County Civil Courthouse
Houston, Texas

Judge Ravi K. Sandill has been an elected trial judge in Houston since 2009. He has been recognized by the Hispanic Bar Association as “Trial Judge of the Year” and received the Distinguished Jurist Award from the African-American Lawyer Section of the State Bar of Texas. Before being elected to the bench, he practiced trade secret litigation.

Matt Sawchak, AAAL Fellow
Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A.
Raleigh, North Carolina

Matt Sawchak focuses on appeals, antitrust, and other complex litigation as a partner at Robinson Bradshaw. He has argued at all levels of the federal and North Carolina court systems, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Sawchak served as the solicitor general of North Carolina from 2017 to 2020. He also sings with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Opera.

Harvey J. Sepler, Ph.D., AAAL Fellow
Alvarez, Gonzalez & Menezes LLP
Coral Gables, Florida

Harvey J. Sepler, Ph.D., is of counsel to Alvarez/Gonzalez/Menezes, LLP in Miami, where he handles the civil appeals for several South Florida law firms. He served over 30 years in the Appellate Division of the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, where he litigated over 1,400 state and federal appeals. He has obtained unanimous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court.

Virginia Hamilton Snell, AAAL Fellow
Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP
Louisville, Kentucky

Virginia Hamilton Snell chairs the Appellate Advocacy Practice group at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs. Her practice focuses on constitutional law and other legal issues in civil dispute. She was ranked as the #1 lawyer in Kentucky by Super Lawyers® in 2018. She has been named by The Best Lawyers in America® Louisville’s “Lawyer of the Year” in the areas of Appellate Practice, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, and Litigation. Ms. Snell is a past president of the Brandeis Inn of Court.

Kathleen M. Stoughton
U.S. Attorney’s office, District of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

Kathleen M. Stoughton is the chief of the Appellate Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina. After law school, she served clerkships to Judge Dennis W. Shedd on the Fourth Circuit and Judge Terry L. Wooten on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. Following her clerkships, she served as counsel to Senator Lindsey Graham on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

Nora Sydow
National Center of State Courts
Williamsburg, Virginia

Nora Sydow is a principal court management consultant at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). She has also directed all of NCSC’s pandemic and public health projects since 2014. She is a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management.

Michael B. Terry, AAAL Fellow
Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP
Atlanta, Georgia

Michael B. Terry is a trial and appellate specialist with Bonderant Mixson & Elmore in Atlanta, with a focus on class actions and punitive damages. He has been named Georgia “Lawyer of the Year” four times by Best Lawyers®—twice as Appellate Lawyer of the Year, once for Antitrust Litigation, and once for Banking & Finance Litigation. Mr. Terry was successful lead counsel for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the 2020 litigation against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp over the prohibition of municipal mask mandates during the COVID pandemic. He has published three books on appellate practice.