Authored by Rick Kammen
In 1983, after the National College for Criminal Defense, in Houston Texas had failed financially, Cat Bennett, Deryl Dantzler and Albert Krieger worked mightily to resurrect the college under the new name, the National Criminal Defense College. Their efforts led to the first NCDC two-week session in San Diego in 1984. Even then, Albert was not Albert Krieger. He was ALBERT KRIEGER, one of the few celebrity lawyers of that era. Albert, who had many invitations and obligations, not only agreed to teach in San Diego he also recruited several other important criminal defense lawyers who immediately also agreed to teach. Jim Doherty, Judy Clarke, Nancy Hollander, Juanita Brooks, Terry McCarthy, Millard Farmer, John Cleary, and Dale Cobb, headed a group of great lawyers and teachers. When Albert called you did not say “No.”
That year in San Diego laid the foundation for the current NCDC. Success in San Diego created acceptance by Mercer University School of law, which encouraged the College’s move to Macon where it remained for over thirty years. Through his leadership and dedication Albert played a role, a huge role in the continued success of NCDC. Besides his membership on the Board of Regents, Albert taught at Macon as long as his health allowed. But to be clear, to say that Albert played a role, a huge role in making NCDC what it is now, understates the importance of his contribution to NCDC.
Albert was a big man, wide, solid, with a voice deep booming voice and a glistening shaved head He could tell the most amazing war stories. Wounded Knee, NY Mob cases. As a young lawyer I was enthralled to listen and think, “If I am lucky maybe I’ll have cool war stories too.” Albert was what we aspired to.
But, Albert did not let celebrity go to his head. That was one of the things that made him special. He did not see himself as more important than others. Once when chatting over drinks he observed that his success was the product of hard work, ability and luck. “Lot’s of luck. Right place, right time, right opportunity. “My success,” he insisted “is the product of a lot of luck. “
Albert could laugh at the world and himself. One year at NCDC he had a cross examination demonstration fail, the witness just took over in an unrealistic way. It happens. Albert just laughed and shook his head and in that god like voice said something like, “ Well, that was special.”
When younger faculty had the opportunity to teach with Albert, we became students learning, absorbing. But while we may have seen ourselves as students at his knee, Albert treated us as equals. And I cannot fully express how important that was. A simple, I’m stumped, how can we help this participant?” or, “Want to join me for dinner?” was such an affirmation.
It is common, and true to say that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. But my generation of lawyers, and the thousands of lawyers Albert taught truly do stand on his shoulders. He modeled and taught technique. But more importantly he modeled greatness and humility. He showed how power could and should be tempered by warmth and self-deprecation.
But most of all he modeled courage. He would laugh at how the FBI was following him and others at Wounded Knee. He would joke about the nonsense surrounding the Gotti case, when his every word was being dissected in the press. His physical presence, his very being, radiated courage.
Albert understood and said many times that for each of us, it takes courage to go into the courtroom arena and fight battles, battles against opponents that sometimes are willing to bend the rules: battles that sometimes seem hopeless.
Being an “older lawyer” now, I reflect on “How did I get from there to here?” Albert Krieger was an important part of my journey. And Albert was, he is, an important part of the NCDC story.
Grace, compassion and courage was Albert’s gift to me and the many others who had the honor of knowing him, working with him or learning from him. His dedication to NCDC is one of his many gifts to all of us in the criminal defense community.
Age and health took him from NCDC a few years ago, as he could no longer teach with us. His passing takes his physical presence. But Albert’s contributions to the College and the criminal defense community will live as long as lawyers have the courage to walk into courtroom and argue to a judge or a jury that the soul sitting next to them is not guilty.
Thank you Albert,
The National Criminal Defense College is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation in Macon, Georgia that conducts seminars and training sessions for Criminal Defense Lawyers. We do not perform legal services.