Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Judge Marc Carter wins 2018 Jesse Brown Distinguished Leadership Award

Congratulations are in order (yet again) for 228th District Court Judge Marc Carter, who has been named the recipient of the 2018 Jesse Brown Distinguished Leadership Award by the NAACP Veterans Task Force.  The Award is awarded to an American who works diligently to ensure that all veterans are provided the benefits and service they have earned through the honorable service to their country.

As noted in the Harris County District Courts' press release, Judge Carter voluntarily presides over the first Veterans Treatment Court Program established in the State of Texas.  It was created for veterans in need of mental health and drug treatment by diverting veterans with felony and misdemeanor offenses directly into treatment courts, reducing jail time costs and recidivism.  He has run the Veterans Court since its creation in 2009.

For those of us who have the opportunity to practice in front of Judge Carter, the award comes as no surprise.  He consistently proves himself to be one of the most compassionate and fair judges in the Harris County criminal courts.  In 2016, he was awarded the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence.  In short, he's an amazing judge and human being.  

The Award will be presented to Judge Carter on July 17, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.

Congratulations, Judge Carter on this well-deserved honor!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Judge Frank Price

Judge Frank Price passed away today after a hard-fought battle with cancer.  He was a wonderful man and judge.  I had the honor of trying cases in front of him and appearing before him on many occasions. 

He was 79-years-old at the time of his passing, but I would venture to say that Judge Price had more street cred than probably any lawyer appearing before him.   He knew the law, but more importantly, he knew people.  He knew how to treat people and he did so with kindness and fairness. 

Judge Price's legal career spanned decades although those of us in our mid-40s or younger knew him mainly through his time as a visiting judge.  His obituary tells of an amazing and storied life.
Frank started his legal career as a prosecutor, serving 5 years as a Harris County assistant district attorney, followed by private practice as a criminal defense lawyer. Frank's exhaustive attention to every case and his strong commitment to justice did not go unnoticed. In 1974, Frank became the youngest appointee in history when he was appointed by Gov. Briscoe to serve as the judge of a criminal court, the 209th District Court. Frank was truly born to be a judge. His gracious temperament, knowledge of the law and sense of fairness made people in his court feel that the system of justice was indeed just. Prosecutors and defense counsel both state that they left Judge Price's courtroom wishing that they could try every case in the level playing field of his court. 
Judge Price presided over some of Houston's most famous criminal trials, such as the trial of Lilla Paulus who was convicted of being a co-conspirator in the "Blood and Money" murder of Dr. John Hill in River Oaks. He stood firm in his convictions and guarded the integrity of the system without compromise or regard for self-interest. He had the courage to make the very unpopular decision to grant a new trial in the front-page case of a man who was convicted of abducting and killing his own niece. Judge Price had learned that evidence had been withheld from the defense. In the end, the new trial served the system well, and also brought a second conviction. Judge Price presided in the trial of the notorious "Candyman" who killed Halloween and his young son with poisoned pixie sticks he handed out to five neighborhood children, seeking to gain $31,000 in insurance. In 1981, Gov. Clements appointed Judge Price to serve on the First Court of Appeals, starting his years of service on the appellate bench. Eventually he served as a visiting judge in both trial and appellate courts, serving over 30 years in the Texas State Judiciary. Judge Price personally wrote every appellate opinion himself, with hundreds of published opinions to his credit. His writing beautifully reflected his goal of perfection in both language and reasoning. He was known for mastering tough issues and cutting quickly to the heart of a case by asking a single insightful question. 
Judge Price was also known to know a little bit about magic.
As a judge, he was reserved and shunned attention. It is impossible, but true, that this same man was guilty of trickery and deceit – he was among the greatest practitioners of sleight of hand and close-up magic, performing routinely as a professional magician at Magic Island and many other venues. Training his hands to betray the closest scrutiny took the kind of discipline that was his forte. He took immense pride in the craft of magic and considered it a noble art, his "other" profession. He served as President of the Texas Association of Magicians and occasionally hosted local meetings at night in his courtroom. He kept separate his two professions, with few exceptions. An attorney who had once recognized Judge Price at Magic Island needed an emergency ruling, so he raced to the club, paid the admission and asked Frank if he could turn a magician into a judge. Frank did. On another occasion, Frank finished sentencing a convicted con-artist and then had him deal Three-Card Monte for 2 hours so Frank could study his reveal.
He was absolutely a character, and an honorable man.  He will be greatly missed.   I am very glad that I got the opportunity to practice in front of him, and I'm proud that I tried a case to him.

A celebration of his life will be held at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, 11612 Memorial Drive, Houston 77024, on May 24, 2018, at 10:00 am. Those desiring to honor Judge Price's memory are welcome to make a donation of choice or to The American Cancer Society.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Services for James Dyer

From the family of James Dyer:

There will be a Viewing Service at Cypress-Fairbanks Funeral Home (9926 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77065) on Sunday May 20, 2018 from 5-7pm.

A Memorial Service at St. Stephen's United Methodist Church (2003 W. 43rd Street, Houston, TX 77018) on Monday May 21, 2018 at 2pm, reception to follow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No Jacket Required


If you haven't heard the news already, the Criminal County Courts of Harris County yesterday relaxed the dress code for the summer in light of our current conditions:
We suspend the requirement for male attorneys to wear coat and tie, instead requesting a collared shirt and slacks, with comparable attire for the female attorneys, when they attend our bond docket courrooms in the Family Law Center.  This rule shall take efect May 21, 2018 and remain in effect until October 1, 2018, and shall apply to the bond docket courtrooms of all the undersigned judges.
And, yes, it is signed by ALL of the County Court Judges.

It is still advised that, given the concerns of the Fire Marshals at the Old Family Law building,  all occupants of the building dress accordingly.

Monday, May 14, 2018

James Dyer

I was very saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of my friend and longtime criminal defense attorney, James Dyer.  I knew that he had suffered through some health issues fairly recently, but he was still up and covering dockets as recently as last week.  He was a kind man, and I probably learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from him during my time as a young prosecutor.

I wrote about it in this post.  It's a long post, and I think I was having (yet another) blog spat with my friend, Mark Bennett, as well as arguing with that Rage Judicata guy that used to be around the blog (wonder whatever happened to that guy).

Anyway, I was lamenting the lack of collegiality within the criminal law profession, and I cited a moment from early on in my prosecutorial career.
Of course on both sides of the Bar, there are always going to be examples of those who have somehow abandoned the idea of collegiality and replaced it with bravado, arrogance, and often, rudeness. Some prosecutors do it. Some defense attorneys do it. Hell, even some judges do it, I suppose. 
It has been my experience that those members of the legal profession often exhibit rude behavior in their younger and less-experienced years. When you've gone to trial and you've both won and lost many tough cases, you don't really have the need for bravado. You are comfortable in what you've accomplished and you don't really feel the need to go around puffing or treating your opposition like crap just to make yourself feel better. 
I would like to think that by the end of my career as a prosecutor that I was known for treating everyone with respect, but I know that in my younger years as a prosecutor I could be quite a tool. I remember the day I realized what a tool I was being. 
I was giving James Dyer (whom I still fondly refer to as "Chewbacca") a mean-spirited and rude speech. I don't remember what it was about or why I felt my rant was necessary, but I remember what he said to me. He looked at me, sadly, and said "I don't know what I did to make you so mad at me, but whatever it was, I'm sorry." 
I felt like a bully and jerk (which I was). There wasn't any need for it, and in his understated way, Mr. Dyer pointed that out to me. If there was ever any "turning point" in my career and who I wanted to be as a prosecutor or a criminal lawyer, in general, that's the moment I can point to.
After I wrote that post, word trickled back to Mr. Dyer that I had written it, and it apparently made him very happy.  Whenever I would see him around the courthouse, he'd put his arm around my neck and tell whoever was standing nearby: "This guy wrote something nice about me once!  I keep waiting for him to do it again!"

We were always friends after that.  He always seemed to be upbeat and happy when I saw him.  He talked about his family quite a bit.  He always had a joke that was usually the epitome of a "Dad Joke."  If the joke bombed, he just started a new one.  Mr. Dyer always wanted to leave you laughing.

He had a great sense of humor about himself, too.  Back in the days of when Todd Dupont and I were hosting Reasonable Doubt on behalf of HCCLA, Todd went through a lengthy period of time without shaving.  I asked Mr. Dyer if he would help me do a quick video clip, making fun of Todd for his unkempt beard.

Mr. Dyer happily complied.  (NOTE: The video is so old that I can't figure out how to download it and migrate it over to this post.  It's a little slow to load, but check it out.)

Mr. Dyer was a courthouse staple and I will miss seeing him there.  I'll miss his sense of humor and cheeriness.

And I will never forget the lesson he taught me when I was a young, hotheaded prosecutor.

For that lesson, I'm profoundly grateful.

Rest in Peace, my friend.