Friday, February 1, 2008

Today

I've been trying to think of anything new that I can add as a comment regarding today's events, and I've come up with nothing. All of the complete and total debacle at the Federal Courthouse speaks for itself.

I've got nothing to add to it, but than to say it is a tragic culmination of events that seems to have shaken the Harris County District Attorney's Office to its core.

All I know is what I've read on the websites.

If anybody has a sub-topic of discussion that they'd like to persue under this broad topic, let me know, and we'll talk.

But for the time being, I'm speechless.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suggested Mark Vinson the other day as a caretaker, should Rosenthal step down.

This could also happen if a civil quo warranto removal suit, as the judge, after citation has issued and service has occurred, can hold an emergency hearing pretty immediately to decide whether the action proceeds to a removal hearing AND whether the DA is temporarily removed pending a removal trial.

The Gov would not play a part in the appointment if a removal action is filed and CR is removed that way.

If the removal suit landed in front of a, let's say, "interesting" civil district judge, well, you could end up with just about any kind of lawyer as a caretaker for the office. Dick DeGuerin. Brian Wice. Even old Jo Jones, if she were willing to resign her city post.

If the news reports of CR's testimony are accurate at all, then it appears sufficient grounds to allege removal have occurred.

I would think that, given the current revalations, that no judge would appoint any of the senior staff of the office. Not that any or all of them overtly did anything wrong, but that they were either unaware, unable, uninterested, unwilling or scared to deter CR from many courses of action in the recent and distant past. Johnny just needs to stay on his farm with his scanner.

I think Mark Vinson would be a great caretaker of the office. Mike McSpadden would be as well. Ron Wood, Brad Beers, Jim Lindeman, Chris Tritico and Pat McCann would be other fine choices. There are those of you who will have anxiety attacks at the mere mention, but I personally admire Robert Jones and think he'd be a great caretaker. Let's hear some other choices.

Rusty Hardin could also be a strong contender for caretaker.

The other wildcard would be if a removal suit happened, the civil district judge who caught the case could recuse themselves and then Olen Underwood would appoint a judge to hear the matter. And there is no telling what kind of district judge might end up hearing that matter, or who they might appoint as an interim DA. Then you really could end up with a Mark or Bill Bennett as interim DA.

CR knew this was coming. No chron posting intended, but one has to wonder if he is all there right now. Surely he realizes that the party is over and it is time to turn out the lights.

I also feel terribly sorry for Scott Durfee.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Excellent post, Anon. I have to admit that I'm entirely unfamiliar with process should Chuck not complete is term. My loose understanding of it has been that there are different factors in play regarding the different "manner and means" in which Chuck would leave.

You list some interesting candidates as a caretaker. However out of the list you made, I doubt any of them would WANT the job. You list numerous very successful private attorneys, as well as a sitting judge. I can't imagine an attorney effectively shutting down hisn pratice for the next eleven months to do a job which would surely be a salary cut. Likewise, I doubt that Judge McSpadden would want to give up the court that his been his for well over 20 years.

My candidate choice would be Johnny Holmes or retired-District Court Judges Mary Bacon or Doug Shaver. If one were to select from inside the Office, I think Lyn McClellan would be ideal.

I just hope that whoever it would be someone who isn't a current candidate for the position.

Anonymous said...

The ethics office idea that you didn't care much for seems like it would be a good idea now.

Here's how it works. When supervisors failed to respond to the Trent email fiasco some years ago, what should have happened is that an ethics division or professional responsibility division should have kicked in.

Aggrieved ada's could have filed complaints. An investigation promptly conducted would have us closer to the truth.

Frankly, even though Mr. Trent has done much good work for the office, his explanation is highly dubious and suspect. We don't know what Mr. Freyer has to say, because he won't comment, so we have to accept Trent's version that he heard the term from Freyer. And Freyer's silence is a confirmation of Trent's version.

If that email event did in fact involve a code word, then disciplinary sanctions, ranging from reprimand and re-education to termination could have been explored. Although frankly, would you really want a guy like that on your staff if you were DA? Would cultural sensitivity classes or ethics education change his base opinions? Probably not.

The supervisors, well paid and experienced as they are, should have stepped up and documented this. Rosenthal himself should have done this. I'm disappointed that only a few black ada's were apparently the only ones with the sense, class, courage and wisdom to question his actions. What were the rest of the ada's thinking? Why didn't they come forward, upset not only at the implications but at the idiocy to send such an email.

The public would expect that in an office of 260 highly aggressive, highly intelligent type A attorneys, whose sworn duty is to seek justice, that some of the non-black attorneys would have been incensed as well and would have made a hue and cry about that email.

But there was nothing but silence, except from the black ada's.

It makes the public think that Trent's email, and the non-treatment that it received, are business as usual. If it was such a non-event to everyone who received the email

The next step, other than CR's downfall, his present and future legal woes, the caretaking, and the election, will be the questioning of many cases and investigations, past/present/future. Old transcripts I suspect are being searched for all over the city.

A bar is a great place to have a DA campaign meeting, don't you think? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that pep rally!

The Chron is surprisingly quiet today on the Federal Court doings. Are they saving it for tomorrow?

As bad as everyone feels about the CR federal court performance, I think the bloodletting has just begun.

One last thought: If an ada, or several ada's, filed a removal petition as petitioners, that would be a first step in restoring cred to the office.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon,
Couple of things I'd like to point out.
1) The D.A.'s Office doesn't have an "ethics office", but it does have a disciplinary committee that has had to meet on certain issues over the years. There are punishments handed out.
2) Freyer responded to the Canadian story when it happened. He wrote a response that the media has in its possession, but has yet to release for some unknown reason. He was also disciplined at that time.
3) The "bar" you refer to for a campaign meeting is Live Sport Bar, which is also a real restaurant, just like Chammps, BW3, and other places. Its a good place. And damn, if you think those ADAs aren't needing a beer around now, you're crazy.
4) I agree that the Chronicle is surprisingly quiet other than the relatively small front page article. If I had to guess, it's probably because the hearing ended so abruptly and nobody knows what that meant.

Anonymous said...

McSpadden was suggested because he has been on the Bench a long time, and might be ready to retire, I don't know. His integrity is well known. Shaver would also be a great choice for that same reason.

The other private attorneys mentioned, well, I suggested them because some of them do have associates and partners and possibly could actually afford the luxury of spending almost a year straightening up the office. Hardin certainly could afford that, although the pros and cons are lengthy for him.

Better someone retired like Vinson or Shaver. Shaver would be a great choice.

I favor someone from outside the office. No one inside the office was concerned enough to challenge CR on many past incidents, so they have to be outside of consideration.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the ada's are needing many beers, but it would be better to have them in a private home rather than a public place, since so many are media personalities by virtue of their trials.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 7:47, I think Mark Vinson might want to fight you for saying he's retired. :-) I think, at best, that he's only semi-retired.

Anon 7:49 a.m., I think your view that ADAs should stay out bars is a little bit Puritanical. They deal with hard-core things all day long. If they want to drink in bars on their own time, that's their right.

Ron in Houston said...

I think your heart is in the right place and that you truly care about things like integrity and transparency.

I think the lessons of the current mess at the DA's office are about the corrupting influence of power, group think, and this "we're right and everyone else is wrong" attitude.

The line between prosecutor and prisoner is truly a fine one.

ADA-esque said...

I feel bad too for Scott Durfee and Gary Zallar - those guys are good as gold.

How about Bill Delmore for temporary DA? He's smart, patient, and drama-less.

Anonymous said...

Trust me. Now that Mark has outed the bar pep rally, that tidbit will appear in the chron in someone's column. I'm not being puritanical, just using some common sense.

Bill is a great guy. Unfortunately, he is part of the perceived inner circle, whether he actually is in the inner circle or not. Bureau Chiefs and up, those are the ones who should have been holding CR's hand to the flame for many years.

ADA-esque said...

That isn't fair - how do you know they didn't try to "hold CR's hand..." as you say?

At a certain point, people had to make a decision to just do their jobs.

Mark Bennett said...

Live is convenient to the courthouse, it's got food, and lawyers like to drink. It's an appropriate place for a DA candidate's pep rally. . . .

. . . even if the candidate isn't cultivating the drunk driving vote.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Ron in Houston,
Welcome to the blog. I'm glad you came by. You are right that I care about the integrity and the transparency of the Office, just as much as I care about the Office's reputation.

Chuck has, in seven years, single handedly destroyed the reputation of the Office. I know there are some people out there who believe he was able to do it alone. It's understandable why they would think that. It's just sad to me, because what I know of the Office.

From what I've seen of the Office, it was led by a man who set policies without thinking them through. He would politely listen to your counter-point, but completely disregard it. The two people that he listened to were people who didn't have anyone's interest in mind other than their own, and the advice they gave was horrible.

I think Johnny Holmes must be so furious at Chuck right now that he can't see straight.

Anonymous said...

Since you are talking, who were the people he actually listened to? That is, besides Judas Siegler?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Finally somebody asked the million dollar question.

The people he listened to were his Chief Investigator and his paid political consultant, from my understanding.

"Judas" Siegler, as you call her, wasn't part of the small circle.

From my friends at the Office, I understand that January 2nd brought a damn near open revolt as the inner-circle was trying to convince Chuck to stay in the race. Their motivations for wanting him to stay should be obvious.

PJ said...

A Harris County Lawyer wrote: "From what I've seen of the Office, it was led by a man who set policies without thinking them through. He would politely listen to your counter-point, but completely disregard it. The two people that he listened to were people who didn't have anyone's interest in mind other than their own, and the advice they gave was horrible."

Link

But I don't think Chuck is even close to the only problem with the DA's office. Its primary problem (of which Chuck is only emblematic) is its political homogeneity and rigidity (which of course leads straight to corruption). We don't need righteous DA's doing "battle" with "criminals." We need people serving the public fairly, with at least some degree of understanding and compassion from whence "criminals" come. A new political outlook is desperately needed in Harris County; unfortunately, I'm deeply skeptical anybody can deliver it. I never in a million years thought Dallas, of all cities, would beat us there.

anonymous c said...

PJ,

you think that we need ADAs who have "understanding and compassion" for the criminals. That's utterly absurd!

It would totally upset the whole idea of true Justice, which is that the ADAs, with compassion and understanding towards the victims, fight vigourously and tirelessly to convict and that the DEFENSE lawyers, with the understanding and compassion towards the criminals that you speak of, fight vigorously and tirelessly to acquit. In the middle of that battle is where, ideally, Justice is born. That's how it works.

I don't want to live in a county with touchy-feely, peace and love ADAs and I highly doubt that you would, either. It's just not reality.

PJ said...

anonymous c,

That is not how it should work, not even close. ADAs do not represent the victims. They represent the State--the collective citizenry of Texas--which includes both collective victims and those collectively accused of committing crimes. The people you are prosecuting are not "criminals" until you have won a conviction, at which point your professional role is effectively over. (Forgetting this should be an ethical violation in and of itself.) This is where a prosecutor's legal and ethical obligations to "do justice" are rooted. Defense lawyers--who represent individual accused persons--have no such obligation. If your understanding and compassion end at the victim's pain, then you have no business whatsoever representing the State of Texas.

Because this warped prosecutorial outlook of yours is so pervasive in Harris County (and elsewhere in the state, really), this is why many want to see the office hollowed out and started over. That sentiment is perfectly understandable to me.

The aversion to peace and love is truly astounding. And notice how low I even set the bar: "some degree of understanding and compassion"! And, yet, you find that lowest of hurdles "utterly absurd!" This kind of disconnect with the collective citizenry of Texas should not be allowed to thrive in a district attorney's office.

anonymous c said...

PJ,

I concede your stating of the obvious about the ADA role. Of course they represent the State.

But I would argue your point that that State includes the accused criminal. I believe that the ADA is prosecuting that criminal on BEHALF of the State, which is the victim FIRST and then the rest of the non-crime committing citizenry. The accused criminal’s advocate is his/her defense lawyer and does NOT include the State. He/she is on trial and accused BY the State.

In your view, the accused criminal gets advocates from both sides. Who is the victim’s dedicated advocate?

And, on the contrary, I’m a big fan of peace and love. It’s the perversion of that by the criminal that really pisses me off.

Another thing that really pisses me off is when people like you argue that we should have compassion and understanding for criminals and “from whence they come”. Why? Plenty of people have the most HORRIFIC of childhood experiences, etc. and do not use that as fuel for criminal activities. People that CHOOSE to, in my opinion, lose their right to that compassion and understanding from the State. That becomes the defense lawyer’s job. The ADA is in the court fighting for the innocent victim. That is his/her job. It is NOT his/her job to feel compassion for the accused criminal.

Respectfully, I think that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, PJ.

DA-esque said...

I too think that somehow we come up with the right result "in the middle" as HCL says.

I also think that we should have compassion. Compassion leads to understanding and conneciton. Lack of compassion leads to arrogance and disconnection.

Good people do stupid and wrong things sometimes. We can't just throw them away - say they don't deserve basic human regard - like respect and yes, compassion.

Compassion doesn't mean people get a free pass - it doesn't mean they don't deserve the consequences of their actions and choices.

Compassion is strenght - like forgiveness. It is hard to find it for someone who has done something awful.

Compassion seeks to reduce suffering. We can all use some of that.

DA-esque said...

Apoligies - reread this - HCL did not say we meet in the middle - someone else did...still I agree with that. Very much.