Monday, January 26, 2009

Intake Sign Up

Back in April, I did a couple of articles on how the Intake System and the Probable Cause Court System worked at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. One of the things that I didn't cover back then was the madness behind the method that went into assigning what prosecutors were going to cover what shifts for either P.C. or Intake.

First, a little background on the shifts themselves:

Outside of the regular 8-5 weekday shifts, additional prosecutors are needed to cover the night and weekend shifts. Since only chiefs can work Chief Intake and Probable Cause Court, that means that, at most times, there are two Felony Chiefs on duty.

On week nights, Chiefs are needed to work a Five to Midnight and a Midnight to Eight schedule for both Intake and P.C.

On the weekends, the shifts change a little bit. A Chief works from Midnight to Eight and then another is needed to work from Five to Midnight at the Intake Position. For some reason, a Chief is not called for between the hours of Eight to Five. However, since Probable Cause Court has a docket every two to three hours, there are shifts on the weekend for a Probable Cause Court prosecutor from Midnight to Eight, Eight to Four, and then Four to Midnight.

Prior to the Lykos Administration, every three or four months, Chiefs had to go through the dreaded and incredibly annoying process of "Intake Sign Up". One of the conference rooms on the Fourth Floor would have every last chief who worked intakes crammed into it, taking turns signing up for all the shifts that were coming up over the next few months. We would all take our turn and sign up in a crazy process that normally took a minimum of two hours. The chaos that ensued was frustrating beyond belief. While all other intake shifts for non-Chiefs were randomly assigned by computer, the Chiefs went through a process that made the floor of the New York Stock Exchange look neat and orderly.

In my opinion (and the opinion of most chiefs), the Probable Cause Court shifts were much more desirable than the Intake shifts. Intake can make you go crazy with the frantic and incessant phone calls, the warrants, and the screening of cases. The Probable Cause shift is typically more leisurely, with the prosecutor having to go and basically act like (what I always referred to as) a Reading Monkey. He mindlessly reads a summary of the offense to the Magistrate who then finds probable cause (or not). It isn't exactly high stress.

In addition to the P.C. shifts being a little easier than intake, obviously, the timing of the shift was very important to those of us signing up for them. For me, personally, a good old Eight to Four shift on a weekend was better than a Five to Midnight shift. And I usually traded away those Midnight to Eight shifts that I signed up for. But, all things considered, a Five to Midnight shift wasn't such a bad thing. You still had time to go home and get a few hours of sleep before reporting back to work the next morning.

During Intake Sign Up, the Eight to Four P.C. shifts were always snatched up first, quickly followed by the Five to Midnight shifts. The Midnight to Eight shifts usually went dead last.

The Lykos Administration took the much-needed step this week of abolishing the inefficient Intake Sign Up, and brought it back to random sign ups for the shifts. Prosecutors who are assigned shifts that they can't (or won't) work are still free to trade with one another to get something that better fits into their schedules.

That was a good move.

But, apparently, operating under the theory of "To the Victor Belongs the Good Shifts", the list wasn't quite as "random" for some prosecutors as it was for others.

First Assistant Jim Leitner seems to have been "randomly" assigned only Probable Cause Court shifts that fall on weeknights between Five to Midnight. Bureau Chief and former-Judge Roger Bridgwater also "randomly" was only assigned the exact same types of shifts. New Division Chief Clint Greenwood does have a couple of Midnight to Eight shifts that he will be covering, but he is only doing Probable Cause Court, and not any Intake shifts.

I suppose Lykos' new leadership either a) knew well enough that they weren't qualified to try and tackle the hectic and difficult work of intake, so they stuck to the "Reading Monkey" positions instead; or b) they were just too lazy to work the hectic shifts.

It is worth noting that during my tenure at the Office, I never saw the First Assistant working an Intake Shift, but I can certainly sympathize with Jim working extra shifts to make ends meet. I have a child of my own, too. They can be expensive!

But as Jim, Roger and Clint enter into the Wacky World of Intake, I hope they will remember that even if you are working cushy assignments like ones you've "randomly" been assigned, you will still be expected to be at work on time the next morning.

Failure to do so could have your right to work intake arbitrarily removed from you without warning -- whether you have kids or not.


Anonymous said...

They don't care about people, or single mothers, or people on hard times. They don't care if taking away a person's intake shifts (without warning) means they cannot make the mortgage. They don't care if the people they do that to have children. They don't care if someone has devoted well over a decade, or their entire life to the office. I hope that the people who made these decisions go home and look at their kids, and their homes, and think, wow, what if something happened to me and I was struggling to provide for my child. I hope they think of that and I hope they are able to sleep at night.

At this rate, the ship is going to sink quickly as ADAs with years of experience and hundreds of trials under their belts jump off the boat to join the defense side. I will hate to see what that place will be like in a couple of years. I feel sorry for the ADAs there. It sounds like a miserable place to work. I have heard other things going on over there that make me sad for the ADAs working for Harris County. You were right when you said the living would come to envy the least in this context.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

No, they have certainly shown no loyalty to the employees who have worked for the Office long before they came in. What else would you expect from the people that fired the secretaries three days before Christmas?
As a side note, when people do start leaving, they can rest assured that they will have a forum here if they would like to discuss why they left.

Anonymous said...

I never understood why it was set up so that DA's who worked midnight to 8 had to be at work the next day. Why isn't there a system whereby anyone who has worked all night can burn some comp time and at least get a little sleep? Although, as a defense attorney, I must admit that it didn't always break my heart to see a judge force some surly sleep-deprived DA pick a jury on a case that didn't need to be tried.

Anonymous said...

In the real world, those shifts would be assigned for periods of at least a week rather than a semi-random day here and there process. Or, why not find some ADA's who want to work the non-daylight shifts, and assign a permanent Chiefs to nights and weekends?

I learned many years ago that extra pay for shift work or overtime is best considered found money and used for either savings or something needed right now. Depending on overtime to meet basic expenses is asking for trouble.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you all noticed but Lykos created a animal cruelty unit. She really seems to be beefing up the right divisions.

Why didn't Harris County have one before?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 10:16 p.m.,
Ideally, it would be nice if the intake pay was just a luxury that prosecutors could just earmark as gravy, but the reality is that they rely on bringing in a certain amount of it as part of their annual salary. If you don't have folks arbitrarily removing your ability to work or having Jim and Roger snatching up the best shifts, a prosecutor can rely on a certain amount of intake shifts coming in yearly. That money is often badly needed for a prosecutor's family.

Anon 7:23,
The Animal Cruelty Unit has been around since about mid-way through the Rosenthal Administration. Lykos added an additional prosecutor to the unit and has now claimed that she "invented" the unit altogether. Lykos enjoys claiming credit for things she didn't invent. Thus far, she has also claimed that she would be "creating" a Victim Witness Division (which has been around forever), and "creating" the policy of opening files to Defense Attorneys (which has also been around forever). She has the intellectual honest of Jon Lovitz's Tommy Flannagan character from Saturday Night Live.

Anonymous said...

I see no problem with Lykos changing the intake sign-up policy at her sole discretion. She is the boss, period.
However, her mantra of restoring integrity and the "rule of law" at HCDA are ill-served and reduced to a mockery when her pet bitches are given non-randomized preferential treatment in an allegedly randomized pool of participants. Even in the unlikely event that the assignments were truly random, the mere appearance of impropriety should have been enough to reshuffle the cards one more time. That is what a leader with integrity does.
This is yet another example of how the Lykos/Leitner administration intends "transparency" of "leadership" to be rhetoric rather than by actions.
I am still shocked that people seem so surprised at the troll's behavior. What did you folks expect?
Some days chicken; some days chickenshit....and there will be plenty of chickenshit to go around for the next 4 years at HCDA.

Anonymous said...

If Lykos didn't take credit for other peoples accomplishments she wouldn't be able to mislead the old blue hairs effectively now would she?

Anonymous said...

I thought the Mrs. was picking up the slack while little Jimmy was sticking pins in his troll voo doo doll? I haven't been here all that long, but I never knew Bert to work intake?

Anonymous said...

Did Bert Graham ever work intakes? Didn't Lietner leave his wife with his practice? I would assume that would be the extra source of income he needs. The shifts are like the appointments for Jim. Very few in the courthouse had more than him. Clint did his resets if he couldn't make it to court. That crew is shameless.

Anonymous said...

murray, we heard another 5 people were being sent on their way because of inner office snitch. something about text messages .is this true? supposedly a couple of long time people and some others.

Anonymous said...

why do the top people get to choose when they work?it is not fair to the rest of us. we are afraid to say anything. what should we do?

Anonymous said...

How 'bout that new Fugitive Unit of hers? That's a unique idea, lawyers chasing fugitives. Shouldn't the Po-Po be doing that?

Anonymous said...

hey boys and girls,
think back to the days when you were in grade school and your real teacher was sick or out of town. the substitute teacher often times tried to hide the fact that she was clueless by requiring us to do silly little tasks not remotely germane to our studies.
can you say dega vu?

ANONda said...

Well said, y'all!!!
I have it on good information that The Queen is very upset at the information out of her castle and a few heads are scheduled to roll in the coming weeks..

Anonymous said...

Dear ANONda:
Please do not elevate the troll's status to that of is offensive to all monarchies, past and present and that is saying a lot.

Anonymous said...

Eat cake my ass! It's time for a guillotine fund raiser! Off with the queen's gnarly head!

Anonymous said...

Anom 8:26...

Are you for real? "What should we do?" "It's not fair" Stop whinning and get to work.

I would swear that a young child wrote this and you are an ADA???

Good God. We are in trouble.

Anonymous said...

you'd be correct but for the wrong better attention in class and remind me to never babysit for your kids

Anonymous said...

Anom 5:01

What are you trying to say?? Babysit what kids????

Anonymous said...

anon 7:05;
glad to hear you are childless.the gene pool is jacked up enough without you adding to the mix.stay barren,we have enough punks as it is.