Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Good Idea Implemented

Brace yourselves, folks. The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight did something right last week, and I'm acknowledging it.

Starting last week, numerous Felony District Courts began getting pre-commit attorneys as Felony "Fours".

For those of you not familiar with the terminology, a "Pre-Commit" is a soon-to-be lawyer who is just waiting on the results of his or her Bar Exam results before they can get sworn in and all officially lawyerlike. The District Attorney's Office hires them after a lengthy interview process and they begin conditional employment with a Bar Card (it's kind of like a Learner's Permit for lawyers. You can drive, but a licensed attorney has to be sitting with you). The condition is that the Pre-Commit has to pass the Bar Exam.

In the past, Pre-Commits who were hired by the Office went directly to the Misdemeanor Courts where they filled the role of a Misdemeanor Three -- trying DWI cases with no accidents or breath tests, small marijuana and theft cases, etc. It wasn't a bad idea, because they could get a couple of trials under their belt before they were even bona fide lawyers.

However, although starting a pre-commit could get some trial experience, what starting in Misdemeanor failed to provide them with was some good old fashioned Perspective.

In one of my posts last year, I pointed out that rising up through the ranks as the D.A.'s Office promotion ladder is structured was a good way to gradually get more comfortable trying progressively serious cases. The downfall of that is that the prosecutor is perpetually at the zenith of his or her most important cases tried.

I pointed out the example that I started in the Justice of the Peace Division and by God, I was one hell of a crusader against them No-Seatbelt-Wearing Bastards. Had I spent some time in the Felony Division before heading down to Class C court, the speeding ticket cases might not have seemed quite as proportional to a Capital Murder to me.

The Gang's idea of sending the Pre-Commits into the Felony Courts first is not one that they originated, but they do deserve credit for implementing it.

A Baby Pre-Commit now has the benefit of getting his or her first lessons in prosecution from a seasoned Felony Chief who has been prosecuting for years. These are the men and women of the D.A.'s Office who have actually tried the murders, sexual assaults, and aggravated robberies and have a lot to teach. The Pre-Commits might actually get to learn how to truly work up a case, and ultimately learn the difference from a good case and a bad case.

But the real value in it, in my opinion, is that the Pre-Commits under the new policy will realize that there is a tremendous difference between a murder and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and there truly is not such a thing as a "Capital DWI" trial. That type of perspective can shape the general attitude of the prosecutors in the Trial Bureau, while making them better at their jobs at the same time.

So, good call this time, Gang.

There, now I've actually written a post complimenting the new administration. The Final Sign of the CJC Apocalypse has arrived . . .


Tarian said...

Hey, wasn't that part of the Weissfisch plan? If so did they give George credit?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I believe it was a part of the Weissfisch plan.

Hell no they didn't give him credit. Did you really need to ask?

Anonymous said...

I’m also glad to see some relief for the court’s with another warm body. But I still think the main focus is to redecorate the office. The name plates in the entire building, the ones that when you need changed in anyway you contact the sign department with Harris County and they trot right over and do them.

No more. Getting all new signs on all doors in the entire District Attorney’s office. I’m just waiting to see if each one reads Pat Lykos, District Attorney on them. Regardless of what they have on them or what they look like, it’s a waste of man power and money.

Jacky Muniz, Chow’s personal assistant does all her grunt work with several redecorating projects going on all the time. His real job is Central Records Supervisor. Hard to do because he’s always redecorating. Changing the DA’s office, moving furniture around or taking all the signs down in the DA’s office. Guess they don’t have money in the budget to hire a lower salary grunt man.

Anonymous said...

What is the redecorating about?

Anonymous said...

What is Hannah the Banana's taste?

Anonymous said...

Rage won't think of this but Bennett would say they are pre-commies.

Mark Bennett said...

I'm with Murray: Weissfisch Fours (As in, "Oh, you're one of the Weissfisch Fours. Welcome!") are a great idea.

(Pre-commies would be Fickman's interns.)

Anonymous said...

I suggest letting Roger Bridgewater go and hiring George Weissfisch.

Pam said...

This is a great idea and every DA should implement a program such as this. I, too, was a baby prosecutor who thought every offense demanded an aggressive stance. Even now (31 years later) I wince when I remember how I thought I knew what was best for every victim, every defendant and that my idea of justice was the correct one.

Thanks for what you do.

Maybe other DA's offices will take note and try to develop procedures that will result in an optimum training program. It works to everyone's benefit.

Of course I have been accused, rightfully, of being an idealist-even at this ripe old age.

BLACK INK said...

Anon 9:46,
Yet another example that experience counts when it comes to practical ideas.....even if they're plagiarized.
Kudos to the Gang in their recognition that real prosecutors have real ideas and that the pretenders don't. Maybe now they'll start deferring to experience, like former ADA Weissfisch.
Realistically, Judge Pat needs to concentrate on schmoozing with the Republican base and redecorating 1201 Franklin; but when it comes to the day to day business of running the District Attorney's Office she needs to think of the following hypothetical: If she were captured by enemy combatants in the bowels of Afghanistan, would she want a S.E.A.L Team or a Cub Scout troop deployed for her extraction?

Rage Judicata said...

Is Weissfisch the guy who quit and took a parting shot by e-mailing his suggestings to the entire office?

Just think. Maybe of he'd stayed and done things the right way, this would have been implemented a while back and maybe a few of his other suggestions would be implemented as well.

This is a prime example of how you can accomplish m,ore change from within than by taking your ball and going home.

Rage Judicata said...

If she were captured by enemy combatants in the bowels of Afghanistan, would she want a S.E.A.L Team or a Cub Scout troop deployed for her extraction?


Ron in Houston said...

I agree with you Murray, a sense of perspective is necessary. Although, those non-seat belt wearing bastards need someone to hold them accountable.

Gee, maybe hell freezing over will help with global warming.

Anonymous said...

I heard a rumor that the new gang won't be hiring pre-commits anymore.

I was a pre-commit and from my school, out of 35 applicants for that first interview, they only brought three of us back. I thought my group was a strong group -- a few are still there and are well respected senior-level prosecutors. It would be a shame to let that program fall by the wayside.

I saw Fort Worth's DA's office is now possibly starting a pre-commit position. It would suck if they get all the good talent first.

Is anyone reading this in the know on this topic? If so, share.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see this happening. I practice primarily in a neighboring county where the District Court judges have both criminal and civil jurisdiction. There are generally three prosecutors in those courts, and they're handling more than enough cases. Four should be the rule, not the exception.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the current administration ignores the advice of those who were employed by prior administrations and will probably continue to ignore their advice. I understand they do not even seek any input from those with experience. This administration has demonstrated no administrative skills at all. That said I must agree with Murray that this appears to be a step in the right direction.

Black Ink-I agree, I want the SEALs.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Seal Team.

Anonymous said...

"This is a prime example of how you can accomplish m,ore change from within than by taking your ball and going home."

Maybe, but if one is told to take his ball and leave, then what?

BLACK INK said...

I disagree. If Judge Pat is captured by Afgan insurgents I want the Cub Scouts mobilized not a SEAL team.

Anonymous said...

OK Black Ink, I want the SEAL team if captured and I would not mobilize the Cub Scouts, send Jim, isn't he always using his "military" background as an example of how to do things.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe, but if one is told to take his ball and leave, then what?"

Then he didn't play the game right to start with.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. If Judge Pat is captured by Afgan insurgents I want the Cub Scouts mobilized not a SEAL team.

Not a very Christian attitude.

Anonymous said...

Amen. Reverend Bridgewater would condem that behavior.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:00,
Really? When would Christianity have any relevance with Judge Pat outside of an election cycle?
I'm looking for Osama to embrace the Gospel 1st.
Chill, cheeks have already been turned faster than a ceiling fan on high for her.....

Anonymous said...

SEALs AKA experienced ADAs
Cub Scouts AKA Lykos & Co.
VMI grads AKA AMEs

Anonymous said...

GW did suggest this the right way for months prior to his departure. And for months prior to my departure, I backed this idea to the chain of command, in the proper forum and in a professional manner. Don't take any shots at GW for this. He tried. We all tried. It fell on deaf ears. I don't know what changed their minds, but no, they won't give credit where credit is due.