Monday, April 26, 2010

The Bench/Bar Conference

The Houston Bench/Bar Conference was held this weekend in Galveston with what was shaping up to be fairly low turnout. Historically, I've always enjoyed the Conference, because it is a great chance for members of the Defense Bar, the Prosecutors, and the Judiciary to all hang out for a day or two in a relaxed setting. There are Continuing Legal Education hours available, and people can exchange ideas in a pleasant atmosphere.


For some reason, the Conference wasn't all that highly publicized this year. I looked for information on it a month or so ago and couldn't find it. It turns out that I wouldn't have been able to attend anyway, since I had my son at my house over the weekend.

Due to budget constraints (hardwood floors = less cash on hand for CLE credit), the D.A.'s Office only sent 14 people to the Conference, which is a shame, since the bi-annual event has always had a good showing from the Office in years past.

But rest assured that the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight would only spend precious office resources on their "best and brightest" when deciding who they allowed to go on the road trip to Galveston.

So, of course, these yahoos pull up . . .


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Lykos/Durfee Editorial

Pat Lykos is back in the news today with a hard-hitting, gripping and surely controversial Editorial this moring announcing that the D.A.'s Office is going to prosecute Failure to Stop and Render Aid cases.

I envisioned the scene leading up to the writing of the article in this short, one act play:

Interior: Pat Lykos’ Office. Jim Leitner is bring Lykos her morning coffee as Lykos is frowning, reading the newspaper.

PAT: Jim, I’m not happy.

JIM: I’m sorry, your Lordship. How have I failed you this time?

PAT: It’s not you, this time, you Dolt. It’s the newspapers. We haven’t done anything noteworthy in months. Hell, even that imbecile Newman hasn’t written a post on me since February.

JIM: Well, he has been busy with the elections . . .

PAT: Silence! What we need is to get back in the Public Relations game. We should make a hard-line stand on an issue that is guaranteed to generate some positive press.

JIM: We could outline a policy on how our office can assist in reducing jail over-crowding by a thorough review of the bond schedule and a critical evaluation of those people we should consider for PR bonds.

PAT: Shut up, Fool. You’re confusing me. More importantly, you’ll confuse the Public. We need something more simple. I know! I’m going to issue a statement saying I will now vigorously prosecute the unlawful taking of another’s life! Genius!

JIM: Um, we already do that, your Worship.

PAT: What?!

JIM: It’s called murder prosecutions.

PAT: Shit. What about the unlawful taking of another’s property?

JIM: That would be a theft.

PAT: Crapola. Hmm. I saw in the newspaper the other day that there have been a lot of automobile accidents where the other person drove away without helping. The public is apparently outraged.

JIM: Yes, that is a serious crime in Harris County.

PAT: My understanding is that most people don’t realize that is actually a crime.

JIM: Uh, well, actually, I’m pretty sure that most people are aware of the crime of Failure to Stop and Render Aid . . .

PAT: Silence!!

JIM: Yes, your Holiness.

PAT: I want to write an Editorial for the Chronicle, Jimbo.

JIM: You want to write it yourself?

PAT: Are you trying to be humorous, Jim? I will stab you with this pencil.

JIM: No, your Honor.

PAT: Send me Durfee. He is good with words and people seem to like him.

Enter Scott Durfee

SCOTT: You wanted to see me, Judge?

PAT: Yes, my Pretty. We are going to propose new legislation making it a crime to leave the scene of an accident.

SCOTT: You mean, Failure to Stop and Render Aid? That’s already - -

PAT: Silence!! Nothing is a law until I have told the general public that it’s a law.

SCOTT: Um, okay.

PAT: Write a letter on your electronic typing machine.

SCOTT: My computer?

PAT: Yes, that thing. Let the citizens of Harris County know that, I, their beloved and elected District Attorney will no longer allow people to leave the scene of accidents. It’s a bold, new initiative that we are taking here.

SCOTT: What initiative? Prosecuting FSRA cases?

PAT: Silence! Write the article and then bring it to me to sign.

SCOTT: Yes, Judge.

PAT: Make me look good, Durfee. It's what I pay you to do. Make the people love me.

SCOTT: I'll, uh, do what I can, Judge.

THE END

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Support HPD Officer Rick Salter

HPD Officer Rick Salter was seriously wounded during the execution of a narcotics search warrant in March of 2009. Now, he is a finalist for America's Most Wanted's All Star.

Show your support for a local hero by voting for Officer Salter by clicking here and following the instructions from there.

NOTE: You can vote once a day through May 3rd. So mark the link and keep going back!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Huge Congratulations to Marc Brown!!!!

This just in --

According to harrisvotes.com, Marc Brown has defeated Danny Dexter for the Republican Nomination for the 180th District Court.

After a 1600 vote deficit from early voting and absentee, Marc came from behind and won by about 900 votes.

Excellent job, Voters!

And it looks like Terry Lowery, Gary Polland, Steve Hotze, and whoever the schlub that runs P.O.L.I.C.E. Inc. just proved that competency and integrity shines through over paid political endorsements.

Marc, I couldn't be any happier for you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rent-A-Center & the Civll/Criminal Continuum

One of the types of cases that bothered me tremendously when I was a Prosecutor and continues to bother me as a Defense Attorney is what are most commonly known as the Rent-A-Center cases that pop up regularly in court.

The scenario is simple: Someone who can't afford some of the furnishings and/or appliances that they would like for their home goes to Rent-A-Center who allows them to rent said appliance for a weekly or monthly fee. The customer signs a CONTRACT and then exits the store with the merchandise. After paying on it for a bit, the payments stop coming in and Rent-A-Center files theft charges on the person who entered into the contract.

Now, before I dive off into this topic, please understand me. I'm not saying that Rent-A-Center (and similar companies) aren't entitled to be paid for what they contracted for and/or they should get their leased merchandise back.

But, it seems to me that Rent-A-Center cases approach a very fine line in the difference between criminal law and civil law, and the Harris County District Attorney's Office seems to be getting used as a de facto collection agency in the process.

Here's a couple of things for your consideration:

#1 - I'm not trying to be judgmental here, but most of the clientele at Rent-A-Center are usually hurting financially. Hurting VERY BADLY financially, actually. yet, this does not in anyway dissuade companies like Rent-A-Center from letting these folks walk out the door with items you like they just won the Showcase on the Price is Right. Things from king size beds to 50 inch flat screen TVs are given to people with worse credit ratings than M.C. Hammer.

#2 - The folks that rent these items are often evicted or move because they can't afford a place to stay, and who knows what becomes of the items they got from Rent-A-Center.

#3 - in most Rent-A-Center cases, there are several payments made on the property before they stop coming in.

So, here's where I get confused.

Under Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, dealing with Theft, it reads: "A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with int to deprive the owner of property."

To some, that would mean that at the time the customer took possession of the rental property that they knew they would never make the payments.

Otherwise, we aren't talking about a theft case.

We're talking about a breach of contract.

What's the difference?

You can't go to prison for a breach of contract.

Look at it this way, if you default on payments of your house, you can get your house foreclosed on, but you don't get taken to jail, do you?

The response to this from those who support the notion of filing criminal theft charges against people on these Rent-A-Center cases are that Rent-A-Center will send out demand letters for the return of the property and only then will the D.A.'s Office accept charges.

But, as I point out above, in so many of these cases, the Renter of the property has been evicted or moved on and they never receive those notices.

But to the D.A.'s Office, that doesn't really matter. As long as Rent-A-Center bothered to send the letter to the last-known address, then they have done all they need to.

Theft charges are filed.

To me, it just seems that these are (more often than not) a breach of contract where Rent-A-Center needs to sue for return of the property. But the reality of that situation is that they would never get their money that way, would they? How do you get blood from a turnip?

It's far easier to call the police and file theft charges and let the District Attorney's Office threaten the freedom of someone until Rent-A-Center gets their merchandise back and all the back rent they are owed, isn't it?

Here's a thought:

Maybe Rent-A-Center shouldn't be renting big screen TVs to people they know can't afford them.

And if Rent-A-Center doesn't want to stop doing that, then maybe they should clean up their own messes instead of wasting taxpayer money by using the police and the District Attorney's Office as their personal collection agency.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Black Ink's Latest Post

Black Ink has a new post up over at his blog, Stealth.

Check it out.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dude, Where's My Polling Location

One of the more bitter memories I have from the day in 2008 when we all learned that Pat Lykos had won the Republican Nomination in the runoff for the District Attorney's race came from working a polling location for Kelly Siegler on election day. The reason that the memory there is bitter was that shortly after 5 p.m., the location became flooded with people wanting to vote who were arriving only to be turned away.

The reason they were being turned away was that the general public had not been adequately informed that NOT ALL POLLING LOCATIONS THAT ARE OPEN DURING THE REGULAR PRIMARY ELECTION DAY ARE OPEN ON THE RUN-OFF ELECTION DAY.

I can still remember the look on some of the wannabe voters' faces as they shrugged their shoulders and told me that they wanted to vote, but they had just learned that their polling location was on the opposite side of their precinct and there was no way to get there in time. Some were very apologetic about it.

I'm taking this painful trip down Memory Lane to stress to those of you who want to (make sure that you follow the advice of Johnny Holmes, Dan Patrick, Paul Bettencourt, and pretty much anyone who has ever set foot in the CJC and) vote for Marc Brown, that you do so early. Unless you have studied and confirmed that your regular election-day polling location is open, you can't be certain.

Alleviate the risk of not getting to vote, and go do it today or tomorrow. For those of you in and around the Administration Building Downtown, go do it at lunch today or tomorrow. It will take all of about 3 minutes out of your schedule.

I got Danny Dexter's campaign mail out in the mail yesterday, and I couldn't help but notice that he had a long list of supporters who had NEVER SET FOOT IN THE CJC listed as his endorsers. The ONLY person I saw on the list that practiced criminal law was Gary Polland, who Danny paid $5000.00 to get his endorsement. Every major endorsement Danny got, he paid cash money for.

We need to get out there and do everything we can to make sure that we have a quality judge rather than just a good return on Danny Dexter's investment.

This election is completely up-for-grabs.

Go vote for Marc Brown. You've only got two days left to early vote.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Early Run-Off Voting

Early voting for the run-off election for the 180th District Court Republican candidate begins tomorrow (Monday, April 5th).

There is only one race on the ballot that affects the CJC, so look for voter turnout to be incredibly low. Sadly, that is usually a benefit to the woefully incompetent.

Ask Pat Lykos.

Marc Brown has been endorsed by Senator Dan Patrick, Paul Bettencourt, and former-District Attorney Johnny Holmes as the best candidate in this race.

And he is running against a completely unqualified candidate.

Please please please please please go vote.

A lot of the voting sites that you THINK are your voting locations will not be open on the actual voting day, so voting early is the smart thing to do. Don't get caught by surprise.

Go vote. Take a friend. Do the right thing and make a difference.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Refresher on Run-Off Voting

Early voting begins on Monday, and with only one race on the ballot that directly affects those of us around the CJC, you can expect the turnout to be pretty darn low. That makes your vote count more than usual, so don't forget to vote or (worse) don't refrain from voting because you think you can't.

Just remember these two simple things if you have doubts about your eligibility to vote in the Republican run-off.

1. Even if you didn't vote in the general primary in March, YOU CAN STILL VOTE IN THE RUN-OFF.

2. The ONLY thing that prohibits an otherwise eligible voter from voting in the Republican run-off is if they voted in the Democratic primary in March.

Simple rules, folks.

Don't be lazy. Go vote on Monday.