As you all know, today is Memorial Day. We honor those Veterans who lost their lives in the defense of our Nation. It seems to me that nothing could be more appropriate than for the day following Memorial Day to be Election Day. Obviously, the latter could not exist but for the former.
I'm not a Veteran. I'm the first generation of my family who isn't. My public service consisted of my time at the District Attorney's Office and by no stretch of the imagination is that comparable to the men and women of the Armed Services who get shot at as part of their daily job description. There are very few similarities between the jobs of a soldier and a prosecutor unless you examine them by way of analogy. The camaraderie and the feeling of working toward a goal larger than your own interests are the first of the similarities that come to mind. Both deal with a subject matter that the general public would prefer not to be forced to discuss or confront during polite dinner conversation.
Yet the job of the Prosecutor rarely seems to get anything even close to widespread respect and appreciation. Every prosecution thought to be too "over-aggressive" unleashes criticism from the Defense Bar, the Media, and the ACLU. The good deeds and the soul-searing work that prosecutors do are swept away as they are all painted as Constitution-stomping imbeciles that could have "never cut it in the private sector."
However, the reality is that the men and women who become prosecutors forsake the idea that their shiny new law degree is going to be their ticket to great wealth and fortune. They enter into public service with the idea of making their community safer. Most don't begin a career with the District Attorney's Office with the idea of prosecuting misdemeanors for the rest of their careers -- they want to try the serious cases. They voluntarily sign up to some day be able to prosecute robberies, brutal assaults, sexual assaults, child abuse cases, and murders.
To a large degree, it takes a somewhat warped personality to be able to do that job for an extended period of time. In Harris County, a prosecutor has to rise to the level of Felony Two (which takes a little over three years) before handling those types of cases.
The prosecutors who do stay and try those types of cases are soon on the fast track to finding themselves very jaded. Gory crime scenes, autopsy reports, interviews with child victims, and inconsolable family members will become the staple of that prosecutor's day. They will quickly realize that what they do every day is not polite dinner conversation, and generally the only people they find themselves comfortable talking to are other prosecutors, police officers, and sometimes, defense attorneys.
The job descriptions of prosecutors, cops, and defense attorneys ultimately create a tight-knit group of friends, much like how soldiers are bound to each other by their common experiences. Prosecutors eat together, drink together, celebrate life events with each other, vacation together, and sometimes even marry each other. They enjoy each other's company and they enjoy the camaraderie that others in the private sector cannot be a part of.
Which makes the fact that Pat Lykos calls that camaraderie a "Frat House" so incredibly insulting. Lykos was never a prosecutor which put her arrival as the District Attorney on January 1, 2009 a bitter pill to swallow. Unlike the men and women that she was now "leading," she had never done anything that began to earn the respect of her people. She would have the opportunity if she wanted -- nothing precluded her from trying a case and getting into the mix.
But she never did.
Rather than try to lead from the Front, Lykos started her tenure by eviscerating her soldiers. She publicly ripped two of her most respected prosecutors on the front page of the newspaper within three months of her arrival. She refused to stand with other prosecutors as they received awards from the FBI. She disregarded the advice of the senior prosecutors below her, and only listened to the words of the mid-level bureaucrats she filled her "Leadership Team" with. Words of wisdom from prosecutors who had been in the trenches were discouraged and any type of constructive criticism was met with the reply, "Lots of people would like to have your job."
She's selectively let the crimes of a favored few go unprosecuted, and embroiled herself in two Grand Jury investigations. When her Deputy Misdemeanor Division Chief announced to Harris County that she wouldn't answer a Grand Jury's questions about her job for fear of incriminating herself, she was promoted within the Office. To this day, that prosecutor's salary remains approximately $20,000 more a year than her peers with similar experience.
And to this day, Pat Lykos has never entered into a courtroom to try a single case -- not even one where a Police Officer has been killed.
So, for Pat Lykos to brag about having taken the "Frat House out of the Courthouse" is beyond insulting. In fact, it is obscene. To disparage the Men and Women who work for her -- the ones who have operated with integrity and honor -- while operating like a stereotypical evil bureaucrat defies logic. Her supporters and Republican bloggers who have no knowledge of Criminal Law dismiss her disgruntled prosecutors as "whiners" and never examine the fact that their complaints are so very legitimate. They applaud the ninety-plus prosecutors who have left under Lykos' reign, and hope there are "150 more" that she runs out, as well.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office is floundering under not just a lack of Leadership, but an Enemy from Within. The quality of prosecutors will continue to dwindle unless someone can come in and stem the bleeding, and stem it quickly.
Remember way back when the D.A.'s Office used to give Dick DeGuerin a run for his money?
Mike Anderson is a former prosecutor who was a Leader when he was at the Office. His co-workers respected him. He wasn't afraid to try cases -- and win them. He understands the drive and determination that prosecutors have -- and need -- to be effective in what they do. He is a man who will stand behind his people as long as they are doing everything they can "to do the right thing" and he will go to the Ends of the Earth to re-establish the Office's integrity.
Judge Anderson retired from the 262nd District Court bench in 2010, and by all means, he was more than entitled to a great retirement after decades of public service. From a financial and time standpoint, there was absolutely no incentive for him to re-enter the fray by running for District Attorney.
But True Leaders are called to lead and they cannot sit idly by when they know that something or someone needs help. Mike Anderson loved the Harris County District Attorney's Office like a family. If you have never been a part of something like that, it is virtually impossible to explain. From the Bench, he was able to see the Office crumbling under the weight of Lykos. He saw prosecutors and former prosecutors approach him and implore him to do what he could to save it.
And like a True Leader, he answered that call.
Since announcing his candidacy, Mike Anderson has done everything that could be asked of a candidate trying to save the District Attorney's Office. He's appeared at every event, attended every debate, and talked to everyone willing to listen to him. His drive and determination to do what has been asked of him has been exemplary. He has had to endure the insults and attacks from his opponent and her supporters. I can guarantee that the past six months have been starkly different from those he envisioned when he first thought of retirement.
But True Leaders make personal sacrifices, and that's what Mike Anderson has done.
Whatever happens tomorrow cannot be predicted. He has given everything he has and so have his supporters. Whether he wins or loses the election will dictate the direction the Harris County District Attorney's Office will take in the future -- for better or for worse.
But no matter what happens, it was encouraging to see what a True Leader looks like again. It was something that has been missing for the past three and a half years.