L-R: John Jordan, Peter DeLeef, Adam Brown, Earl Musick, Brad Hart,
Bill Exley, Robert Summerlin, & Me
I was 26 years old. Engaged to a girl named Lisa who, two months later, would become the first in a series of wives.
Although I had attended law school in Houston, I had moved back to Bryan/College Station after taking the February Bar Exam because I didn't have a job lined up. I worked as a paid intern (for $6 an hour!) at the Brazos CountyAttorney's Office while I waited on the Bar results. When I passed, I got invited to apply with Harris County, and I moved back to Houston the week before I started.
Chance Bolton, a childhood friend of mine, had recently gotten out of the Navy and was going to school in Houston. He and Lisa and I moved into an old house I was renting in Timbergrove. None of us had any money. At the time, I was the only one who had a job lined up.
I was incredibly nervous getting ready for work that first morning. I didn't really know anyone that worked there. I don't think I even knew where I was supposed to park. The D.A.'s Office was still in the old building at 201 Fannin. As I headed out the front door of the house towards my car, I heard the door open behind me. It was Chance.
"Hey Newman," he said, strolling out into the front yard. He extended his hand. "I just wanted to wish you good luck on your first day as a prosecutor."
It was both an awkward and sweet moment between good friends. Mainly it was awkward because he was only wearing his boxer shorts. I thanked him and then implored him to go back inside before any neighbors got the wrong idea about our relationship.
I got to the D.A.'s Office and met with Renee Magee, who was the Deputy Dawg of Misdemeanor at the time. I had done an academic internship with her after my second year of law school in Judge McSpadden's court and she had put me in touch with the Office once I passed the Bar. Although I was starting out working in the Justice of the Peace Division, Renee took me over to see how the county courts worked.
I remember an attorney coming up to me in court and asking me, "Are you the attorney of the day?" Not familiar with the local terminology, I thought he was making some sort of crack about the longevity of young prosecutors. I gave him a dirty look and he walked away, confused.
That afternoon, I had my first exciting JP docket in front of Judge David Patronella. I got lost getting there, and when I first arrived, Adam Brown was already talking to people on the docket. I introduced myself to him and then I sat down. I looked at the huge bucket of speeding tickets and other traffic violations and I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do.
"Um, hey," I said to Adam. "What am I supposed to be doing?"
"You'll have to figure it out," he said. "That's why they pay you the big bucks."
I thought Adam was maybe the biggest asshole I'd ever met in my life. Luckily, the clerks helped me, because I had no clue. I was miserable.
It was a terrible first day. I remember going home, consoling myself with the plan that I was going to honor my 3-year commitment to the Office and then go back home to Brazos County and hopefully run for District Attorney there someday.
My, how plans change.
Over the next few days, I'd meet the other guys in JP. I met Bill Exley, who sternly warned me to never jaywalk, because Mr. Holmes would fire you if he ever caught you doing that. I met Robert Summerlin, who would become my practical joking arch-nemesis for years to come. Peter Deleef was the congenial and very odd guy from South Africa. John Jordan, who bore a striking resemblance to NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon, yet was the slowest driver I had ever seen in my life. Earl Musick, the retired HPD cop, who entertained us with stories of the old days. And my first chief, now-Judge Brad Hart.
Over the next months, the seven of us and our chief became an extremely tight-knit group (even Adam). Earl came up with the nickname of The Magnificent Seven, which ultimately got shortened to The Seven. We all thought we were awesome. I'm pretty sure the rest of the Office thought we were arrogant jackasses. I feel that way because a lot of other prosecutors told us we were a bunch of arrogant jackasses.
But man, we loved being prosecutors.
L-R: Me, Adam, Bill, Peter, John & Brad at one of my
many bachelor parties.
It's funny how quickly time goes by. It doesn't seem like it was 18 years ago when I first started, but so much has changed. I never talk to my friend Chance anymore. I got divorced from that first wife. Remarried. Had a kid. Divorced again. Remarried again. (Hopefully, I'm holding steady on that front.) Had another kid. (Hopefully holding steady on that front, too.)
Eventually, the majority of "the Seven" left the D.A.'s Office. The only one of us still working there is John. Brad is Judge Hart now, and the rest of us all went on to private practice. I saw Exley yesterday in court, and I told him he looks a year older every time I see him -- although I knew I wasn't really one to talk about aging poorly.
Every once in awhile I'll get asked if I would ever go back to prosecuting. I say I don't really miss the job itself, but I miss the camaraderie. I'm always glad when I see younger prosecutors hanging out with each other these days because it reminds me that no matter how many times the regime changes, that camaraderie is still there.
There have been a lot of ups and downs over the last 18 years, but, man, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Those early years were some of the best.
Hell, I even enjoyed hanging out with that asshole Adam Brown.
Me and Adam in New Orleans - October 2002