As most of you know, the Harris County District Attorney's Office is staffed 24/7 with prosecutors working as intake attorneys. When a police officer makes an arrest for anything higher than a Class C misdemeanor, he or she has to call a prosecutor and get approval to file that charge. I wrote about how it worked back in 2008, when this blog was young and I was still a prosecutor. As far as I know, it hasn't really changed all that much.
One component that I didn't cover back in 2008 was that of the Probable Cause "P.C." prosecutor. The prosecutor working this position was tasked with collecting a group of newly filed cases and then taking them to Probable Cause Court. At Probable Cause Court, recently arrested defendants are brought before a magistrate, and the Probable Cause prosecutor would read a short summary of why they had been arrested. The magistrate would then make a finding of whether or not Probable Cause existed to continue to hold them. Other collateral matters would be taken up, as well. Bonds would be set. If a Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection needed to be filed, that could be done in P.C. Court, as well.
None of that is too tricky for the P.C. prosecutor. Back when I had the job, we described it as being a "reading monkey," because all we had to do was read a paragraph to the magistrate. There were no persuasive legal arguments. No legal research. Basically, the prosecutor just needed to be literate to be qualified to do the job. The trickiest part was making sure that you brought the right files to court.
For some strange reason, the position of P.C. prosecutor was a senior one. A prosecutor had to be a Felony District Court Chief to do the job.
Like the Intake Division, P.C. Court also operates 24/7, with dockets at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Prosecutors were assigned to the Reading Monkey job for the 8 to 5, 5 to Midnight, or Midnight to 8 shifts. The 5 to Midnight or Midnight to 8 shifts got paid extra money for working the extra hours. Other than the crappy hours, it was a pretty cushy gig.
Apparently, recent budget cuts at the Office have led to an issue with funding for the overnight P.C. gigs, which has led to some
Today, prosecutors received an e-mail from Intake Chief Jim Leitner, offering a solution to the P.C. Chief crisis. His introductory paragraph was interesting:
What is your goal as a Harris County prosecutor?
Over the years, the most common aspiration I have witnessed is that prosecutors hope to rise to the level of District Court Chief. However, given the employment situation in our legal community, the sheer number of competing prosecutors, and the time it takes to acquire the requisite skills, reaching this goal can seem daunting. [Emphasis added]Okay, so you gotta give Jim credit here. He's being honest that pretty much every prosecutor hopes to make felony chief some day. He's also being honest when he says that it can take a long time to get there. I spent seven years working my way up to Chief, and it was hard work. It was also very necessary work. Those seven years gave me the "requisite skills" to become a Felony Chief. A Chief prosecutor is both a supervisor and a teacher to those under him or her. How can you supervise or teach without having first acquired those "requisite skills?"
But Jim's intro paragraph here is talking about those "requisite skills" as if they are annoying conditions just designed to keep a prosecutor down. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just skip all of that "experience" crap and get right to being a Chief?
If so, boy, does Diamond Jim have a deal for you!
In the Intake & Grand Jury Bureau we are presenting an opportunity to become a District Court Chief on a "fast track."That "fast track" involves holding down the job of the Reading Monkey for 18 months.
The position will be open for application by qualified Felony #2 prosecutors who are prepared to accept the responsibilities of Felony Chief work in the Probable Cause Court setting at beginning Felony Court Chief level pay. The assignment will then guarantee the selected attorney Felony Chief promotion at the conclusion of the 18 month assignment.So, let me get this straight. You can be a Felony Two, with very little trial experience, and start getting paid like a Chief immediately? And then all you have to do is work P.C. Court for 18 months and you are guaranteed a Chief slot? I mean, sure, your peers (who are also trying to make chief) will be working their asses off trying murders, aggravated robberies, and sexual assaults, but who needs that hassle? What a bunch of suckers!
Perhaps Jim (or whoever came up with this idea) didn't think about all of those opportunities to get "requisite skills" that the
Oh no, wait.
While the assignment is challenging, imagine 18 months without trials or the accompanying pressures of a trial lifestyle.What?! He's actually advocating for avoiding the "pressures of a trial lifestyle?" Are you freaking kidding me?
He might as well have written this:
Hi kids! Tired of being a prosecutor and having to learn all that crazy trial stuff? Does the idea of working get you down? Would you rather just be in charge of everybody instead? Well, come be a P.C. Court Chief! We'll pay you like you were a chief immediately and after 18 months, you can supervise people -- just as if you had actually been a real prosecutor!This idea may literally be the dumbest administrative one that I've seen come out of the Ogg Administration. I mean, I know that putting people like John Denholm in supervisory positions doesn't exactly set the bar real high when it comes to expectations, but seriously? This plan is basically asking for a prosecutor to be lazy and then promising them a supervisory payoff if they do it.
It will be interesting to see who all applies for the position. I'm sure there will be quite a few just because of the salary hike alone.
What will be more interesting, however, is how the winner of the position will be regarded by his or her peers that actually stay in the Trial Bureau and earn their way to the position of being a Felony District Court Chief.