Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lessons in Leadership

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan Patrick was formally sworn in during his investiture ceremony yesterday.  The Houston Chronicle's Gabrielle Banks wrote this article describing the ceremony, which I noted was a little different from the original article she wrote about the event yesterday.  I tried to find the original article online because it had some interesting quotes from some of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys that work for Patrick, as well as some quotes from Federal judges and defense attorneys.  Unfortunately, the original version seems to be unavailable.


This quote from Chief U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal did make it into the final version of the article:
"He comes from a political family but his current focus is not on politics, it's on policy," Rosenthal said. "And that is how it should be as he faces intensely tactical problems of running this large and complicated office in our large and very complicated district . . . at a large and complicated time."
In the original article, Banks quoted a few others, including Mark Donnelly,  Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, who noted that Patrick's approach to leading is dictating the policies of the Office and then relying on his experienced AUSAs to do their jobs effectively.  Apparently, this is causing a high boost in morale within the U.S. Attorneys Office and, lo and behold, the Office seems to be running well.  The original article quoted defense attorney Charles Flood, who was also highly complimentary of the way the Office is being run by Patrick.

The original article was striking because it described an office of prosecutors that seemed to run on a philosophy that is the polar opposite of the Harris County District Attorney's Office under D.A. Kim Ogg.  In the earlier article on Patrick, it described his desire to stay away from micro-management, in favor of relying on professional prosecutors who were doing the job and doing it well before he took office.

By contrast, Kim Ogg has . . .  well, Kim Ogg has JoAnne Musick.

While Ryan Patrick is getting lauded for running an office where prosecutors are enjoying their jobs and their office's clearly stated principles, Musick continues to run through low level disposed cases with a microscope.  While Patrick treats the prosecutors who held their jobs long before he arrived with the respect they earned, Musick continues to talk to prosecutors (with far more prosecutorial experience than her) as if they were children.

Just a side note here, let's not forget that JoAnne originally left the D.A.'s Office as a relatively new Felony Two.  She never got close to earning the stripes of Felony Chief, but that still doesn't keep her from dressing down far more senior prosecutors.  I've mentioned this twice before.  The first time was back in February.  The second time was less than a month ago.

In the four weeks since I wrote that last post, two more senior Felony Chiefs have declared their intention to leave the Harris County District Attorney's Office and head to work for the U.S. Attorney's Office under the leadership of Ryan Patrick.

Who could blame them?  If one were given the choice of working for an Office with a clear vision statement that comes with being treated with respect versus an Office guided solely by public opinion where senior prosecutors are treated like dim-witted children, it really isn't much of a contest, is it?

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas is thriving while the Harris County District Attorney's Office is a sad shell of what it used to be.

Kim Ogg should learn a lesson in leadership from Ryan Patrick.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Well-Deserved Retirement

It was a bittersweet moment this week as judges, prosecutors and members of the defense bar gathered to say goodbye and happy retirement to longtime defense attorney and friend Ricardo Rodriguez.


Ricardo has been a fixture of the Harris County Criminal Justice world for decades and was a courtroom gladiator on many notorious capital murder cases.   Tall and lanky with his signature mustache, Ricardo was someone I had seen around the courthouse for years before I actually met him in person when I was a brand new Felony Two in Judge Ted Poe's court in 2002.

I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground and I was initially extremely nervous to be in Judge Poe's court.  I was uncharacteristically quiet at first -- something that Ricardo initially interpreted as me being either stuck up or painfully shy.  He made it his personal project to get me to loosen up and we became very good friends.  I learned about his service in the Army in Vietnam and about his family in Laredo.  We both shared a love of crawfish and would get together from time to time to go eat some mudbugs.

I tried my first murder case against Ricardo while in Poe's court and learned he was a formidable opponent who defended a tough case with honor and painstaking attention to detail.  I've never worked so hard in my life to get a Judgment and Sentence admitted into evidence.  I've always been proud to say that I tried my first murder case in front of Judge Poe, but I'm equally proud to say I tried it against Ricardo.

My rotation in Judge Poe's court was shorter than I would have liked -- I was only in there for three or four months before getting moved to another court -- but it was easily some of the most memorable and enjoyable time I spent during my tenure at the Office.  It is hard to believe that was over fifteen years ago.

I'm very happy that my dear friend is taking his well-deserved retirement, but I'm sad that he's moving off to Laredo to enjoy it.  I will miss him.  I've always said that the best thing about working within the Harris County Criminal Justice System is the opportunity to walk amongst giants. 

Ricardo Rodriguez was definitely one of those.