Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I wish everyone from our Little CJC Family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a tumultuous and crazy year, but we've all got so many things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for every last one of you guys and, as always, I'm proud to work with you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A New Blog

I happened to stumble across a new blog (as in created yesterday) that is written from the perspective of a new prosecutor. I look forward to reading it in the days to come and I've linked to it in the side bar. I've also been meaning to let you guys know that Defense Attorney Herman Martinez also has a blog about what we do around the CJC that is worth a read.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Academician Retires

Tomorrow will be Felony Trial Bureau Chief Lyn "Big Poppa" McClellan's last day in office.

To say that his departure from the Office will be a tremendous loss is like saying that the Titanic took on a little water back in 1912.

Lyn was one of a handful of prosecutors that I had heard about and read about prior to my joining the Office in 1999. One of my early mentors in life was a former HPD Homicide Sergeant named Gil Schultz who had his biggest case tried by Lyn and Rusty Hardin. It was the Cynthia Campbell case that was documented in two books -- Daddy's Girl by Clifford Irving and Cold Kill by Jack Olsen. If you haven't read them before, I highly recommend both books. For those of you who have read them, you know there is a priceless photo of Lyn in one of them.

Shortly after I started at the Office, Lyn became the Division Chief of Misdemeanor, meaning he was one of my supervisors. It was hard to fathom that a prosecutor of Lyn's stature would be supervising me while I was trying first time DWI cases, but yet that was what happened.

When I was still a Baby Three in Misdemeanor, I argued a Motion to Suppress in front of Judge Pam Derbyshire and Lyn showed up to assist. He backed me up and argued the points of the case with me.

To be honest, it may have been the coolest moment I ever had as a prosecutor. For the first time in (at that point) a very short career I felt like I was part of a Team. And to be a part of that team was exactly where I belonged.

During my time in Misdemeanor, Lyn and I had some rather contentious dealings with each other. For some reason, we couldn't help but pick on and harass one another. He thought of me as a goofy gossip with some severe maturity issues. I accused him of being an inventor of words that did not truly exist -- such as Academician, for example. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure we were both correct in our respective assessments.

Although I would never tell him to his face, however, I admired the Man immensely.

Lyn was a Leader amongst Leaders. He was the guy who backed his people with everything he had, and those who worked under him knew it. To countless prosecutors, both current and former, he earned our undying admiration and loyalty.

In addition to his leadership skills, Lyn was a phenomenal prosecutor who had absolutely no fear of trying any case. He was an expert in so many fields of prosecution, especially those having to deal with the insanity defense. I had the opportunity to watch him during his individual voir dire on the Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez case. The issue of insanity in a criminal setting is not a simple one, but Lyn had a way of making it seem like the easiest question on Earth to answer. I learned a lot from watching him, and I copied what he did when I had a murder case with an insanity defense years later.

He was an authority on many legal issues, and he always had time to explain it to even the most junior of us.

I was talking to a Felony Three this morning about McClellan, and we came to the conclusion that pretty much everyone in the Office had a "Lyn story" or two about great moments they had working alongside him.

My favorite personal story about working with Lyn was when I was in Judge Ross' court and got into it with C. Tom Zarrati. Zaratti had told me "Listen kid, when you are dealing with lawyers like Racehorse Haynes, Dick DeGuerin, and me, just give us the bottom line." He went on to announce "the reason I hate you prosecutors is that when you can't get the Defendants, you go after us lawyers".

At which point, McClellan jumped out of his chair and yelled: "Well Goddamn Tom! After all these years of wondering why you hate us prosecutors, we finally know the reason! I've been wondering all these years, and now you've finally told us!" Zaratti turned beet red and promptly shut up on his diatribe.

And I knew from that moment on that Lyn McClellan was someone who always backed up his prosecutors.

In a post that I wrote back in the Spring, I mentioned that the best thing about practicing criminal law in Harris County is that it provides you the opportunity to walk amongst Giants.

Lyn McClellan was one of those Giants I had in mind when I said that.

Happy Retirement, Lyn. You deserve it.

On behalf of the countless young 'uns that you mentored, I offer a very sincere "thank you" for everything.

P.S. "Academician" is not a real word.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dick Wheelan

For those of you who had not heard, Dick Wheelan passed away this morning after a courageous battle with cancer.

I'm hesitant to post the notice of a person's passing on something as impersonal as this blog, but I received a request to do so from some people very close to him. I hope this doesn't offend anyone.

I've known Dick since I've worked in Harris County, but I know that so many people knew him much better than I did.

The Dick Wheelan that I knew was the ultimate Gentleman, a skilled attorney, and a person whose word was his bond. He was a very kind man who led a very interesting life.

As one person just wrote me: "While his life was cut short, he sure made the most of the time that he had. He learned to fly fighter jets in the Navy, was a New York City police officer, then homicide detective, then lieutenant. A corporate lawyer living in Hong Kong, and then a defense attorney here. Very few people could claim to have done as much in a lifetime."

This terrible year seems to have claimed so many people from our CJC family, and this is yet another tough loss to accept.

My understanding is that there will be a celebration of Dick's life after the Thanksgiving holidays.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Phillip and Dick's family.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Dick with the rest of us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Official

The final votes were tallied today, and C.O. Bradford conceded the race for District Attorney, making former Judge Pat Lykos the new boss at the D.A.'s Office.

And immediately around the Office, rumors of changes and firings and hirings began to swirl.

I'm reminded of a story that one of my favorite professors at U.H. Law School, the late Yale Rosenberg, told his students before their first law school final. We were all extremely nervous.

He relayed a story of going with his big brother to Coney Island when he was a little kid, and subsequently freaking out on one of the roller coasters as it approached its first big dive.

Professor Rosenberg said that his brother looked over at him and told him the following words:

"Sit down. Shut up. Hold on. And it will all be okay."

His words applied very well to a room full of nervous law students.

I think that they apply here very well, too.

Change is always scary, folks. But the anticipation of it is much often worse than the reality.

Interesting Column

Interesting article by Lisa Falkenberg this morning on her analysis of the 351st Judicial Race. Um. not quite sure what to say about it, so I'll let you guys do the talking.

On an unrelated side note, I will be legally changing my name to Joe Kickass.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of Anonymity

I've made mention in several of my posts that I'm hardly anonymous anymore. When asked if I'm "The Blogger", I never deny it [anymore]. I just don't officially state on the blog who I am for various and sundry reasons.

I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of the people who read this Blog know who I am, so I figured I would post a poll and see if I'm correct in that assessment.

Quote of the Day

From Ellis McCullough today after a particularly hectic day of fighting with the CJC Elevators:

"I hope I live long enough to see this building imploded."

Well said, Ellis. Well said.

I'm Back

I've gotten a couple of comments on why I haven't posted lately.

No particular reason. Just didn't have a lot to say. I'm still taking in all of the ramifications of the November election and still trying to figure out what exactly happened at the Voting Booths.

I may post on those thoughts a little bit later.

But in the meantime, I thought I would let you guys know that I'm still alive.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Election


What a wild night. At the moment, I'm still rather speechless at the county-wide rejection of some of the finest Judges in the Country.

It is incredibly sad to me that Judicial Races still carry partisan titles with them, because that (and only that) is the reason the races ended today in the way which they did. Excellent judges were swept out by uninformed voters that pulled straight ticket. I'm still slightly confused by how one survived when the rest didn't (although I'm happy for Judge Ellis).

As I've discussed before (ad nauseum) the race for District Attorney was a tough one for me to evaluate. Ultimately, I'm satisfied that Lykos won the race, because I know that she will continue to prosecute as the job dictates that she should. I sincerely wish her luck in the job. It's not an easy one, and given the circumstances, it's going to keep getting tougher.

As for me, I believe that I will get up tomorrow morning and go do my job.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...