Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What the Hell is Going on Over There (AKA Are you missing Bert Graham yet)?

As we enter into month 3 (of 48) of the Lykos Administration, the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight (henceforth referred to in this post as "the Gang") continues to astound me with the ineptitude coming from the top of their food chain.

Now, before I go too far into this post, I want to acknowledge that this post will probably be of little to no interest to anyone other than Assistant D.A.s or ex-Assistant D.A.s, but if you are a taxpaying citizen of Harris County, it should actually interest you as well.

As the (voluntary) departures from the HCDA began last month, it was not surprising to see that the official reaction from the Lykos gang has been "no biggie". In the past few weeks, Sylvia Escobedo, Warren Diepraam, Michelle Mishoe, and Billy Skinner all decided to head for greener pastures. Now, Mishoe and Skinner were both relatively junior prosecutors, but the departure of Sylvia and Warren was an example of the Office losing two very senior Felony Chiefs (not to mention two very talented trial lawyers).

Despite the fact that the departures should have been considered a loss for the Office, Lykos and the Gang seemed to shrug it off under the theory that if they had warm bodies to fill the senior positions, it wasn't a big deal.

The problem, however, seems to have arisen that the Gang doesn't necessarily know what to do with the aforementioned "warm bodies".

Once Sylvia Escobedo had announced her impending departure, the Office took the unusual step of bringing Joe Vinas in as a co-chief in the 337th District Court along with Sylvia for her final week. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a court having two chiefs before.

To fill Joe Vinas' position at the Police Intake, the Office promoted Spence Graham from his position of Felony Two to the level of Chief at Police Intake. In promoting Spence to the position immediately, they left the Number Two spot in the 177th District Court vacant.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Office, the position of Felony Two is probably the most difficult job there. The Two tries the murders, aggravated robberies, serious aggravated assaults, and all of the sexual abuse cases. It is a position that absolutely cannot be left unfilled for any amount of time -- not even for a week. So, to remedy this, the Office apparently temporarily had Ed McClees serving double duty as the Felony Two in both the 177th District Court, and in his old position of Felony Two in the 263rd. Given the workload that a Felony Two has, I'm not really sure how Ed pulled that off, even if it was only for a week.

While the Office acted quickly, and in my opinion, impetuously in rushing to promote everyone so quickly in the instance of Sylvia's departure, they have seemed to have taken the exact opposite approach when it came to replacing Warren Diepraam and Michelle Mishoe.

Warren Diepraam was the head of the Vehicular Crimes Section, which handled Intoxication Manslaughter and Intoxication Assault cases. Warren's last day was Friday, March 6th and he gave two weeks notice prior to then. As of this writing, the Office has yet to figure out who they want to replace Warren.

I guess we can all sit around and keep our fingers crossed that there aren't any Intoxication Manslaughters that happen in Harris County while Lykos and the Gang are sitting on their hands trying to figure out how to replace Warren.

In an even more egregious move, the Office has also failed to fill the position of Felony Three in the 262nd District Court which was vacated by Michelle Mishoe. With each felony court having to handle anywhere from 500 to 1000 pending cases at any given time, it is an absolute must that they be fully staffed at all times. The idea of running a court without a Felony Three is like trying to run a car without an engine.

The Felony Three in any court is responsible for pulling and screening all the cases for docket, making preliminary phone calls, and normally taking any and all pleas that a court has during the day. They are truly the "grunt soldiers" in the hierarchy of the D.A.'s Office, and how Lykos and the Gang think they could possibly leave that position vacant while they try to figure out what the hell to do with themselves is nothing short of astounding.

I was in the 262nd this morning on a case, and Chief Natalie Tise and Felony Two (presumably acting Three, as well) Jennifer Meriwether were outnumbered and getting bombarded by defense attorneys. To both ladies' credit, they moved swiftly and effectively through the docket, but the point is they shouldn't have had to. Quite frankly, most courts should have at least four prosecutors in them (rather than the standard number of three), and they definitely shouldn't be running with only two.

So, as to the title of this post, I really don't get what the hell is going on over on the 6th Floor of the CJC. Prior to his departure, Chuck Rosenthal had gotten approval for the addition of somewhere around 50 to 60 new prosecutors. I'm having a hard time making the logic fit as to why courts are running short and positions aren't being filled.

I have heard that part of the problem is that Lykos and Leitner screwed up the budget for the Office so quickly that they aren't hiring new prosecutors, which is creating the problems. Leitner's predecessor at First Assistant was 30+ year veteran Bert Graham, who for years under both Johnny Holmes, Chuck Rosenthal, and Ken Magidson was able to keep the budget balanced and the courts fully staffed. When Lykos informed him that his services would not be needed under her administration, Bert volunteered to help consult with them on how to keep things running.

Lykos and the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight declined Bert's assistance. They were brilliant enough to go ahead without his help.

I'm betting my last dollar that they are probably kicking themselves for their arrogance now.

I fully understand that the vast majority of citizens who don't deal with the criminal justice system could probably care less which person is doing what job within the District Attorney's Office.

But I wonder what the excuse is going to be from Lykos when she starts running out of warm bodies to fill the positions.

It just makes no sense to me.


Anonymous said...

Pat LIEkos is proving herself to be the clueless administrative idiot that we all knew she'd be. I can't wait for four years when Lietner runs against her and beats her. Hm, I wonder how Kelly Siegler would have handled all of this. My guess is that Harris County would have remained as the best DA's Office there is instead of falling into the deep dark abyss that LIEkos is determined to force it into. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

In answer to your question ... two words: Hannah Chow.

Any movement within the office and all hiring go through her domain.

In two months she has accomplished one thing - an Ozarka water contract.

What an incompetent moron.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:43,

Guess who Warren worked under... drum roll please..... Hanna Chow.

There is a reason Ms. Chow didn't have a job prior to assisting Lykos in her campaign, she is tired and old and worthless. That said she is very nice and has been nothing but nice to me. He decision making capabilities and experience are where she falls short.

txdep said...

hello murray, its me txdep and I'm half way sober tonight. now you know i'm no lawyer but lets think for the DA OFFICE. how about we help tdc in huntsville and hire some writ room lawyers to hear the district att cases to see if it can go forward or not.also it will cut down on my court time and allow he to stay drunk more.I may help the taxpayers out by hiring the writ room lawyers heck its free. brb have to get another drink. ok back so murray what do you think hell we all have to have a job.take care buddy

Anonymous said...

My friends that still work there tell me that it is a neck and neck tie as to whether the most incompetent is Lykos or Wee Man Jim.

I also hear that backstabbing and spying have reached a new zenith, and that's saying something for Harris County, when you consider the decades long backstabbing that went on at the SO and various other county departments.

Beware your confidences.

Jason said...

Well perhaps they can hire more junior prosecutors who think a husband admittingly slapping his wife (and leaving injury) can't be prosecuted because the wife doesn't want to prosecute.

Rage Judicata said...

So, 9:10, what you're saying is that not only are the folks at the top, but everyone underneath her (mow there's a visual for you) is a back stabbing POS?

I thought it was the best DA's office in the country?

Beltsander95 said...

As a former ADA from Harris County, I want to believe that some of the things that you post are exaggerated but unfortunately after speaking with the few friends that I have that still work at the CJC (most of my incoming class has now left) I am sad to say that almost everything you post is not exaggerated. I believe the main problem the new administration is having with filling the spots is those who are in the know are advising young attorneys and aspiring DA's to wait and see what happens. I have a younger brother who is a brand new attorney working for a very reputable civil firm but he desperately wants to be a DA. I have turned him on to your blog and now he is going to wait and see what happens and I think that is best. The Harris County DA's was once the gold standard for DA's in this country but it pains me to say that the luster is slowly being eroded everyday that Ms. Lykos steps foot in the building. I appreciate your blog and keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

Well perhaps they can hire more junior prosecutors who think a husband admittingly slapping his wife (and leaving injury) can't be prosecuted because the wife doesn't want to prosecute.

Why? You been slapping your wife?

Anonymous said...

And we should be surprised by all this incompetence why?
We should have expected Lykos to wake up one morning and have an ethical epiphany?
Zero experience as a trial lawyer should have no bearing on one's ability to effectively lead a team of 200+ trial lawyers?
Zero managerial/leadership skills of any import should have no bearing on successful leadership?
The chickens have merely come home to roost......the only issue remaining is how shall the chicken be prepared?

Anonymous said...

When you try to rationalize the actions of a fool you become a fool yourself.
You wouldn't expect a butcher to have the requisite training or ability to serve as Department Chair of Neurosurgery at a major teaching hospital let alone operate on your young son's brain, now would you? So why would you expect Lykos to be capable of running a DA's office or even trying a DUI for that matter?
We can only hope and pray that the citizen's of Harris County realize what a farce Leitner/Lykos turned the HCDA into and are not so apathetic and uninformed in 2012. That local enforcement appreciates how important it is to have a competent DA in Harris County and that they actually get out and vote in the Republican Primary AND runoff. Finally, that the old bitter blue hairs either die off or come to their senses....but for me to expect the old blue hairs to put Harris County above self interest makes me the fool.

Anonymous said...

ANON 12:34:
The troll's "ace in the hole" is that no media entity will report on the carnage at HCDA. The Houston Chronicle and various local stations are thrilled at her dismantling of the office. Outside of our little criminal justice community, the average Harris County voter will never be adequately informed on the true merits of any DA candidate. Local law enforcement will never take the time to vote in a runoff; if they did we'd have a real DA today and the office wouldn't be crumbling before us. Lykos' blue hair fanatics, on the other hand, will always vote in the primary and runoff, oxygen tank in tow.
So get a grip on political reality my friend, qualifications and integrity have no place at the new Harris County District Attorney's Office. The politicians and media wouldn't have it any other way.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman,
What a task rebuilding the DA's infrastructure will be in 2012. Are you thinking about taking on that responsibility and running yourself? If not, who do you predict will be Lycos's replacement in 2012?

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the comedic value of the office is very high now, and makes for golden blog fodder.

Anonymous said...

Typical of Lykos:


The DA's at the office have been told nothing about this.

And - where in the hell is she going to get the money for a "regional" crime lab?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 7:37 AM,
I was kind of curious about the funding issue on all of that too.
I guess this explains why Leitner was running that lemonade stand behind the courthouse earlier this week.

Anonymous said...

Hey 456,
I'm going with Lloyd "Road Rage" Kelley v Pat "the Troll" Lykos in '12. Leitner is too insignificant to count, Magidson is milktoast and no one qualified would want it now.
In the alternative, the "Chuckster" might rear his pickled head. WTF.

Anonymous said...

Natalie Tise and Jennifer Merriweather rock.

Anonymous said...

What about professional candidate Chris Bell? Since qualifications are obviously not important to be DA in Harris County he'd be perfect!

Anonymous said...

The new buget year started March 1. The office should be flush with cash.

Robert F. said...

I can't believe that Sylvia is no longer with the DA's office. She handled my brother's case. He was killed by a drunk driver. She was great with my family, she kept us informed and treated us with dignity. It was a long trial, 10 days, and it took a toll on all of us. I know she worked her heart out to get that conviction.
I don't understand what is happening at the DA's office but the office has definitely lost a talented and caring professional.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman, do you really think the actions and behavior of the Lycos administration is an accident? It is deliberate. As if to suggest that the former Prosecutor, Executioner of Death Chuck Rosenthal along with his administration, behaved any better than Lycos. At the end of the day, it's Harris County Tax Payers, who foot the bill for inexusable and deliberate behavior.