Friday, June 25, 2010

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Today marks the final day of HCDA Office favorite and former child actor Will "Wombelina" Womble.

When I left the Office in December of 2008, my two was a prosecutor who has asked not to be named on my blog, so I will use the pseudonym "Justin Keeter", and my three was Womble. I had not known Womble prior to him coming to work in the Fighting 339th, and knew nothing more about him other than he used to be Ricky Schroeder's stunt-double on Silver Spoons. I quickly researched Womble's background by checking, and found that he actually had a distinguished film career, playing the role of "Corpse" in several prominent television series such as "J.A.G.", "Judging Amy", and "Designing Women". (Yeah, Will, I know that's an old joke, but I never get tired of it.) He also had a brief part as "Scared Nurse" in Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor".

It was during his illustrious career that he finally got the part of attorney "Dodge Rosen" in "Judging Amy", that Will decided to take on the role of a lifetime, and play a lawyer at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. He came to work a little over three years ago, and quickly became a very popular figure within the Office. His tales of getting facials with Oprah and apparently having even met Jon Hamm once had his co-workers enthralled.

So much so, that I'm not sure any of us ever checked to see if he actually had a law degree, come to think of it . . .

He soon translated his vast experience with infomercials into successful voir dires -- a five minute re-enactment of a burglar alarm commercial to illustrate how to interpret "intent" was particularly moving. He also channeled his dramatic side into closing arguments. Those of us in the courtroom will never forget his booming Jack Nicholson impression as he yelled: "You can't handle the toilet?!?!" to a shocked jury.

And in the role of his life, he even pretended to be my girlfriend at one point. You'll have to ask him about that one.

Between that, and the odd assortment of ladies' dresses that Womble kept in his office for no apparent reason, he was quite a character.

But the important thing to remember about Wombelina isn't just that he was a character, but that he also has character. Although I like to make fun of him, Will was a damn good prosecutor. He analyzed cases well. He listened to the defense bar. He listened to victims.

He always did what was right.

He worked his butt off for Harris County and he wasn't afraid to do the right thing even if it meant getting in trouble with the higher ups. He was a leader in the Office and a leader with integrity, smarts, and trial skills. He would have made an outstanding career prosecutor.

He'll make an even better defense attorney.

So, folks, get ready for the new Law Offices of Dodge Rosen, coming to you this summer.

Good luck, Wombelina.

And I look forward to seeing you in the next Danielle Steele mini-series as Corpse # 3.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mac vs. PC for the Trial Attorney

Okay guys, I'm looking for advice from y'all.

Ever since law school, I've been a PC guy, and I'm familiar and comfortable with all that Microsoft has to offer in the way of programs like PowerPoint and such.

But those Macs sure do look purty, and I've been thinking of making the switch (which will cost a pretty good chunk of change). I'm hearing they've got better programs for jury trial presentation.

So, if any of y'all have some input on this, please let me know.

And yes, I know this is a weak article, but I'm in trial, so give me a break!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baby, Please Don't Go!

Things are getting kind of crazy over at the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Last week, Misdemeanor Chief Angela Smith went to turn in her two weeks notice to the Office and was met with a surprising reaction from the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight: they begged her to not quit.

Obviously, this is a stark contrast to the Administration's dealings with Trial Bureau prosecutors, which heretofore was pretty much a firm policy of "Screw them." However, with the budget constraints and the county-wide hiring freeze in place, I think that Lykos and Crew may suddenly be realizing that they are headed toward a personnel crisis of epic proportions.

And Angela Smith is a damn good prosecutor.

I dealt with her on a few occasions when she was in the 262nd, and her level of preparation, knowledge of the law, professionalism and courtesy was excellent. I certainly don't fault Lykos for giving her a hard sell on begging her to stay.

But the lengths that they were willing to go to keep her at the Office were pretty dramatic. Apparently, Angela was told that if she agreed to stay, she could write her own ticket as to where she would go in the Office.

This is an absolutely unprecedented amount of power to be handed to a person on the Misdemeanor Chief level (which is roughly about a 2 year lawyer in most circumstances). Angela chose to go to Public Integrity, which is considered a very prime position within the Office, and one where (in years past) there was never a slot for someone below the level of Felony Two.

So, what's behind that?

Did Lykos finally realize that her prosecutors are more talented and dedicated than she and her crew of boneheads have been giving them credit for? Doubtful.

The more likely situation is that as people are leaving the Office and realizing that they can't be replaced because of the hiring freeze, Lykos is starting to panic. They are headed toward a serious shortage of prosecutors and the Gang is trying to operate within their budget constraints to keep those prosecutors that they do have.

But this was a very dangerous precedent to set.

They are already promoting people to higher level positions within the Office with out the corresponding pay raise. I have heard from more than one source that if a prosecutor doesn't wish to accept the "more work for the same pay" position, they are told not to be expecting the opportunity for the promotion to come around again.

There is also word that Lykos has issued the edict that from now on, in Misdemeanor cases, each case can have three settings and then must be set for trial. I'm not sure exactly how that is supposed to help with the budget, but it does seem to guarantee that the remaining Misdemeanor prosecutors are going to be forced to bust their asses to get ready for trial a lot faster.

At the same time, the Administration is trying to restrict the earning of comp time by those misdemeanor prosecutors.

So, to do a brief recap --

1. Lykos has less prosecutors available to do misdemeanor work.
2. Lykos is encouraging the work rate be drastically sped up.
3. Lykos is cutting the amount of time the prosecutors have to work outside of regular business hours (which, keep in mind, at least half of which are spent in court docket).

Folks, the D.A.'s Office is cratering and it is cratering profoundly. I anticipate that more prosecutors are going to be realizing that they can't keep up working under those conditions.

I wonder what Lykos will offer them to stay.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kind of Cool Stuff Coming

While handling a case on the 20th floor's State Jail Court last week, I happened to duck into the Ceremonial Courtroom for a minute. When I walked in, several of the County's technology gurus were doing some experimenting with some audio/visual equipment that they told me they ultimately hoped to have in place all of the courtrooms of the CJC in the not-too distant future.

Considering the fact that technology (especially big screen TVs) is like crystal meth to me, I was really excited by this news. The idea being to place three 50 inch flat screens in each courtroom that can be easily viewed by the prosecutors, the defense, and (most importantly) the jury.

There will be one where the current televisions are. This one will be easily viewable by the jury and by the prosecution. As a side note, the current "big screen" televisions they have really remind me of the ones they had at Mr. Gatti's when I was growing up in Bryan.

One will be over the shoulders of the jurors (which will be easily viewable from the Defense counsel's side of the table).
And one on the opposite wall which will also be easily viewable by the jury.

I'm very excited about the idea of putting voir dires on a PowerPoint presentation that can be clearly seen by the jury panel, and incorporating multi-media presentations into all aspects of a jury trial.
My understanding is that the televisions will be funded by Asset Forfeitures coming out of the D.A.'s Office.
[NOTE: In my original post on this, I gave credit to Lykos and the Gang for sharing the wealth, but as it turns out, the plan was actually implemented by Ken Magidson. See, even when I try to be nice to Snookems, the truth stops me.]
Now if I could just get a set up like this in my living room . . .

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 ...