Friday, May 27, 2011

The Best Publicized Sinking Ship Since the Titanic

First, the good news -- the Harris County District Attorney's Office is hiring again!

Now, the bad news -- they aren't hiring anybody that actually does that whole prosecuting thingy that is typically the point of having a District Attorney's Office.

The Lykos Administration this week hired former-228th Court Coordinator and Chief of Staff for Congressman Ted Poe, Heather Ramsey Cook to hold the title of "Community Liaison."  Loosely translated, a "Community Liaison" is someone whose job it is to make the Office look better within the community.

Now, I knew Heather back when she was Poe's Court Coordinator, and I think she's awesome.  She did a great job as a coordinator and kept the court running like a well-oiled machine.  I have no doubt that she will do an excellent job in whatever she seeks to do.

But my question here is what exactly is it that she is needed to do at the District Attorney's Office?

I had initially heard that Heather was coming on as an assistant to Hannah Chow, which begged the question: "An assistant to help Hannah Chow do what, exactly?"  Isn't Chow the one whose two major accomplishments thus far have been placing water coolers throughout the Office and dressing in a ceremonial robe to fire a Child Abuse paralegal?

Why does the Harris County District Attorney's Office need a Community Liaison when they are hemorrhaging prosecutors?  Wouldn't that money be better spent hiring one of those law-degree-holding prosecutorial types that can get a "to do" done and help administer that Rule of Law stuff that Lykos likes to mention?  Right now misdemeanor prosecutors are being "strongly discouraged" from taking the Comp Time that they rightfully earned (which seems like might be bordering on breaking some employment laws to me), while the upper Admin is spending money on people to help make Lykos look better.

To me, Lykos' spending habits are obscene, yet not surprising.  We are talking about an Administration that values good Public Relations over all other goals -- including Justice, after all.  I mean, at some point, you do have to just kick back and applaud the absolute shamelessness that Pat Lykos exhibits while promoting herself in lieu of actually doing her job.

Except, it isn't worthy of applause.  Criminal Justice suffers as a whole.  A prosecutor shortage is not good for anyone.  Those phone calls that need to get made that could help exonerate a defendant aren't getting made.  The extra work that needs to be done to get ready for trial isn't getting done, either.

But Lykos doesn't care.  Her publicists have done a good job of making her look damn appealing.

That's what she taxpayer money pays them for, after all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Post on the Chronicle Blog

Just put up a new Chronicle blog post on some things that many criminal defendants do to sabotage themselves when they come to court.  You can read it by clicking here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (5/19/11)

Please join me and Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt at 8:00 p.m.  Our guest will be defense attorney Norm Silverman.  As always, you can watch it on live streaming video by clicking here.

As a side note, there is no truth to the rumors that Norm, Cunningham and I are starting the Three Bald Guys Law Firm, despite what the picture indicates.

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Anonymous Open Letter to the Pat Lykos Administration

NOTE:  I received the following Anonymous letter to the Pat Lykos Administration on Friday.  I do not know who the author is, and I won't publish any speculation about who it is in the comments section.  I did think it was an interesting perspective on how the trial court prosecutors are feeling these days.

An Open Letter to the 6th Floor:

Dear Admin[istration],
It is a little awkward to write this letter, but it is becoming even more awkward to pretend like we can keep going on like this.  So, I will say what we both know:  I am moving on.

It's true, this job has always been a sacrifice.  And long before you took office, many fine attorneys came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth that sacrifice.  And, although you never believed me, you really had no reason to be so jealous of my ex-admin.  Sure, some voted for Kelly, but almost none of us ever thought Rosenthal should have been anything more than a casual summer fling.

But here's what's different:  I just don't feel like you care anymore, Admin.  In fact, I know you don't.  You've had endless meetings with us where you demanded us to bring ideas, made us write memos, and then never implemented one change.  You conducted exit interview after exit interview (and there's been a lot of them now), with incredible feedback -- but still nothing.

Of course, I know about the economy, and I haven't been expecting steak dinners and roses and raises, but still, you don't even bother to do the easy free stuff.  When Commissioners' Court was talking about cutting us, all it would have taken was one meeting, just to say, "Here is the budget we were given.  We know you are short handed.  We know you are all now doing the work of 2 people.  And we want you to know that we recognize it and appreciate it.  And we want you to know we will do everything in our power to lay off as few people as possible."

That's it.  But instead, we labored for months thinking that there might be more layoffs to come.  And the only message coming from you has been "shut up and take it."  Oh, I guess there was one other message you conveyed at that time, which was that you wanted the division chiefs to tell us you felt we were not speaking to you in the manner befitting someone in your position.  Charming.

It's not just the lack of caring, or communication, it's also the lack of respect.  You have no idea the caliber of professionals you have (well, used to have) working for you.  There are so many people with incredible talents who could help you out.  All you would have had to do is ask, and we would have gladly worked for you and made you look like a super-star.  Instead, because you can't imagine anyone could possibly be smarter/better writer/media person/etc., you don't ask until it's too late.

For example, it would never occur to you to use any of the amazing statistics Kristin Guiney gathered about us being the lowest-staffed DA's office in the country when you presented to Commissioners' Court, even though this should have been the most important presentation of your career.  Never occurred to you to ask ADAs who are doing the work how to best implement policy.

Your stunning arrogance is the driving force behind your inability to think that anyone else has anything to contribute.

I guess when we first started our relationship, I just couldn't believe that all those bad things they said could be true about one person.  Tyrannical AND nasty AND arrogant AND worst-judge-ever-to-work-for AND poor attorney?  I didn't think it could possibly be true all in one person.  And so I stayed, to learn the brutal truth for myself.

I should have seen it coming.  As a student of Chairman Mao history, I knew the inevitable implosion of an entity run by a crazy and absolutist dictator, especially in times of famine.  Crazy reliance on manufactured meaningless statistics, inability to trust anyone, constantly being told it is our fault if we are starving, because everyone else is happy.

I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking "so what, there are other fish in the sea."  You've certainly mentioned the "300 resumes" on your desk enough times in our "Shut Up and Be Happy" meetings.  But those resumes won't file motions or make RIP calls.  And who is going to try all those murders and rapes and agg robs?  Because the people you are about to lose the most of are your Felony 2s and 3s.  You know, the people who were first time 3s for a year, then misdemeanor chiefs under the Regime of No Discretion, and the second time 3s.  Then maybe, if they're "lucky" they can go straight from that to being a new 2 in the trial bureau with no pay raise?

Honestly, I don't think you understand that of all your sins, one of the things that has the biggest impact on employee retention is your inability to move people wisely and when needed.  I know movement is stagnated, so just give people some predictability.  Felony 3s -- six months up, six down, for however long it takes.  Felony 2s -- 1 year in the trial bureau and then out.  Recognize the burnout courts.

So who's going to try all these cases when all the mid-level people leave?  Because now the office is so top-heavy, so stacked with people who don't handle cases, but simply second-guess those of us who do.

Well, I wish you luck with all your legions of new ADAs.  I am sure they will work out as wonderfully as the misfits who have been hired by your "hiring committee" of one.  Clearly, 15 minutes with Chow is such a great way to replicate the pressure of jury trial. 

Really, Admin, I wish it could have worked out.  And I wish I could say "it's not you, it's me," except, it is you.

It is all you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Talking Bond Schedules on the Chronicle Blog

I posted a new article on the Misdemeanor Bond schedule if anyone is interested in reading it over at the Chronicle Blog.  You can check it out by clicking here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Homeward Bound -- Kind of

As many of you know, my friend and and DWI lawyer extraordinaire, Tyler Flood and I recently started a law partnership up in Bryan/College Station.

I grew up in Bryan and spent two and a half years working at the Brazos County District Attorney's Office when I was going to Texas A&M.  I also spent a few months working at the Brazos County Attorney's Office while I was waiting on my Bar Results.  It is hard to believe that was 12 years ago.

We've been doing a case or two here and there over the past year, but I look very forward to getting back by my hometown more often.  It is always good to go back and visit old friends.

You can check out our website here and on Facebook by clicking here.

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 ...