Monday, December 31, 2012

The Swearing In Ceremony

By now, there should only be four lucky prosecutors working at intake from five o'clock to midnight.  The rest have officially had their last minutes on the clock under the Lykos Administration.  At exactly midnight, Mike Anderson will be at Intake to be sworn in as the District Attorney of Harris County, Texas.

It has been a long time coming.

The ceremonial swearing in will be tomorrow, January 1st at 10:30 a.m. at the South Texas College of Law, Joe Green Auditorium at 1303 San Jacinto, Houston, Texas 77002, and it will be followed by the swearing in of all the Assistant District Attorneys.

I'm going to try to swing by if I wake up in time.  If I don't I'll be there in spirit.

Congratulations and thank you to Mike Anderson for running and winning the job of elected District Attorney.

To those of you who survived the past four years, you have my respect and my admiration for persevering.

Have a great day tomorrow!

Lykos 2012: The Final Chapter?


NOTE:  When last we left our heroes of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office at the end of 2011, Darth Lykos was still battling with the rebellious 185th Grand Jury.  To clarify, this was the 1st Grand Jury that was investigating Lykos.  Not the second one.  That was about time sheets.  Not the 3rd one, either.  That one is about them investigating the 1st one.  Oh never mind.  Just read on.

JANUARY
January 1 – As the new year begins, Lykos and the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight hope that a recent change in the laws will cause the 185th Grand Jury to have their session mandatorily terminated, thus ending their pending investigation into the District Attorney’s Office.  When confronted that a lack of Grand Juries might also allow Capital Murderers to be released on bond, Lykos paraphrases the old adage that it is better for a thousand guilty men to go free than for one Pat Lykos to go to jail.

January 6-Angry Republican political activist, Gary Polland writes into this blog angrily denouncing an article claiming he was in political cahoots with self-proclaimed genius Donald Hooper.  He wraps up his comment with “nobody speaks for me but me.”  In May, as virtually none of the Republican candidates supported by Polland are elected, it is proven that Polland actually speaks for nobody but him, either.

January 17-District Attorney Pat Lykos testifies under subpoena before the 185th Grand Jury.  Although the proceedings behind Grand Jury doors are secret, it is rumored that her testimony was cut short when she smoked a carton of filterless Camels until the grand jurors could no longer take being in the room with her.

January 31-The 185th Grand Jury elects not to hand down any indictments for Pat Lykos, Rachel Palmer or any other members of the District Attorney’s Office  for their roles in the HPD B.A.T. Van scandal but issues a letter condemning their unethical behavior – calling it a “stain” on the Criminal Justice System.  Lykos condemns the letter, stating the only “stain” related to the investigation occurred when Leitner got his subpoena.

FEBRUARY
February 1-After almost a full 24 hours of no scandals coming from the Pat Lykos Administration, Channel 13's Ted Oberg reports that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner had ordered Chief Investigator Don McWilliams to conduct an investigation in the 185th Grand Jurors.  When asked for comment, Leitner can only respond with "Oh son of a . . ."

February 7-The Texas Rangers arrive at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to begin an investigation into the Lykos Administration for their conduct relating to the 185th Grand Jury.  Several days later, Lykos will claim that she personally requested the Rangers investigate her.  Additionally, she claims that she personally requested Ted Oberg to do an investigative report on her, as well as personally requesting that Murray Newman start his blog.

February 22-At a Houston fundraiser for former Harris County ADA David Hilburn, recent Lykos hire, David Benzion is discovered lurking in the parking lot.  Benzion who was allegedly hired to help “write grants” for the District Attorney’s Office lamely explains that he was not, in fact, following around Lykos’ opponent, Mike Anderson (who was attending the fundraiser).  Rather, he was researching a grant for valet parking at random establishments around town.

MARCH
March 10-A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

March 20-At a public debate with Mike Anderson, Pat Lykos announces that possession of small amounts of drugs like cocaine and heroin is no longer illegal, contrary to the Penal Code and the working knowledge of any prosecutor who has ever tried a case.

March 29-Aspiring Democratic D.A. candidate Lloyd Oliver makes his now-legendary appearance on Reasonable Doubt where he voices his support for the idea of dismissing family violence assault cases and replacing them with boxing lessons.   Harris County residents now believe that the Mayan Apocalypse may have been based on the Doomsday Scenario of a Lykos vs. Oliver race in November.

APRIL
April 3-An ecstatic comedian Dave Chappelle sends Rachel Palmer a thank you note for increasing the views of this skit on the Internet over the past four months. 

April 13-A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

April 22- When pressed on any additional policy changes that he would institute if elected, District Attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver announces that he would no longer prosecute Arson cases, and instead replace them with classes teaching people to stop, drop and roll.

MAY
May 2 – In a move that was long awaited, Rachel Palmer breaks her 5th Amendment silence long enough to endorse Pat Lykos.

May 10- A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

May 28 – After a very long 3 years, 4 months, and 28 days, we all learned that Patricia R. Lykos would be gainfully unemployed on January 1st.  A defiant Lykos announces that she actually asked the voters not to vote for her around the same time that she asked the Texas Rangers to investigate her.

May 29 – A heavy write-in campaign out of Houston begins to have this picture nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

JUNE
June 9-A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

June 14-A hungry Pat Lykos drives to McDonald's for a Happy Meal.  While there, she offers to pay $2 million out of her Asset Forfeiture Fund for her food if they will agree to rename the restaurant McLykos'.

June 26 – The District Attorney’s Office asks for $17,108 from the Commissioners’ Court as reimbursement to Steve Morris for his legal fees incurred for his Show Cause hearing in 2011.  Following the precedent that ADAs can recover damages from the County, a class action request is filed with the Commissioners on behalf of all ADAs asking for $2.3 billion in restitution for pain and suffering endured during the Lykos Administration.

JULY
July 7-Pat Lykos comes down with a nasty summer cold.  She claims that this was not by accident, but that she asked her doctor to make her sick shortly after asking the Texas Rangers to investigate her.

July 22 – Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver have the first of their “debates” in which Lloyd Oliver blatantly states that Anderson’s donations are questionable.  Lloyd later clarifies that unless the money came from a cab driver, posing as a lawyer, picking up recently released inmates from the Harris County Jail and bringing them to his office, it was probably dirty.

July 30 - The series of false rumors that Jim Leitner is leaving the Office to become a defense attorney are explained when it is revealed that he has ordered an investigator with the Office to assist defense attorney Dick DeGuerin clear the name of convicted murderer David Temple.  As it turns out, Leitner was a defense attorney all along.  He was just pretending to be a prosecutor.  Thus the confusion.

AUGUST
August 8-A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

August 20 – Harris County Democratic Party Leader Gerry Birnberg files a lawsuit to keep Lloyd Oliver off of the ballot as the Democratic Candidate for District Attorney in the November.  Harris County Republicans issue the following statement: "Wait.  We can do that?  Then why the hell have we been dealing with Pat Lykos for the past four years?"

August 26 – Local defense attorney Lisa Andrews brings the Harris County Probation under intense scrutiny after revealing during a hearing that lab technicians within the department had flawed urinalysis testing procedures when it came to drug screening.  Pat Lykos offers to donate $2 million in Harris County Asset Forfeiture money to the Probation Department to correct the problem on the condition that they rename it "Lykos' House of Urine."

SEPTEMBER
September 5 – Backed by a legal Dream Team of Ted Doebler, James Dyer and Don Hooper, Lloyd Oliver wins a legal challenge to the Democratic Party and is allowed to remain on the ticket in November.  An ecstatic Oliver states:  "Wow.  This is the first time I ever won anything by using that legal maneuvering stuff!"

September 10 – Pat Lykos uses $365,000 out of Asset Forfeiture money to put on a CLE hosted by the National College of District Attorneys.  Her initial plan had been to spend $2 million to fly the entire office to Hawaii for the CLE, but she backed out after Hawaiian officials refused her demand to rename the island of Kahoolawe after her.  "Damn, people," Lykos was quoted as saying.  "It's the smallest freaking island out of eight.  Am I really asking for too much here?"

September 11 - The National College of District Attorneys names Pat Lykos the Elected Prosecutor of the Year for Harris County, Texas in 2012.

September 22- A rumor that 1st Assistant Jim Leitner is going to resign on Friday floats around the CJC.

OCTOBER
October 4-Pat Lykos snubs local blogger Murray Newman by failing to attend his 40th birthday party.

October 19 – 1st Assistant Jim Leitner resigns from the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  Seriously.  I promise this time.  And in his farewell e-mail, he included a video of him bench pressing a lot of weights.  Really.  I am not making this up.  It was awesome.  It really happened.  

October 22 – In a surprise move, the Lykos Administration names former prosecutor Bill Hawkins to serve as interim 1st Assistant until the end of the Administration.  Additionally, former Investigator Walker McAnally is brought in to be Chief Investigator.  Murray Newman's application to be reinstated as the head of the Justice of the Peace Division is denied, however.

October 24 – Pat Lykos offers to donate $2 million in Asset Forfeiture money to the Harris County Forensic Institute of Science, which is apparently approved.  We look forward to seeing Pat's House of Cadavers coming to Harris County in the near future.

NOVEMBER
November 4 – Investigator Leon Wilson is promoted to Assistant Chief Investigator which is kind of like when there are only 2 minutes left in the game and you are down 72-0, so the coach just says “what the hell” and lets the bench warmers play. 
#RelivingPainfulHighSchoolFootballMemories

November 6 – Mike Anderson is elected Harris County District Attorney.  Local blogger Murray Newman announces the creation of a new blog: Life at the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Center.

November 16 – Reports circulate that a third Grand Jury is now reviewing the antics of the Pat Lykos Administration after Texas Rangers and Special Prosecutor Eric Nichols are spotted on the 3rd floor of the CJC.  A nonchalant Pat Lykos explains that she actually invited the grand jury to scare the crap out of her right before her term ended.

November 20 – The Harris County Sheriff's Office is granted $138,000 by the County Commissioner's to employ legal consultant, Jim Leitner.   Immediately after the money is approved, rumors begin circulating that Leitner will be resigning from the Sheriff's Office on Friday.

November 24 – The Houston Press names Lykos the Criminal Justice Turkey of the Year, finally allowing her to honestly refer to herself as an "award winning District Attorney."

November 26 – Former 1st Assistant Bert Graham returns to the District Attorney’s Office as part of Mike Anderson's transition team.  Lykos reluctantly allows Graham access to the building only on the condition that he rename himself "Bert Lykos."  As an added incentive, she offers to give him $2 million in Asset Forfeiture money.

DECEMBER
December 11 – Mike Anderson announces that 230th District Court Judge Belinda Hill will be the new 1st Assistant under his Administration.  Judge Hill, a highly respected Judge and former prosecutor brings more legal knowledge and character to the District Attorney's Office as an individual than the entirety of Lykos' Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight combined.

December 14 – Anderson introduces his new leadership team in a press conference and begins making adjustments to the personnel of the District Attorney's Office.  Shockingly, notorious 5th Amendment aficionado Rachel Palmer is not amongst those who are to be let go under the new administration.  When pressed for comment, Anderson states: "Well, hell, I had to leave Newman something to write about."

December 17 – Former HPD-lab technicians Amanda Culbertson and Jorge Wong file a Federal suit against Pat Lykos, Rachel Palmer, and Harris County.  A confident Pat Lykos announces that she asked Culbertson and Wong to sue her.

December 31 – After 4 years of inducing terror and misery, Pat Lykos finally slinks out of the building. However, most people don't believe that she is really gone for good because no witnesses can attest to having actually seen a bucket of water poured on her.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to all my friends out there who are up and about on the Internet today.

I hope that this message finds you all long after you've already had a fantastic Christmas with your families.

In light of the tragedy yesterday involving Bellaire PD Corporal Jimmie Norman and civilian Terry Taylor -- as well as so many other heartbreaking things that have happened in the past month -- please don't fail to appreciate how blessed you are to be sitting down with all of your family.  Whether your religious views run deep or shallow, Christmas time is a time for family.

Hug yours and let them know how much you love them.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Holiday Dress Code Violations

I think I skipped this award last year, but as you will see below, some things inspire me to remember.

This year's Holiday Dress Code violations go to both a prosecutor and a defense attorney who were found in the 263rd District Court today.


Pete Justin's attire is impressive, with his canvass lanyard creating the appearance that he is wearing a washboard under his blazer.  This is Pete's second win.  However, it pales in comparison to Stephen Driver's light green shirt and Grinch tie.  If you look closely, Stephen also has his button down collar unbuttoned to compensate for one missing button.

Former dress code violation winner Brian Coyne was also in court today, as well.  However, he seems to have defeated his fashion problems with the help of Lafayette's Big and Small Suit Barn.


To be fair, I wasn't exactly ready for the cover of GQ today, either.  However, my green pants, blue striped shirt, red tie, and sports jacket with a missing button failed to get caught on camera.  Sometimes, it is good to be in charge of blog content.

Thanks to everyone for being good sports!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Division Chiefs

The Incoming Anderson Administration made its decisions on Division Chiefs today.  There were several promotions of Felony District Court Chiefs to Division Chief, and many were lateral transfers to different divisions.  It is definitely a shake-up of how things have been previously done.

There are a couple of new Divisions added to the Trial Bureau (5 rather than the previous 3), and I believe the Major Narcotics spot is new, as well.

This is what I've heard so far:

Felony Trial Division Chiefs (A,B,C,D & E)
Natalie Tise (promotion)
Marie Primm (promotion)
Lance Long
Craig Goodhart
Kari Allen (promotion)

Special Crimes Major Offenders Division Chief
Tammy Thomas (promotion)

Special Crimes Major Narcotics
Marcy McCorvey (promotion)

Grand Jury Division Chief
John Brewer (promotion)

Family Criminal Law Division Chief
Lisa Porter (promotion)

Child Abuse Division Chief
Sunni Mitchell

Major Fraud Division Chief
Lynne Parsons

Intake Division Chief
Bill Moore

Mental Health Division Chief
Denise Oncken

Writs Division Chief
Lynne Hardeway (promotion)

Misdemeanor Division Chief
Kate Dolan

Juvenile Division Chief
Terrance Windham

Asset Forfeiture Division Chief
Kaylynn Williford

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another Friend in Need -- Eileen Bogar

Unfortunately, our friend Jeff Hale isn't the only member of our courthouse community to recently suffer a devastating medical setback.

Former Chief Prosecutor and defense attorney Eileen Guerinot Bogar had a sudden and unexpected stroke on Friday night.  She's only 38 years old.

For those who don't know Eileen, she is one of the most outgoing and caring friends that a person can have.  She is always there with a kind word (and usually some great gossip) for a friend.  Additionally, she is the loving mother of her son, E.J., who is the absolute light of her life.

In instances where other people have needed help, we could always count on Eileen to be the first to volunteer.  In fact, prior to last week, she was one of a handful of attorneys who were working diligently to help cover all of Jeff Hale's cases.  She doesn't just say she will help out.  She does it.  And she's never met a stranger.

Eileen's road to recovery is going to be a long one, unfortunately.  She will need around-the-clock-care and rehabilitation.  For those of us who know her, we have no doubt that she has the strength of character and stubbornness to make it through this, but she is going to need some help.

If you can, please take time to donate to Eileen.  You can do so by clicking this link:

https://www.wepay.com/donations/eileen-bogar_1

It is devastating what has been happening around the country and here locally this holiday season.  It is definitely a time to count our blessings and do everything we can to help those who could use a little assistance.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Jeff Hale

As many of you around the CJC already know, our friend and fellow defense attorney Jeff Hale suffered a stroke right around the Thanksgiving holidays.  Several attorneys have been helping take care of Jeff's cases as he recuperates from this unforeseen medical emergency.  We hear that he is coming along quite well, but that the road to complete recovery may still take some time.

While many attorneys are doing all they can to help Jeff, attorney Rand Mintzer has gone an extra step in his efforts -- a marathon's worth of "extra steps" to be more exact.

Rand will be running this Saturday in a marathon dubbed The Day After the End of the World Marathon, and he would like to dedicate his efforts to raise money for Jeff Hale.  This is a classic example of a great guy doing all he can to help out somebody who is also a great guy.

Rand has asked me to help in raising money for Jeff and I couldn't be more happy to help out.  We will be accepting anything you can possibly donate to help Jeff, his wife and their young son.  So, if you see me or Rand, please donate.

Despite the fact that the majority of the readers of this blog work in the most adversarial of positions, it has always been amazing to see how we all come together to help one of our brethren.  That becomes even more evident during this time of the year.

Both Rand and I will be around the courthouse all week, so just flag us down if you see us.

Thanks in Advance!

The Federal Lawsuit

In case you missed it, former-HPD chemists Amanda Culbertson and Jorge Wong filed a Federal lawsuit this morning, targeting both Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Palmer.

I've briefly scanned over the petition and it is basically the allegation that Wong and Culbertson were punished and retaliated against for their roles as whistleblowers with the HPD B.A.T. Van scandals.  The petition lists numerous dates and meetings that specifically involve Rachel Palmer and it covers the cancellation of the County's contract with Lone Star College.

I don't know much about Federal Civil Law, but I would imagine that things will move fairly slowly.  It will be interesting to watch it develop.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy Beyond Comprehension

In about an hour, my wife and I are going to leave our house and go watch my son in his school's holiday program.  My boy (whom many of you know personally), at 7 years old is already a lapsed Catholic, but for some reason H.I.S.D. has him singing a Kwanzaa song tonight.  I'm not entirely sure how that happened.

At the end of the program, he'll come home with us to our house.  Our Christmas tree is up.  Lights are on the stair railings.  The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  The holiday season brings palpable excitement at the Newman house.  It is usually a very close race between me and the Boy over who gets more giddy about Christmas.  He's in 1st grade.  I'm 40.

I can't stop looking at the television and the news today.

In Connecticut, there were at least 20 sets of parents eagerly anticipating the holiday season with their children.  Their five and six-year-olds probably had only one more week until their eagerly anticipated two week Christmas vacation.  Remember that feeling you had about Christmas vacation when you were a kid?  You treated it like a paid vacation that you had been working for since you showed up at school in August.

The Christmas holiday is pretty much the biggest deal going on in a 5-year-old's mind right about this time of year.

And then something like today happens in Newtown, Connecticut.

There is such an urge to call the person responsible for what happened today every name in the book -- Sick.  Coward.  Monster.  In the end, he took his own life, but for the rest of the us, he can never be dead enough.

The media is all over it with their usual cliches.  Varying sides of the political spectrum are inexcusably using today's events to further their agendas.

The reality is that there is no answer to why this happened.  It didn't happen because gun control is too lax and it didn't happen because the Government allegedly took God out of school.

It happened because we live in a dark world that becomes increasingly darker by the day.

From Charles Whitman in Austin in 1966 to James Huberty in San Ysidro in 1984 to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine in 1999, it has been well established that even the most benign event can turn into horrific tragedy at the turn of the dime.  The ability for a human to do so much harm to a child defies all logic.  Children killed before they understand what the concept of death even is.

That will only increase with time.  No amount of legislation can change a damn thing about it.

So, what's the message here?

The message is cherish your life.  More importantly, cherish your children.  Hug them.  Squeeze them.  Hold them tight.  Pray constantly for their well-being.

I cannot begin to fathom what is happening in the homes across Connecticut tonight.  Quite frankly, I don't want to.

I just know that tonight, I'm going to my hear my boy sing a Kwanzaa song and after the show, I'm going to hug him, squeeze him, and hold him tight.  After he goes to bed, I will pray that he lives a long and happy life that far exceeds mine.

And then I'll probably sit down on the couch and have a drink and wonder how the families in Connecticut could go on after something like this.  Honestly, I don't think that I could in their shoes.

And I'll thank God for all the blessings that I have in my life.

My thoughts and prayers are in Newtown, Connecticut.

And the Leadership Team is . . .

Mike Anderson held a press conference today announcing who would be filling the positions in his Leadership Team starting on January 1st.  I know that most of you have already heard them, but in case you haven't, here they are.

Judge Belinda Hill -- First Assistant

Bert Graham -- Of Counsel

Dick Bax -- General Counsel

Connie Spence -- Chief of Special Crimes Bureau

Roe Wilson -- Chief of the Legal Services Bureau

Karen Morris -- Chief of the Public Service Bureau

Maria McAnulty -- Chief of the Trial Bureau

Jane Waters -- Chief of the Special Victims Bureau (NOTE:  This seems to be a new Bureau that will incorporate both Family Violence, Child Abuse, and Child Pornography)

Richard Holland -- Chief Investigator

Julian Ramirez -- Division Chief of the Civil Rights Division

Terese Buess -- Division Chief of the Public Integrity Division

There are still some things that need to be ironed out, most notably who the individual Trial Bureau Division Chiefs are, as well as the ones over Misdemeanor and Juvenile.  I understand that is still in the works.


A Brief Recap of Mike Anderson on Reasonable Doubt

As requested by a commenter on my last post, here is a brief recap of District Attorney-Elect Mike Anderson's appearance on last night's Reasonable Doubt.  I'm going from memory here, so I may miss a few things.  I'm hoping we will have the actual episode put online by my assistant, Franklin, by the end of the weekend.

1.  When asked how he wanted to be referred to at the Office, he was emphatic that he wanted to be called "Mike," noting that he was no longer a judge and didn't think he should be addressed as so.

2.  He plans on announcing his leadership team today (December 14th) in a press conference at the CJC at 10:30am.

3.  He is very excited that Judge Belinda Hill agreed to be 1st Assistant.  She was the choice he continuously had in mind the entire time he was running for Office and he said there was "no Plan B."  His enthusiasm about Judge Hill was very obvious (and well deserved).

4.  Assistant District Attorneys under the new Administration will not be required to attend his swearing-in ceremony on January 1st.  He said he would be glad for all of those who could come, but recognizes that you are all "adults" who may have your own family plans.  Just remember to get sworn in before resuming any duties in the new year.

5.  DIVERT is definitely going away, although all people currently on DIVERT will have that agreement honored.

6.  He will be open to the idea of legal versions of Pre-Trial Diversion on DWI cases in the future and he anticipates a strong possibility that Deferred Adjudication will be added to DWI cases in the next legislative session.

7.  The prosecutors in the court will make the initial determination over what cases are appropriate for Pre-Trial Diversion, and then a committee will review that.

8.  The filing of trace cases will resume but he will be open to all manners of appropriate punishment dispositions.  He considers probation with treatment to be the best solution to low level drug cases and believes that not filing those cases deprives people of the opportunity to get help.

9.  Barring a change in the law, he will not be filing crack pipe residue cases as Class C cases.

10.  The rumors that he is unsupportive of some of the specialty courts (Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Veterans Court, etc.) is "hogwash" and he reiterated that he is a tremendous fan of those courts.  He also noted that having served in those courts has only strengthened his belief in the power of what rehabilitation can achieve.

11.  He absolutely advocates using asset forfeiture money to help fund these programs.

12.  The asset forfeiture fund has dwindled under the Lykos Administration and continues to do so.  At the start of her administration, there was over $22 million.  Now, there is right around $8 million.

13.  The Pre-Commit program and the Hiring Committee will be reinstated for all new applicants.

14.  He wants to utilize more technology starting with the sharing of offense reports with defense counsel.  He thinks offense reports should be easily accessible online to the defense.

15.  He wants to strongly support a return to the collegiality between prosecutors and defense attorneys and hopes to establish an annual softball game with prosecutors and the defense bar.

That's just a brief recap, but if I think of more, I'll let you know.  I'm looking forward to hearing who the leadership team is today.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mike Anderson on Reasonable Doubt (12/13/12)

Please join me and host Todd Dupont on Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. for Reasonable Doubt, where our guest will be Harris County District Attorney-elect Mike Anderson.

On the heels of yesterday's announcement about Judge Belinda Hill, Judge Anderson has also been meeting with various people involved in the Criminal Justice System to let them know his plans for the future of the District Attorney's Office (which begins in t-minus 19 days).  He's answering all questions and he looks forward to answering any calls the viewers might have.

So call in with your questions.

As always, you can catch us live streaming by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The New First Assistant

In a move that had been rumored about the CJC for several weeks, Judge Belinda Hill of the 230th District Court has officially agreed to be the 1st Assistant of the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the Mike Anderson Administration.

I can't think of a better choice.

Unlike her predecessor at First Assistant, Judge Hill is a highly respected District Court Judge who has served on the bench since 1997.  During her tenure as Judge, she had the reputation as a hard-working, yet fair judge who called balls and strikes based solely on the law.  She is most well-known for presiding over both capital murder trials of Andrea Yates, in which she handled an absolute media circus with class and respect for the law.  Prior to becoming a Judge, she was a highly respected Division Chief within the District Attorney's Office under Johnny Holmes.

I first met Judge Hill (although I highly doubt she remembers it) when she was a prosecutor trying the Alex Gonzalez/Ida Lee Delaney case on a change of venue to Brazos County.  I was an academic intern at the Brazos County District Attorney's Office and my boss (a former HPD Homicide Sergeant) told me I should go watch how Houston prosecutors tried cases.  I took his advice and was mesmerized.  It was prosecuting at a whole new level.  Ultimately, Judge Hill and Joe Owmby would secure a 7-year-sentence against Gonzalez.

I was thrilled three years later to have Judge Hill as one of my Trial Advocacy professors (along with David Cunningham and George Murphy) at the University of Houston.  She was a judge by then and I appreciated that she would take time out of her schedule to come and teach law students how to try cases.  It was very clear that she had a passion and commitment to teaching effective litigation skills to upcoming lawyers.

After becoming a defense attorney, one of the first cases I took to a jury trial was in Judge Hill's court.  My client was charged with Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Assault on a Public Servant after a little misunderstanding at a bank where he was accused of exchanging gunshots with HPD.  Judge Hill could not have given me a more fair trial on a case that had some very unpopular facts.  Every motion hearing I requested, she heard me out completely before ruling and she carefully considered every point I made.

After the trial was over, I remarked to someone that Judge Hill was so consistently fair that I knew what her ruling would be every time I stood up to make an objection.  Her ruling would just be the legally correct one.

It was a pleasure to try a case in front of her.

My only disappointment in Judge Hill taking the position with the Anderson Administration is that she won't be on the bench.  (NOTE:  My understanding is there is actually a fairly complicated process that she will have to go to before officially resigning and being able to take a new position.)

However, the benefit of having Judge Hill working with the District Attorney's Office far outweighs any sadness about her leaving.  She has the respect of attorneys on both sides of the bench for her work ethic, intelligence and fairness.

Her agreeing to join the Anderson Administration is a tremendous step in the right direction.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Johnny Manziel!

This has nothing to do with the CJC, but I'm an Aggie, so excuse me.

But, if you had told any Aggie, five minutes before kick off against Florida (their first game of the season), that they would end the season at 10-2, defeat the #1 team in the Nation (at their home), and have their freshman quarterback win the Heisman in the first year in the SEC . . .

Discuss amongst yourselves.  However, unlike other posts, I'm only publishing comments that I agree with.  :-)

Super huge congratulations to Johnny Manziel for making A&M proud.

Conflicted?

As I posted in November, the Harris County Sheriff's Office had an item on the Commissioners' Court Agenda last month asking for $138,000 to pay for consulting services from Jim Leitner.  Setting aside the argument for the moment about whether or not Jim's legal consultation is worth that relatively large amount of money, it does bring up an interesting question about him continuing to do any other kind of criminal cases (appointed or retained).

If Leitner is going to be representing the Harris County Sheriff's Office in a legal capacity wouldn't that tend to conflict him out of doing criminal defense representation in all cases that involve the Sheriff's Office?

My understanding is that Leitner has explained that he would not be taking on cases where HCSO was the investigating agency, which should be obvious.  How can one defend an accused client when the accuser is also a client?  By turning down those Sheriff's Office cases, Jim will be foregoing a large percentage of criminal cases in Harris County.

However, in my opinion, the conflict of interest that Leitner potentially faces is much more significant than just those cases where HCSO investigated the case-in-chief.   Some conflicts of interest are more subtle.

Keep in mind that the Harris County Sheriff's Office is also in charge of the Harris County Jail.  All defendants who are charged by any police agency in Harris County will ultimately reside in the jail, provided that they don't make bond.  They will be booked in by Jim's clients.  They will be housed by Jim's clients.  If they commit any infractions in the jail, they will be testified against by Jim's clients.

Furthermore, if a defendant has a prior criminal history and a prosecutor has to prove up those prior records with fingerprint evidence, the fingerprint expert is always a Harris County Sheriff's deputy -- one of Jim's clients.

If you think about it, what criminal cases in Harris County don't  utilize a representative of the Harris County Sheriff's Office at some point?

Based on all of these scenarios, it would seem that Leitner would be potentially conflicted out any criminal case in Harris County unless they 1) never get booked into the Harris County jail and 2) have no criminal history that would require a Sheriff's Deputy to testify.   If you couple that with the fact that Leitner is not exactly fondly remembered by many of his former co-workers at the District Attorney's Office, one must wonder who thought this consulting gig was a good idea for him.

I'm not sure who was more short-sighted:  Leitner or Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Of course, making short-sighted decisions without thinking out the implications of them is something we've gotten accustomed to the past four years.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Robb Fickman Attacks the Blawgosphere

Everyone who practices within the Harris County Criminal Justice Center has, at one point or another, run into the legendary personality that is commonly referred to as Robb Fickman.  

He is one of the finest Criminal Defense Attorneys that I have ever met.  His intellect and devotion to his clients are matched only by fearlessness in the face of adversity.

He is also the maker of some of the wildest and most bombastic statements known to the Harris County Legal Community.  He is the self-proclaimed "Czar of Provocation."

Several months ago, Robb created his own Twitter account.  At the time, I wrote:
"I wake up this morning to learn that @rfickman has joined Twitter.  This may be the greatest thing to ever happen to Twitter.  Or the worst."
Robb has now expanded his horizons by starting his own blog, and I echo my earlier sentiments.

You can read his rantings by checking out http://blog.fickmanlaw.com/.  It is likely to offend and amuse  and educate all at the same time.  

I highly recommend checking it out.

Charles "Jim" Newman

My great-uncle, Jim Newman, passed away last week at the age of 87.  He was the brother of my paternal grandfather, Louis Newman, whom I've written about on the blog several times.

I remember Uncle Jim from when I was just a little kid, and I thought he was really cool because he drove 18-wheelers for Central Freight.  I didn't see him quite as much as I saw my grandparents, but every time we would get together, he was the sweetest guy in the world.  He was always so excited to see us and he placed such a strong emphasis on family.

He was outstanding at chronicling the events and history of our family.  When I got interested in looking up my family tree several years ago, I was amused to see online that Uncle Jim had already mapped everything out for me and anyone else interested in our family.  He had posted photographs that I didn't even know existed of my grandparents and great-great grandparents.

Amazingly, Uncle Jim also did a fantastic job of keeping a record of his time in the Navy serving on a submarine during World War II, writing a book that now resides in the National Museum of the Pacific War.  The local newspaper in Bryan/College Station wrote an article about it today.

It is fascinating.  You can read it by clicking here.

Reading the article made me laugh and think about my grandfather again.  It my grandfather (whom I called "Pa") that had gotten Uncle Jim a job at a pig farm right out of high school.  That sounds exactly like something my grandfather would have done.

And it made me very glad that Pa wasn't in charge of my career planning when I got out of high school.

I think Uncle Jim, like so many of the time, truly embodied the essence of the Greatest Generation.  I'm so grateful that he took the time to commit his memories to writing.

And I'm very proud to tell people he was my great uncle.

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (11/29/12)

Please join me and our host Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt at 8:00 p.m.  We've had a ton of things to talk about since resuming regular episodes after the Election, and we haven't even scratched the surface yet.  Our special guest tonight will be Harris County's Favorite Public Defender Alex Bunin.

We've had Alex on the show before and he is one of our favorite guests, so please call in with your questions and commentary.

As always, you can tune in to watch it live streaming by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ADA Applications

I was contacted today by a person on behalf of District Attorney-elect Mike Anderson, who asked me to forward on the following information:

Applications are now being accepted for those interested in applying to be an Assistant District Attorney in Harris County next year.  This applies only to people currently outside the Office and does not mean that all those currently working as prosecutors are supposed to contact this e-mail address.  Apparently, there had been numerous job applicants over the past several months who were told the Office wasn't hiring.

Judge Anderson would like to see people applying again.

If you are interested in getting information about applying to be a prosecutor, please contact Harris.DAO.hiring@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Return of the Jedi

Some of you on the 6th Floor might have had a flashback if you happened to run into former First Assistant District Attorney Bert Graham or attorney Dick Bax today.

Both men have been asked by District Attorney-elect Mike Anderson to come in to be a part of the transition team as he prepares to take office on January 1, 2013.

District Attorney Pat Lykos has followed in the footsteps of former interim District Attorney Ken Magidson by allowing the incoming District Attorney's transition team to begin work on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

It was a decent and classy move by Lykos.  Yeah, I said that in print.

Allowing Judge Anderson's transition team to come in early will help eliminate any confusion that could potentially take place on January 1st.  She didn't have to do that, so kudos to her for allowing it.

I'm sure that the next few weeks will be filled with rumor and gossip as names are dropped for who will be doing what under the new administration. That's natural, and, in some ways, kind of exciting.  I look forward to hearing who Judge Anderson will choose for his Leadership Team.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Congratulations to Pat Lykos

As Pat Lykos wraps up her notorious reign as Harris County District Attorney, it seems only fitting that she be given some sort of award for her 4 years of "service."

Thankfully, the good folks over at the Houston Press were all over this and didn't let our friend Pat sneak out the door without a presentation.

In their most recent edition, the Houston Press kindly awarded Pat Lykos the Criminal Justice Turkey of the Year.

Congrats to Craig Malisow for putting onto one page what it has taken me four years to put down in writing.

He nailed it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Soft Landing for Leitner Revisited

And speaking of Jim Leitner, apparently he just can't break away from Harris County.

An item on the Commissioners' Agenda for the Harris County Sheriff's Office for Tuesday is as follows:

Wow.  That's some pretty nice money there, Jim.  I'm guessing this cushy contract won't prohibit him from working on other cases as well.

No word yet on whether or not they will give him a badge to wear on his belt.

A Return to the Grand Jury

The third floor of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center seems to be a very busy place this morning.  As expected, one of the Grand Juries meeting today is reviewing the case against Precinct Six Constable Victor Trevino.

What was not expected, however, was the presence of the Texas Rangers who were last seen investigating the Lykos Administration for their involvement in stalking investigating the members of the 185th Grand Jury.  In addition to the Rangers, former foreperson of the 185th Grand Jury, Trisha Pollard present, along with former-Chief Investigator for the D.A.'s Office, Don McWilliams, and former-1st Assistant (and bench pressing champion) Jim Leitner.

I have to admit that I'm surprised.  Based on what I had been hearing for some time, I thought the Rangers' investigation into Lykos had tapered off.  As noted in this post, I was skeptical about whether or not criminal charges would be filed on this in the first place.

This may be much ado about nothing.  Perhaps the Special Prosecutor on the case is just presenting his findings to the Grand Jury to wrap up his investigation.  The only thing that is confusing about that theory is there is not an explanation as to why they would be calling witnesses.

I'll keep you posted.

Dress Code Violations

It's frightening enough when I find myself thinking like Mark Bennett.

You can only imagine my terror when I find myself dressing like Mark Bennett.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (11/15/12)

Please tune in tonight for Reasonable Doubt with me and host Todd Dupont.  Our guest will be HCCLA President Chris Tritico.

As always, you can tune in and catch it live streaming at 8:00 p.m. by clicking here.

Please call in with your questions and comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brad Hart and the 248th Appointment

As I noted in my election recap last Wednesday, one of the worst kept secrets in the CJC at the moment is that Judge Joan Campbell is planning on retiring from the 248th District Court bench no later than the end of the year. Obviously, her retirement from the Bench necessitates that Governor Perry appoint a replacement.

The field of candidates that the Governor will select from depends on who puts in to be considered.  As of this morning, I understand that Brad Hart and Robert Summerlin have publicly stated they are going to put in for the 248th.  An e-mail that Roger Bridgwater sent to his fellow judicial candidates seemed to indicate that he would be putting in for it (and if you read between the lines, Roger seems to think he'll be getting the appointment easily).

Others may put in for it, as well; however, the three Republican candidates who ran in the 2012 election are probably the most prime candidates.  If I hear of others putting in their names, I'll let you know.

Of the three potential candidates now, here are my thoughts:

Roger Bridgwater
Bridgwater is the former Judge of the 178th District Court, where he was appointed by Governor Perry prior to the 2008 election.  As we all know, the 2008 election did not go well for him, and he lost his bench to Judge David Mendoza that November.

As a close personal friend of Pat Lykos, Bridgwater was hired as a Bureau Chief at the District Attorney's Office, where he proceeded to heavily damage his reputation with those who had known him previously.  He was notorious as the architect of the controversial (and not-so-legal) DIVERT program, and he alienated his co-workers with an ill-advised confrontation with highly-respected Bureau Chief Donna Goode.

ANALYSIS:  If part of the Republican mantra is that we don't like Judges who legislate from the Bench, then Bridgwater has got a lot of explaining to do about his DIVERT program.  Although the program was popular with members of the Defense Bar, it basically gave first time DWI offenders a chance for a "do over."  That can't sit well with Governor Perry, who is going to want a candidate that follows Republican ideals and hasn't done anything that has ticked off Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Additionally, his inexcusable attack on Donna Goode showed a lack of judicial temperament that should leave all attorneys hiding under their desks.  He abused his power in accusing her of insubordination and he did everything in his power to ruin her distinguished career at the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  Fortunately, Donna landed in a better place as First Assistant in Galveston County.

Also, I'm sure Governor Perry noticed that Bridgwater lost his election by 25,623 votes in 2012.  I believe that is the largest margin of defeat by any of the Republican Judicial candidates.

Roger Bridgwater doesn't appear to be electable -- and with good reason.

Robert Summerlin
Summerlin is a former prosecutor who started at the D.A.'s Office when I did.  As I've mentioned before we were once pretty good friends.  He left the Office shortly after becoming a Felony Two and went into private practice for a few civil firms.  He reappeared in the criminal realm a couple of years ago (as a defense attorney) and then almost immediately announced his candidacy for judge.  He has close ties to Jared Woodfill who unsuccessfully pushed forward Summerlin's candidacy. He lost to incumbent Ruben Guerrero by 8,919 votes.

ANALYSIS:  Summerlin can correctly point out that of the three candidates listed here, he had the most votes in the General Election.  However, that isn't saying much when you take into account the fact that his opponent wasn't all that popular to begin with.  If you couple that with the fact that all of the Jared Woodfill/Gary Polland-supported candidates faired extremely poorly in the criminal races, Summerlin's political influence tends to diminish.  From a practical standpoint, Summerlin never tried any serious cases as a prosecutor nor as a defense attorney that would give him the experience to be a Criminal District Court Judge. His recent return to the Criminal Law realm seems like a disingenuous attempt to merely gain some minor credentials before becoming a judge. Additionally, his demeanor as a prosecutor did not go over well with many of his female peers, who greatly question his potential judicial temperament.

Brad Hart
Brad Hart is a Felony District Court Chief prosecutor who is currently assigned to the elite Special Crimes Bureau of the District Attorney's Office.  Many moons ago, he actually served as one of my (and Robert Summerlin's) first supervising chiefs.  He has the well earned reputation of a prosecutor with the highest integrity and intelligence.  He was supported by not just prosecutors, but defense attorneys as well during his run for the 339th District Court.  He is known for his calm demeanor, open and fair-mindedness, and solid judgment by everyone he deals with.  He is a loyal member of the Republican Party who worked hard to do everything he could for the party during the 2012 races.

ANALYSIS:  Hart's loss to incumbent Judge Maria Jackson was devastating to his friends, family and supporters who knew what an outstanding judge he would make.  It was also stunning.  His hard work and devotion to his campaign had helped so many other Republican candidates who were running alongside him.  Unfortunately, Judge Jackson's groundswell of support from her days as a Municipal Court judge in Houston brought an unanticipated result in the General Election.  None of that reflects poorly on Hart.

While Bridgwater and Summerlin bring a significant amount of baggage to the table, Hart has nothing short of a sterling reputation.  Based on qualifications alone, he should be the clear choice for the appointment.  Additionally, he is an active and tireless campaigner who would work hard to make the Republican Party better in every way possible.

Brad Hart is the best choice for the appointment.  He needs to be a Judge.  The Criminal Justice System needs him to be a Judge.

If you would like to have your voice heard on the appointment process, take a few minutes out of your day and write an actual letter referencing the 248th District Court Judge Appointment.  You can send it to:

Governor Rick Perry
Appointments Staff
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Feast of Fashion III

Next Friday, November 16th marks the third annual Feast of Fashion put together by our friend and defense attorney Julie Jones.

The last time I spoke with Julie, she was almost sold out of tickets, but some may still be available.  Even if she is sold out, donations are accepted.  It is for a great cause.

Proceeds from the Fashion Show go to the Jeanette Williams Foundation which sends children with serious illnesses to summer camp.  The event itself features judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys putting on a fashion show over a fantastic lunch.

The event is at noon on Friday at the Magnolia Hotel.  I hope all can attend or donate.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Three Related Elections

While I'm quite comfortable writing about the Elections that are for positions within the actual building of the CJC, I'm much more reserved in commenting on races outside of it.  I don't usually comment on Nationwide elections or even Statewide ones.  I don't talk about the various Courts of Appeals because I don't do Appellate Law.

I make exceptions every once in a while when a member of our CJC community (whom I know well) is venturing off the lily pad to run for a non-CJC office.

This year, I profiled Mark Bennett's race for the Court of Criminal Appeals and Ann Johnson's race for State Representative.  I did not do a post on HCDA prosecutor  Gene Wu's run for State Representative, but not because I don't like Gene.  I just don't know him as well as I know Mark and Ann.

In the end, Gene should be grateful for the lack of attention, as it appears my support may have been the kiss of death for my friends outside of the CJC.  Gene won his race handily.

Congratulations to Gene on his new job description and his lovely new bride, Miya Shay.  Gene is passionate about helping out this community and I have no doubt that he will be a persistent and driving force in politics for years to come.

In regards to Ann's and Mark's races, I'm so very proud of both of them for the races they ran.

Anyone remotely familiar with Ann's campaign knows that she redefined the word "tireless" for the past several months.  She poured her heart and soul into making phone calls, attending events, and walking neighborhoods.  She ran for all of the right reasons and she had a grassroots campaign that loved her for it.  She is a true example of what I wish all politicians exemplified.

Brother Mark ran for the right principle, too.

He's a smart guy and knew that running as a Libertarian was not likely to carry an election for him -- especially not one where he went mano y mano in a Statewide race against an incumbent Republican.  But as he articulates very thoroughly in this post on his blog, winning wasn't the goal -- getting his voice heard was.

Mark's point was to show that a Third Party candidate can directly affect the two major parties in their races.  Mark got 22.1% of the vote.  There was no Democratic candidate.  If there had been, Mark would have been a game changer.

You may not always agree with Mark Bennett.  Lord knows, I don't.  But I think you can agree with the principle that there is something worth discussing when it comes to taking judicial elections away from partisan machines.

I will be interested to see whether or not Mark takes his Libertarian campaign to a county-wide race in 2014.  He may just be onto something.

Congratulations to Gene Wu on his victory and congratulations to Mark and Ann for their well-fought races.

All of you have so much to be proud of.                                                                

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reasonable Doubt Returns (11/8/12)

HCCLA's Reasonable Doubt returns to the airwaves tonight after a six-week hiatus.  A couple of developments have occurred over the break that might provide for some interesting discussion, including the small matter of Tuesday's election.

Our guest tonight will be Gemayel Haynes, who graciously did not have his agent sue us when the episode we were supposed to have on September 20th got unexpectedly cancelled.  We look forward to hearing his thoughts on the election and how it will affect everybody around the CJC in the next four years.

As always, we go live at 8:00 p.m. on Houston Media Source.  You can watch it live streaming by clicking here.

If you recall in our last cliffhanger episode, I was considering a toupee and our host Todd Dupont was planning on converting to Hare Krishna.  Tune in tonight, and all will be revealed.

Please call in with all of your comments and questions.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebrations and Sadness

Ah, Election Night.

I love it almost as much as I hate it.  Watching months (if not years) of hard work come to a final conclusion in the course of an evening can be as jubilant as it can be devastating.  That the work of motivated, intelligent, and hard-working candidates gets decided by the largely uninformed masses is just a frightening fact of life.

I'm not going to really talk about the Presidential election.  My voice here is about as influential in that arena as when I'm screaming what play should be run at a Texans game.  I will say that I never thought Obama was going to be defeated.  I didn't think Romney would even get close.  I thought differently for a while after that first debate, but in the end, there was no way Romney could prevail.

I never had any doubt after the primaries that Judge Anderson would win the election in November.  He is too good of a candidate and Lloyd Oliver was too much of a joke.  Quite frankly, it stuns me that Lloyd got any votes, let alone 47.66% of them.  I remarked to one person last night that Lloyd was such a terrible candidate that I was surprised he even voted for himself.

Thankfully, Judge Anderson won handily, but the fact that there were 537,667 votes actually cast for a previously-indicted moron like Lloyd Oliver is frightening.

In the Sheriff's race, despite Big Jolly's musings earlier in the week, Louis Guthrie never got close to Sheriff Adrian Garcia.  Garcia won by a huge margin.

I was surprised to see how easily Vince Ryan won re-election.  I have been watching Wayne Dolcefino's pieces about Ryan and I thought they would hurt his candidacy worse than they did.  Most Assistant District Attorneys that I've spoken to have expressed that they are secretly happy that Robert Talton was defeated, since he was the rumored safe-haven for Lykos Administration refugees like Rachel Palmer and Leon Wilson.

The Judicial Elections (as of this writing) are still up in the air.

Right now (7:40 a.m.), www.harrisvotes.com is showing 99.15% of the vote is counted.  My understanding is that there are still 9 precincts that haven't reported yet, in addition to 8000 provisional ballots.  They have 7 days to count those, and in some of the Judicial Races, they may actually make a difference in some cases.

In the 174th race, Ruben Guerrero defeated Robert Summerlin by a little less than 9000 votes.

In the 176th, Stacey Bond defeated Shawna Reagin by slightly over 4000 votes.

In the 177th, Ryan Patrick defeated Vivian King by about 8500 votes.

In the 178th, David Mendoza beat Roger Bridgwater by a stunning 25,398 votes.  On a side note, Judge Joan Campbell of the 248th District Court is retiring at the end of this year, which will necessitate Governor Perry appointing a replacement.  Earlier rumors had been that Bridgwater would be a strong consideration for that appointment, but after that resounding of a defeat, I think that would be pretty foolish of Perry.  Why appoint someone that seems so unelectable?

In the 179th, Kristin Guiney beat Randy Roll by well over 4000 votes.

In the 337th, Rene Magee won over Herb Ritchie by over 12000 votes.

In the 338th, Brock Thomas regained his bench from Hazel Jones with just under 5000 votes.

In the 351st, Mark Kent Ellis (the lone Criminal District Court survivor of 2008) handily won over Garland "Mac" McInnis by over 20,000 votes.

The evening's only true shocker came in the 339th District Court race with Maria Jackson defeating Brad Hart for Judge by over 13,000 votes.

Those of us who know Brad are as stunned as we are saddened.  Nothing against Judge Jackson, but Brad Hart is one of the most highly respected prosecutors that the Harris County District Attorney's Office has to offer.

He is loved by both the prosecution and the defense as a man of integrity, fairness, and the highest character.  He was the first candidate to announce he was running in 2012 and he worked tirelessly for the past two years on the campaign.

As happy as we all are about the other elections, the sadness for Brad overshadows it.

What happened in the 339th race is why I absolute despise the fact that Judicial races are determined by partisan elections.  Brad Hart would have been one of the greatest judges Harris County had ever seen. His compassion and commitment to Justice far exceeds that of the average lawyer.  He's the kind of friend who will drop everything in the middle of the night to help somebody who needs him.

As I told him last night, he is literally one of the best people I know.

There is a silver lining to Brad not winning the bench, however.

Mike Anderson has got a tremendous amount of work to do in rebuilding the D.A.'s Office from the Lykos wreckage.  He's going to need prosecutors that lead by example with integrity, diligence, and compassion.

He couldn't ask for a better example of that than Brad Hart.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the Big Day.

I've got to be in Brazos County at 8:30 in the morning and I've got an appointment with the shoulder doc in the afternoon, so this will probably be my last pre-election post.

To all of the candidates who had the guts to run this year (or any year), you have my utmost respect.
 
Prior to the 2008 election, I had no concept of what a candidate has to go through when seeking office.  The toll it takes on a candidate and his or her family is enormous in a way that I can't put into words.  I can't fathom ever doing it myself.  I'm stressed out just watching my friends do it!

I was thinking about the election today, and I realized that there probably isn't a single friend that I have that I agree with on 100% of all the candidates.

But what we all do agree on is how important it is to vote.

I would imagine that if you are actually reading this blog, you've probably already voted.  If you haven't, then make sure to do it tomorrow.  The Election is far from decided and every vote counts.

Make sure your family and friends have voted, too.  Pestering them now will make the difference for the next four years.

Go vote for Mike Anderson for District Attorney.

Vote for Ryan Patrick for Judge of the 177th District Court.

Vote for David Mendoza for Judge of the 178th District Court.

Vote for Kristin Guiney for Judge of the 179th District Court.

Vote for Brock Thomas for Judge of the 338th District Court.

Vote for Brad Hart for Judge of the 339th District Court.

Vote for Mark Kent Ellis for Judge of the 351st District Court.

And, yes, vote for Mark Bennett for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Whoever you vote for -- just make sure you go vote.



We'll talk again when it is all said and done . . .

Leon Wilson and the Investigator Moves

The Lykos Administration released moves last week that seem to indicate that the inmates are running the Asylum.

Following the departure of Chief Investigator Don McWilliams (which was effective October 31st), Lykos made the odd move of bringing back long-since-retired-former-D.A.-Investigator Walker "Mac" McAnally as chief investigator.  Mac is a great guy and a great investigator.  As far as moral character and investigative skills go, I've got no problem with that move.  However, it is a little strange since he has been out of the business for quite some time.  It would be the equivalent of the Houston Texans announcing that they are bringing in Warren Moon to quarterback.

The far more disturbing move, in my opinion, is the promotion of Leon Wilson to "Assistant Chief Investigator" from wherever he had been before.

Wilson, if you will recall, is one of the political Lykos-hires that she brought over from the County Attorney's Office at the beginning of her term.  Per most of the sources I've talked to, he has been an extreme loyalist to her, and an extreme agitator to his fellow co-workers.  Early on, he inexplicably clashed with some senior and highly respected D.A. Investigators in what appeared to be nothing more than power plays over who had the most clout within the Office.

While other Lykos appointees such as Chief Investigator McWilliams and Dennis Field seemed to have had the respect of the investigators they were supervising, Wilson seemed to have the disdain of most investigators that I spoke with.

Apparently, with McWilliams' departure last week, Wilson finally was able to seize the power within the Office he had been so desperately searching for.  According to my reliable sources, he lobbied for the firing of one of the Captain Investigators and was denied that.  However, he did manage to get that highly respected investigator demoted when he appealed directly to Lykos.

Wilson's promotion to Assistant Chief Investigator for the last two months of the Lykos Administration will give him something to put on his resume, I suppose.  However, his promotion is more akin to being made Captain of the Titanic long after it struck the iceberg.

To say that his new supervisory position is not sitting well with the rest of the rank and file at the Office would be a massive understatement.  It will be interesting to see what other things happen in the final 56 days of the Administration.

There are rumors that if Republican Candidate Robert Talton is elected to the position of County Attorney that he may hire Wilson as an investigator.

I certainly hope Talton does his homework first.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Congratulations to the Pre-Commits


Congratulations to all of the Pre-Commits who passed the Bar Exam this week.  I can remember the stress and trauma of awaiting my results as if it were yesterday and I'm very happy for you having that behind you.

I see that under the latest "Moves Memo" from the Office that you have all been assigned to your respective courts.

Let me give you some advice -- write down the funny stories that are going to be a part of your life in the days to come.  They may never make a best seller, but they will become something fun to tell your children as they get older.

War stories are one of the greatest benefits of being a Prosecutor.

When you become an older lawyer, you will kick yourself for not writing the early stories down when they happened.

Just trust me on this one.

Last Day of Early Voting

Today is the last day for Early Voting.  According to a poll taken by KHOU.com, this race is FAR from decided locally.

Make sure that you've done everything you can to vote and get your friends and family to vote.  If you have any questions, go to www.harrisvotes.org.

Go vote for Mike Anderson for District Attorney!  And vote for Ryan Patrick, David Mendoza, Kristin Guiney, Brock Thomas, Brad Hart and Mark Ellis for Judge!

And yeah, go ahead and vote for Mark Bennett too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Only Two Days Left

Please remember that Early Voting ends at 7 p.m. on Friday, so you only have two more days left.

If you haven't voted by the end of Friday, you will have to vote at your normal voting location.  Right now, you are eligible to vote at any of them.

Please call your family and friends and make sure that they've gotten out and voted!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Mad Woman in the Tower

In honor of Halloween, it seems that Pat Lykos is spending her last days in office terrorizing the occupants of 1201 Franklin.  To a large degree, her behavior reminds me of old ghost stories that I used to hear at summer camp when I was a kid.

Once there was a wicked queen who captured a tall tower.  She was cruel and terrorized the people who worked there.

She reigned in terror for over three years before being defeated.  In the final days of her retreat, she locked herself in her Tower and refused to surrender or acknowledge her defeat.

She depleted the treasury of the Tower, with no care for the future of the people she ruled over.  She blamed her minions for her impending demise.  Soon, one by one, her closest advisors abandoned her in her madness.

She roamed the halls of the Tower, letting all beneath her know that she would remain in control until they pried it from her cold, gray hands.  She threatened her staff with terminations and demotions and executions.

She listened to no one, except for her Flying Monkeys.  The closest of her advisors, Igor, created his own enemies lists and the Queen lashed out at those who Igor bid her to.  Igor hated the honorable Captain of the Guards, and had the Queen banish him from his position.

As the days grew shorter for the Queen, and her enemies were at the Gate, her reign of terror grew more and more insane and gruesome . . .

Sixty-three days until January 1st.  Hang in there, my friends in the Tower.  This horror story is almost over.
  
Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

REMINDER: Nightmare on the Bayou TONIGHT

For those of you who are interested, our Field Trip to Nightmare on the Bayou is tonight.

We'll be meeting up at Char Bar after work and probably venturing over to the haunted house around 6:45.  It opens at 7:30, but I have a feeling that there might be a line.

The whole idea is to get as many prosecutors and defense attorneys (and judges, if they are brave enough) together and do something fun outside of work.  I hope you can make it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Early Voting Continues

Normally, I would be posting every day, all week about getting out to vote, but man, the turnout has been fantastic so far!

But that doesn't mean now is the time to get complacent.

Please make sure that your friends and family have voted.  There are some great candidates who deserve your vote.

Go vote for Mike Anderson, Kristin Guiney, Brad Hart, Ryan Patrick, Brock Thomas, Mark Ellis and David Mendoza!

The choices are clear, so get out there and make your voice heard.

Early voting runs from 7 to 7 at all available locations this week.  On Friday, it ends and you'll have to wait until Tuesday.

During this week, you can vote at any location.  On Election Day, you can only vote at your designated polling place.

Don't risk getting sidetracked and missing your opportunity vote.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Best Day

Of the three hundred and sixty five days of the calendar year, today (October 26th) is my favorite of them all.

Seven years ago my little boy, Luke, was born.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

I remember going to the doctor on October 25th -- the day before.  It was a surreal day.  Luke's mom and I had gone through the routine visits to the doctor for what seemed like an eternity.  We had known all along that he would be a C-section baby, but I don't think either of us were prepared for the doctor saying, "How does noon tomorrow work for your schedule?"

We went to Chuy's after the doctor's visit.  I remember the awkward silence of the late lunch.  The idea that, "So, tomorrow, we'll have a kid" was a pretty sobering moment.  There is something funny about the transition from being an expectant parent to an hours-away-from-being-an-actual-parent that is hard to put into words.

Trying to go to sleep the night before you know your child is going to be born is impossible.  I wish I could say that I had profound thoughts going through my head that almost-sleepless night, but really all the thoughts were along the lines of, "I can't believe I'm going to be a dad tomorrow."

We woke up early on the morning of October 26th.  I don't remember much about getting in the car and driving to the hospital.  For some reason, I remember being stopped at the light off the feeder road to turn on to Fannin.  It was a minor detail, really, but something in my head was resonating that once I took this left turn, I was going to be a parent from then on.

Funny, the things you remember.

The time at the hospital seemed to go by in a blur.  They had run out of the cool, light-weight surgical scrubs for the dad in the delivery room.  I ended up in a heavy surgical smock.

I got called into the delivery room and I remember being nervous.  Not nervous about being a parent -- that was still too surreal of a concept for me to grasp at the time.  I was nervous because I have a notoriously weak stomach and queasiness that I was deathly afraid would manifest in the delivery room.

Fortunately for all involved, everything moved so quickly that I never had time to pass out.

The funny thing was that it all seemed so bizarre that when I saw Luke being delivered, that I honestly couldn't decipher what I was seeing.  I honestly couldn't make heads nor tails of what I was looking at when he was born.

Suddenly, I realized, I was looking at my kid's buttocks as the doctor lifted him up.  Upon further examination, he had a full head of dark hair.

Based upon that moment in time, Luke would earn the permanent and affectionate nickname of "Monkey Butt" from me.  I still call him that to this day.  It may be a bit uncouth for a nickname, but it is all his.

The rest of the moments that followed happened quickly -- the taking of the footprints, the obligatory photos with Mom and Dad.  I suppose the drill was standard for all parents of a newborn.

And yet, they were so incredibly personal to us.

So, October 26th marks the seventh anniversary of the best day of my life.  It's the day I met my best friend in the world -- Luke "Monkey Butt" Newman.

For every dream, hope, and ambition that I ever had in life, becoming his dad eclipsed them all.

Happy birthday, Little Man.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Lame Duck Laboratory

As we enter the final months of the Pat Lykos Administration, there have been several interesting events occurring at the District Attorney's Office.  It would appear that Lykos is making one last push to leave something of a legacy behind (other than a trail of destruction).

First, a little background:

Lykos has never been very "hands on" when it comes to the day-to-day running of her office.  Until last Friday, she had First Assistant and body-builder extraordinaire Jim Leitner manage the job she was elected to do.  Leitner's long awaited departure created a vacancy that Lykos could not leave unfilled for any amount of time -- hence the immediate rehiring of Bill Hawkins to be interim First Assistant.

Lykos couldn't make those day-to-day decisions herself for two reasons: 1) she doesn't know how to; and 2) she has something else on her agenda.

That something is apparently the Regional Crime Lab that has been talked about even prior to the 2008 District Attorney race.  Lykos has always been a proponent of it and it looks like she's using the final months of her Administration to try to push it through.

Last week, Lykos met with Fort Bend District Attorney John Healy and Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, presumably to talk about the lab (since they are in the "Region").  That, coupled with a $2 million request on the Commissioner's Agenda (see below) give a pretty clear indication that the Lame Duck District Attorney is definitely serious about getting a new Crime Lab pushed through.


Certainly the idea of a Regional Crime Lab that is independent of police agencies is a good idea that should be explored and worked toward.  

However, it would appear to me that Lykos' rush to get it put together in the remaining 68 days of her tenure is nothing short of reckless.

First of all, Lykos is spending money that belongs to the Office at an absolutely astronomical rate.  Between what she has been handing out on frivolous training, outside police agencies, and now this, one can't help but wonder if her goal is to help law enforcement or to just deplete the discretionary funds before her successor arrives.  She certainly didn't spend at such an insane rate when she thought she was going to be serving another four years.

Second, there is no way that all of the guidelines and protocols that will affect the Regional Crime Lab can be established in the next 68 days before she leaves office.  She's throwing money at a project without knowing what the parameters of it are going to be.  She can't set the policy for the next D.A.'s administration so isn't it rather arrogant that she thinks she can set the policies for another agency?

Finally, isn't the whole idea behind a Regional Crime Lab that it will have neutrality and not be considered a tool of the prosecution?  How does throwing $2 million towards that project indicate "neutrality?"

The bottom line is that Lykos is making decisions that her successor should be making at this point.  If Harris County has any semblance of a collective brain, that successor should be Mike Anderson.  What she's doing is letting the air out of his tires before he gets up for work in the morning.

There were rumors awhile back that Lykos was making such a concerted effort to get this lab project under way so that it would be named after her.  I don't know whether or not that particular rumor is true.

But I am certain that whatever her motivations may be, they are all about her.




Monday, October 22, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: A New First Assistant

There is breaking news coming out of the Harris County District Attorney's Office as former prosecutor Bill Hawkins is being sworn in to replace Jim Leitner as First Assistant.

I am told that he is being brought in to help ease the transition from the outgoing Lykos Administration to whoever wins the District Attorney's race in November.

It is a smart move.  Bill knows the ins and outs of the Office and is a good leader.

I would write more on this, but I'm late for court!


One Other Recommendation - Mark Bennett


I was made aware last night that I had forgotten to chime in on Mark Bennett's race for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Seven.  I have to confess that I do not follow the Court of Criminal Appeals as far as "which judge votes which way," so I can't really speak to anything about Mark's opponent.

I can speak to Mark, however.

Mark has always marched to the beat of a different drum.  He's made me mad on occasion -- quite furious, actually.

He's also been one of the most intellectually honest and true friends that a person can have.  I don't mean one of those friends that will always go grab a beer with you and tell you how you didn't mess up what you think you just messed up.  He's one of those friends who will always be there to help you because you actually really did mess up and he's going to stand beside you when nobody else will.

I need only to guide you to this post to let you know of one of those times that Mark Bennett was a friend to me.

Mark is guided by his intellect and his ethics, and it occasionally rubs people the wrong way.  I've seen him tick off people from pretty much all sides of the courthouse -- Judges, Prosecutors, fellow Defense Attorneys.  Yet, I've never seen him back away from his position if he believed himself to be right.  Mark has no burning desire to be popular -- and he's doing great at that.  Just kidding, Mark.

Mark is running as a Libertarian for Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Seven.  He knows that he has little to no chance of winning without running under the Republican or Democrat banner.  However, in typical Mark fashion, neither one of those parties accurately represents his beliefs, so he won't join them.

His principles matters more to him than winning an election.

Think about that last sentence for a second.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if all politicians felt the same way?

Good luck, Mark.  You have my vote and my admiration.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Recommendations

As Early Voting begins tomorrow, I suddenly realize that I never got around to writing the lengthy endorsements that I have in the past about all of the judicial positions in the CJC that are on the ballot this year.  So, here we go with my recommendations:

Harris County District Attorney-Judge Mike Anderson (R) vs. Lloyd Oliver (D)
If you aren't clear on who the best candidate for this position is by now, you've been sleeping under a rock for the past year.  Judge Mike Anderson is the easy and obvious choice for the position.  He is a former prosecutor and District Court Judge with integrity and honesty.  His opponent has demonstrated that he would turn Harris County into a complete and total joke.
Recommendation:  Mike Anderson

174th District Court-Judge Ruben Guerrero (D) vs. Robert Summerlin (R)
This is a tough race for me to issue a recommendation in, because I've never practiced much in Judge Guerrero's court.  My friend and fellow blogger, Mark Bennett, has expressed that he is not a big fan of the Judge in several posts on his blog and he articulates his reasoning well.  I can say that I have not heard too many glowing recommendations of him inside the CJC.
Robert Summerlin, on the other hand, is an old friend of mine from the D.A.'s Office.  I endorsed his opponent, Joe Vinas, in the Republican Primary because I believed (and still believe) that Joe had more experience in criminal law and had a better temperament for the Bench.  I like Robert, although we lost touch several years ago, but I have some concerns that make it impossible to issue a recommendation for him.
Recommendation:  None

176th District Court-Judge Shawna Reagin (D) vs. Stacey Bond (R)
This race is also a tough one for me to make a recommendation on, but for the exact opposite reasons as the ones I have in the 174th race -- I think both candidates are great.
I didn't know Judge Reagin well at all when she took the Bench in 2009, but I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing in front of her over the past years.  Don't get me wrong, she can occasionally be cranky as all get-out on the bench and has been known to dress both lawyers and defendants down.  However, I've also seen her give second chances to some decent people that I doubt any other judge in the courthouse would have taken a gamble on.  I have one client in particular who had the opportunity to turn his life around on a serious case only because Judge Reagin was willing to let him try. He's a success story that would not have existed if not but for her.
Stacey Bond is also an outstanding candidate with plenty of experience.  She served as a prosecutor for many years and has served as a defense attorney for many since then.  I have known Stacey and her family pretty much since I started in Harris County back in 1999, and they are some of the nicest and outgoing people you could possibly meet.  Her experience on both sides of the bench and the fact that she is so knowledgable on the law make her a very formidable candidate, as well.  She also has the right demeanor to exercise excellent judicial temperament.
The idea of writing this recommendation has stressed me out ever since I learned the two candidates were running against each other, because I think so highly of them both.  So, I'm wimping out on making a recommendation.
Recommendation:  Both

177th District Court-Judge Ryan Patrick (R) vs. Vivian King (D)
This race is going to generate some controversy, as two candidates vie to replace former Judge Kevin Fine.  Judge Fine stepped down over the summer and Judge Patrick was sworn in to replace him.  So far, he has been getting good reviews from his time on the bench.  The main concerns that are usually expressed about Judge Patrick are his youth and lack of experience as a lawyer.  However, I worked with Judge Patrick when he was a prosecutor and I can attest that those concerns aren't valid.  He exhibited a solid record of good judgment and fairness that will translate to him being a good judge.  He rose quickly through the Office and was a Special Crimes prosecutor at the time he left to be sworn in.
Vivian King is a local defense attorney and friend of mine who has run for judge in the past.  She is also the host of her own talk show on Houston Media Source (the same channel that airs Reasonable Doubt).   She is an outstanding criminal defense attorney who puts her money where her mouth is and goes to trial (and wins) often.  The primary concern of most prosecutors that I talk to is that she is so deeply committed to being a criminal defense attorney that she couldn't be a neutral judge.
Recommendation:  Ryan Patrick

178th District Court-Judge David Mendoza (D) vs. Roger Bridgwater (R)
I didn't know Judge Mendoza at all prior to him taking the bench in 2009, and I had supported Roger Bridgwater in the 2008 election.  After four years of getting to know both men a little better, I will now proudly endorse Judge Mendoza as the much better candidate for Judge of the 178th District Court.
Having practiced in front of Judge Mendoza, I can attest that he is a soft-spoken and attentive judge who runs his court with dignity.  He follows the law and educates himself on any portions of it that he doesn't know off the top of his head.  Everyone is treated equally and with respect in his courtroom and no one gets any special treatment.
Roger Bridgwater, on the other hand, has exhibited terrible behavior over the past four years that speaks directly to his ability to be a judge.  As much as I am encouraging my Democrat friends to cross party lines and vote for Mike Anderson, I'm encouraging my Republican friends to cross-over and vote for Judge Mendoza.
For Republicans who hate the idea of a judge who "legislates from the bench," please remember that Bridgwater was the creator of the not-so-legal-DIVERT program for the District Attorney's Office, which gave a form of pre-trial diversion to first time DWI defendants.  Furthermore, he showed a lack of respect towards courtroom proceedings by refusing to answer some questions about the program when called to testify.  Additionally, he showed a lack of respect toward his female co-workers when he initiated baseless disciplinary charges against senior prosecutor Donna Goode.
Roger Bridgwater used to have my respect and quite a bit of it, actually.  That's gone now.
Recommendation:  David Mendoza

179th District Court-Judge Randy Roll (D) vs. Kristin Guiney (R)
The decision on who to vote for in this race is also a very easy one to make.  Kristin Guiney is one of the best candidates running in any of the races this year.  She's a former Chief Felony prosecutor and a highly respected criminal defense attorney who has been impressing people since the day she first stepped in the CJC.  Unlike many rookie prosecutors, Guiney exhibited very careful and rational decisions when it came to handling her early cases.  She resisted the urge to jump to conclusions at first glance and waited to hear all of the evidence before passing judgment on anything.  Once she made her decision, she was a zealous advocate for her position.  As a defense attorney, she has been equally diligent, and someone whose opinion I value when looking for advice.  She'll make a great judge.
In regards to Randy Roll, I like him as a person and he's always been very kind to me.  I appreciate that, but unfortunately that does not always translate into being a great judge.  Although he has brought down the docket numbers in his court significantly since first taking the bench, his methods in doing so have raised some eyebrows.  He has been known to make statements encouraging defendants to plead guilty in ways that have not sat well with the defense bar, amongst other things.  I don't like speaking ill of him, but Guiney is just simply the best candidate in this race.
Recommendation:  Kristin Guiney

337th District Court-Judge Herb Ritchie (D) vs. Renee Magee (R)
DISCLAIMER-I have to refrain from giving an endorsement in this Court, because I have a case set for trial in it and another case that will be set for trial in there soon.  As much as I like sharing my opinion, I won't do it at the expense of clients.
Additionally, it's a tough call.  I've tried a murder case in front of Judge Ritchie and he gave me a very fair trial.  He had the guts to suppress my client's confession, and then he also subsequently denied my request for a Self Defense charge.  He made his decisions based on the law and impartial reasoning which I admired.
I have every expectation that Renee Magee will be equally qualified.  I've known Renee since 1998 when I first interned at the D.A.'s Office.  She's the person who got me an interview with the Office and I will always be eternally grateful to her for that.  She's a senior Felony Chief prosecutor who has tried every case there is to try in the Penal Code.
Recommendation:  No Decision

338th District Court-Judge Hazel Jones (D) vs. Brock Thomas (R)
Like the race for the 178th, this race is also a rematch of the 2008 election.  All  the things that I said back then, I still believe.  Brock Thomas was a great judge then and I was sorely disappointed to see him swept out of office in the Obama Tidal Wave.  He is smart and has excellent judicial temperament.  He set a high standard for the prosecutors who tried cases in his court and he wasn't afraid to call balls and strikes as he saw them.  I was very glad to find out that he was running to reclaim the bench.  I wish several other judges from 2008 would do the same.
I don't have anything personal against Hazel Jones.  As I noted in 2008, she was always nice to me when we were prosecutors.  Her tenure as judge has been pretty quiet, as well.  However, she hasn't exactly dazzled anyone either.  Her policy of making attorneys get pre-approval before earning out-of-court hours has led to many lawyers not being willing to work in that court (i.e., "Before I talk to your alibi witness, Mr. Client, I'll need to get the judge's permission first.")
Recommendation:  Brock Thomas

339th District Court-Judge Maria Jackson (D) vs. Brad Hart (R)
Although my stance on Judge Jackson has softened quite a bit since she was running against Judge Caprice Cosper back in 2008, my recommendation this year still goes to the Republican challenger, Brad Hart.
Brad Hart was my first Chief at the Office and since the day I met him, he has been the kind of lawyer I always hoped to be.  He has amazing integrity and intelligence.  He will listen to everyone's argument down to their last word and then make decisions based on the law and the facts before him.  He makes his recommendations as a prosecutor based on what is truly in the best interest of justice -- never looking to ruin a young defendant's life, yet never jeopardizing public safety, either.  He is respected by his peers within the Office and his opponents in the Defense Bar, equally.  He will be a fantastic judge.
I don't have anything negative to say about Judge Jackson.  She's a very very nice lady, but that is not the same thing as being a good judge.
Recommendation:  Brad Hart

351st District Court-Judge Mark Kent Ellis (R) vs. Garland "Mac" McInnis (D)
Judge Ellis was the one surviving Republican criminal court judge after the 2008 Democratic sweep.  I supported him back in 2008 and I continue to support him now.  He's just a solid judge.  I don't know him on a personal level at all, but he has always been professional and judicial whenever I practiced in front of him.
Garland McInnis is a good guy and an attorney I've known since I was a baby prosecutor.  He used to be a defense attorney, but I believe he is now with the County Attorney's Office.  Although he is a very intelligent man, he hasn't been around criminal law in quite some time and I believe he is running more out of loyalty to the Democratic Party than he is because he wants to be judge.
Recommendation:  Mark Kent Ellis

As a side note, I normally don't make any recommendations in the Civil Court World, because I don't practice over there.  However, there are two specific races that I am watching for Criminal Law-related reasons.

Both Civil District Judges Al Bennett (61st District Court) and RK Sandill (127th District Court) came across the Criminal Law Radar over the past year.  Both candidates are Democrats and I don't know anything about their opponents.  Both Judge Bennett and Judge Sandill have garnered very high marks in how they handled some pseudo-criminal law issues recently.

Judge Bennett, you will remember, presided over the Motion to Recuse Hearing regarding the Rachel Palmer, Judge Susan Brown, and the 185th Grand Jury Scandal.  I had never seen him before, but he ruled swiftly, decisively, and without playing favorites.  I thought he was very impressive and after talking to several friends who practice Civil Law, learned that he has an excellent reputation as a Judge.  He'll be getting my vote.

Judge Sandill has gotten some attention from the criminal law world because he handles asset forfeiture cases that arise out of criminal cases.  If someone gets stopped driving a Mercedes and the cops try to seize his car because they think he is using it to sell drugs, it ends up in Judge Sandill's court.  Prior to his arrival, the common practice was that if the State wanted to seize an asset, they got to.  I'm hearing time and time again that Judge Sandill is actually taking the extraordinary step of making the State prove that the money or item they want to seize was used in a criminal act.  Good for him.

So, those are my recommendations; feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.