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.

Early Voting Begins

Well, friends, after four long years, we are finally reaching that light at the end of the tunnel.

Early Voting begins tomorrow, October 22nd, at 8:00 a.m.  You can get the full Early Voting schedule and locations by clicking here.  Early Voting for the Downtown area will be at the Administration Building, so make sure you vote early.  That way you can spend the next two weeks bugging your friends and neighbors to vote.

This should go without saying, but don't get apathetic now!  Motivate yourself and motivate all the eligible voters around you!

Yes, Lloyd Oliver is such a terrible candidate that he should not only lose, he should be deported from Harris County.  However, Lloyd's lack of qualifications mean nothing to the straight-ticket Democratic voter and that means you need to motivate your friends and family to get out there every bit as much as you did in the Primaries. (NOTE:  Also remember that if you can work a poll for any of your favorite candidates, that is always greatly appreciated).

It is going to be an interesting election and I think we are about to learn a lot about the voting future of Harris County for years to come.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jim Leitner

I'm sure that some of you noticed that I posted a lengthy diatribe yesterday about the departure of Jim Leitner that I have now deleted off the blog.

I wrote it yesterday afternoon and published it last night.

After sleeping on it, I realized that even for my typical rants, it was too personal for me, so I deleted it.  It bothered me how worked up I was getting about Leitner.

So, I'll leave it at this -- his departure is a major step towards making that Office a better place.

The End.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Haunted House Tour

And now for something completely different.

Jackie Carpenter of the P.D.'s Office and I are trying to get a group of prosecutors and defense attorneys together to go to Nightmare on the Bayou on Tuesday, October 30th at 7:30ish.  There may or may not be a pre-game at Char Bar before going.

Kevin "Not the Clowns!" Petroff and Brian Warren and I got a group together when we were all young prosecutors about ten years ago and went to a haunted house and it was blast.  Some of the stories have lived on ever since.

HINT:  Ask Petroff what "Don't you have a station?!" means to him.

It should be a lot of fun and we hope you'll join us.  Contact me or Jackie so we can see if we have enough people to get some sort of group rate.

Bonus points if you can talk Petroff into coming in from Galveston to lead us.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Has Leitner finally left the Building?

After sharing more false reports and wrong information than Brian Wice at a Vegas Sports Book, it appears that Jim Leitner has finally left his post as First Assistant at the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

According to multiple reliable sources, Leitner worked his last actual day at the Office earlier this week and is taking today and Friday off.  His "official" last day is Friday.

Now, knowing how much Jim loves to read this blog, he may very well go reapply for his position just to spite me.

Or there may be a lot of D.A.'s who will be getting to see their former supervisor across the bench from them in court on Monday morning.

He joins John Barnhill, Steve Morris, Don McWilliams, Carl Hobbs, Angela Salazar, and Joni Vollman  as yet another top Lykos Administration Official making their departure as her tenure comes to a close.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In Case You Missed It . . .

I really don't know that there is anything else I can say . . .

Why Lloyd Oliver's Candidacy Isn't Funny

If you are a Democrat planning on voting straight-ticket, I hope you will take a minute and read this post before you do.

If you push the button to vote straight Democrat, you are going to be voting for Lloyd Oliver for District Attorney, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to do that.  His stance on domestic violence is an affront to anyone who cares about women's issues.  If you aren't aware of that, please, read on.

The Democrats had a good candidate for District Attorney in former-prosecutor and now-defense attorney, Zack Fertitta.  The insanity of Oliver defeating Fertitta in the primary in May was so completely unexpected that even the Democratic Party tried to have Oliver removed from the ballot.  That same insanity should serve as a wake up call that on Election Day anything can happen.

At first, the reaction to Lloyd Oliver being the Democrat's candidate was kind of funny.  I'll admit it.  His bizarre comments on everything from his three previous indictments to boxing lessons to his firm policy of starting court at 1 p.m. every day were a funny contrast to the platform of a candidate who actually knew what he was doing.

Of course, it seems much less humorous if you realize that come January 1st, Lloyd Oliver could be the District Attorney with some help from straight-ticket voting.

In an article in the Chronicle this past Sunday, Brian Rogers wrote a very thorough article detailing Oliver's checkered past.  I would say his past was "controversial," but that would incorrectly imply that there was some controversy over whether or not Lloyd Oliver is a buffoon.

Oliver claims to be "Not for Sale" as the D.A. candidate, yet all three of his prior indictments are directly related to him using his legal experience to illegally obtain money.  Shortly after his primary election, I had to speak with him because his website falsely listed me as a supporter of his.  Oliver was pleasant, but all he could talk about was how much money he was about to receive from "some of these P.A.C.s" the Democratic Party had.  He was delighted and he was soon seen driving a new convertible BMW around Downtown.

I'm afraid that Oliver is very much for sale, and not for very high prices, at that.  If you think that doesn't matter, think about what a Lloyd Oliver D.A.'s Office would be like.  He's already expressed his disdain for the Public Defenders' Office (which, pound for pound, is one of the most talented groups of defense attorneys in the county).  I highly doubt he will give their attorneys the time of day.  Private sector attorneys who might want a better deal on their clients will doubtlessly have his ear.  Especially since he doesn't know what he's doing in the first place.

If Lloyd's questionable past and his lack of ethics don't concern you as a Democratic Voter, than you really need to pay attention to his stance on Domestic Violence.

By clicking here, you can see Lloyd's March 29th performance on Reasonable Doubt, where he first describes his plan to dismiss domestic assault cases in favor of teaching battered wives how to box.  I was one of the interviewers at the time and was dumbfounded that any upright mammal would make such a stupid comment.  Surely, Lloyd Oliver would backtrack on his statement, right?  It was just a misstatement, wasn't it?

Nope.  On the campaign trail, Lloyd Oliver has held fast to his belief that domestic violence is not a big issue in this country and should simply be handled through combat.  In a recent episode of Red, White and Blue, he even went so far as to state that "part of [some couples] making love is [to] beat up one another first."

The idea of Democratic voters crossing Party lines to vote for Republican Candidate Mike Anderson isn't just mine.  Read the details of Chronicle columnist Patricia Kilday Hart's article on some of Lloyd's previous antics.  Read Ms. Hart's article about Lloyd's Domestic Violence stance here.  Political blogger Charles Kuffner (who tends to run a little on the Liberal side) even advocates voting straight-ticket Democrat and then going back to de-select Oliver.

I've never been a fan of straight-ticket voting.  I've been voting since I first became eligible twenty two years ago, and I've never once done it.  To believe that there aren't excellent candidates on both sides of the aisle is pure foolishness.

That has never been more clear in this year's Harris County District Attorney's race.

Volunteers Needed

Judge Mike Anderson's Campaign is currently looking for any volunteers who can donate an hour or more of their time to work at polling locations around the county during Early Voting.

Early voting (finally!) starts on Monday, and there is probably no better insight into just a portion of a what a candidate goes through (when running for office) than working a polling location.  If you're interested in helping out, contact the campaign at or just e-mail or text me off list and I'll put you in touch with the person you need to talk to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 2012 HBA Bar Poll Results

The results of the Houston Bar Association 2012 Judicial Preference Poll were announced today and can be viewed by clicking here.

Not surprisingly, Judge Mike Anderson's 984 votes crushed Lloyd Oliver's 200 votes, which was the largest margin by far in all of the CJC related races.

Of the currently sitting District Court judges in the CJC, Judges Ruben Guerrero, David Mendoza, Ryan Patrick, Herb Ritchie and Mark Kent Ellis all edged out their opponents.

Challengers Stacey Bond, Kristin Guiney, Brock Thomas, and Brad Hart were the winners in their respective races.

Here are the numbers:

174th District Court
Ruben Guerrero (D) - 541 votes
Robert Summerlin (R) - 333 votes

176th District Court
Stacey Bond (R) -- 434 votes
Shawna Reagin (D) -- 310 votes

177th District Court
Ryan Patrick (R) -- 400 votes
Vivian King (D) -- 316 votes

178th District Court
David Mendoza (D) -- 479 votes
Roger Bridgwater (R) -- 363 votes

179th District Court
Kristin Guiney (R) -- 400 votes
Randy Roll (D) -- 364 votes

337th District Court
Herb Ritchie (D) - 373 votes
Renee Magee (R) -- 363 votes

338th District Court
Brock Thomas (R) -- 568 votes
Hazel Jones (D) -- 266 votes

339th District Court
Brad Hart (R) -- 390 votes
Maria Jackson (D) -- 340 votes

351st District Court
Mark Ellis (R) -- 591 votes
Garland "Mack" McInnis (D) -- 296 votes

Early voting begins on Monday, folks.  Get ready to vote and to motivate your friends to vote.  We are on the final stretch.  I'll be writing a little more about this later.

Veterans' Court on 60 Minutes

Congratulations to Judge Marc Carter and the Veterans' Court who were profiled last Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes.  I completely meant to post about it in advance, but got distracted by activities with my kiddo.

Luckily, you can still catch it online by clicking here.

Judge Carter and Pat McCann and all of those involved in the Veterans' Court continue to make Harris County proud.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Brian Roger's Article on Lloyd Oliver

In case you missed it, Brian Rogers wrote an informative article in today's Houston Chronicle on Lloyd Oliver that EVERY voter should read.  You can read it by clicking here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Of Rats, Sinking Ships, and Shredders

There have been some interesting things going on over at the Harris County District Attorney's Office as Pat Lykos' tenure as a one-term District Attorney comes to a close.

As we approach the November election when Republican Mike Anderson will face off against Democrat and former multiple-indictee Lloyd Oliver, we have yet to see Lykos come out and lend her support and encouragement to Judge Anderson's campaign.  That's kind of interesting, seeing as how Lykos touted her loyalty to the Republican Party as her chief strong suit in the May primary.  I suppose that her loyalty to the Republican Party only lasted as long as she was the candidate elected.

However, rather than doing all she can to support the Republican Candidate for District Attorney, Lykos has been busy doing, um . . . other things -- none of which seem to make much sense.

Last week, I received notice from several different sources that Lykos had done an outsource hiring of a company known as Shred Pro to shred some documents for the Office.  At first, I didn't think all that much of it -- it isn't so unusual for large entities to do some shredding from time to time.  Then again, most "large entities" aren't the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the vast majority of their documents aren't per se government records.

Rather than be an alarmist, I did a little checking around to see if, in the past, it was common practice for the District Attorney's Office to shred documents in such bulk as to require an outside vendor to do the shredding.  I learned that doing a little shredding from time to time did happen, but never in mass quantities and only after seeking the approval of the Texas Attorney General.

The next thing I did was file an open records request for anything referencing my name and/or Don Hooper's blog.  I was curious to know if the upper administration had ever actually put anything in writing about me or the Donner.  I'm pretty sure that they committed nothing to writing, but if they did, I wanted a copy of it before it hit the shredder.

However, the funny thing is that when I was talking to someone in upper admin about my request, I mentioned that I had heard there was some shredding going on.  That person said that they had heard the rumors of shredding happening, but had no idea where it had come from and didn't believe it to be true.

That kind of flew of in the face of this picture (which I had received about an hour earlier) of this machine on the 6th Floor.  NOTE: For those of you who are out of the loop, the 6th Floor is where Pat Lykos and her upper administration reside.

And this picture taken in the back sallyport.

Lykos' upper Administration is dropping like flies right now.  Former General Counsel John Barnhill left a month or so ago, as did Bureau Chief Steve Morris.  Chief Investigator Don McWilliams has turned in his notice that he'll be retiring on October 31st.  Special Crimes Head Joni Vollman has taken a job with the Texas Attorney General's Office that will begin in early November.  Additionally, Lykos' chief Administrative Assistant, Angela Salazar, left abruptly on October 5th for a job at the Medical Examiner's Office, but nobody is supposed to know about that.

And of course, we have the daily rumor that today really and truly is Jim Leitner's last day.  We really really mean it this time.

It isn't entirely unusual for an outgoing administration to start breaking apart and leaving before the end of their actual term of office, but things seem to look a little, well, unseemly, when all those departures are coupled with a shredding party.

I don't know what is going on over on the 6th Floor of the D.A.'s Office, but something tells me that the Rule of Law and the Administration of Justice left the building a long time ago.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ann Johnson Fundraiser

While most of what I write about here on the blog is about elections directly dealing with the CJC, every once in a while, one of our own runs for Office in other fields.  I couldn't have been more excited to have learned that former-Harris County Assistant District Attorney and one of my favorite people Ann Johnson had decided to run for State Representative of District 134.

I first met Ann when she was working at the D.A.'s Office, and she quickly earned the reputation of a tough and no-nonsense prosecutor.  She was incredibly smart and passionate about using the tools available to her as a prosecutor to help people affected by crime.  She was far from boisterous, but a kind friend to everyone in the building.  She was highly respected and highly loved by her co-workers.

When Ann left the Office, she took her passion for helping other people and devoted her practice to making changes to the Criminal Justice System in ways that helped make it a better place -- specifically concentrating on changing the way juveniles are treated by the courts.  Ann is one of the few people I know personally who challenged a law all the way to the Supreme Court -- and won.  She did so, not for profit, but because she wanted to make the System better than it currently was.

Ann Johnson is one of those rare people who does more than just sit around saying "Somebody should do something" about a problem.  She's the one who says "I will do something" about the problem -- and then does it.  I don't know of any other candidate so willing to tackle public office strictly for such altruistic motives.

Please join me in voting for Ann in November.

Also, I hope you will come to a Fundraiser for Ann being hosted by Chip Lewis and Justin Wood on Wednesday, October 17th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Cyclone Anaya's at 1710 Durham.

In the meantime, please go check out Ann's website and like her on Facebook.  Her background and credentials are amazing and her platform is clear and strong.  See what she stands for and what her opponent stands against, and your choice in this election will be very easy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Services for Jim Lindeman

There will be a service honoring the life of Jim Lindeman on Thursday, October 11th.

Visitors will be welcomed beginning at 3:00 p.m., and the service will begin at 4:00 p.m.

They will be held at the 4th Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 4910 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77006.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jim Lindeman

The attorneys of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center were absolutely stunned and devastated to learn of the sudden and unexpected loss of our friend, Jim Lindeman.  Jim apparently had a heart attack this morning.

Quite frankly, Jim's death is so shocking that I don't even know where to begin in writing about him.

He was one of the very best defense attorneys that Harris County had to offer and he headed a very successful and highly respected law firm with Gilbert Alvarado.   I was explaining to my wife today that I thought there were (generally) two types of criminal defense attorneys -- those who are good litigators and those who are well-versed in all the case law.  Jim was one of a handful of attorneys I know who possessed both qualities.

I went to trial against Jim and Gilbert when I was a Felony Two in the 185th.  To this day, it was the most mentally taxing trial I ever participated in.  Jim redefined "tenacious" and he didn't let even the smallest of details slip past him.  I remember at one point, in a moment of frustration, telling him:
Damn, Jim.  I'm surprised that you didn't object when I said "Good morning" during voir dire since I hadn't proven up that it was morning or that there was anything good about it yet.
The trial was a battle that seemed to last forever.  I think that it was the longest trial I ever had that didn't involve a fatality.

And Jim infuriated me throughout it all.

Because he was just so freaking good.  I mean, he was really good.  He bombarded me with case law.  He broke up the flow of my questioning.  His cross-examinations were as methodical as they were lengthy.

I went home at the end of trial every day both physically and mentally exhausted.

Because Jim Lindeman was one hell of a good attorney.  That's what good attorneys are supposed to.

After the trial, as professional adversaries always should do, we were friends again.  Whenever another prosecutor was getting ready for trial against him, however, I made sure to let them know they would need to get a good night's sleep before trial.  Jim was going to wear them out.

Jim was the consumate gentlemen and although we fought against each other relentlessly in trial, we left any and all animosity in the courtroom.  I never hung out with him in a social setting, but he was always so friendly and kind around the courthouse.  He was a lawyer and a mentor to many of those younger attorneys who came after him, and he was always willing to help those who needed him.

He embodied the knowledge, the advocacy and the grace that I think all lawyers should aspire to.

Our community lost a true gentleman today.  And one of the best trial lawyers I ever had the honor to do battle with.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reminder: Bar Poll Votes Due Tomorrow

As part of my public service campaign to keep you all informed, I have been asked to remind you to turn in your HBA Bar Polls by tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.

I know that my friends at the D.A.'s Office may have gotten theirs a little late, but please take time to fill them out and get them in as soon as possible.  I don't know if the Office still takes the ballots over for everybody like they used to or not, so please make sure you get them there one way or another.

Remember that the results usually do get published in the media one way or another and it is one of the rare occasions that the voting public gets to see what our thoughts are on the judges we practice in front of.

Get your voice heard!

Monday, October 1, 2012

HBA Bar Polls

Okay, this post is asking for Assistant District Attorney input.

Have those of you who are still with the Office gotten your Judicial Qualification polls from the HBA?  They are due on Friday, and thus far, my reports have indicated you didn't receive them.

Could you let me know if you have or have not received them?

CJC Closure for Tuesday, July 9th

 I'm dusting off the cobwebs from the old blog to do a public service announcement that all courts will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Jul...