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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 

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 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:

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.


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.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...