Monday, September 30, 2013

Blog Spammers [UPDATED]

When I first started blogging, I realized very quickly that I could not run a blog that had no filtering process for the comments.  Back then, there was some Pat-Lykos-supporting-jackass named Kimberly Ann White that kept attempting to post Kelly Siegler's home address on my blog and Mark Bennett's blog.

Over the years, there have been pros and cons to moderating comments.  I try to post everything that people write in as long as it isn't personal and it isn't flat-out lying.  One of the other things that I don't publish is blatant spamming.

Not a day goes by when I don't get some attempt to publish a comment on the blog that reads like it was written by a graduate of Don Hooper's School of Spelling & Grammar.
For example:

Usually, the spamming author will have a link back to an attorney or bail bond company that is nowhere near the Houston area.  The attorney web sites will generally be some sort of mass marketing "DWI lawyer" from Chicago or something or other.  It is annoying, but not really a big deal.

Recently,  I've been getting bombarded by spam blog comments (including the ones shown above) that link back to a local attorney.  I e-mailed both Mark Bennett (who has consistently waged war against attorneys who outsource their advertising) and Paul Kennedy to see if they had been getting similar e-mails.  Paul said he had not, but would be excited to get an additional reader of his blog besides just me.

Mark encouraged me to both publish the comments as well as do a post on the lawyer.  I was torn, because I don't like rewarding bad behavior or giving publicity to somebody who is just shamelessly trying to get some free advertising.  However, Mark correctly pointed out that the idiocy of the website needed to be exposed.


So I wrote a post about that attorney and it got very mixed reactions.  Some said I went over the top.  Others said it was the only way to make a point.  I spoke with the attorney in question, and ultimately he fired the company that was doing the blog spamming.

I was glad to hear that, so I took out the part of this post that criticized the content of his website.  I'm sure that will get mixed reactions, as well.  Oh well.  That's my call.

In the meantime, I hope that all attorneys who read this blog will remember that our profession takes enough hits in the reputation department as it is without the help of internet marketers who engage in spamming.  

Kim Ogg announces Candidacy for District Attorney

Former prosecutor, CrimeStoppers head, and attorney Kim Ogg officially announced her candidacy for Harris County District Attorney today in a press conference at the 1910 Courthouse.  She will be running as a Democrat.

As most of you know, since District Attorney Mike Anderson's term was not completed, the election will be in 2014 and the position of District Attorney will be on the ballot again in 2016.  As of this writing, the only other candidate who will be running is Interim District Attorney Devon Anderson.

Although I don't know Kim Ogg very well, I like her.  On the few occasions we've had to talk, I have found her to be very smart and is someone who cares about the Criminal Justice System very much. (NOTE:  yes, I know that I just used the word "very" three times in a row, but I'm very rushed for time at the moment.)  She will make a great candidate for the Dems.  She has already stated her opposition to the filing of trace cases and is developing a platform.

The idea of having two candidates running a clean race against each other where they just debate the issues is something that would be a refreshing change of pace from our D.A. elections of the recent past.

Of course we are early on in the election season and I'm sure both Devon and Kim could draw opponents from within their own parties.  That would be a shame.   Last year's surprise Democratic primary win by Lloyd Oliver was an embarrassment to all involved.

Ultimately, I think next year's race is going to be decided by factors that have nothing to do with the D.A.'s Office, so for the moment, I'm just happy that we have two candidates in the race who actually care about Criminal Justice.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Channel 13 Interview with District Attorney Devon Anderson Tonight

Tune into Channel 13 tonight at ten o'clock as Ted Oberg has the first interview with newly appointed Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Devon Anderson appointed Interim District Attorney

I'm away for my computer, so excuse the short post from the iPad, but . . .

Congratulations to Devon Anderson on her appointment as interim District Attorney of Harris County!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Search for the Interim District Attorney

Both the Houston Chronicle and ABC Channel 13 are posting articles on their websites this afternoon about the search for the interim District Attorney to lead the office after the passing of Mike Anderson.

The Chronicle article, written by Brian Rogers, focuses on Republican GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill voicing his support for former 177th District Court judge and widow of Mike, Devon Anderson.  Although I always cringe whenever Jared Woodfill or other Republican Party "leadership" dabble into the world of Criminal Justice, I can't disagree with Jared on his vote.

Devon was an All-Star prosecutor before taking the bench.  One of my earliest memories as a baby prosecutor was watching her, along with Lyn McClellan and Johnny Holmes, try the notorious Railcar Killer, Rafael Resendez Ramirez.  Although Mr. Holmes and Lyn were outstanding in the jobs they did, this case was Devon's and she did a phenomenal job as lead prosecutor.

The Channel 13 article was a little more interesting as Deborah Wrigley reports that in addition to Devon Anderson, other possible candidates who want to be considered for the position are Judge Marc Carter, Congressman Ted Poe, First Assistant Belinda Hill, former First Assistant Jim Leitner and . . . wait for it . . . seriously . . . you aren't going to believe this  . . . Rachel Palmer.

Now, let's look at that list of candidates real quick.

It is my understanding that Judge Poe has already stated that he has no interest in the job.  I don't know why he would, actually.  He's a United States Congressman and if he wanted to be the District Attorney of Harris County, he could have easily taken it in 2000 when Chuck Rosenthal first ran.  He could have also taken it easily in 2004 when Chuck Rosenthal ran again, or in 2008 when Pat Lykos ran.

Judge Marc Carter is a fantastic judge and would be an excellent candidate for District Attorney.  I do a lot of work in Judge Carter's court, and I would be very surprised if he wanted the job, though.  He enjoys being a judge, and those of us who practice in his court are glad that he IS judge.  We all hope he stays on the bench for a very long time.

First Assistant Belinda Hill is also a phenomenal candidate.  She's highly respected by both the Defense Bar and the Prosecution.  She's already received the unsolicited endorsement of the Houston Police Officers' Union.  However, it has never been clear whether or not Belinda actually wants the job.  Although she had been elected Judge of the 230th District Court for several terms, there is a big difference on the campaign trail when one is running for judge and when one is running for District Attorney.  It is an unfortunate fact of life that politics plays a tremendous part in keeping your job as District Attorney.  A person may love the job description of being District Attorney but (rightfully and sanely) have no desire to hit the campaign trail for it.

Now the fun candidates . . .

Jim Leitner?  Really?  You're putting your name in the running for this?  You were first assistant for a very mean Pat Lykos and yet you still got the label as her "evil henchman."  Why on earth would Leitner be a consideration for Perry?  Thus far, the only thing that Leitner has proved politically adept at is running as a spoiler candidate and then giving his support to a candidate who will give him a job.  Perry wants somebody who can run in 2014 and win.  If he wants somebody who can go in and take a dive for personal gain, maybe Jim has a shot.

And finally . . . Rachel Palmer.  Sigh.

I heard late last week that Rachel's beloved husband Don Hooper was trying to get his wife appointed to District Attorney.  At some point, I have to wonder if he even consults with his wife before trying some of his harebrained schemes.

It's been a couple of years now since Rachel invoked her 5th Amendment rights in front of a Grand Jury.  Time heals old stains to the reputation provided they are given the opportunity to fade away.  Thanks to the Donner and his relentless blogging, however, he keeps her unfortunate incident in the forefront of his limited readership's mind.  Hooper and Palmer have a blog that is legally owned by Rachel and can be found under her name.  That blog celebrated Mike Anderson's cancer (and mine), and calls into question whether or not Hooper is fit to serve as First Lady of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Not to mention the fact that Rachel has still yet to rise above the level of Felony Two in the Office.  The idea of her being appointed to District Attorney is nothing short of preposterous.

In the end, the natural candidates for the position do seem to be Devon Anderson or Belinda Hill.  Both have been outstanding public servants and prosecutors in the past and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Key to Successful Co-Parenting

One of the things I'm proud of in my life is the fact that Luke's mom and I maintain a good friendship and work together in our co-parenting of our son.  One of the keys to that is making sure that both parents do all they can to support the child's relationship with the other parent.  One example is making sure that the kiddo has gotten a present for the other parent's birthday.

For instance . . .

Yep, co-parenting is most successful when both parents do their best to be thoughtful.

Happy birthday, Sylvia!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Belinda Hill's Letter to the Editor

In today's print edition of the Chronicle, Harris County District Attorney's Office 1st Assistant Belinda Hill responded to the paper's tasteless editorial of last Thursday.

You can read Belinda's letter here.  It does an excellent job of not only illustrating just how much Mike Anderson accomplished during his tragically short tenure in office.

It also shows the leader that she is and why all of the prosecutors at the Office (as well as the Defense Bar) are hoping that Governor Perry will do the best thing for Harris County and appoint her interim District Attorney.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Eternally Grateful

As most of my friends and family know by now, I've spent the past several weeks being treated for a pretty rare, yet highly treatable form of leukemia called "Hairy Cell Leukemia."

Yeah, go ahead and insert the hair jokes.  It's okay.

As a blogger, I'm an "over-sharer" by nature.  However, when I was first diagnosed, Emily and I made the decision to keep the news off of the blog and the internet, in general -- until the ordeal was over with.

Today, I became one of the very blessed individuals who got to hear the words "in remission" from my doctor.  Obviously, it is a very happy and emotional day and I wanted to write about it for a variety of reasons.

First off, I need to give the obligatory Public Service Announcement.

I was diagnosed with this illness and caught it very early by going to a simple physical.  Emily had been pestering me to go to the doctor for a physical despite the fact that I felt perfectly healthy.  It had been a while.  An abnormal blood test is what caught everything.

Public Service Announcement Part Two -- make sure you have medical insurance. Too many of us solo practitioners don't have it.  It took a few months, numerous doctor visits, and a bone marrow biopsy before getting the formal diagnosis.  Once I got the diagnosis, I got to spend five days straight receiving chemotherapy, followed by six days in the hospital after developing a fever, and then another bone marrow biopsy.  Without insurance, I'd be in trouble right now.

The more important reason for me writing this post is that I have some people to thank that I am eternally grateful for.

First off, I want to thank my friend and doctor, Sam Siegler.  Sam has been my doctor for years and he was the one who caught the abnormal blood test and referred me to an oncologist.  But Sam went above and beyond being just my doctor.  He took my phone calls and text messages at all hours of the day and night when I had questions.  He reviewed all of my blood test results and explained them to me in terms that even an Aggie could understand.  He came and hung out with me at the hospital and even smuggled in some breakfast tacos.  As much as I appreciate Sam as my doctor, I appreciate his and Kelly's friendship much more.

I would also like to thank my oncologist, Dr. Charles Manner, who attacked this illness quickly and efficiently.  There were a lot of times that I didn't understand what he was telling me but I never doubted for a second that he was on top of everything going on.  He told me that everything was ultimately going to be okay and everything that would happen during my treatment.  He was correct about everything he told me would happen and I felt like he was genuinely excited with every positive improvement.  He called me himself today to give me the good news, and I will never forget that.

My family and friends have also been amazingly supportive.  My mom and sister both came in from out of town to sit with me through chemotherapy treatments and then came back the following week to visit when I was unexpectedly put in the hospital.  Luci Davidson and Carmen Roe not only visited me in the hospital, but they also helped me keep up with my caseload.  I was also honored to be visited by two of HPD's finest -- Sgts. Ryan Chandler and Roger Chappell.

Nothing cheered me up more than being visited by my best friend, Luke.  Sylvia took time out of a busy day to bring him to the hospital to hang out with me for an hour and it made my day.  Just getting to hug your kid is the best medicine in the world, and I'm thankful for him and Sylvia for the visit.

I'm also greatly appreciative of all the phone calls, texts messages, e-mails, and Facebook wishes from fellow defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, coordinators and friends both near and far.  They really do bring a bright spot to a dreary time.

But out of everyone I have to thank, the one person that I will never ever ever -- in a bazillion years -- be able to thank enough is my wife, Emily.

To put it plainly, she is a saint.

Most of you know that Emily is currently in her third trimester with our son due in October.  She puts up with me on a daily basis under the best of circumstances.  Now is the time when she deserves to have me waiting on her hand and foot.  Instead, she has spent her third trimester dealing with a cranky cancer patient.  She sat with me on every chemo that my sister or mom couldn't attend.  She worked full days in the hot summer and then came to hang out with me in the hospital.  She was an absolute rock of stability and support through it all.  She's one of the strongest people I know, but I don't think I knew just how strong until we went through this together.

I would need countless lifetimes to begin returning the unconditional love and support she gives me.  I can't begin to tell her enough how much I love her.

Finally, I thank God for getting me and my family through this.

The type of cancer that I had was the equivalent of a hangnail when compared to what so many other of our friends and family members have gone through.  I am, without a doubt, one of the lucky ones.  I don't know of anyone else who was fortunate enough to only go through one round of chemotherapy and be declared in remission six weeks after official diagnosis.

Cancer is absolutely as horrible as everyone says it is.  There is no way that can ever be overstated.  The faces of strangers taking chemotherapy beside me are sights I will never forget as long as I live.  The common stories and words of encouragement from cancer survivors like Johnny Bonds and my favorite bartender, Mike Shapiro are reminders of how lucky I am.

Nothing, however, serves as more of a grim reminder of how fortunate I am than those friends and family members who didn't survive the disease -- from my grandfather to my friend and mentor Buzz Hamilton to Mike Anderson.  Cancer is synonymous with the catastrophic destruction of everything a person and a family are.  It is something intensely personal yet you need the support of all of your family and friends to get through it.

Sorry for running on so long with this post, but when you are feeling so incredibly fortunate, loved, and blessed for your family, your friends, and your health -- well, sometimes no amount of words will ever adequately express how eternally grateful you are.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tasteless Journalism

I've had my issues with the brain trust that runs the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle over the past years.  I've disagreed with them over endorsements.  I've disagreed with them when they've published uneducated opinions on issues they failed to adequately research.

However, I have never been more floored by their lack of judgment than I was today in reading the thoughtless, insensitive, and ill-timed editorial regarding the death of Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson.  Today, on the day before Mike's funeral, the Chronicle's editorial board saw fit to write such things as:
"With his premature death from cancer at 57 last week, Anderson has been denied the opportunity of carrying out his tough, some would say harsh, prosecutorial agenda as head of the state's largest district attorney's office."
I understand if the Chronicle disagreed with some of the policies of the Anderson Administration, but is a critical editorial really appropriate in the same edition as the man's obituary?

To add insult to injury during this sad time, the editors also decided to criticize Mike and his family for not choosing to share every last detail of his illness with them:
"While respecting that he was diagnosed with an illness that turned out to be terminal, we cannot help but question how he reconciled his desire for privacy against the public's right to know about an official they elected . . . Weren't county voters entitled to know a little more about the DA's personal circumstances?  We think so."
Reading that last paragraph again is infuriating beyond words.

Mike made the announcement that he had cancer many months ago.  He continued to work to the best of his ability right up until the time he died.  He also had help running the Office in the extremely capable hands of First Assistant Belinda Hill.

What more do the morons at the Chronicle feel entitled to know?  Did they want to know how chemotherapy was going?  Did they want to know how he was coming to terms with his own mortality?  Did they want to know how his family was taking the news?
"We think so."
The arrogance of those three words is mind-numbing to me.  Regardless of whether or not Mike Anderson was an elected official, some things fall unquestionably under the category of privacy.  Terminal illness is probably at the top of that category, and the author's claim that voters were "entitled to know a little more" is just whining that the paper didn't get the intrusive story that it wanted.

The editorial did get one thing correct in encouraging Governor Rick Perry to appoint Belinda Hill as interim District Attorney, but they still managed to cheapen that endorsement by basing it on her race.
"We encourage Gov. Perry to appoint former Judge Hill, an African-American with a strong background in the criminal justice system.  Doing so would be a welcome acknowledgment of the need for diversity on the prosecution side in a system where so many defendants are persons of color."
So, at this point, this farewell to an elected official and long-time public servant has turned into an appeal for diversity, which manages to insult Belinda Hill in the process.

Belinda Hill should absolutely be appointed the interim District Attorney.  She should be appointed because she was a long-time prosecutor before becoming a highly respected judge who served on the 230th District Court for years.  She should be appointed because she has helped implement the policies of the Anderson Administration and kept the Office running in its time of crisis.  She should be appointed because she has the respect of the prosecutors she supervises and the equal respect of the Harris County Defense Bar.

In his short time in office, Mike Anderson pulled the Harris County District Attorney's Office out of a downward spiral that was destroying morale across the board.  He recruited then-Judge Hill to join him as his First Assistant, and I have no doubt that he had faith in her ability to lead the Office in his absence.

These are the things that "county voters are entitled to know" and these are the things that should be remembered as we prepare to say goodbye to Mike Anderson tomorrow.

The Chronicle Editorial Board should be ashamed of what it wrote in today's paper.

It is no wonder why no individual signed his or her name to it.

Mike Anderson's Obituary

In case you missed it, the Houston Chronicle has Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson's obituary in it this morning.  You can read it here.

Please note that the funeral will be on Friday, September 6 at 2:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church at 5300 Main in Downtown.  I know that many of us will be taking the Metrorail because parking will probably difficult.

Also please note that the Anderson family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Harris County Drug Court Foundation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pulling Together

As I was driving back to Houston Monday afternoon after a weekend at the lake with my family, I received a text message from Bert Graham.  An impromptu get-together to remember and mourn Mike Anderson was being held at Cottonwood on Shepherd and he wanted me to know I was invited.   I dropped off my family and drove straight there.

The place was wall-to-wall with current prosecutors and former prosecutors from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.  There were a lot of tears.  A lot of hugs.  A lot of fond remembrances of a good man by people who loved him dearly.

The occasion was unprecedented, obviously.  The type of gathering, however, was not.

Ever since I first started in 1999, former and current members of the Harris County District Attorney's Office have gathered together in good times and bad to either celebrate or mourn.  It is one of the remarkable things about that place that has always made me regard it with such affection.  Outside of the job description of being a prosecutor, an investigator or an administrative assistant, there has always been a bond between the people who worked there.  Whether we were current or former employees, we celebrated each other's victories and achievements in life and we mourned each other's losses and tragedies.

As I was leaving the gathering yesterday, I got a chance to talk to First Assistant Belinda Hill and give her a hug.  Through everything the Office has gone through the past few months, she has risen to the occasion to see them through it all.

"This place is a family," Belinda told me.  "Even if it is a little dysfunctional sometimes."

I smiled and agreed with her and pointed out that it was usually more "functional" than a lot of families I knew.

Belinda's point was right on and hearing her say it made me grateful that she was there for the Office in its time of need.  She embodies what families do when tragedy strike.  They pull together and they step up their efforts to get through the tragedy together.

Even though it's been awhile since I was an employee there, the sense of family remains.

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...