I was very saddened to hear of the passing of highly respected and beloved attorney Steven "Rocket" Rosen today.
Most of us in the courthouse community have known that Rocket was battling Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) for the past couple of years and that he was the very definition of a courageous fighter against a very cruel and debilitating disease. Over the past two years, he posted multiple videos of himself standing defiantly against the disease, offering encouraging and strong messages about those things that were truly important in life.
To say that his messages were inspirational would be an understatement.
But long before Rocket's battle with ALS, he was well known as a fighter in the courtroom. He was a well-known attorney who handled many high profile cases with flamboyance, skill, and knowledge. His reputation as an excellent attorney ranked as one of the finest that Harris County had to offer.
When I was interning at the D.A.'s Office during law school, I watched him try a very tough Injury to a Child case to a jury. His confidence and connection with the jury was extremely strong despite the facts of the case being very much against him. Whether the jury agreed with him or not, they liked him.
So did the judge.
So did the prosecutors, for that matter.
He was a trial lawyer who endeared himself to his audience.
Don't get me wrong. He could be incredibly frustrating to deal with if you were a prosecutor. I don't say that as an insult. I would imagine that he would find his ability to frustrate a prosecutor to be a pretty strong compliment, actually.
And he had a sense of humor -- a great sense of humor, even at his own expense.
When I was a felony two, my friend Bill Exley had tried a hotly contested case against Rocket, where Bill had prevailed and Rocket was still fairly irate about it. Rocket showed up in my court the following day and said we needed to approach the judge to talk about a different case.
Rocket was talking about how the judge in the court loved him and he had coached the judge's kids in softball.
I mentioned to him, "Well, that's good and all, but I'm not the prosecutor on the case."
Rocket asked, "Who is?"
"Bill Exley is handling it," I lied.
He whipped his head around so hard that I'm surprised that he didn't get whiplash. He was almost bug-eyed at the idea of trying another case against Bill on the heels of the case he had just lost. He stared at me for a moment, and then composed himself.
"Well," he said, "the judge loves me."
"Oh, she loves Bill, too," I said. "She was just telling me how she thinks that Bill is the best prosecutor she has ever seen in trial and she's so excited to have him trying a case in her court that she can't wait. She will probably give y'all a preferential setting."
Rocket stewed over this until we approached the bench on the case. He defiantly started monologing about his case and noted that he didn't care whether or not Exley was trying the case.
To which the judge replied: "Who?"
At that point, Rocket realized I was jacking with him. He started laughing and we told the judge what the joke had been. He was a good sport.
I never tried a case against Rocket. Our dealings were mainly anecdotal and in passing.
But I knew his reputation and I knew his ability. He definitely was one of the Giants that have roamed the halls of the criminal courthouse. Right now, there are a great many defense attorneys who are posting their warm and admiring recollections of Rocket. He was truly a respected and beloved member of our courthouse family.
I don't have a courtroom "war story" to share about him. I'm probably lucky to have not faced him in trial.
I watched from afar as he fought his battle against ALS. As cruel as it was, it never defeated him. He gave inspirational speeches on Facebook videos. He spoke to the Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office. He never let it break him.
That is an enormous testament to his character and determination, especially in light of what ALS does to a person.
Rocket was a good man. He was a family man. He adored and was so proud of his family, and rightfully so. He was an excellent lawyer and fighter and personality.
He will be missed in the many, many courthouses where he practiced across the State.
And he will never be forgotten for the courageous and unyielding spirit that he was throughout his life and his career.