As the father of a young family, in the early years of my practice, I did not have a lot of time to devote to pro bono work. A sole practitioner with relatively short roots in the community (five years, when I began my practice, nearly four of which were spent in night law school) has to keep the nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel.
A prosecutor who is overly aggressive can introduce error into the trial of a case. A defense lawyer who sits on his hands and does not object can limit the appellate court’s consideration of an issue to a plain error standard. A trial judge who considers testimony improperly adduced by an aggressive prosecutor in determining what sentence to impose can make the case difficult for an appellate court to affirm. That is the conduct of the district judge and the two lawyers in United States v. Moreno, ___F.3d___, 2016 WL 53796 (3rd Cir. 2016).
I’ve been remiss. Like my fellow defense attorneys, I habitually keep my head buried in court appearances, case law and statutes, cross-examination preparation, closing arguments, and customer service. I’ve been remiss because the daily grind has so easily diverted me from reflecting on a deeper meaning in this work. Namely, safeguarding the great American experiment. We protect individual liberty and freedom. Values our founding fathers determined were most vital to a free society.
If Wild Bill Hickok were walking down the streets of Houston or Abilene or any other place in Texas with his guns today, he would probably be approached by the police and arrested. Wild Bill has a concealed handgun license, but Wild Bill doesn’t carry his pistols in a holster; he carries them stuck in a sash wrapped around his waist. Too bad he didn’t understand the nuances of the new open carry law. But then, who does?
The TCDLA Board met on December 5, 2015, in Austin. The following motions were made and action taken:
MOTION: September 12, 2015, Minutes
Motion to adopt the minutes from the TCDLA Board Meeting in Dallas on September 12, 2015, made by Mark Snodgrass, seconded by Susan Anderson—motion carries.
As a law student, I had a front row seat at the Michael Morton trial. I watched as two of my mentors and then employers—Bill Allison and Bill White—fought during the Morton murder trial in the late 1980s. I was a green law clerk, watching with my eyes wide open. A constant frustration throughout the case was the deep suspicion that evidence was being withheld, but there was no way to know for sure. Never was this more apparent than when the state declined to call the chief investigative deputy (Don Woods) and instead called legendary Williamson County Sheriff Jim Boutwell.
22 | The Michael Morton Act’s Undiscovered Country - By Keith Hampton
28 | The Fourth Amendment and Traffic Stops: A Completely Fictitious, Tongue-in-Cheek Guide to Being a Successful Drug Courier - By Todd Duncan
36 | Do Not Mess With Papa’s Daughter - By Judge Wayne Patrick Priest
On August 12, 2014, I underwent open heart surgery at East Texas Medical Center Hospital in Tyler in order to relieve the 95 percent blockage in my widow maker and the significant blockage in two of my other coronary arteries. During my first conversation with my surgeon after I left the intensive care unit, I heard him say: “You were a ticking time bomb.
Like more than a few of my court-appointed felony clients, Julius was angry, offensive, demanding, and adamantly refused any plea deal. He was 43 years old but looked 60, African-American, unemployed, short, stocky, dark-skinned with very short black hair. Julius was a career felon who was bad at his job.
This “right to present a defense” is a broad right that can allow you to present important, helpful material or exculpatory evidence to the jury when other more specific rules, like the hearsay rule or other state evidentiary laws, would seem to prevent you from presenting such evidence.
Perhaps it is because La Cosa Nostra cases have never been prosecuted in the Tyler division of the Eastern District of Texas that I usually enjoy reading the opinions in LCN cases, both as to the facts and the legal issues. And, I was not disappointed in my reading of U.S. v. Messina, __ F.3d ___, 2015 WL 7005546 (2nd Cir. 2015) [Panel: Circuit Judges Calabresi, Cabranes, and Raggi (Opinion by Raggi)].
In a contested bond revocation hearing, not long ago, the State attempted to admit evidence our client violated a restricted zone using global positioning system (GPS) evidence. They further sought to admit evidence from a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) device that she inappropriately consumed alcohol while on bond.
All of you have heard the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and are familiar with its main character, Rudolph. Rudolph was created in 1939 by Robert May, an employee of Montgomery Ward. Although sources vary as to whether May created the story of Rudolph to promote sales at the Christmas season, or to give as a gift to his young daughter to bring her comfort, May was doing his best to keep his job and comfort his child because Ms. May was dying of cancer.
We hope all of our members and Voice recipients had a wonderful Holiday Season. We look forward to a very prosperous New Year.
Thanks to our course director, Rick Wardroup (Lubbock), for the CDLP Capital Litigation/Mental Health CLE in South Padre Island in November. Thanks to everyone’s help we had 77 attendees.
Thanks to our course directors, Tim James (Nacogdoches) and Jani Maselli (Houston), for the Upholding Justice One Client at a Time held in Nacogdoches in November. Thanks to everyone’s help we had 30 attendees.
One challenge of life is to grapple with the reality that your time on Earth will pass, sooner or later. As the saying goes, “None of us are getting out of here alive!” In the context of our professional lives, this is also true even if we go on to other things after we leave the practice of law.