Editor's Comment: What Really Matters - By Sarah Roland

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Saturday, December 15th, 2018

From Thanksgiving through Christmas until the first of the New Year is always a time when things seem to slow down around the courthouse. Generally, everyone—judges, prosecutors, even jurors—seems to be affected by the spirit of the season. It’s hard this time of year not to get a bit sentimental and reflect on the past year—the wins, the losses and everything in between—and how we can make the coming year even better professionally and personally.

Let’s make it a point to stay on the cutting edge of our profession. Let’s make it a point to file a case-specific 39.14 request in every case, know applicable case law, and have expert hearings every time. To that end, TCDLA offers so many great seminars throughout the state all year long. Scholarships are available if funds are an issue. Plan to attend one you have never attended before. You will always learn something and meet great lawyers.

Mostly, though, let’s all take a cue from Kelly Pace this holiday season and carry it into the next year. Let’s work hard but focus on what really matters—people. Let’s express our love for our family and friends. Let’s really pay attention to people. All people. Especially the people who are hurting and who have been abandoned by everyone else. Let’s listen to them and help them. Really listen. There is some good somewhere in everyone. It might be hard to find (and often is), but it’s there.

Let’s take care of each other. This job is hard mentally and emotionally. We are the constant underdogs. In a single afternoon recently, I handled a case where a young man nearly died of a drug overdose, one involving a young suicidal client with a dysfunctional family, and one where a young lady had lost everything. There was (and is) hope for all of them, though. That was still a rough day. It didn’t hit me until that evening. The lows can be really low, and the highs can be really high. That’s true for all of us in this profession. Let’s remember that and be able to lean on each other for support. After all, over time TCDLA becomes like a second family. We must take care of each other. That care and concern for others is something that Kelly made a mission in his life through his involvement in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

Many of our counties have some type of diversionary courts, whether they be drug treatment courts, DWI courts, mental health courts, or veterans’ courts. Many of us are involved in those court treatment teams. Many of us help our clients get into those diversionary courts. What if we took it a step further, though? What if we continued to show those clients support by attending court graduations? What if we showed our support to the people in the courts through our presence at graduations even if they aren’t our clients? What if those people saw their community supporting them? How might that change their perspective?

What if we occasionally sent a letter or made a phone call to clients just to check on them even after we are finished with their cases? What would that do? What if we sent an occasional letter or card to clients in prison just to let them know they are not forgotten? How might that make someone feel?

In an ever-changing world that can seem harsh and quick to judge sometimes, let’s make it a point take care of each other. Let’s assume the best in people. Recently, while picking a jury, we discussed the presumption of innocence. It’s a concept that I think most everyone agrees with but that can be abstract to explain and sometimes even hard to apply in the criminal context. I told the prospective panel that the presumption of innocence is how we should all live in this world. It means assuming the best in a person, not the worst.

Let’s plant the seeds for those who may be resistant to our help and advice. Let’s show grace and kindness even when it’s the most difficult. Let’s be empathetic. Let’s love unconditionally. The world will be a better place for it, and we will be all the richer.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.