Ethics and the Law: Blowing in the Wind - By Robert Pelton

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Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Imagine this: It’s mid-morning on a weekday, you’re standing outside the Criminal Courthouse after finishing a hearing in Criminal Court. The weather is ordinary for Houston. The sky is clear, the humidity is high, the wind is almost nonexistent, and of course, it’s hot. Sirens are blaring from a distance, although in retrospect, that is nothing unusual for the sounds of downtown Houston, Texas, and as the morning transitions into early afternoon, those ever-so-distant blaring sirens are getting closer and closer. The sound is echoing through the buildings and courthouses almost to a point of being deafening.

Curiosity gets the better of you, and as you look up a scene unfolds right in front of you and the onlookers. With a look of shock, disbelief, and amazement, many see five police cars pursuing a pickup truck with two citizens. From my observation in its passing, the pursued vehicle had a tire that had already blown out early on in the chase or had been shot by law enforcement. The chase continued on 45 North, with more police cars joining the pursuit.

According to reports, the driver of the pickup truck allegedly rammed police cruisers and vehicles belonging to innocent bystanders. The police finally apprehended the suspects at Berry Road and Airline Drive, according to the news report. As I continued to watch the “Breaking News” that afternoon and evening, it was filled with not only this story, but many others revolving around crimes that had been committed throughout the city, county, and other parts of the country. To be honest, the stories were enough to dissipate my morale.

I pose the question, where’s the answer to the aforementioned chaos?

That evening (the day of the police pursuit), I entered my office and the first thing that jumped out at me was my diploma from law school. It says, “Attorney and Counselor at Law.” Oftentimes through the chaotic stress that clients and the very nature of this job creates, I believe we overlook the “Counselor” part, which results in not going that extra step or mile or, in some cases, miles to get your client into rehab, or return those frantic “End of the World” phone calls. Simply put, as Cool Hand Luke says, it’s a “FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE,” which often leads to a grievance. Nobody is above having a grievance filed against them. Several judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys across the State of Texas have at one time or another been accused of some sort of ethical violation involving inadequate communication. While sitting in a bar bragging about your new Mercedes Benz is great, don’t let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird ass.

Do not be ashamed to get your clients help or, if no opposition is held, get them to church. More often than not, people need positive reinforcement. You have a license to practice law and to some degree counsel individuals with options that will be most beneficial to them in an unfavorable situation. This isn’t a license to lie, cheat, steal, or deceive the individual who has had the misfortune of being arrested and charged with a crime, as they are aimlessly webbed into the criminal justice system. Winning is great; however, it isn’t everything. Those who send innocent people to prison to be locked away like wild animals are beyond despicable and in some quarters would be called to be taken to the nearest hanging tree.

There’s no denying, time like most things has changed things, and law has been no exception to that rule. With change comes uncharted territory, which leads to pressure. The pressure of the unknown and the unsureness of circumstances can in some instances lead to being unethical, whether that be described as above, or in advertising because someone is seeking that next case.

The Executive Director of the Harris County Criminal Law­yers Association, Christina Appelt, and I have discussed the wild advertising done by lawyers. A week out of law school, some law­yers are spending thousands of dollars on websites and paying top dollar to be listed at the top of the search engines—while bragging about their many awards received along with their ratings. The very idea of this is repulsive to not only me, but to the many lawyers I personally know who have gone to court and fought to protect the rights of their clients without fanfare or seeking glory or a higher rating on some phony ad program.

Mary Flood, a brilliant lawyer who helps lawyers in their advertising efforts, has informed me that most of the ads are not approved by the State Bar of Texas, as required by the ethical rules. Our organization is composed of many great lawyers. Some are low profile while others are high profile, and some do not seek recognition while others jump in front of the camera at every opportunity presenting itself.

In closing, I leave you with this final thought, whether you are low profile, high profile, camera shy, or prefer a camera: The bottom line is some lawyers are losing sight of what our responsibilities are, and that is effective counseling through effective communication. Will we ever find an answer to these questions, or will they just be “Blowing in the Wind”?

Do you feel like your life is Blowing in the Wind? Are your clients’ lives Blowing in the Wind? Get help for your clients through the many programs available. If you need help, call the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program. Bob Dylan sings a song, as follows. No one has all the answers. Seek help when needed. The answer is Blowing in the Wind.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

The TCDLA hotline number is 512-646-2734. Our committee members are Jack Zimmerman, Greg Velasquez, Don Davidson, Robyn Harlin, Joe Pelton, David Sheppard, Ray Fuchs, Michael Mowla, Joe Connors, Keith Hampton, Jimmy Ardoin, Larry McDougal, and Brent Mayr. They will try to find some answers blowing in the wind that may help you.