Executive Director's Perspective: A Fine Madness - By Melissa J. Schank

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Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.


This past week I had the opportunity to spend time in Lubbock hosted by the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. The hospitality was overwhelming—and very much appreciated.

During my time there, I participated in the 38th Annual Prairie Dog Lawyers Advanced Criminal Law Seminar. Sara Johnson and Rusty Gunter did an amazing job and had a stellar lineup of speakers from all over Texas.

Jack Nowlin (dean of the Texas Tech University School of Law), Pat Metze, Dwight McDonald, and Sandy James at the law school assisted with everything from procuring tablecloths to moving around some 15 tables and chairs, and we could always count on the very important Beixin Ni, AV whiz. Our staff made sure attendees’ travel, papers, meals, and materials were all taken care of as intended. Everyone’s hard work truly made this an enjoyable and memorable event!

Thursday we enjoyed a country-and-western evening, courtesy of Justin and Yanina Keichler, who went above and beyond for the party. I am looking forward to the Rusty Duncan membership party, when Taly Thiessen will work with Justin on a revised C&W theme—with a live band and casino tables.

Friday evening in Lubbock the board dinner was held at the Texas Tech Club. The view was spectacular (as an Austinite, I must say, it comes pretty close to some of ours). Several committees met during the evening, then in the late hours everyone shared war stories—and much laughter—as old bonds were renewed and new ones created. The two constants of all TCDLA seminars are the quality of speakers and the relationships that are formed. These you can only understand by attending live CLE events. I get to witness the remarkable relationships that evolve over time, the irreplaceable shared experiences, good or bad.

We had more than 60 board and CDLP committee members travel to Lubbock. We appreciate all of the dedication and time our board, CDLP, and executive members contribute. Without our quarterly meetings, we would not be able to brainstorm, improvise, and generally conduct the business of TCDLA to maintain our quest for success. All of the committee chairs and board members work really hard to improve all aspects of the association to support our mission and continue to grow.

The executive, CDLP, and membership committees as well as the TCDLA Board met this weekend. Some of the business conducted in the meetings:

  • Implemented auto-renewal membership for all TCDLA mem­bers;
  • Updated the Amicus Policy to require prior approval of the executive committee for anyone testifying or appearing on behalf of a TCDLA amicus filing;
  • Approved two new TCDLA affiliates: Brazos County Crim­inal Defense Lawyers Association and Navarro County Crim­i­nal Defense Lawyers Association (welcome!);
  • Updated listserve rules and procedures—available online;
  • Added mutual links to the State Bar College and TCDLA on their respective websites.

The TCDLEI committee also met earlier this month. They are working hard to continue providing more than $40,000 a year in scholarships for criminal defense lawyers. This year we will be hosting a “wine pull.” What is that, you say? Stop by their booth at Rusty and find out! They will have some fun ribbons for your name badge as well.

Make sure you are signed up for that premier criminal de­fense seminar: the 32nd Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course, held June 13–15, 2019, in San Antonio. There are a number of different scholarships available, including the following:

  • The State Bar of Texas offers scholarships for Rusty Duncan tuition (at the early-bird rate) and an additional $750 expense stipend. Request an application at www.txbarcjs.org/scholarships/. Once completed, email to sections@texasbar.com. Deadline for applications is Friday, April 15, 2019;
  • TCDLEI regularly grants scholarship money to public defenders and attorneys actively engaged in the defense of criminal cases who can demonstrate financial need (access form here: https://bit.ly/2M2OLUY);
  • New lawyers (those of less than five years) can now apply for the Kelly Pace Memorial New Lawyer Scholarship for Travel & Seminar (access form here: https://bit.ly/2Fk7Q4w);
  • Attorneys of Asian descent (one half Asian or South Asian) should check out the Christine S. Cheng MD Memorial Asian-American Scholarship (access form at the link https://bit.ly/2SL2PoW).
March is the month of madness, not only with continuous travel, spring break, and budgets being prepared. It also allows me time to reenergize and escape the craziness when I get to take a week off with the kids for spring break. I look forward to a bit of kid chaos—and some relaxation—this month. I wouldn’t want it any other way!