President's Message: Reflections of 43 Years and Challenges Ahead - By Bobby Mims

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Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

More than 43 years ago a group of lawyers decided that a separate organization devoted to the training, education and support of criminal defense attorneys was needed. These lawyers literally drove all over Texas collecting money to start the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. For years this small band of brothers and sisters worked and fought to prevent the erosion of the rule of law. From that small group the TCDLA has emerged as the largest and most effective state association of criminal defense lawyers in the United States.

Among the members of this association are some of the finest lawyers in the nation. Some are nationally known superstars, but all are courageous fighters for justice. Every day in every court in Texas TCDLA lawyers confront power and advocate for the defendant. Every TCDLA member stands shoulder to shoulder with criminal defense lawyers as they walk into the courtrooms of Texas. There are few more cohesive groups than the members of this association.

I am reminded of past victories and challenges of TCDLA lawyers. The great lawyers of the past are benchmarks for the lawyers of today. Today criminal defense lawyers are challenged like never before. The erosion of the 4th Amendment, invasion of privacy, attack on the judiciary and the jury system by forces inside and outside of the legal profession are faced daily by TCDLA lawyers. The Patriot Act, NSA surveillance, parallel investigations and out right perjury by government agents in the name of national security are the known challenges facing criminal defense attorneys. We are fortunate to live in a time when the country needs criminal defense lawyers as never before.

May 2014 President's Message

TCDLA is on the cutting edge of legal training and provides the best criminal defense training in the nation. As forensic science evolves, TCDLA will continue to be at the forefront in training the criminal defense bar. TCDLA and its members will continue to set the standard of practice for criminal defense representation during the 21st century. There has been progress in educating the public and the judiciary about the perils of junk science. Texas has made significant progress in protection of the accused by reform of eyewitness testimony, arson science, DNA exonerations, lineups,and compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The Indigent Defense Commission and the Innocence Project of Texas are led by TCDLA lawyers. The Forensic Science Commission has been depoliticized, and its chairperson is a scientist. There have been improvements in the investigation and correction of crime labs, and incompetent analysts have been exposed and dismissed. There is a need for an independent Forensic Science Lab under the Forensic Science Commission. This should be a priority for the next legislature. This independent lab should be created immediately by the Legislature and forensic evidence testing removed from the Department of Public Safety. The avoided cost of exoneree compensation alone might justify the investment.

The Morton Act appears to be having a positive effect on prosecutors, as evidenced by the recent spate of voluntary disclosures of crime lab errors. Many prosecutors are requiring that the police provide statements that they have fully complied with delivering Brady and other materials favorable to the defense to the prosecutor along with the case file. Many in the law enforcement and prosecution communities appear to be mindful of the events of Williamson County. There will likely be calls to modify the Morton Act in the next legislature by some of these interests. TCDLA will resist all efforts to roll back Morton but rather will seek to improve the Act to give even more protection.

As we go forward with an excellent group of Officers and Directors, supported by the best professional staff in the business, TCDLA members can be confident that they have the support of the organization. TCDLA will have increased challenges and obligations, and members may be asked to provide more resources since the association has taken on more obligations in service to the membership, to the public, and to the legislature. TCDLA is dedicated to assisting legislators as they consider new legislation to resist any further erosion of individual rights. TCDLA will be very active at the legislature, ready to provide assistance to leaders as they formulate laws affecting our members and clients.

Recently, the nation observed Memorial Day by honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America and the Constitution. As this organization was being formed more than 43 years ago this nation was embroiled in the Vietnam War. America was more divided than at anytime since the Civil War. Those founders saw the need to bring warriors for justice together to defend the Constitution and formed the TCDLA. We honor our veterans, as we should, but you, the TCDLA criminal defense lawyer who goes to court every day armed with nothing more than the law and your skill, do as much to defend freedom and the Constitution as I ever did when I wore the uniform in that war more than 43 years ago.

It has been an honor to have served as the 43rd President of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Of the things in this life that I am most proud, besides my family, it’s that I am a member of the TCDLA and a criminal defense attorney.

Bobby Mims