President's Message: The Road Taken - By Mark Snodgrass

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Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

As I sit at my desk writing this first President’s Message column for TCDLA, I cannot help but think of a cold winter day when my son Luke was about five years old. The two of us were driving down a dirt road, and we passed by a flat rock perched on top of a fence post. Luke glanced at me in with a look of wonder in his eye and asked, “Dad, how did that rock get there?” Over the next mile or two, he came up with several theories on his own, each a little more grandiose than the previous, before finally asking the question again. After studying on the question for a while, I wisely told him, “I have absolutely no idea.”

The same thing could be said about how I became president of this great organization. I am truly honored and humbled to be the 48th president of TCDLA. Looking back, I can honestly say that I am not really sure how I got here. I never intended to be a criminal defense attorney, much less president of this organization. One thing I do know is I would not be in this position if it were not for so many great members of this organization.

When I got out of law school, the absolute last thing I thought I wanted to be was a criminal defense lawyer. I was waiting on my bar results and had the good fortune to run into the late Floyd Holder while in Lubbock on a hunting trip with some old friends. Floyd was about two weeks from starting a federal hate-crime trial and asked if I wanted to do some research for him to help him get ready. I gladly accepted and two weeks later walked into the federal courthouse in Lubbock to help out in the first criminal trial I had ever seen in my life. Before the trial even began, the Honorable Sam Cummings had a lively “talk” with an attorney from Fort Worth who had tried to rearrange the chairs in his courtroom. During this talk, Judge Cummings’ face became redder and redder and his voice got louder and louder, before finally instructing the attorney to leave the furniture alone—with a few other choice words thrown in for good measure. I was not even a licensed attorney, but based on that little pretrial pep talk, I was pretty sure that criminal defense was my not calling.

The next thing I knew, I stuck around Floyd’s office after getting a bar card and I was primarily practicing criminal defense. Luckily Floyd started encouraging me to attend various TCDLA seminars. By attending these seminars, I was able to see that our clients were not the only ones being at times wrongly accused and having their constitutional rights trounced upon. I was amazed to see great lawyers like Gerry Goldstein, Scrappy Holmes, and many others too numerous to list speak and share their tremendous knowledge with anyone who cared to listen. I was amazed that not only would they try and help teach you the law, but they would also teach you how to use what you were learning. Somewhere during this time period, I realized the only kind of lawyer I wanted to be was a criminal defense lawyer.

Then one day in 2002 my friend Dan Hurley called me at the office and encouraged me to get more involved in TCDLA and to apply for a position as an associate board member. I luckily was elected to that position and began serving TCDLA under then-president Cynthia Orr, and have been trying to serve this organization ever since.

The great thing about TCDLA is dang sure not me, but the 3,200-plus men and women who make up its membership. Anything I have ever accomplished as an attorney can be somehow traced back to this great organization, whether it is an idea heard during a presentation at Rusty Duncan, a war story overheard at happy hour before a board meeting, a motion off the website, or some case learned of on the listserve. The members of this organization are its strength. This organization is full of folks who when they reach greater heights send the elevator back down to help others get there as well.

I want to encourage all our members to become more involved in TCDLA. TCDLA has over 30 committees that need your help. TCDLA helps put on more than 50 CLE events each year. TCDLA has an active lobbying team looking out for you and your clients’ interest. Let our legislative committee know what is important to you. I challenge each of you to find a young lawyer at your local courthouse and take him or her for coffee and encourage them to join TCDLA. TCDLA is a better and stronger organization when our members are involved and active. We do not need to make TCDLA great again; TCDLA is already a great organization. Our members being involved and participating make TCDLA even greater.

A well-deserved thank you, David Moore, for your tremendous leadership through some interesting times this past year. Thank you as well to the other 46 men and women who have come before me in this office for your tremendous service and vision in leading our great organization. Thank you to our recently retired executive director Joseph Martinez for his tremendous service to this organization. Congratulations and thank you to Melissa Schank, who was recently named executive director of TCDLA after many years of yeoman’s service. Thank you also goes out the current officers, board members, committee members, and TCDLA staff for their tremendous service to TCDLA. Finally, thank you to all the members of the greatest organization of criminal defense lawyers in the country who daily stand as a last defense against the power of the government.