July 16, 2021

Courts of Appeals

Huggins v. State

No. 10-19-00096-CR                  7/7/21

Issue:

Are trial courts required to provide admonishments about the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation if a defendant does not contest his guilt in a felony case?

Holding:

No. Art. 1.051 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure does not require a trial court to admonish the defendant before approving a waiver of the right to counsel and accepting a guilty plea. The Court noted that in Hatten v. State, 71 S.W.3d 334 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), the Court of Criminal Appeals’s decision did not turn on whether the case was a felony or misdemeanor, but instead focused on whether the defendant contested guilt. Read opinion.

Commentary:

Keep a copy of this in your trial notebook under “pro se/obstreperous defendants,” because there is always that guy who thinks he is smarter than his lawyer, the prosecutor, and the judge. This opinion is also handy on the issue of what happens when the pro se defendant decides to change his mind mid-stream.

Attorney General Opinions

KP-0377                          7/14/21

Issue:

What are the residency requirements to become a candidate for county attorney?

Conclusion:

Residency, for purposes of the Election Code, involves considering the candidate’s physical presence and intent to reside in the particular location, which are factual questions not within the scope of authority for the Attorney General’s Office to determine. Read opinion.

Commentary:

When novelist John Steinbeck said that “Texas is a state of mind,” he probably didn’t realize that he was also summarizing the residency requirements for Texas election law, but that lack of specificity in statute surprises no one who is aware of the substantial number of legislators who have taken advantage of that laxity themselves.

KP-0376                          7/12/21

Issue:

Do Local Government Code Chapter 171 regarding conflicts of interest and Government Code Chapter 573 regarding nepotism apply to a county attorney whose father-in-law is a partner at a law firm that contracts with the county?

Conclusion:

No. The nepotism statute prohibits a public official from appointing certain relatives to a position but does not apply to a county’s award of a collections services contract to a law firm. Under §89.001 of the Local Government Code, it is the county attorney’s duty to select special counsel to collect the county’s delinquent receivables. Because this requires commissioners court approval, there is no “‘vote or decision’ requiring the county attorney to comply with the conflict-of-interest procedures under Subsection 171.004(a) of the Local Government Code.” Read opinion.

Commentary:

If the official in question chooses the vendor, it would be a conflict of interest, but choosing a vendor who commissioners vote up-or-down on is not.