Interim Update: December 2015

          TDCAA’s office will be closed from December 24, 2015–January 3, 2016. But before we wish everyone continued peace and happiness heading into the holiday break, we thought we’d send out one final missive for 2015 reminding you that it’s never too late for state government to drop a lump of coal in your stocking.


Guns and courthouses

            Late yesterday, the AG’s Office handed down four gun-related opinions—two on guns in courthouses (KP-0047 and KP-0049), one on guns at primary and secondary schools (KP-0050), and one on campus carry at higher ed locations (KP-0051). You’ll want to read them all, but we’ve provided you with a handy summary of each one via this week’s case summaries, which are available at if you didn’t already receive one by email. (And if you don’t subscribe to our case summaries, you really should make that one of your New Year’s resolutions—sign up at today!)

            As we have been saying all along, the results of these requests on guns in courthouses were foreordained, so you should not be surprised by their conclusions. And as we have also been telling you, “Attorney general opinions are highly persuasive and are entitled to great weight; however, the ultimate determination of a law’s applicability, meaning, or constitutionality is left to the courts.” (We stole that directly from the AG’s opinion website, by the way.) So if you disagree with these AG opinions and want to ban all firearms from your courthouse—as has long been the unchallenged practice in many Texas counties—the courts are where it will be settled.

            There is too much to be said about these opinions to include in this short update, so we’ll leave you with these thoughts for now.

            There is much in these four opinions that OAG likely got right (especially in KP-0050 regarding school grounds). Both courthouse opinions also note repeatedly that the law is confusing and sometimes internally inconsistent, so OAG’s task was not an easy one. That explains why those two opinions may be of limited direct impact, since the only thing that they establish for certain is that counties will not be sued if they limit handgun bans to only courtrooms and court-related offices in a government building. Unfortunately, the opinions provide very little guidance regarding the civil (or criminal) consequences of more broadly prohibiting weapons in courthouses, and it may even give gun advocates a false sense of protection from criminal prosecution in certain situations.

            It seems to us that the two key assertions in KP-0047 and KP-0049 are:

(1) that the courthouse protection provided by Penal Code §46.03(a)(3) is limited only to courtrooms, court offices, and other “essential” offices; and

(2) that Government Code §411.209, the civil enforcement provision created by Senate Bill 273, applies to situations beyond the improper posting of notices related to concealed handguns, even though the plain language and legislative history of that law specifically limit it to that topic(!).

Counties wishing to continue their long-standing bans on all firearms in their courthouses should be prepared to rebut both of those assertions if/when they are sued by OAG. And yes, we have some ideas on how to do so, but that’s for another discussion at another time. For further information on this topic, call or email Shannon. (Note: TDCAA’s offices will be closed from December 24–January 3, but he will be monitoring his email.)


Interim hearings

            Despite a busy election schedule, our state legislators will still find plenty of time to hold hearings on various topics in 2016. Below is a list of the relevant interim committee hearings posted to date:


Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs & Military Installations, Subcommittee on Border Security

Friday, January 22, 2016, at 10:00 AM, State Capitol, Room E1.012

Topic:  Sanctuary cities and public safety


Senate Committee on State Affairs

Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at 9:00 AM, State Capitol—Senate Chamber

Topic:  Implementation of open carry and campus carry (invited testimony only)


Senate Committee on Business & Commerce

Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at 10:00 AM, State Capital Room E1.012

Topic:  Elder financial abuse and exploitation; collection of delinquent ad valorem property taxes (invited testimony only)


Senate Committee on Finance

Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at 1:00 PM, State Capitol Room E1.036

Topic:  State funding and coordination of behavioral and mental health services


Senate Committee on Criminal Justice

Wednesday, January 27, 2016, State Capitol Room E1.012

Topic:  County and municipal jail regulation


Senate Committee on Transportation

Wednesday, January 27, 2016, at 9:00 AM, State Capitol Room E1.016

Topic:  vehicle inspections; necessity of Driver Responsibility Program


If you have questions about any of these hearings, call or email Shannon for more information.


New TRE, TRAP changes

            The Court of Criminal Appeals recently adopted changes to several Rules of Evidence and Rules of Appellate Procedure that can be viewed at These changes to TRE 615 and TRAP 73.5 and 79.2 were made too late for inclusion in our code books, but you will still be responsible for knowing them, so don’t overlook this notice!


Results of TDCAA Annual Business Meeting

            TDCAA’s Annual Business Meeting was held in conjunction with the 2015 Elected Prosecutor Conference earlier this month. As a result of the elections at that meeting, your board of directors for 2016 is as follows (with newly-elected officers in bold):


Chairman of the Board:          Staley Heatly, 46th DA (Vernon)

President of the Board:          Bernard Ammerman, Willacy Co. C&DA

President-Elect:                      Randall Sims, 47th DA (Amarillo)

Secretary/Treasurer:               Jennifer Tharp, Comal Co. CDA
                                                      (New Braunfels)

DA Representative:                Julie Renken, 21st DA (Brenham)

CDA Representative:             Jack Roady, Galveston Co. CDA (Galveston)

CA Representative:                Vince Ryan, Harris Co. CA (Houston)

Asst. Prosecutor Rep.:            Woody Halstead, Bexar Co. Asst. CDA
                                                     (San Antonio)

Region 1:                                Wally Hatch, 64th/242nd DA (Plainview)

Region 2:                                Bill Helwig, Yoakum CDA (Plains)

Region 3:                                Rebekah Whitworth, Mason Co. CA (Mason)

Region 4:                                Jose Aliseda, 156th DA (Beeville)

Region 5:                                Steve Reis, 23rd DA (Bay City)

Region 6:                                Kenda Culpepper, Rockwall Co. CDA

Region 7:                                Mike Fouts, 39th DA (Haskell)

Region 8:                                Dusty Boyd, 52nd DA (Gatesville)


If you see a new member of the board, be sure to thank him or her for stepping up to ensure TDCAA’s continued success!


Quotes of the month


“Well, for one, it was the most anti-local government session that I have seen. I’m disturbed by that.”
           —State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), when asked his impressions of the 84th Regular Session by County magazine.


“I don’t want somebody walking down the road with a sandwich bag.”
            —Georgetown Asst. Police Chief Cory Tschida, eliciting laughs at a public forum on open carry when responding to a question about the legislature’s failure to define “holster.”


“I didn’t think the bankruptcy cases would attract such attention.”
            —Chief Justice John Roberts’ tongue-in-cheek reaction to an interruption of oral arguments by people protesting one of the Supreme Court’s previous campaign finance rulings.


“They should give them some stiff sentences is what they ought to do. Give them stiff, stiff sentences. Stiff sentences.”
            —Justice Scalia (of course!), making private comments about the protestors to his colleagues that were inaudible to the audience but could be heard by those listening to the audio recordings afterwards.


“If nothing else, it gives us something to talk about other than Donald Trump’s hair.”
            —Alex Williams, New York Times Style reporter, concluding an article about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s new beard.


“Telling Trump supporters that they should vote for Jerry Patterson while simultaneously opining that anybody who votes for Trump is an idiot is not a good formula for success.”
            —Jerry Patterson, former Land Commissioner, explaining why he’s not running for railroad commissioner.


“I guess Christmas Eve was booked.”
            —Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, claiming that the DNC’s habit of scheduling candidate debates on weekends (when viewership is low) is an attempt to protect the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.