Friday, June 26, 2020

Sure, there are some national/state/local officials who may have mis-managed their responses to the coronavirus, but none of them may be as incompetent as the people “running” Major League Baseball. (Running it into the ground, that is. C’mon, quit arguing about money and play ball already!)

Hot off the presses!

At this morning’s quarterly meeting of TDCAA’s Board of Directors, it was officially decided that our 2020 Annual Conference in South Padre Island will *not* be held in-person due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This decision was not taken lightly, but the negative impact that even a single COVID-19 case can have upon a prosecutor’s office is too great to risk at this time. Of course, this is far from the first time our Annual Conference has been cancelled—after all, it is always held during hurricane season!—but this is earliest we’ve ever cancelled one, and we hope this added notice gives everyone an opportunity to adjust their plans accordingly. But don’t worry about falling short of your continuing education obligations; TDCAA’s training team is already at work designing top-notch online Annual Conference training opportunities! Stay tuned for more information about that soon and see below for online offerings available in the meantime.

Coronavirus news and notes

There has been plenty of medical news on this front this week—most of it bad—but not much in the way of legal changes. (Yet).

The relaxing of stay-at-home orders around Memorial Day weekend and various public gatherings and protests since then are a pretty clear indicator that many Texans are done with the coronavirus, even if the coronavirus is not done with them. (We didn’t come up with that quip, but we liked it enough to steal it.) Despite the governor repeatedly urging everyone to wear a mask when out and about and his tacit blessing of local governments imposing mask-wearing requirements through mandates on the businesses in their communities, positive COVID-19 results continue to skyrocket as younger cohorts now contract the disease. As a result, the governor is halting his plan for re-opening the state, as evidenced by three executive acts this week.

First, the governor amended the then-current statewide executive order (GA-26) with a proclamation issued Tuesday to allow local city and county officials to impose limits on outdoor gatherings of greater than 100 people (down from 500), subject to a few exceptions. Then on Thursday, he issued Executive Order GA-27 to ban elective surgeries in certain metro counties hardest hit by the recent outbreaks, which was a tool the state previously utilized a few months ago to guarantee sufficient hospital resources for treating COVID-19 cases. And this morning, he issued Executive Order GA-28 to supersede GA-26 and re-affirm Tuesday’s proclamation by banning most outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people, banning people from hanging out at bars or patronizing tubing/rafting rental businesses, and reducing capacities for restaurants and certain other businesses effective as of noon today.

These steps mark the first official retrenchment of the governor’s plan to re-open the state, but they may not be the last. This week’s revisions appear to be an attempt to prevent Memorial Day Weekend-type social gatherings, which may have contributed to this latest surge, from happening again during the upcoming three-day weekend around Independence Day. Let’s see if anyone has learned their lesson.

Revisiting last week’s musings

Remember this comment in last week’s Friday update?

In our decades (yes, that’s plural) of experience at the Legislature, the “named” bills that fare the best tend to be those that focus on addressing the specific problems that led to the injustice against the bill’s namesake rather than trying to turn one tragedy into a poster child for fixing multiple perceived wrongs. Whether that holds true for the future George Floyd Act remains to be seen.

Right on cue, the Minnesota state legislature adjourned a special session on police accountability Saturday without reaching agreement on how that state should address additional reforms, in part because one chamber sought much broader changes than the other could stomach. And as of the time this update was published, Congress was also gridlocked on competing partisan versions of policing reform at the national level due to rivals’ claims that the other chamber’s proposal was either too timid or too extreme. Interestingly, the two chambers of Congress are controlled by different political parties, as are the two chambers of the Minnesota state legislature—which is currently the only state legislature to hold that distinction. With talk in local political circles that the Texas House might see a Democratic takeover in November—but not the state Senate, where Republicans are firmly in control—policy stand-offs such as those in Washington, D.C. and St. Paul could become more frequent in Austin as well. As they say: elections have consequences!

New TDCAA books

Need some new reading material while you are working from home or socially distancing from your co-workers and court personnel? We have just the thing! TDCAA has rolled out two books on completely new topics by two of our most popular speakers in their fields:

Family Violence by Staley Heatly (46th Judicial DA)
Jury Selection by Ryan Calvert (Assistant DA in Brazos County)

For more information about any of our publications, click here.

New TDCAA online training

Our first General Advocacy online CLE course is now available! This training features prosecutors from across Texas sharing tips, processes, and other advice on how become a better courtroom advocate. The fee is $25, and attorneys who complete the course will receive one hour of CLE credit. Click here for more details or to access the webinar, and be sure to check back periodically as this is just the first in a series of high-quality online courses we plan to offer.

Other online training

During the coronavirus pandemic, the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI) will be offering free on-line training for state and local prosecutors on the WebEx platform. The next offering of their training on “The Challenges of Encryption for Prosecutors” will be held on Wednesday, July 1 at 2:00 p.m. EST. To register for the class, you must be an active state or local prosecutor and you must use an official government email address. Click here for more details.

TDCAA coronavirus resources

Remember, all of our COVID-19 resources—including sample motions and orders, helpful information, and past updates like this one—are available at If you or someone in your office has something you would like to share with your peers, consider emailing it to Shannon for inclusion.

Quotes of the Week

“For the first four to six weeks it was really more of an educational outreach on behalf of the TABC just to let people know what the requirements were and what the potential consequences are. Now, as of this weekend, we’re really moving into the enforcement phase where we are implementing consequences for businesses in violation.”
            —Chris Porter, TABC spokesman, in an article about that agency’s coronavirus-related undercover investigations and license suspensions that began last weekend.

“I hate him. I truly hate him.”
            —Tony McDonald, general counsel for the far-right activist group Empower Texans, caught on a hot mic with a co-worker while they were making fun of Gov. Abbott’s disability and saying various other unkind and profane things about him. (This was probably the mildest comment we felt comfortable printing. You’ll have to click on the link for all the latest details to this soap opera, remembering that this is the same outfit that surreptitiously recorded Speaker Bonnen and released those details last summer.)

“In Texas, we’re still bickering whether or not to wear face masks. And I’m like, ‘Really?’… We’ve got to do more than simply put on face masks. … Every passing day it gets harder and harder to put this back in the bottle.”
           —Dr. Peter Hotez, infectious disease expert, advocating for another round of stay-at-home orders to stop the building wave of new COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Until our next update, keep check our website and Twitter feed for the latest COVID-19 news.