Friday, July 31, 2020
Congratulations! You made it through another month of The Covid. Please celebrate in an appropriately socially-distanced manner with a beverage of your choice.
Covid and the courts
As we go to press with this edition, there is only one new coronavirus order to tell you about that changes the legal status quo. In an emergency order posted today, the Texas Supreme Court extended until September 15 the limitations on civil case filings and service for deadlines that fall between March 13 and September 1, 2020. As with previous similar orders, this extension does not include appellate deadlines.
Elsewhere, in this week’s round of TDCAA regional Zoom meetings, multiple prosecutors shared stories about anxious judges trying to get permission from the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to have jury trials before the current green flag date of September 1, 2020. If your jurisdiction pulls one off, please let us know—we’d love to hear how it went! One thing that most meeting participants felt comfortable with was the initial empaneling of a grand jury using Zoom-type technology, but any petit jury trial held under current circumstances will be cumbersome regardless of format. Whatever happens, the only thing we can guarantee is that *you* will be the ones having to defend the legality of any resulting jury conviction or sentence, so let’s hope the people making these decisions get it right the first time.
In what may turn out to be biggest data breach in U.S. law enforcement history, the “hacktivists” at Anonymous and DDoSecrets have apparently obtained several hundred gigabytes of law enforcement personnel files and internal communications (including other citizens’ personal information) and are publicizing some of it on the dark web in sympathy with recent anti-police brutality protests. The data was allegedly obtained through a hack of Netsential, a Houston-based company that hosted web portals for hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the country. Although DPS did not contract with that company, other law enforcement agencies and multi-agency fusion centers in Texas did. (Click on the hyperlinks in this paragraph for more information courtesy of three different sources.)
The FBI is being tight-lipped about its ongoing investigations into the data breach, but if this is the first you’ve heard of it, consider taking several steps in response.
First, reach out to your local law enforcement agencies to determine if any of their data or communications were illegally obtained, and if so, check whether that hacked data included personal information about, or communications with, your office or your employees.
Second, make sure your office is in compliance with House Bill 3834, which passed last session and requires all local government employees and elected officials who have access to a local government computer system or database to annually complete a state-approved cybersecurity training program. (More information about that mandate can be found HERE from our friends at the Texas Association of Counties.) While this data breach was not made through a local government portal, recent successful hacks of the state judiciary and various city and county computer systems highlight the need to remain vigilant against such cyber-attacks.
And third, re-familiarize yourself with the Penal Code provisions applicable to the illegal use or dissemination of peace officers’ or other public servants’ personal information—aka “doxing”—as laid out in §36.06(a-1) (Obstruction or Retaliation) and §38.15(d-1) (Interference with Public Duties), just in case you start seeing such cases in your jurisdiction. (Yes, there are two different crimes with different elements and different punishments for what may be the same conduct—if you demand clarity and consistency in your penal laws, we’re afraid you are in the wrong state.)
Registration for our 2020 Annual Conference is now live! Check your mailbox for our latest brochure or click HERE for all the details.
And if you haven’t checked out our two latest online training videos, these dog days of summer are a great time to get some high-quality CLE from the air-conditioned comfort of your home or office. To learn more about our new General Advocacy and Caseload Management multi-presenter courses, click HERE.
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 https://www.tdcaa.com/covid-19-information/.
Quotes of the Week
“To see people standing in Portland destroying property and not actually doing the work of advocating for Black people was disturbing. I think they’re a distraction from the everyday needs of people of color, especially Black people. My life is not going to improve because you broke the glass at the Louis Vuitton store.”
—Rachelle Dixon, vice chair of the Multnomah County (OR) Democrats, expressing frustration at the way in which the nightly—and sometimes violent—protests in Portland have strayed from their original intent.
“I’ve never thought I’d have to walk around in my office building wearing a gas mask to go sit in front of my computer.”
—A Deputy U.S. Marshal working in the Portland (OR) Federal Courthouse during the nightly protests/riots going on right now, as quoted in a story by AP reporters embedded both in the courthouse and outside with the protestors.
“Five years is too damn long. I can’t imagine that seven years will pass before he enters a courtroom. That’s unimaginable to me. That would be a crime unto itself.”
—Bill Miller, Austin lobbyist and political consultant, on the criminal prosecution that has now been pending for more than five years against Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), who next faces re-election in 2022.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think anybody is going to be convicted of anything. Our judicial system should be tilted toward the defendant, and that’s hard to swallow sometimes.”
—Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, author of the state’s original concealed carry law when he was a state senator, opining on the potential outcome of the shooting death of an armed protestor by another civilian in Austin last weekend.
“Your protest was about trying to intimidate me and my family so I would drop the charges against people who have been arrested for crimes committed under the cover of what have largely been peaceful protests in the city and county I grew up in and have lived in. … If you are committed to justice and to talking about how we can work to make Dane County a better place for all citizens, you know my phone number—you put it on flyers—and you are welcome to call me.”
—Ismael Ozanne, Dane County (WI) District Attorney, in a press release issued after protesters gathered outside his Madison home last weekend and chanted “F*** Ozanne” (along with other chants) until 1:00 a.m. (Ozanne, a Democrat, is the first African-American district attorney in Wisconsin’s history.)