Friday, September 11, 2020

Nineteen years have passed, but today will always be a “Where were you when …” day for those of us who can vividly recall the events of 9/11/2001. Contrast that with the continuing awfulness of 2020: Coronavirus, economic recession, institutional decline, natural disasters, unjust deaths, and social, political, and racial unrest … how will we remember these days? Will we even choose to remember them? Check back with us in 2039 and we’ll let you know.

In need of a good deed

On top of all that 2020 has dumped in our laps, our friends in Louisiana must face the challenges of recovering from the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Laura, which Texas largely dodged. While the death toll was thankfully low, the impact on those who must rebuild is immense. In response, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) is partnering with its foundation to collect charitable donations to support those DA employees’ families affected by Hurricane Laura. Here is a message for you on that topic from Loren M. Lampert, the Executive Director of LDAA:

Dear Texas prosecutors: The devastation caused by Hurricane Laura in SW Louisiana is indescribable. They are predicting Cameron Parish (east of Beaumont) will lose 50 percent of its residents permanently, as this is the third storm in 15 years to wreak havoc on the region. Calcasieu Parish (think Lake Charles) is also reeling from massive destruction to infrastructure, homes, and industry. The storm and the catastrophic infrastructure damage have displaced hundreds of DA employees and their families. LDAA’s fundraising efforts are dedicated solely to those employees/families. Needs range from generators, fuel, food, and rentals to help meeting the ever-increasing “named-storm deductible” that catches folks by surprise. I know these are trying times for everyone. 2020 sucks! Thank you for your assistance and thank you for your prayers and support.

Those who would like to help out or repay past assistance provided by our Cajun Navy neighbors can donate by CLICKING HERE. Any amount will be greatly appreciated.

To Zoom or not to Zoom?

Two sets of recommendations recently came out on how best to conduct criminal court proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) reviewed the outcome of various jury trials over the summer and then submitted to the Texas Supreme Court its findings. As one might expect, Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations and Recommendations confirms and reinforces the prior recommendations issued by the high court and enforced by OCA. Of note is the agency’s recommendation that virtual jury proceedings in jailable criminal cases proceed only with the consent of both the prosecution and the defense.

Meanwhile, the State Bar of Texas’ Presidential Task Force on Criminal Court Proceedings recently offered its own recommendations for criminal court proceedings during the pandemic. That 17-member task force composed of judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys largely echoed the state agency’s position on most issues, including an even stronger recommendation that no portion of a criminal jury trial be conducted by videoconference (with the possible exception of a witness’s testimony). You can read that task force’s report here.

While these reports and recommendations may be of interest to practitioners, the edict that really counts will be the one to replace current Emergency Order No. 22, which was issued by the Texas Supreme Court on August 6, 2020, and continues to ban most jury proceedings until October 1, 2020. That decree will likely be updated before the end of the month, and we will summarize for you any changes in procedure that result.

Pollin’ pollin’ pollin’, Rawhide!

You can check out the result of the latest Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler political poll HERE, including partisan breakdowns on various police reform issues.

TDCAA Annual Conference

Our 2020 Annual Criminal & Civil Law Conference launches next week! To get more details or register for this new online course, click HERE. More than 750 people have registered so far; don’t get left behind—sign up today!

Free TCOLE training

We are also offering another FREE virtual course: online Effective Courtroom Testimony Training for Officers and Investigators (4 hours of TCOLE credit). This course expires at the end of the month, so click HERE to find out more. Limited time and limited enrollment; don’t delay!

TDCAA coronavirus resources

All our COVID-19 resources—including sample motions and orders, helpful information, and past updates like this one—are available HERE. If you find or create something useful that you’d like to share with your peers, send it our way!

Break time, the sequel

Remember how we told you two weeks ago that we’d be taking a few weeks off from issuing these updates to get some R&R? Well, we had to take a raincheck on that trip because of a certain 10-year-old’s ill-tempered appendix. (Isn’t 2020 just the worst year ever?!? But don’t worry, all is well now—for everything except the offending organ, that is, which is now an ex-appendix thanks to the good people at the local children’s hospital.) As a result, we intend to collect on our aforementioned raincheck next week, which means there will be no update next Friday.

Quotes of the Week

“We have run ourselves in Texas into a system where we only look at one thing and that’s the letter by name of candidate, whether that be an R or a D primarily. That yields bad candidates and therefore bad elected officials. And bad elected officials end up producing pretty poor policy.”
            —Ron Simmons, the former state representative (R-Carrolton) who in 2017 passed the law to eliminate straight ticket voting as of this November’s general election.

“I’ve always believed that it was a conservative principle that you allow local decisions to be made locally whenever possible. Somehow that’s gotten kind of lost in the translation in my party, and I think that can be a dangerous thing.”
            —Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), former House Speaker, in response to an interview question about the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“[Hemp] is not quite as lucrative as everybody thought it was going to be.”
            —State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R), in a story last month about the struggles of Texas’ budding hemp industry caused by an oversupply of hemp products during the economic slowdown.

“This misdemeanor bail reform is working as intended, and there are real results. Many more people are released promptly, cash bond amounts are vastly reduced except in cases where there will be public safety concerns … [ and] there has been no change in [general] reoffending.”
            —Brandon Garrett, Duke University law professor and independent monitor of the bail reforms ordered by a federal court in Houston, announcing the release of data that curiously failed to document either the specific recidivism rates of the people released under the court’s order or the rate at which those released offenders appeared again for court—two data points that some might consider to be the primary purposes of bail. (The report itself may be read here.)

“If you ask 100 people what they mean by ‘defund the police,’ you’ll get 100 different answers. There’s no pamphlet or handbook or curriculum defining that. It’s a slogan.”
            —Michael Lawlor, associate professor of criminal justice at New Haven University, as quoted in a story about the on-going political debate in Texas surrounding policing reform.

“To take all policing off is something a ‘latte liberal’ may go for as they sit around the Hamptons discussing this as an academic problem, but people living on the ground need proper policing.”
            —Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC commentator, describing disagreements on the political left over “defund the police” narratives.

“We have more confidence in District Attorney Creuzot investigating than the Dallas Police Department. [The latter] is like having a tobacco company issue a report of why smoking doesn’t cause cancer.”
            —David Villalobos, of the Texas Organizing Project, referring to the Dallas County Criminal DA’s announcement that he will independently review allegations of improper arrests and the use of excessive force at public protests back in May following the death of George Floyd.