September-October 2014

Criminal Justice Section sponsors Brady webinar

Rob Kepple

TDCAA Executive Director in Austin

I am pleased to announce that the Criminal Justice Section of the State Bar of Texas has agreed to be the major sponsor of the TDCAA Brady webinar that will be online soon. As you know, every lawyer prosecuting criminal cases must complete an hour of training on the duty to disclose exculpatory and mitigating evidence and information pursuant to Government Code §41.111. We want to make sure that training is accessible for everyone, and a generous grant from the State Bar’s Criminal Justice Section will allow us to produce and offer the webinar free of charge through the TDCAA website.
    The Criminal Justice Section is one of the largest sections of our Bar, and it is a meeting point of the three major actors in the criminal courtroom: judges, criminal defense attorneys, and prosecutors. The section’s mission is to bring the three together to foster cooperation, collegiality, and education for the betterment of the all three professions.  
    I want to thank the Section Board and all of its members for their support. The Brady webinar is important not only for full-time prosecutors, but also for those criminal practitioners who pick up even a single prosecution as a special or pro tem. And under the Court of Criminal Appeals rules relating to Government Code §41.111, the training provided in 2014 will be “good” until the need for re-training in 2018. This Brady video will be around awhile, so it needs to be a quality product. With the Section’s support, it will be.

Advanced Trial
Advocacy Course
The core of the Foundation’s mission is to support prosecutor excellence. Again this year the Foundation has been able to fund TDCAA’s Advanced Trial Advocacy Course held in Waco at the Baylor College of Law in early August.  A big “thank you” to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which offered enduring support for this crucial training to benefit its prosecutors and others around the state. This is one of the best trial advocacy courses in the country, but it is a people- and resource-intensive exercise. We couldn’t do it without that support.

Invitations are in the mail
Invitations to join the Texas Prosecutors Society have been extended, and the 2014 class will be announced at a reception in the Society’s honor at the Elected Prosecutor Conference on December 3, 2014, in Austin. The society was created in 2011 as a way to gather those who have an enduring interest in the profession of prosecution and who want to support the improvement of the profession into the future. The members are asked to make a contribution of $2,500 over 10 years to the Foundation Endowment Fund, which, as they say, will turn into “real money” in no time flat with the support and interest we have had to date in the society. The Foundation Board works to identify nominees every spring, so if you have not received your invitation to join this year, sorry—but perhaps next year!

Couldn’t say it better
Not long ago I received a letter from one of the original Foundation supporters, Tom Hanna. He was the long-time CDA in Beaumont and one of the original cast of prosecutors who re-drafted the State Bar’s proposed 1974 Penal Code. It was great to be reminded of those who stepped up when it was time to advance criminal justice in Texas, folks like Dain Whitworth, Carol Vance, Sam Robertson, Mike Hinton, Mike McCormick, and Bob Smith, to name just a few. It is work by these leaders that advanced the reputation of Texas prosecutors as committed public servants.
    I think Tom may have hit the nail on the head in his closing paragraphs:  “Yes, there are challenges facing prosecutors and the Association. Some have been brought on by prosecutors behaving badly, some by changing attitudes of fundamental fairness, some by the complexities of life in the 21st Century. That is why the Foundation is sorely needed and why I have been proud to support it.
    “When I was elected those many years ago, I was asked if I aspired to higher office. I responded then, and still believe it now, that the office of Criminal District Attorney (my office) was the highest office to which a lawyer could be elected because it was the chief law enforcement office in the county.”
    Thanks, Tom, for your work on behalf of your county and the state. And thanks for your continued support and good thoughts!