July-August 2007

Executive Director’s Report

Rob Kepple

TDCAA Executive Director in Austin

TDCAA’s new home address: 505 West 12th Street

By the time you get this edition of the TEXAS PROSECUTOR, your association will have moved into some new office space. Many of you who have visited the offices at our building at 1210 Nueces know we are shoe-horned in that building. If we are going to meet the needs of a growing membership, we need more space, and we have secured a great spot right around the corner from our existing building for a five-year lease. Modest accommodations, to be sure, but plenty of space to grow with you. Our plans are still to find a permanent home in the future in the courthouse and capitol complex, and this building may very well be that home. But in the meantime, come by and visit us—our new digs are just a half-block south of the 1210 Nueces office at the corner of 12th and Nueces. We’re open for business!

Have you seen what they did to your Penal Code!?

I wouldn’t exactly say that the 80th Legislature ran amuck, but it sure ran. Bill filings were up 13 percent to a record high total of 5,921 bills. And more were passed—1,495—than ever before.

As usual, some great stuff passed … and some not so great stuff. There are some real eye-openers this session, so we hope to see you at a TDCAA Legislative Update near you this July or August.

And when I say “have you seen what they did to YOUR Penal Code,” I really mean about two-thirds of it is yours. I have learned from watching the legislature work that about two-thirds of the changes made to the criminal laws are things that the practitioners—prosecutors and defense lawyers—can use when they ply their craft. The other third belongs to the legislators themselves and amounts to policy pronouncements and single-shot responses to “crime de jour” issues. That’s fair enough, and prosecutors have never minded that other third—as long as it doesn’t mess up our two-thirds of the code book.

So did the legislature’s one-third—you know, guns, sex offenders, TYC, and juveniles—mess with your two-thirds? Come find out! (A hint: The legislature “went to the dogs” this session!)

Don’t look now, but Congress is working!

It may be agony to watch legislation work its way through the process in Texas, but that’s nuthin’ compared to rooting for a bill in the U.S. Congress. Seems that it can take years for the same bill to get filed, talked on, killed, refilled, discussed again, killed … well, you get the picture.

So it is with guarded optimism that I report that the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act of 2007, H.R. 916, passed the United States House of Representatives May 15. (You might recall that Congressman Ted Poe, a former Texas district judge, filed identical legislation and is a co-sponsor of this measure.) This bill as currently drafted would authorize a maximum of $10,000 a year, up to $60,000, for law school graduates who commit to work at least three years as a prosecutor or public defender to defray student loan repayment. It’s my understanding that the cost of the bill was pared down with the insertion of some “needs based” language, but hey, it is great to see the bill moving forward. And you may need to swallow hard at some of the arguments being used to push the bill: One representative from Georgia was quoted as saying: “Many innocent people are languishing in jails because we are not addressing this issue.”

Thanks to the folks at NDAA for their work on this and to our state representatives to NDAA, Mark Edwards (DA-Sweetwater), Henry Garza (DA-Belton), and Chuck Rosenthal (DA-Houston).

Remember, a lot still needs to happen before this bill becomes law. Even if it passes the Senate, the next Congress will need to take up separate legislation to actually fund the bill. So realistically, we are a long way from the finish here, but it is still good to see this important issue get the attention it deserves.

“Why I Want to be a Prosecutor” by Mark Little

For the war stories, of course. Some of you may have recently read a great little story submitted to the Buckmeyer column of the TEXAS BAR JOURNAL by Mike Little, our DA in Liberty. He was trying a murder case against legendary defense attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes. Seems the defendant was having an intimate relationship with a woman, and only God knows how it was relevant to the trial, but Mike’s cross-examination of the defendant wandered off into the nature of that relationship—all of which was witnessed by Mike’s son Mark Little, who is off to UT Law this fall and was impressed enough with his dad’s work to consider our trade.

Mike Little: Okay. But she gave you—she provided you—do you know what a gigolo is?
Defendant: No, sir.
Mike Little: It’s when a—the woman pays the man for sex. Kind of the reverse of a prostitute. Do you understand now?
Defendant: Yeah. But she never paid me, sir.
Mr. Haynes: Excuse me, I think I’m going to object to counsel’s description of what a gigolo is. There is a prominent singer who says I’m just a gigolo, and he does not suggest anywhere at all in the song that he’s trading his looks or his charm for sex. Or money.
Mike Little: Well, judge, maybe I’m wrong about what a gigolo is; I’ve never been in the business, but I was just trying to find out what this gentleman knew about it. [to defendant]: Without getting into a legal definition of gigolo, Mr. ____, Mrs. ______ was giving you, as I understand it, drinks, cigarettes, and lobster in exchange for you having sex with her?
Defendant: Not really, sir.
Mike Little: Not really. But she did treat you good?
Defendant: Yes, sir.
Mike Little: And that’s why you continued to have sex with her?
Defendant: Yes, sir.
Mike Little: Because she wasn’t pretty? She wasn’t pretty, was she?
Defendant: No, sir.
Mike Little: Do you have sex with ugly women all the time?
Mr. Haynes: I’m going to object to that, if the court please.
The Court: Sustained.
Mr. Haynes: If that was a crime, there would be a lot of us in jail.
Mike Little: Speak for yourself.

I can only imagine what Mark had to tell his mom when he went home that night from court. Quick thinking there, Mike! You earned big-time bonus points right there at Mother’s Day!

Meet Emily Kleine

Welcome to our newest staff member, Emily Kleine. Well to be precise, she works for the Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation and serves as the development director. The foundation has been growing quickly, and we need someone with Emily’s expertise and enthusiasm to keep up with y’all. Emily hails from Midland by way of Amarillo and Austin, and we are very excited to have her on board. Make sure to say hello at the next TDCAA conference or event!

TDCAA leadership nominations for 2008

The TDCAA annual business meeting will be held in conjunction with the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update in Corpus Wednesday, September 26, at 5 p.m. at the Omni Bayfront Hotel ballroom.

Under the bylaws, our current President Elect, Bill Turner (DA Bryan), will become our president for 2008, and David Williams (CA San Saba) will serve as our Board Chairman. In addition, at the annual business meeting, regional caucuses will be held to elect new regional directors for the following regions (with the current regional director listed in parentheses): Region 3 (Tony Hackebeil); Region 5 (Mike Little); Region 6 (Joe Brown); and Region 8 (Henry Garza). Any elected or assistant prosecutor is eligible to serve as a regional director, so if you have any questions about that position, just give me a call.

And a little bylaw business

Also at our annual business meeting on September 26, we will take up a couple of bylaw amendments relating to the association’s standing committees. In particular, I anticipate a motion from the chair of the Bylaws Committee, David Williams, to amend Article X, Section A, to add three new standing committees to the TDCAA governing committee structure. These committees would be: the Editorial Board, which advises Sarah Wolf, our communications director, on development of the TEXAS PROSECUTOR; the Publications Committee, which advises Diane Beckham, senior staff counsel, on TDCAA publications; and the Finance Committee, which directs TDCAA on financial matters and reports on financial activities to the full board. Finally, the Bylaws Committee will also propose that we amend the bylaws to change the name of the Education Committee to the Training Committee, which is what we have been calling it for the last 20 years or so. This serves as your notice of these proposed changes.