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President's Column
May-June 2009

Many plans in the works at TDCAA

Barry Macha

Criminal District Attorney in Wichita County

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” is a famous Lewis Carroll quote about planning your future. Me personally, I like Yogi Berra’s remix of that old saw: “If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up someplace else.” The lesson is the same: We need to plan our course, then follow the plan. That’s what we are doing at TDCAA.

TDCAA exists to serve you, the people on the front lines of crime-fighting in our state. To make sure we stay true to the mission, TDCAA operates from a series of five-year plans. We are now three years into a plan adopted in 2006, and we have made substantial progress. First and foremost, of course, is the creation of our ground-breaking Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation (TDCAF), which in short duration has paid for significant training and educational resources and promises to be a big part of our future. Thanks for your support and leadership in this effort!

One major goal is to continue to bring TDCAA services to you in a more timely and efficient manner. To that end, we have transitioned away from written case summaries that in the past would get to you weeks or even months after the opinions were issued. We now e-mail case summaries every week, complete with insightful commentaries from experienced prosecutors. Additionally, we have eliminated the huge binders of seminar materials that invariably gathered dust on the bookshelves in favor of an electronic delivery of the course materials through a simple download.

Finally, we continue to beef up the TDCAA website, with new additions such as the DWI resource section, which now features Richard Alpert’s constantly updated collection of DWI caselaw.

Another big area in our long range plan is TDCAA’s ability to offer expert legal assistance. Very soon, TDCAA will increase its technical assistance in a couple of major ways. First, through the foundation’s support, TDCAA will hire an expert appellate attorney who can assist prosecutors around the state as they develop criminal jurisprudence in our intermediate appellate courts. This new attorney will coordinate with the State Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on approaches to major legal issues as well as giving direct assistance to prosecutors all over the state.

In addition, prosecutors continue to need special prosecutors in cases where they have a conflict. It has been a great need this last year, in which 76 newly elected prosecutors took office and were required in many instances to avoid prosecuting former clients. We know that you can get some help from the AG’s office, but its resources are limited. TDCAA is committed to developing a resource bank upon which you can draw when you need a special prosecutor. This is a “shareware” concept that many of y’all already use in practice—you might handle a case for a neighbor, and she in turn prosecutes a case for you when you need it. And the good news is, there may be some funding to support the costs of that work. Stay tuned for details.

Finally, TDCAA is committed to helping you serve crime victims in your community. It is your duty to protect and serve the victims of crime, yet you are painfully aware that the state has never funded the statutory requirements of victim-witness services mandated to occur in your office. It’s time that TDCAA gets active in helping you with this important aspect of your work as a champion for justice.

First, TDCAA will develop a victim services section dedicated to provide the services to the crime victims in your community. Second, through the work of the foundation, TDCAA intends to create a victim services staff position. That person will be dedicated to training and assisting victim assistance coordinators in prosecutor offices all over the state and act as a valuable resource for prosecutors and their victim services professionals.

I am honored to serve our profession and am lucky to be in a position to shepherd the growth of TDCAA’s services to our members. And if you have ideas about how TDCAA can better serve your needs, let’s talk. We always do your best work when we do it together. ✤