ED Report
July-August 2021

TDCAA and the 87th Regular Session

By Rob KeppleTDCAF & TDCAA Executive Director in Austin

The 87th Legislative Session ended on Memorial Day. You have surely read about all of the hot-button issues by now and the prospects for special sessions. TDCAA will turn our attention to the online Legislative Update coming in August, and trust me, there is a lot to discuss. We went into the session thinking that COVID would slow the process down, but by April it was apparent that this would be a normal session at the end—with dozens of new crimes, enhancements, and procedures to figure out.

            I want to take a moment to thank our Legislative Committee and committee chairs Jennifer Tharp, CDA in Comal County, and Staley Heatly, 46th Judicial District Attorney. They were the TDCAA version of Maverick and Goose, hopping in at a moment’s notice when the voice of a seasoned elected prosecutor was needed. And it was an absolute pleasure to watch Lindy Borchardt, ACDA in Tarrant County; Tiana Sanford, ADA in Montgomery County; and Paige Williams, ACDA in Dallas County, work on bills. They brought the kind of knowledge the legislature needed on a daily basis and made quite an expert team. In addition, we all owe a big thank-you to Amy Befeld, who works for the Texas Association of Counties as its liaison to Texas prosecutors. Amy had worked for Senator Joan Huffman last session and brought incredible insight, energy, and expertise to the team. I am proud of their work for y’all. 

            Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize the fine work of TDCAA’s Governmental Affairs Director Shannon Edmonds. He was there for every single minute of every single committee hearing and floor session, and when the legislators were done, he was scouring the bills and amendments for problems—problems you won’t have come September 1 because Shannon was able to advise legislators on how to fix the language before it became law. Using a chess analogy, I’ll say that Shannon has a tremendous end game. Even on Memorial Day weekend as things were winding down, Shannon was hard at it finding problematic language that could still be tuned up. The state and our profession are well-served. Thanks, Shannon.

No longer down at the courthouse

On behalf of all prosecutors in Texas, I want to thank my good friend Scott Durfee, who after 30-plus years has retired from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Scott served as general counsel for that office under a number of elected district attorneys and exemplified professionalism. He is a thoughtful voice of reason and he contributed much to Texas prosecutors in the area of professionalism, ethics, and office management.

            In honor of Scott, I invite you to download from iTunes a song by the Harris County DA’s Office former garage band, Death by Injection. It’s called “Down at the Courthouse,” and legend has it that it is named for Scott, who was hit by a bus in front of the courthouse. (He recovered just fine!) When you listen to the song, you will hear David Mitcham, First Assistant DA in Harris County, singing the lead. We are waiting for their reunion tour at some point.

            In the meantime, it sounds like Scott will start writing for fun, specifically, a memoir about growing up in the ’70s. The opening line is already written: “I remember the first time I ate at a Waffle House—it was all at once too much and not enough.” We can’t wait to hear the rest of it!

Annual Criminal and Civil Law Conference

Here at TDCAA World Headquarters, we are already getting excited about seeing everyone at the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Conference in Galveston in September. We have enjoyed developing our online training, but the live learning component is essential for any profession that seeks to improve its work on a daily basis. Watch your mailbox for a brochure in the coming weeks, and see our website (www.tdcaa.com/training/annual-criminal-civil-law-conference-2021) for hotel information. See you there!

Live training and distance learning

As we return to live training, we want you to know that we are not about to give up on producing quality online training as well. The popularity of our online training has demonstrated that we have a new ability to deliver timely, relevant, and accessible information and resources to our members, and we intend to build on that. It will take additional resources, no doubt, but we are up for the challenge of delivering the best to Texas prosecutors. The TDCAA Training Committee will be working to develop the plan as we move into the fall.

A celebration of life for Cathy Cochran

The pandemic has slowed us all down some, but as we get through it, we get to do some things we’ve been waiting for. I am happy to pass on the following invitation to a celebration of life for Cathy Cochran, a dear friend of our profession:  

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Cathy Cochran passed away on February 7, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the time, no memorial was possible. Instead, a Celebration of Life gathering will be conducted for her on September 18, 2021, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Auditorium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Avenue in Austin. Following Judge Cochran’s instructions, she wants a happy gathering with family, friends, and colleagues that includes cookies, coffee, and good conversations. Dr. Tony Fabelo is working with Rusty Hardin and family to organize the event. Dr. Fabelo’s wife, Dr. Dora Fabelo, is managing the invitation and logistics. Please RSVP to her at [email protected]

The DALLAS Project

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law has partnered with the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office on the DALLAS Project: District Attorney Learning and Leadership through Application of Science (DALLAS). The research performed in conjunction with Dallas County CDA John Creuzot and his office has led to the issuance of a series of studies on the enforcement of marijuana laws in Dallas County and provides some real food for thought on how those laws have been enforced and how they should be enforced moving forward. To read more about the project, follow this link: www.smu.edu/Law/Centers/Deason-Center/Issues/Prosecutorial-Discretion/Policing-Racial-Disparity.