Our bookstore is temporarily closed. Please check back soon.
Executive Director's Report
July-August 2008

There’s something about The Texas Prosecutor …

Rob Kepple

TDCAA Executive Director

The Texas Prosecutor has been the flagship publication of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association since the early 1970s. It has been through many phases, and we have always been proud of the substance of this journal.

The credit for the outstanding journals of the past several years goes to our editor, Sarah Wolf, her guiding editorial committee, and to, well, you. The strength of the journal is the tremendous commitment that you, Texas prosecutors, have made to telling others about your cases—the triumphs and the failures—so others can learn from your work. It is a tribute to Sarah’s work and the strength of the journal that every edition features new contributors with timely information, from articles about high-profile cases to As the Judges Saw It, our legal quiz written by David Newell and Tanya Dohoney.

The last edition in May-June 2008 hit an all-time high in popularity with the front-page cover article, “There’s something about Mary.” That article, written by San Antonio prosecutors Bill Pennington and Tamara Strauch, recounted the fascinating case of Ted and Mary Roberts, two lawyers who were prosecuted for theft involving an intricate blackmail scheme. It’s made-for-TV-movie stuff—the kind of article that you’d expect to see in Texas Monthly magazine. Thanks, Bill and Tamara, for contributing. Keep the good ideas coming!

The biggest threat to you and your family

Since our statewide DWI summit in March, many of y’all have been taking what you learned and applying it with new energy. A number of jurisdictions have been running “no-refusal weekends,” whereby every DWI suspect provides a breath or blood sample with the encouragement of a search warrant. We know that two criminal district attorneys, Judge Susan Reed in San Antonio and Matt Powell in Lubbock, ran no-refusal weekends over the Memorial Day holiday, and I am sure there were many others.

And these programs work. Here is a comment by Tom Brummett of the Lubbock CDA’s office posted on the TDCAA user forums: “We did a trial run in April before opening it up on Memorial Day. The first D through the door was a total refusal (0.16 BAC). Later that night, we had a D resist, and we found out why: 0.32 BAC with three prior DWI convictions. Our average was 0.20! I can’t say enough good things about the practice, and we will share anything you need.” (Which is good, because I just advertised him here as a good resource!)

Why do y’all go through this extra effort? Well, to paraphrase Warren Diepraam, an ADA in Houston and a National Traffic Center Resource Prosecutor, the biggest danger to you and your family isn’t the serial rapist or murderer, it’s the drunk driver. Thanks to all of you who are putting in the extra effort to keep intoxicated drivers off the streets.

TDCAA Annual Business Meeting

As always, the association will hold its annual business meeting in conjunction with the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update. This year’s  meeting will take place at the Galveston Island Convention Center at 5222 Seawall Blvd., next to our host hotel, the San Luis, at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 17. On the agenda will be the election of officers, the Criminal District Attorney at Large and County Attorney at Large positions, and directors in regions 1, 2, 4, and 7. (See the map on the opposite page for the regions.)

The Nominations Committee has forwarded the following leadership nominations for consideration of the full membership at the meeting: for President Elect, Scott Brumley (CA in Amarillo); for Secretary/ Treasurer Mike Fouts (DA in Haskell); for County Attorney at Large, Jaime Tijerina (CA in Sarita); and for Criminal District Attorney at Large, Joe Brown (CDA in Sherman). According to TDCAA bylaws, this year’s President, Bill Turner (DA in Bryan), will move up to the Chairman of the Board spot, and Barry Macha (CDA in Wichita Falls) will become the TDCAA President.

If you want more information about the upcoming elections or the regional board positions, just give me a call at 512/474-2436.

New records in long-­distance ­campaigning

After the November elections we will officially post the list of newly elected Texas prosecutors who will take office on January 1, 2009. We know of at least 23 folks who will take office in January because they won a primary contest with no general election opponent. We are already serving them as they prepare to take office, and you will probably meet them at some of our seminars this year.

Well, all but one of them. You see, shortly before the run-off election for the position of 38th Judicial District Attorney for Medina and Uvalde Counties, Danny Kindred was called to active duty in Iraq. But being halfway around the world did not stop Danny from winning the election.

Right now, Danny works in the office of the Staff Judge Advocate. His mission is training, mentoring, and equipping the Iraq security forces, including standing up for the Iraq military courts. The job involves quite a bit of travel around the country, and Danny makes the trip from Basra to Mosul on a regular basis. He used the word “adventure” to describe the trips by convoy.

Stay safe, Danny, because we need you to be standing up for the State of Texas come January!

Notables

Congratulations to Joe Shannon, Jr., the Chief of the Economic Crimes unit in the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. Joe has been elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. He took the reins at the State Bar annual meeting in Houston in June.

And welcome Becky Gregory to the ranks of prosecutors. In April Becky was appointed and confirmed to serve as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. She has served as a federal prosecutor and a state district judge, so she knows the ropes. Good luck!

The education of TDCAA

It’s with great pride that we congratulate two of the TDCAA staff family on earning their degrees. Dayatra Rogers, our registrar and assistant database manager, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix— no small feat for a full-time working mother of two. Her studies in Metarie, Louisiana, were rudely interrupted two years ago by someone named Katrina, but Dayatra got back to it once she became a Texan. Well done!

In addition, Noel Ramos has just received his degree from UT. Many of you remember Noel as our production supervisor in the late 1990s. Noel worked himself through school as a TDCAA employee and DPS trooper, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in government with a minor in history. Another proud moment!

Finally, John McMillin, our publications sales manager, couldn’t stand having just one degree, so he is leaving us in July to seek his J.D. at Texas Tech. His acerbic wit and dry delivery will be deeply missed around these parts, but those traits will serve him well in law school. Y’all, take this as advance notice that one really good law student will be looking for a prosecutor job in three years, so you might want to start those recruiting visits to his parents’ house soon. Thanks, John, for your hard work, and best of luck in law school!

Ciao, Lara Brumen

It is with joy and sadness that I say goodbye to our long-time membership director and database manager, Lara Brumen. Lara is making an exciting move with her husband, Barry, and baby son, Luca, to Washington State, where Barry has gotten a new job.

Lara has been at the association for about 12 years. She started as a part-timer in membership and slowly grew, as did our membership, into the backbone of our membership and database services. I only half-joke that our membership database is stored about two-thirds in a computer and one-third in Lara’s brain. It has been my joy to work with such a great person, and I know that our members have enjoyed working with her as well. The great part you missed, of course, were the wonderful sounds of the conversations Lara had on the phone with her family … in Italian! Best of luck to you, Lara! We will miss you dearly.

Preserving discretionary funding

On page 24 of this issue, you will find an article outlining the permissible uses of prosecutor discretionary funds (hot check and asset forfeiture). If you are the person who administers these funds, it is definitely a clip-and-save article.

In the last edition of The Texas Prosecutor, I discussed how counties supply a large chunk of prosecutor budgets around the state. The second-largest contributor to prosecutor budgets is the state, which ponies up about $35 million a year in DA salaries, CA supplements, apportionment funding, and assistant prosecutor longevity pay. Following in a distant third is discretionary funding, which it is fair to say is used to fill the gaps left in your budgets and help support your offices in ways the county and state just can’t.

In a recent hearing before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the Attorney General, who is charged with keeping your audits concerning asset forfeiture funds, reported that in 2007 y’all collected about $9.84 million in asset forfeiture funds and spent about $13.3 million. (That is just for DA offices and excludes law enforcement’s share of the proceeds. And for a little perspective, keep in mind that the county budget for the Harris County DA’s Office alone is around $45 million.)

The Senate hearing involved frank discussions of some perceived abuses of the asset forfeiture fund. At the hearing, our state senators had no quarrel with the good uses to which prosecutors put the funds: “rainy day” spending, training, forensic testing, leasing office equipment and space, paying expert witnesses, supplementing salaries, and supporting non-profit corporations affiliated with the criminal justice system. But there was concern that at least some funds have been used in ways that don’t neatly fit the “official purpose of the office” test.

Fair enough. We have no quarrel with the notion that prosecutors must be good stewards of state funds. We can expect to see some reforms regarding accountability and reporting requirements during the next legislative session. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the management or use of your discretionary funds, just give us a call here at the association.

The bottom line is, discretionary funds will never run your office, but they will help you do your job. So it is equally important that you budget the use of those funds wisely. ✤