I have been practicing Criminal Law since1980. Fresh out of law school, I moved to Huntsville to represent inmates at what was then known as the Texas Department of Corrections, or T.D.C. Primarily, I was reviewing criminal trial records and transcripts to determine if there were grounds to challenge the State’s case and my client’s conviction. I worked at some very difficult prison units, including the Eastham Unit, and Death Row at the Ellis Unit
As I spent more time behind bars, I became increasingly fascinated with the correctional process and the legalities of the treatment of the offender/incarcerated. I enrolled in a Master’s level class at Sam Houston State University taught by the late Dr. George Beto, Chair Emeritus. He was the former director of T.D.C. and truly one of the founding fathers of the American correctional system. The following semester I enrolled in two more classes, one of which was taught by Dr. Beto. I continued to take classes, completed my thesis, and eventually obtained a Master’s Degree in Criminology and Corrections.
My Thesis examined an indigent’s constitutional right to counsel in criminal proceedings. I feel strongly that the government should strive to minimize poverty’s adverse effects on the fair administration of justice. There is a moral imperative on the State to provide essential services regardless of cost. I regularly donate time for the delivery of legal services to low income Texans as referenced through the Pro Bono College of Texas. At the end of this text I list several organizations where I donate time, money, or both.
After 26 months in Huntsville (not to make it sound like I did hard time) I sold everything I owned (saving only music and motorcycle) to finance a move overseas. I had enrolled in a Master’s of Law program taught at Salzburg University in Austria. Aided by a scholarship from the Charles A. Dana Fellowship, I was able to study international and comparative law in the shadow of the location for the Sound of Music.
After my studies in Salzburg, I moved down the road to Vienna, Austria, and landed a paid internship with the United Nations. It was as much fun as it sounds, and a great learning experience. I worked on the draft of the Model Code for the Treatment of the Offender at the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch, sort of a research arm of the General Assembly. The subject was a perfect match for my areas of study and practice of the past two-plus years. Most of the standards urged for the model code were patterned after U.S. law. What we take for granted as inalienable individual rights are often perceived as threats to the governments of many developing countries, and are routinely denied. The general process at the U.N. appears to be to impose Western values on developing nations. Needless to say, this is not always a seamless fit.
As much as I enjoyed living and working as an international bureaucrat, I realized that I missed the action, challenge and excitement of the courtroom. I returned to Austin at the end of 1984 and began prosecuting with the Travis County Attorney’s Office. My first assignment was to develop, establish and run the division obtaining Protective Orders issued by the courts, which offer increased protection for victims of domestic abuse.
In 1986, I was hired by the Criminal Enforcement Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. I researched and wrote briefs in response to Writs of Habeas Corpus petitions which challenged an inmate’s conviction(s) in Federal Court. This was the other side of my job at TDC where I was writing Habeas Corpus petitions for inmates in both State and Federal Court. Like my employment as a prosecutor, this position gave me a healthy appreciation and understanding for my colleagues who work on the other side.
Late in 1987 I was approached by a friend, Larry Dowling, Esquire, who lured me into the world of private practice. The timing seemed perfect, and I did not want to leave the Austin area. Larry and his partner, the late and dear Duncan Wilson, were more than kind and tolerant. They taught me the ins and outs of the courthouse, several tricks of the trade, and also, how to run a business. I am forever in their debt.