Saturday, June 02, 2012
Recent Fort Worth Star Telegram Article (Interlock Monopoly) & More
First and foremost I must stress that I was born and raised in Tarrant County. I am proud of my Cowtown roots. After graduating law school at Texas Tech I came back to Fort Worth to serve my people. I have always been proud of the friendliness, hardiness, and ambition that represents the Fort Worth mentality. In seventeen years I have expanded my practice into Dallas and Collin Counties. I literally live in both Tarrant and Dallas counties (spending half the week in each). This allows me to be a more versatile, open minded lawyer adapting and molding to the keen differences that Dallas and Collin Counties offer. This being said, I believe it puts me in a unique position to stress tyranny and bad practices when I see it. I can’t stand injustice but when it morphs into institutional practices to the detriment of its people it is up to the good hearted to speak out (whether lawyer, citizen or judge).
Most people think that going to jail can never happen to them so they don’t concern themselves with issues that affect everyone in the justice system until they find themselves in it and are helpless. I speak as a lawyer and citizen, not just from the defense lawyer side because if I was a prosecutor I would care just as much that these things be fair, especially if I was a judge.
Here are just a few bullet points that merit attention.
1. Yesterday’s Star Telegram reported the Tarrant County Commissioners Court has determined to give a monopoly y to just ONE interlock provider and it happens to be the company of a well-connected judge’s wife (whom I adore them both and have only good things to say about the interlock company). Now from a practical side, what does this mean? If the interlock company wants to start charging $500 for the device versus the industry standard of $75, who is going to stop them? No other county in Texas has this illegal and antitrade operation going on. All providers are required to satisfy probation standards to be approved, but limit the entire community to one? Let the market earn their share. What happens if this one provider pisses a judge off? Guess what folks, nothing good can come of this for any side involved.
2. The Tarrant County DA does not allow defense attorneys to give copies of the police report or even the DWI videos to their clients. There is no legal authority by statute for this DA office policy. Dallas and Collin counties do not do this. The Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to confront their accuser. The Founders did not have videos then but I am sure they would require such if they did. It was a given then and still is today in most counties that a defendant is entitled to a copy of the information against them. Now from a practical side, what does this mean? The DA’s witnesses get to own it (cops), take it home and study and prepare for hours, but defendants are limited to going over the particulars of the reports and videos in their lawyer’s office. If the DA in certain cases was concerned about victim’s addresses this could just be blacked out (as Dallas does). So message to the Tarrant County DA: when we win it makes us 10x the lawyer you are. I guess the defense bar in Tarrant County is just so good that the DAs have to literally hogtie our clients’ hands in preparation for their own defense.
3. You know the old phrase “You can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride?” That’s what happens once the handcuffs go on, it’s not supposed to happen with the justice system. The justice system should be a fair administration of justice. We live in a modern age of fax machines, emails and smartphones. Even traffic ticket courts don’t require a defendant to physically appear for each and every court date if they have a lawyer. In a DWI, no court date even matters until after the ALR hearing and the DA has turned over the police report and video (sometimes these videos take several court dates to track down). Yet people are taking off hard earned vacation days and missing work for superfluous kindergarten roll calls. Example: the judge calls out “Mr. Smith”? Mr. Smith sits there like a lump on a log and his lawyer says “Present with Counsel”, then Mr. Smith leaves (often times after hours) only to come back and do it multiple more times before anything of any consequence occurs. Seriously? It takes three lawyers in my Fort Worth office to take care of this versus one in Dallas (where the clients only appear on important dates). Now from a practical side what does this mean? John Q. Smith of the public may wait for four hours at the dentist office because his dentist had an appearance that could have been avoided. One of my clients missed fifteen days of work over two years before he got a Not Guilty. He was lucky to keep his job, unlike many.
People resist change but change is good and sometimes necessary. In Tarrant County for moral reasons and respect for its citizens, the time for change is now.