St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” The same goes for law. This past week I travelled to Missouri to speak at their annual DWI conference. It was held at the Tan Tar A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri. On top of work, I spent weeks in advance preparing my talk entitled “DWI Defense- Texas Style.” Little did I know, I would be the one be learning. The Missouri lawyers were so hospitable even providing me with two of their kind lawyers personally taking time out of their schedule to provide me with rides to and from the airport (a two hour drive!) Their magnanimity was sweeping. If I wasn’t in my room fine tuning the speech, it was only to sleep and shower. They graciously hosted me to dinners, happy hours, late night parties. They even invited me to swim (they have a slide at their big pool). Travis Noble, one of the state’s most respected DWI lawyers approached me with a big bag of cigars informing me he knew of my taste for repose (had never met him before). I got to enjoy the inspiriting company of one of Missouri’s most well respected Supreme Court Justices as well as a top appellate judge over smiles and cocktails. They regaled me with scintillating stories and quick-witted humor. The congeniality in the “show me” state was exemplary and warmed my heart.
Amidst such hospitality, I was able to learn about Missouri law. What gems of justice they possess ! If a person has not been convicted in ten years, they can apply for an expunction that will wipe their previous conviction clean. They have “SIS” which is a probation that applies to DWIs in which no conviction results. I met Denise Carter, a practicing Missouri lawyer who is also licensed to practice law as an advanced solicitor advocate in Great Britain. She explained to me how in Great Britain the police are not allowed to give opinions. They can just state facts. Their Not Guilty verdicts are viewed and argued differently. An acquittal in Great Britain is when they avoid an “unsafe conviction.” Learning from these differing perspectives expanded my creative pools. This is the pinpointed type of progressive logic needed to combat the illogical “tough on crime” cultural milieu expected in Texas courtrooms. Particularly impressionable on judges and jurors is the concern for a safe community, but true democracy cannot be attained unless one is just as diligent in avoiding “unsafe convictions.” It is always an honor for me to be invited to speak to other lawyers; however, I have learned that unless you spend the time to meet, learn about and truly care for the people, it is a shallow venture.
So thank you Missouri for your open hearts, time and red carpet hosting right down to the parting succulent breakfast buffet in the company of the sweet moderator and DWI lawyer Denise Childress and young public defender Judson Wall. I have to say that the dinner with O.J. Simpson lawyer F. Lee Bailey was an added bonus enjoyed inimitably, much less in the congenial atmosphere of one of Missouri’s top DWI officers. The camaraderie shared amongst all the players in the criminal justice system regardless of hats worn was uplifting. So to St. Augustine I say, “Page by page study with fervor, the most interesting chapters are sometimes better than the whole book.” Missouri, you are one hell of a chapter.