2012 TCDLA Long-Range Planning Committee

TCDLA Long Range Planning Committee Members:
Sam Bassett (Chair), Gary Trichter, Bobby Lerma, William Harris, Rick Hagen, John Convery, David Moore, Grant Scheiner, Philip Wischkaemper, Michael Gross, Constance Luedicke

TCDLA Long Range Planning Committee Staff:
Joseph Martinez, Melissa Schank


This Long Range Plan is the institutional guide for TCDLA during the next five years. The goals of the Long Range Plan are intended to fulfill the purpose of TCDLA, which is to protect and ensure by rule of law those individual rights guaranteed by the Texas and Federal Constitutions in criminal cases; to resist the constant efforts which are now being made to curtail such rights; to encourage cooperation between lawyers engaged in the furtherance of such objectives through educational programs and other assistance; and through such cooperation, education, and assistance to promote justice and the common good.

Committee Findings and Recommendations

The Committee has identified the following areas of particularized long-range concern for TCDLA. The Committee believes these areas should be thoroughly discussed and addressed by the Board. Where appropriate, the Committee has recommended specific actions to implement the stated goals.

Goal—Work to increase diversity among the membership of TCDLA, including both speakers and organizational leadership.

TCDLA recognizes the importance of the participation and involvement of women and minorities in all aspects of the organization—such as, but not limited to, seminar speakers, course directors, committee chairs, and top leadership positions in TCDLA. The association will make a concerted effort to encourage the participation of women and minorities for these positions and to encourage women and minorities to join and participate in TCDLA. Some members have expressed concerns about diversity issues within the TCDLA leadership, and an objective analysis of such issues should be considered in the short term, along with coordinating such efforts with the existing committees within TCDLA to implement any necessary changes.

Goal—Strive to increase TCDLA’s presence on law school campuses across the State.

The majority of future TCDLA members will attend and graduate from a Texas law school. As the statewide organization for criminal defense lawyers in the State of Texas, TCDLA must continue to encourage law student interest in the study of criminal law. TCDLA needs to create and support law school trial advocacy programs, internships, and other criminal law courses and programs that prepare law students to become professional criminal defense lawyers. The TCDLA organization involvement with law schools and law students is sporadic, well meaning, but not at all well organized. TCDLA should consider and create an institutional framework and create and designate specific programs for law student participation in the TCDLA. Will a TCDLA Law Student Division, Section, or Committee work best for TCDLA? Should a law student be a regular or ex officio member of the TCDLA Board of Directors? If so, should the law student member be elected by other TCDLA law student members? Or, should selection of a law student Board Member position rotate yearly between the Texas law schools, with the President or Chair of the law school criminal law organization affiliated with TCDLA filling the position for a year? Should TCDLA encourage existing law school criminal law associations to affiliate with TCDLA to create a law student division or section? Would this be best accomplished with TCDLA and the local affiliate closest to the law school? TCDLA should create a committee, and consider whether the committee should become a standing committee to address the framework for future law student participation in TCDLA. The committee should investigate and report on current and future law student programs for law student participation in the TCDLA, including trial advocacy programs and TCDLA sponsored internships.

Goal—Keep TCDLA at the forefront of breakthroughs in technology to provide the most current advance to our membership.

TCDLA has a Technology Committee currently involved in the following six projects:

1.  Organizational App—TCDLA plans to build an organizational app for smartphones and other mobile devices. The app will be distinguishable from the TCDLA Legal App, which contains federal and state criminal codes, rules, and statutes. The organizational app may include an online directory of TCDLA members, a system for registering for CLE, a method for purchasing publications and merchandise, a system for renewing TCDLA membership, plus an Amazon-type “suggestions” feature for suggesting additional CLE and purchases to TCDLA members. The Technology Committee estimates that TCDLA has budgeted up to $15,000 for an organizational app. (It may be possible to use CDLP grant money to offset as much as 40–67 percent of the cost.) Additional maintenance fees would be expected in the years ahead. The Technology Committee is in the process of securing bids for developing the app, then will study the bids and report back to TCDLA leadership. The Technology Committee hopes to have the construction well underway, if not completed, by June 2012.

2.  Online CLE—TCDLA is exploring offering “Online CLE.” Many organizations, including TCDLA’s competitors for CLE, offer online “streaming” of live or archived lectures. The streaming may include audio or video with audio. The Technology Committee estimates that TCDLA has budgeted approximately $1,000 for implementing a system. Additional funding from CDLP may be possible. TCDLA is considering two basic options. The first option is to develop our own system, which would allow TCDLA members to register online and pay through a service such as PayPal. Upon payment, members would be emailed “viewing links” to allow immediate access to CLE. A second option would be to contract out the entire process. Some services may be available, which would handle payment collection and online storage of audio and video lectures. The service would presumably take a portion of the proceeds of each CLE sale. All TCDLA would need to do is digitally recorded CLE lectures to the service. The Technology Committee will meet with counterparts at the State Bar of Texas and ask which system(s) the State Bar uses. TCDLA’s goal is to have a system in place by spring 2012.

3.  E-Books for Publications—TCDLA is exploring offering select publications in “e-book” 1 format, for use on reader devices and tablet devices, such as Kindle, Nook, and iPad. TCDLA does not currently have a budget for this project. However, it is clear to the Technology Committee that it is only a matter of time before the majority of TCDLA’s publications will be offered in e-book or similar format. In fact, TCDLA may one day dispense with most or all of its paper publications. In wading into this project, TCDLA could begin by offering three to five of its best-selling publications on Amazon. The Technology Committee believes that Amazon may charge as little as $39.99 per month, per publication. (Amazon also takes approximately 15% of the proceeds for each sale.) Supplying digital material to Amazon would not likely be a problem, because TCDLA already offers many publications in PDF format on CD-ROM. (Although our CD-ROMs contain digital material in suitable formats, CD-ROMs cannot be played on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, or any of the most popular mobile devices.) TCDLA does not have a target date for completion of this project.

4.  Video Conferencing—TCDLA is exploring video conferencing for TCDLA meetings. This project has great potential for improving the quality of communication among and between TCDLA staff, officers, board members, and general members. It also has the potential to save the organization significant money in travel costs. The Technology Committee estimates that $2,400 could be budgeted for a video conferencing project during 2011–12. However, at this point, TCDLA is facing several hurdles to implementing a system. The first hurdle is deciding which type of video conferencing method to use, as well as when and how to use it. Video conferencing can either be “one way” or “two way.” One-way video conferencing is a fairly straightforward system in which a meeting location has a video camera and a microphone. The speaker stands in front of the camera and talks into the microphone. A digital signal is uploaded to the internet. Viewers can tune in from their desktop computers and (in the not-too-distant future) their mobile devices. Remote viewers who do not attend meetings can only participate via telephone. Two-way video requires a video camera and microphone at the meeting location, as well as the locations for every remote viewer. Usually, two-way video participants in remote locations have small video cameras and microphones mounted to their desktop computers. The quality of the video can vary, depending on the sophistication of the system and the speed of the internet connection. Although live, two-way video is a superior method for communication among participants, very few (if any) systems allow more than several users in several different locations at a time. Such limited systems would be impractical for large TCDLA committee meetings or board meetings. Additionally, it could prove initially difficult to teach the participants how to install and use their systems. Because the price for video conferencing systems is supposed to drop over time—while the quality and ease-of-use are supposed to increase—the Technology Committee recommends that it continue to study this issue as a long-term project with no current target date for completion. The Technology Committee believes a patient approach may yield the best result for this important project in the long run.

5.  Imus—The Technology Committee has overseen updates to the “Imus” software tasking system for TCDLA. The Imus system performs many automated tasks, such as sending TCDLA membership renewal notices and discount coupons on members’ birthdays. According to the Technology Committee, TCDLA purchased the software, with a 67% offset of the purchase price by CDLP. This project is essentially completed.

6.  Facebook & Twitter—TCDLA is considering recruiting volunteers to send “gossipy” and fun information and material to our members via Facebook and Twitter social networking. TCDLA needs people who are somewhat computer literate and who have discretion and common sense when it comes to knowing what to post and what not to post. The Technology Committee believes that social networking will become a vital tool in attracting and retaining younger lawyers to TCDLA.

Goal—Develop alternative methods of fundraising to help insure the long term financial stability of the organization.

Numerous opportunities exist to raise funds in a strategic fashion for TCDLEI or any other entity that may come into existence to handle the strategic funding of TCDLA. Most of these are tried-and-true fundraising methods that foundations, large and small, use to raise funds. TCDLA would require the employment of a full-time person for successful strategic fundraising. The following comprise areas of strategic fundraising which could be pursued by TCDLA.

Planned Giving could be used for strategic fund­raising. Planned giving includes several avenues for a benefactor to leave a legacy. The downside with this approach is that it will require a dedicated fundraiser to make the initial contacts with the benefactors and see that the gift comes to fruition. The upside is that a good fundraiser, within a couple of years, will more than pay for itself. First and perhaps easiest are stocks and bonds that someone has purchased in the past and do not plan on using for retirement. This usually will include smaller amounts of stock that may have been purchased over the years that the person may have even forgotten they had purchased. The stocks or bonds are simply turned over to TCDLA and sold, placing the funds in the foundation. The idea is not to play the stock market, but to liquidate immediately and realize the benefits for the entity. In the same vein, old parcels of real estate can be donated and liquidated for the proceeds. Again, someone has to be in charge of acquiring these properties and liquidating them as well. Although they may not be worth a great deal, the person may be happy to get rid of them so they can stop paying taxes on them. A common fundraising plan is to get members to purchase insurance policies naming the entity as the beneficiary. The gift can be in any increment depending on how much of a gift the donor wants to leave. This, again, requires a full time fundraiser to coordinate on following through with these donors. Again, the gift in the will can be cash, stocks, bonds, real property, or anything of worth that can be liquidated.

Grants could be used for strategic fundraising. There are private law firms across the country (Texas Defender Service is an example) who depend almost entirely on private grants for their funding. In addition, the Innocence Project receives grants for its operations outside the state grant it has received in the past. The TCDLA forensics program could be billed as an innocence-based project and could readily tap into grant funding. It still makes sense to utilize any outside funding as TCDLA seeks to grow its strategic funds.

Other fundraisers include a golf tournament such as the annual golf tournament at Rusty Duncan. Sponsors for each hole allow all (or most of the) entry fees to be turned over to the entity. The fact that it is a fundraiser could increase the attendance to that event. The Pachanga party could be used as the membership party and the Friday night party could be a black-tie affair again, turning it into a fundraiser. These Galas usually include a silent auction and perhaps a gambling night in addition to the food, drink, and dancing. Sponsors (Lexis, West, etc.) are usually utilized to offset the costs of the party so all proceeds from sales of tickets can go to the fund. This would be a good opportunity for “older” lawyers to purchase extra tickets and invite younger lawyers to introduce them to the “club.” Since this party has a history, the conversion to it as a fundraiser will be made less difficult.

Nonprofit fund raising professionals are today every bit as much a profession as are attorneys. They have a professional organization and a code of ethics. TCDLA should employ a development officer who can widen our financial base.

Goal—Increase dialogue with other sections of the Bar, identify areas of common interest, and collaborate with those other sections to promote the interest of TCDLA and its members.

Criminal defense lawyers have often been unaware and/or unwilling to seriously consider the impact of other practice areas. Other areas of practice are increasingly influencing policy and practice of criminal defense. From a policy standpoint, the criminalization of conduct that used to be considered “civil” in nature has increased. As this has occurred, it is critical for a criminal defense lawyer to be educated and aware of developments in areas of the law that could impact the representation of those accused, both in the investigative and litigation phases of criminal defense practice.

The strategic planning committee has identified three areas of practice where TCDLA should consider collaborative continuing education events. It is important to have increased communication with leadership for purposes of informing and influencing policy, as well as keeping lawyers up to date on changes in the law. The committee felt that the areas of Family Law, Immigration Law, and Bankruptcy Law are areas TCDLA should specifically target for collaboration over the next five years. The following is an example of why an area such as Family Law should be the subject of collaboration.

Family Law and Criminal Law are areas where coordination between TCDLA and the leaders of the Family Law Bar is a necessity. Many attorneys only practice in one of the above areas and yet are consistently involved in litigation that can impact each area of any given case. For instance, many family law practitioners are making decisions to conduct hearings on a protective order application following their clients’ arrest for assault in the context of a pending or potentially pending divorce case. Another example of this scenario occurs when a child abuse allegation has been made and there are civil proceedings relating to the termination of the parent-child relationship, in which hearings are being held and discovery is being instituted. In these and other situations, it is critical for the civil/family law attorney handling the matter to be educated on at least some of the basic principles of criminal defense so that the client may be properly advised. In many instances, the best advice is to decline to participate in the process altogether. The strategic planning committee has made initial contact with leaders of the Family Law Bar, and there is definitely an interest in a potential continuing education event taught by both criminal and family law practitioners. Such an interdisciplinary seminar may open the eyes from “both sides of the aisle” when it comes to handling cases with both criminal and family law aspects. It is hoped that TCDLA will work with the leadership of the Family Law Bar to institute an initial continuing education event in 2012 or 2013. Another arena for linkage between criminal and family law is in the area of policy influence. Both areas of practice are governed largely by “code.” Thus, it is critical that communication and potential collaboration in the area of lobbying the Legislature be strongly considered.

The practices of many TCDLA members include both criminal and family law. It is important to remember that TCDLA should assist those members as much as those who have more specialized practices. Regardless of this factor, even a specialized criminal defense lawyer who handles cases involving child or spousal abuse allegations should be educated to a certain extent on the family law perspective of such situations. Further, the impact on policy cannot be underestimated either. After all, the family law lobby may carry more weight with certain legislators than TCDLA. Teaming together may help to produce optimal results in any given situation.

Recent Supreme Court decisions relative to the impact of convictions for certain crimes on a person’s immigration status in the U.S. have made it imperative for most criminal defense attorneys to at least have a rudimentary understanding of immigration issues in criminal cases. A regular effort should be made to keep criminal defense attorneys up to date on developments in immigration law. These impacts are constantly changing and being revised. It will be a continuing project and should be a regularly scheduled continuing education component for TCDLA.

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