Heather Barbieri

Heather Barbieri has more than 20 years of experience representing people facing serious state and federal criminal allegations. She was licensed in 1998, and became board-certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 2005. She was named to the Texas Super Lawyers every year since 2013, was named one of D Magazine’s Best Lawyers in Dallas for 2022 in the area of Criminal Law, and has an AV-Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell. Heather was also honored to have been named Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year in 2015 by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association after a series of “not-guilty” verdicts in complex criminal cases, and currently serves as TCDLA’s 2021-2022 President-Elect. She lectures to attorneys on multiple criminal defense topics, and teaches trial skills across the country as a faculty member of the Trial Lawyers College.

President’s Message: Lost and Found


I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was devastated. I poured my heart and soul and over a year’s worth of work into this case. I was sure we were going to win. But when the jury foreman announced the verdict, I was crushed: “GUILTY.” He said it with such glee and seemed to relish the moment and take pride in proclaiming it. Like he was presenting a lifetime achievement award at a banquet.

Later that evening I was at home. I must have been visibly sulking because my son, Brogan, who was about three years old at the time noticed I was not myself asked me: “what’s wrong, mommy?” I responded that I had lost a case. Without missing a beat, he responded: “Don’t worry, mommy, you’ll find it tomorrow.”

Out of the mouths of babes. He just continued to play with his toy cars and I couldn’t help but smile.

But let’s face it, we hate to lose trials. And as euphoric as it is to achieve victory for our clients, the reality is that we hate to lose more than we enjoy winning. In our profession, losing is magnified more than most other professions because when we lose, our client’s lives are usually destroyed – often permanently. So, the temptation we face when we experience a defeat in the courtroom is to bury it. Forget it ever happened, sweep it under the rug and move on as quickly as we can.

As strong as the urge is to fail fast and scrub the bitter stench of defeat from our minds there is value for us as professionals in processing the unwanted suffering that is ushered in each time a courtroom echoes with the nasty word: “GUILTY.”

Perhaps part of the reason why the joy of victory is so fleeting, but, despite our best efforts, the agony of defeat stays with us for days, weeks, and sometimes longer is that our subconscious is imploring us to process and learn from the loss. So, the scenes from the trial linger around, sitting patiently in the waiting room of our minds for us to fully embrace them, process them, learn from them, and become even better lawyers and people. The trick is setting aside our pride, finding that time, and extracting the lessons learned we know in our heart of hearts exist within each painful loss. We all know that the best learning process usually involves some degree of failure, failing is instructional. Experts say that after a failure there are certain steps we should take, a “postmortem.” Steps like looking back at the trial and acknowledge the mistakes we made in pre‑trial and during the trial and owning them. Remember we are human too. Next, analyze what went wrong. Then, plan for next time. If we don’t figure out how not to make the same mistakes again, we’re going to find ourselves right back in the same regrettable position.

So, the next time you have a defeat in the courtroom – or in life – remember the words of the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “So often in life things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.” At the end of the day, it’s not about us. It’s about the souls of the men and women entrusted to us. RBG was right. So was Brogan. The only thing worse than losing a case today is not finding the lessons learned to use in the cases we’ll find tomorrow.

President’s Message: September 2022


Oftentimes we wait until it is too late to thank the heroes in our lives. We think we have all the time in the world to get around to it. We want to wait for the perfect time and the perfect words. And the way life frequently plays out – we struggle to find either of them. Before we know it, life happens, and our heroes pass from this earth and the opportunity to thank them – in this life at least – is gone.

Well, on July 5th, we lost one of our own heroes, Honorable Frank Maloney. Judge Maloney was truly one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys this state has ever seen. He’s also one of the greatest leaders and Presidents TCDLA has ever been blessed with, having served in the role in 1971‑1972. He also went on to serve the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as President in 1988.

What made him so great? For starters, a sincere calling to serve others: his clients, his colleagues, his family, and his friends. Add to that: his ability to listen; his fundamental understanding that professional success and authentic kindness are not mutually exclusive; and his inclusivity and willingness to encourage and befriend new and up and coming attorneys and to mentor so many lawyers across the state of Texas. Yes, he was wicked smart and great in a courtroom for sure. He had a tremendous track record of success. He had great war stories – far more wins than losses you can be sure. But what made him such a great lawyer was understanding that there was more to life than just practicing law. He understood that being a great lawyer begins with first being a good person. It means being a well‑rounded and well‑grounded person. That’s what gives a lawyer perspective. Perspective to not get too high with the victories and more importantly, to be able to have the courage and fortitude to get back up from the depths of the lows that come from the defeats and battle scars. That’s the foundation that made Judge Maloney a hero of TCDLA. One of the reasons that I made Institutional Knowledge a goal for my year as TCDLA President is to be able to capture these incredibly important lessons – courtroom lessons and life lessons – from the greats like Judge Maloney. Learning from Judge Maloney helps us become better people, better attorneys and a far better TCDLA.

As I was talking the other day with Melissa Schank, our TCDLA Chief Executive Officer, about several of my role models, she reminded me what we admire about our heroes is actually a reflection of ourselves—as much as our own DNA. We just need to see it in our daily lives, to nourish it, and share it with the world. So, thank you, Judge Maloney, and all of the heroes who founded the largest most successful criminal defense organization in America, and in doing so, paved the unstoppable path for us to follow. Thank you for caring so much for the accused and their defenders. We will always honor you, and you will never be forgotten.

Today, take a moment to reach out to your heroes in life and thank them. Now is the perfect time.

President’s Message: A Dream Worth Fighting For


Every lawyer has a personal story and journey of how they entered this profession. I love hearing others’ stories as much as I like sharing my own. I am a fourth generation, first female attorney in my family. And I’ve dreamed of being a lawyer since I was a little girl. Like many members of the bar, we believe this isn’t just our job, it is our deep‑rooted calling in life and we’ve weathered many storms to get where are today.

Some achieved the dream of being just like their dad, who they idolized their whole life. Others courageously persevered while growing up in extreme poverty in inner‑city slums to beat the odds for the chance to practice law. Still others’ journey involved overcoming tragedy, even being the victims of violent crimes, and rising from the ashes to become fierce advocates in the court‑ room. Others tell beautiful stories of immigrating to the United States from impoverished countries to achieve the American Dream, and are serving this country with honor. There are many inspirational stories. Whatever the story is, we all have a special one worth preserving.

However, what occurred in the aftermath of June 24th threatens to turn our stories into epic tragedies. Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – six days after I became TCDLA President – took direct aim at and put a chink in the armor of our sacred profession. The actions that ensued threaten to not only destroy our dreams and what we have worked so hard to achieve, but also trample on the very rights and freedom that we swore to safeguard.

Regardless of your personal or political beliefs regarding abortion, what we must rally behind is to fight against the groundswell of support by some state politicians who wish to pass legislation which would impose a mandatory disbarment of Texas lawyers for any involvement they may have as employers regarding their employees’ participation in abortions.

In the short time I have served as your TCDLA President, I have been privileged to dialogue with so many of you with very different, oftentimes very ardent, opinions surrounding abortion. Diversity of opinion is one of the aspects that makes this organization great and one of the core values I pledged to honor, and which I discussed in my previous Voice article. I am asking that we set aside differences in our personal beliefs and be cognizant that with the stroke of a pen, politicians can threaten to destroy our dreams and the great work that we do every day to fight for our clients.

Thankfully, we have an unstoppable organization with countless talented, devoted fighters. Part of our strategy to combat this threat will be a task force to handle this head‑on. I’ve asked our well‑respected colleague, Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube, to chair this committee. We will be strong and look to partner with other organizations throughout the country to ensure we relentlessly fight the impending overcriminalization that is eerily brewing.

Taking a stand now is not optional. If left unchecked, this latest foray into overcriminalization can quickly spread like wildfire. Even though it can be an uncomfortable conversation, we must work together to de‑ fend against the rising storm of overcriminalization that is headed our way. At this time, we need to stand in solidarity and recall the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

TCDLA: let us be united in our efforts to fight against this latest tale of injustice. The very stories of the next generation of lawyers may well be depending on us.

President’s Message: Room at the Table


What an honor to be writing my first column as President of Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association! I remember how this journey began in the fall of 1999, when I was a proverbial baby lawyer in the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas. I was proud to have been assigned to my very first court‑appointed case and determined to figure out how on earth I was going to actually try the case. My partner in crime at the time, Darlina Crowder, and I were newly‑licensed, but so hungry, and it showed.

After court, we were heading onto the elevator with our shiny new briefcases, and we were lucky enough to be approached by a couple of great lawyers, John Hardin and Chris Hoover. They said we should sign up for this organization called TCDLA. We even got a discounted rate, so why not? I filled out my application and faxed—yes faxed—it back the same day. The rest, as they say, is history.

My 23‑year TCDLA journey has been filled with many great adventures, some challenges along the way, but most all, many cherished friendships. And I’m grateful for every single second of the journey so far. My family and I are so blessed to be part of this incredible group of people.

I would also like to thank the Past‑Presidents who have led this organization with such valor, especially immediate Past‑President Michael Gross, who has paved the way for me. Michael, I have said this before, you are one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever known. You were a fearless leader, and as always, an officer and a gentleman. Thank you for your service.

Over the next year, I want to work relentlessly to make sure that everyone in TCDLA‑‑all 3,500 of us‑‑is afforded the same experiences and opportunities I have had. My vision is simple: to make sure there is room at the table for everyone. I hold in the highest esteem the tenets of inclusion, diversity, and the institutional knowledge that we all bring from our wealth of experiences – inside the courtroom and beyond.

What does that vision entail, you ask? Well, first and foremost, I want everyone to realize they have an individual seat at the table. All lawyers who are committed to protecting the individual rights of the criminally accused are welcome in TCDLA ‑ whether you have been practicing for less than a year, or for many decades. We want to celebrate – and tap into – the fresh ideas and innovation of all the younger lawyers as well as the institutional knowledge of those that are seasoned and battle‑tested. The TCDLA tent is as enormous as the State of Texas, and all are included inside.

I also truly value and want to recognize our diverse membership ‑not just because that is the progressive thing to do these days‑ but because diversity breeds excellence. Proverbs teaches us that “Iron sharpens iron; one person sharpens another.” And to me, that is the beauty of a diverse tent – diversity that is celebrated by including every gender, race, ethnicity, geographic background, political and religious belief – and perhaps most especially – diversity of thoughts, ideas and dreams. The more diverse we are, the more inclusive we become, the more room we make at the table – our organization becomes even greater, we become even better lawyers and we thrive more as individuals. Iron truly sharpens iron.

I see this upcoming year as the greatest opportunity of my career… to serve all of you. My TCDLA journey, which started many years ago when those elevator doors opened in a Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas, is only complete when I have finished doing all I can to help every TCDLA member fulfill their lifetime journey.