Melissa J. Schank

Melissa J. Schank, Chief Executive Officer, has worked with nonprofit associations for over 20 years, and has been with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association more than 15 years. She earned her master’s of human resources, business administration, bachelor’s of communication and mediation certificate from Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and is a certified association executive. Her greatest strengths are overseeing the long-term planning, financial management, and strategy for legal educational programs, in addition to managing the organization’s seminars, membership, publication, and communication departments.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Cyber Security


“Don’t worry. I’m from the IT team.”


As we begin the month, it is time for TCDLA to run scans and ensure we pass all the PCI Compliant tests. These are security standards we must follow to process payments online while maintaining a level of security that protects data. After several days, countless hours of answering more than 200 questions, running tests on servers, and contacting IT on our website and database providers, we passed. The good thing is we get to do this all over again next year!

Coincidently, this month I attended a professional development training on cyber security and how it affects associations, members, and vendors. In addition, Mike Adams, TCDLA and Technology Committee member, submitted an article for this issue that complements mine perfectly.

What I have learned—and witnessed—is that anyone that can be a victim. Yahoo Finance reported cyber‑attacks increased by 341% during COVID‑19, according to Nexusguard Research. All too often, people are embarrassed to admit tobeing victims, and unfortunately, they don’t share their experiences, allowing us to continue thinking it can never happen to us. But think again. Attacks no longer take the form of emails with lousy grammar or fake voicemails intoning, “This is the IRS. You will be arrested . . .” (IRS repeatedly says they never call, always corresponding by mail.)

Just recently in my own world view I’ve seen deposit accounts altered, payment methods changed, ransomware paid, wire transfers intercepted by duplicate email accounts, and more—all when knowledgeable, professional people are the victims.

Data by RiskIQ suggests cyber‑ crime costs organizations $2.9 million every minute, with major businesses losing $25 per minute as a result of data breaches. Ransomware attacks have gone mainstream with the proliferation of ransomware‑ as‑a‑service (RAS), where cyber‑ criminal groups create and market ransomware to “affiliates.”

Who knew there were so many phishes (from information accessed here: Eight types of phishing attacks and how to identify them | CSO Online)?

Whaling: Seeking CEO or president credentials. When assuming office, our incoming president each year receives emails from members telling them “you have been hacked.” No, they’re not being hacked, just targeted as high‑profile titles. When you look at the sender’s email address, it may indicate, for instance, from Melissa Schank, mschank@tcdla. com <akfdjfalksdjfl;kaj@gmail. com>. If you look closely, you’ll see it’s not the actual email address it seems to be at first glance. Several such fake emails led people to think that I needed them for a minute, or wanted them to process something for me, or needed to make bogus payroll/vendor account changes. In our office we must remain alert about our established procedures for payment for members, vendors, or even staff (when dealing with in‑house payroll/401k updates).

Phishing : Mass-market emailing looking for you to log in. You might see, for example, an email saying your PayPal password expired; your storage has been exceeded; your account is frozen; or something as blatant as “click here to pay the outstanding invoice.” If you enter your information, they have you. If this should happen, of course, you’re advised to change your password(s) immediately and contact the entity to make sure nothing is billed you.

Spear Phishing: Targeting large corporations or government agencies. Assembling critical data, these criminals work for long periods researching then strategically attacking these organizations.

Clone PhishingCreating a near-perfect replica. The look is the same, often gaining entry by resending a message received previously that was intercepted by a cloned website. If you receive what seems to be an odd request or repeats a previous message, reach out to the end‑user directly to find out. (Some offices have particular code words or do not handle specific processing through email.)

Vishing: Phone call from a financial firm asking for personal information due to a “security problem.” Whenever I get one of these, I hang up and log into the secure site, determine if there is in fact a breach, make sure my password works—or even call the firm as needed.

Smishing: Pretending to send text messages from a company to get you to click on a link. Often attackers use the name of a reputable company, replicating the logo or site and asking you to log in. Recently I purchased something from Best Buy, using a Wells Fargo card, and the site asked for a verification code from my bank. My bank info is saved in contacts, so I know if they text or call. They responded to my inquiry: “Wells Fargo will never call or text you for this code. Don’t share it.” Why these are successful: 98% of text messages are read, with 45% responded to, while emails run 20% and 6%, respectively.

Snowshoeing:A viral type of spam. We get a message, open it—and every one of our contacts gets a message we didn’t send. We tell everyone not to open that email after someone tells us about it. At any rate, change your password immediately, then let people know not to open the infected message. The most virulent form can invade your contact list once you start clicking away and spread again. Most malware software will catch this, so it is essential to keep an active subscription. (When I notice something is working oddly on my computer, I immediately run a scan.)

Other attacks:

  • Man in the middle: someone pretending to be you and intercepting all your emails and transfers by having your information
  • Email Forwarding Activity: attackers set up email rules to hide their malicious activities or have emails forward
  • Ransom: send us bitcoins or we will hold your data hostage
  • Fake Malware and Updates
  • SQL Injection: attacking your database
  • Drive-by Attack :website loaded with viruses

A helpful to visit for more information is

Additional Preventive Measures (from information and graphics accessed from TSAE CEO Forum)

    1. Determine what data your organization saves that could be lost if you are Also, consider the cost to replace it (or pay reparations to members) for a breach.
    2. Conduct an annual review of the organization’s cybersecurity stance, policies and procedures, the threat landscape, any training program, and insurance.
    3. Implement multi‑factor authentication (MFA) for all.
    4. Make sure that your website is secure with HTTPS.
    5. Conduct a baseline, simulated phishing attack for both the board and staff to raise awareness and improve skills.
    6. Ensure that antivirus and malware detection is provided to all staff computers, then monitor, maintain, and review them regularly.
    7. Communicate and enforce clear password models. Promote the use of password vaults for all.
      • Make your password longer and harder to guess, with a minimum of 16 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters,
      • Change your password
    8. Develop business continuity plans that include what may need to happen in case of a cyber or ransomware attack. Then, create and communicate an incident response plan.
    9. Implement document retention and destruction plan.

How secure is my password?

These attacks are exceptionally successful because the attackers are perfecting their craft. After all, this is what they do, and they do it well. At the end of the day, we all try to be as secure as possible, and awareness is critical. Unfortunately, there is a new scheme, attack, or virus every day. We can be so busy sometimes that we do what is fastest, all too often leading to otherwise‑avoidable consequences. I thank those who bravely share their stories. We’re not judging them, rather, thanking them for making others aware who might otherwise fall victim. By sharing this piece, I hope you were able to maybe take one new thing away—or just be reminded about the threats.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Gatherings


“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”

-Alice Waters

Cynthia Orr orchestrated a joint fundraiser with the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute (TCDLEI) in Austin. Both organizations honored Mike Ware and Jason Hernandez, gathering in Austin at the home of the Hoches.

Mike Ware, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, directs their investigative and legal services. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and supervises the Texas A&M Innocence Project legal clinic, an Innocence Texas partner.

In 1984, Mike began private practice, specializing in criminal defense. His practice included representing police officers in criminal, civil, and administrative matters, as well as investigating and litigating whistleblower claims. From July 2007 until July 2011, Mike was the Special Fields Bureau Chief for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, which included the Conviction Integrity Unit. In 2014, he received the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Percy Foreman Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year award.

Jason Hernandez, an advocate and community leader, was a nonviolent drug offender sentenced to mandatory life in prison at age 17. President Obama commuted his sentence to 20 years in 2013. You can find more information on his story at‑hernandez.

It was truly an evening of fun and entertainment while recognizing the two and raising money for these two organizations. We want to thank our TCDLA members for joining us.

  • Kerri Anderson Donica
  • Samuel Bassett
  • Brock Benjamin
  • David Botsford
  • Cory Clements
  • Aaron Diaz
  • Mikel Eggert
  • Lance Evans
  • Michael Heiskell
  • Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube
  • Audrey Moorehead
  • Gerry Morris
  • Carmen Roe
  • John Toland
  • Amber Vazquez

Also on the calendar was an interactive Voir Dire seminar out of Houston hosted by course directors Stanley Schneider, John Hunter Smith, and Carmen Roe. Participants enjoyed working in smaller groups with our speakers, followed by a one‑on‑one with Joshua Karton. We then gathered for a board dinner and enjoyed our usual camaraderie.

On  Friday  and  Saturday criminal defense attorneys from all districts met and worked on TCDLA business. A subcommittee of the Rural Committee—Clay Steadman, Jody Griffith, Michelle Ochoa, and Judson Woodley— is fashioning a pretrial and trial checklist for rural practice (divided into two parts to make it more user friendly). Michelle took notes during the meeting, and I asked her to type them up and email them so I can help compile the checklists. The Legislative Committee met to discuss legislation, SB6 training, and other developments around the state. Legislative Counsel David Gonzalez will do a two‑ hour introduction breaking down the elements of SB6. Finally, the Executive and CDLP committees met to prepare for the upcoming year.

Sam  Basset,  TCDLEI  Board member, and Michael Gross, TCDLA President, presented Symphony Munoz the Charlie Butts Scholarship Award at the board meeting. Past president Sam Bassett set up the scholarship through the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute to award a 3L law student demonstrating interest in criminal law, especially criminal defense. Eligible students must share their views on our role in the criminal justice system and present recommendations from a member and a professor. Applications for the annual award are due each year in December.

This year TCDLA awarded the scholarship to Symphony Munoz, who is a 3L student at Texas Tech University. Symphony grew up in a small, west Texas town. Her father was the first in his family to earn a master’s degree, and her mother was the first in her family to attend college. She stated, “Now, I am adding to their legacy as the first person in our family to obtain a professional degree.” Despite her parent’s achievements, she has siblings who are also pursuing their own educational paths. At first, Munoz worked as a server, but soon realized her studies needed to take priority. She now expects to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

Dwight McDonald, a Texas Tech University alumni himself, worked in a private criminal defense practice for 22 years. In 2015, he transitioned to the clinical professor position he currently holds. He wrote Munoz a letter of recommendation which helped earn her the scholarship.

Mr. McDonald confidently stated, “I have witnessed firsthand her ability to take complex legal matters, dissect them, explain it to her client in terms they could understand and then provide the Court or opposing counsel a compelling argument based on the facts and the law and secure a favorable outcome for her client. Symphony attacks all assignments and the challenges of representing clients as a student attorney with a positive attitude and a set of intellectual tools that are indeed superbly attuned to quickly mastering and integrating new ideas, facts and the law.”

This month we will hold two more interactive programs with group discussions in Austin— Women in Law and their Male Allies (April 21) and Race in Criminal Law (April 22). Come to one or both! Visit our website for a detailed agenda or email to sign up today. We will cover one or two nights of hotel stay.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Fast and Furious


“In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.”

—Charles Schulz

February flew by. The month started with seminars during the Austin shutdown, led by our fearless course directors Rick Wardroup (Capital); Jani Maselli Wood (Appellate); Teri Zimmerman, John Shelburne, and John Convery (Veterans); and Rick Wardroup and Alyse Ferguson (Mental Health). Special thanks to all the speakers and attendees who braved the weather and made this event possible.

Next up was TCDLA’s Federal Law & Gumbo. The excellent topics and speakers in New Orleans kept the entire audience entranced each day till 4:30 pm. Speakers then lingered and met with attendees individually, and the questions continued at length. You know it’s good when no one leaves early on a Friday! Course directors John Convery and David Botsford hosted a stellar lineup. (If you missed the event, you can find it in the on-demand portion of our website.)

Of particular note was the presentation of the TCDLA Distinguished Service Award to Roy Barrera Sr., surrounded as he was by a number of attending past presidents. It was such an honor to meet a legend and listen to his stories. At the age of 95, Roy still retains clients and actively litigates, including in a recent criminal felony. He may be the longest-standing criminal defense attorney in the state, licensed more than 70 years. In 2021, Roy had two jury trials—one trial to verdict and another ending in a mistrial. He truly is one of our gentle giants.

The fun times did not end with the seminar; this also included our President’s Trip, hosted by Michael Gross. His choice social events combined great times, delicious meals, plus the camaraderie of our past presidents, officers, lifelong members, and new faces. We spent four days and evenings together and really got to know each other and catch up. The photos can’t begin to show just how much fun we had!

Gene Anthes and Sean Levinson from the Membership Committee also put together a rousing get-together: our first Members Social Event Touring the Cowboys Stadium. This was a great idea to bring members and families together to meet and form relationships in a fun, relaxing environment. The Membership Committee has three more social events planned this year: a Dallas Stars Hockey game, a Texas Rangers game, and a Wine Tasting—Austin to Fredericksburg. We will be sending more details soon.

The month continued with an Indigent Defense seminar in Dallas, where Lynn Richardson assembled a talented lineup for an overwhelming turnout of attendees. This event has always been popular due to Lynn’s leadership and support. In addition, we hosted two Juvenile Training Immersion Programs. Bill Cox and Kathleen Casey-Gamez worked tirelessly with trainers who prepared materials and a written curriculum designed specifically for Texas. The series of small group interactive programs—each a different topic—proved to be a resounding success. The next one is March 4 in El Paso on Adolescent Development. The final program of the series will be held virtually on April 29, dealing with “The Role of Counsel and Organization 101: Managing the Juvenile Caseload.”

It must be noted that we have worked closely with the grant on innumerable related items. We want to thank Judge Hervey and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges in general for their continued support for the education of criminal defense attorneys and support staff.

We also held a successful Career Pathways training to engage law-school students, new lawyers, and lawyers exploring a specialty or new career. More than 40 criminal defense attorneys shared their experiences, career paths, local county cultures, and norms—whether in private practice, firms, or PD/MAC offices. If you missed out, you can still view this on the website.

TCDLA also joined with the NACDL Foundation in a united effort to fund TCDLEI scholarships. We appreciate all our members who contributed and/or attended. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute Board met to prepare for the Rusty Duncan Silent Auction as well as plan for the remainder of the fiscal year. Do you have something you would like to donate—artwork, vacation home, jewelry, memorabilia? We welcome anything!

The Future Indigent Defense Leaders 3.0 class has been finalized, and we will next turn to planning travel to Gideon Core 101 in April. If you didn’t get in this year, applications will open up for 4.0 in November. We had so many qualified applicants that TIDC and HCPDO really had a hard time selecting candidates. The client-centered focus was overwhelming, listening to each applicant’s story. Special thanks to those who assisted in the numerous interviews—Thuy Le, Brandon Ball, Kathleen Casey-Gamez, Bill Cox, and Rick Wardroup. We have weekly planning meetings with these folks as well as Geoff Burkhart and Alex Bunin.

As Michael mentioned in his article, many of our other committees met this month. The Awards Committee, for one, met to select the recipients and research candidates—itself quite a task! All our committee volunteers should be lauded, as they continuously look for ways to provide services for our members.

This month has indeed flown by. I worked night and day to catch up so I could enjoy my time spent with members, whether traveling, zooming, or on the phone. Time flies when you’re having fun, and enjoying what I do in life is its own reward itself. Now time for March Madness!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: A New Year


“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

—Bill Vaughan

2022 is here! I am hoping you had the chance to take some time off and re-energize. After hunkering down for two years, my family went on vacation during the holiday break. Wow, did it feel good to see people and try to regain some semblance of normality. It felt so good to disconnect. Still, it was a little scary trying to take every precaution and preventive measure—masking up and liberally applying hand sanitizer all the while. But I am glad we were able to spend time together. The time off was welcome and proved enjoyable. When is the next holiday?

TCDLA has hit the ground running in 2022. The Ethics Committee has reviewed and prepared a letter for the State Bar Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda regarding the proposed changes to Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 3.09. The Bylaws Committee is clarifying verbiage regarding terms and application requirements. The Amicus Committee voted on several cases presented. The Membership Committee has planned several social events so members can reconnect, bringing along friends and family.

The TCDLA Codes have also been updated, along with several revised publications per the 87th legislative session. In addition, we have a new app coming out, which will include quick links to our resources and members-only section. You will be able to check your membership status and renew, register for a seminar or access seminar material, and shop for publications. You will also have access to the Member Directory Search, TCDLA Listserv, and podcast. The TCDLA podcast bank has been growing (download it!), and if you want to be part of the this, email .

The Voice editorial committee continues to work hard to provide you with monthly issues. If you are interested in writing an article, please do consider submitting. Articles can run anywhere from 500 to 2500 words. The website has guidelines and videos to help get you started. A team reviews all submissions. Looking for a past article? All the Voice issues since its inception in March 1972 can be searched.

Looking forward, a number of events are upcoming, as shown on the website, and you can attend them in person or virtually. Course directors and speakers are busy filling out lineups for the year’s schedule. We are building on-demand CLE as well, if you’re looking to fill a specific need for CLE. On, go to CLE/Events → Webinars on Demand.

Reminder too: We have a host of resources on  Task Force the members-only section of the website. Several committees maintain specific pages with additional resources—COVID, Law School, Client Mental Health, Memo Bank, Amicus, Veterans, DWI, Juvenile, Wellness—incorporating how-to videos, motions, and numerous other resources. If you are interested in Operation Lonestar, you can find information, training material, and such as well. TCDLA’s 35-plus committees are here to assist, and you can find them listed on the website under the About tab. As work with officers on this year proceeds, we are already sifting through grant applications for next year.

On the home front, staff started the first week of January with two grant-funded programs, heading off to Lubbock. Together with the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, they put on the Prairie Pup Nuts & Bolts and the 41st Annual Prairie Dog. Next up are preparations for 26 scheduled seminars, beginning with site visits then work on marketing and registration, publications, and the new app.

Our accounting team is currently huddling with auditors to complete the FY21 audit. As we approach the midway point in the fiscal year, we are looking at how we fared in our budgeting to ensure we end the year on track. This is an important tool in helping us plan for FY23—which is just around the corner!

Never forget that we are here to serve and assist you. If there is anything we can do for you, our members, please let me know. Let TCDLA be part of your starting the new year off in a positive direction: Let’s be the optimists with half-full cups!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Setbacks


“Turn your setbacks into comebacks.”


The holiday season is here! It’s been too long since I’ve traveled or taken a vacation due to the pandemic, so I’m excited to be going to see my out-of-state relatives. It seems like years! We will be taking a trip out west, reuniting with cousins and getting together with our extended family.

But excitement over our plans was tempered when my daughter hurt herself—tearing her ACL and meniscus and straining the FCL and MCL. She was devastated that her basketball season was over before it even started. It broke my heart to see her work so hard this summer to prepare, only to be let down. This was to be her year. Now she is relegated to physical therapy for six weeks to allow the FCL and MCL to regain mobility and flexibility, then surgery.

The operation is scheduled a few days after we return from our holiday trip. The recovery process itself will require six to nine months, due to two tears in her meniscus. When the doctor explained the surgery process, it was surreal, sounding like something from a sci-fi movie.

As a parent, I wish I could shield her from sickness, or pain, or whatever plagues her. In a way, I feel the same about our staff and our members. Those moments when we’re excited over new developments then face some terrible setback. Those life-impacting hardships force us to figure a way to move forward. To strive to be stronger or better. None of these things can—or should—be done alone.

While we can’t control what befalls us, we can challenge ourselves to conduct the way we respond. We have the power to marshal our resources and overcome adversity. Strength comes from what you thought you couldn’t do! Similarly, we also can provide the support to help each other along our journeys. In either case, reaching the end, successful goal is so rewarding.

For my daughter, the saying “walk before you run, crawl if you have to” rings so true. In youth, in particular, we want to get there without undergoing any trials or tribulations. Persistence, not giving up, will be key. As the holiday approaches, we will add in a bit of patience.

And as the season winds down, we tend to reflect on the past year. I challenge all to take a moment during the holidays and enjoy time with family and friends. Give the best gift you can, your presence and undivided attention. Go above and beyond—connect with friends, loved ones, fill your heart. Spread some joy to someone and show them you care. Together we can lessen each other’s burdens, so sprinkle some kindness, plant some love. Make these holidays extraordinary and share it with someone close. Cheers to hope, overindulgence in food, and reenergizing (worry about getting back into shape next year—a small setback!). Happy holidays to you, and wishing you a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous year!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Do you love what you do?


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

– Steve Jobs

As everyone starts going back in to work, we notice a seismic shift between working from home and in the office. The previous year held many challenges for working parents, juggling their full-time jobs and taking care of children (and, if you were like me, taking on the role of warden and teacher). This past year’s social isolation totally unsettled me. A people person, I surprised myself by all too easily becoming something of an unsocial couch potato. The anxiety built as we let our guard down in the spring, thinking things were getting better, then boom—a new strain crept in.

Still, many of our staff returned to the office immediately after Austin’s mandatory shutdown lapsed. As things opened up more, I too returned to face the new challenges: from traveling, to ever-changing COVID rules, to dealing with children thinking themselves free of virtual school (since “the warden” no longer occupied a home office). I am so glad they are back to in-person school, though I do feel sad for our COVID puppies, now alone at home. Did anyone else‘s children beg for a pet that has now become your responsibility?

Through all the disruption, the workforce has changed too: In association/events and hotel industries, for instance, many employees have moved on, some working remotely—if at all. Several companies have given up or reduced their office space, maybe rotating shifts to adjust. With courts not yet 100% operational, we still face zoom court and may well into the future. Some say that zoom and team rotations are the way of the future. Really? Sure, many jobs can be managed remotely or on a rotating basis, but if you work in an industry that provides service to people, how can you do this from home? You need to interact, serve, provide resources.

More than a year in, service industries like restaurants struggle to maintain a staff. One person now does the job of three. To this, we can all relate. The bottom line, at the end of the day, is can you provide your customer the best service. This new reality faces a challenge as everyone opens up to in-person events, social gatherings, vacations. In Austin, for one, employers must deal with the daunting prospect of a job market that’s become ultra-competitive, each company trying to offer more than the next (a boon to service employees, of course).

But when you’re running a small business, whether with one or more employees, each person has a job. And when you’re understaffed, struggling to fill positions, you will ultimately have to spend time training any new hires, assimilating them in your way of doing things. What sets your work culture apart from the next? Do you mentor your team? The job is not always about pay. Don‘t get me wrong; everyone loves a hefty paycheck. What makes a job desirable, though, may lie in the extras—the atmosphere—you offer. Is there a passion for the industry? A job may be stressful, but at the end of the day, is it rewarding? Can you believe in what you do? I hear all too often how people dread going to work. What things do you do to ensure your team doesn‘t feel this way? There are so many things you can do that are not financially prohibitive. Sometimes that just means thinking outside the box.

With TCDLA, what makes our staff special is their motivation to provide the best service. If an issue arises, we want to resolve it immediately. Our members are our extended family we’ve grown to know and care about. I attended several seminars recently and listened closely to what the speakers and attendees had to say. For me, this sort of continuing education is invaluable. Networking with peers assists me in keeping up with the newest trends, technology—but most important, in finding ways we can better serve our members.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: The Future Starts Today


“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.”

– Norman Rockwell

As the pandemic continues, we move forward and continue doing the best we can. This week, TCDLA brothers and sisters came to together in Arlington for one of many reasons—some for CLE and networking at the Sex and Violence seminar put on by course directors Sarah Roland, Sam Bassett, and Heather Barbieri. The speakers who appeared were phenomenal. (Not to worry if you missed this great seminar; you can still watch it at your own pace. Go to > CLE/EVENTS > Webinars on Demand. You can watch the videos as many times as you want for up to a year.)

Also on tap, we hosted TCDLA Board, Executive, and Criminal Defense Lawyers Project committee members for Saturday meetings. Many others came in just to watch the seminar, gather for a Friday members dinner, and reconnect with one another. No other organization I know can match the camaraderie of the defense bar. In many associations I network with, their meetings are all eight-to five business with little or no personal interchange or communication afterwards. The relationships our members build blossom over the years, extending far beyond the 5:00 pm meeting end.

This also spills over to the TCDLA staff. We are very fortunate to have a hard-working and dedicated team that believes in the work and service we provide. A small staff, we too are part of the TCDLA family.

During our meetings, we conducted five hours of business, though we could have conducted many more. But members were able to eat breakfast, have a cup of coffee, and share where life had taken them since they last connected. Myself, I got to know better new board members while learning more about old friends—also celebrating our September birthdays! Some of the highlighted board motions from the Board meeting follow:

  • •TCDLA Statement re Dallas Data Loss: “In the interest of transparency and to restore public trust, The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association urges the Dallas Police Department to enlist an independent, qualified auditing firm to review the data loss and produce a public report of its findings.”
  • Respond to the Affordable Legal Services Subcommittee of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors and approve the recommended proposed changes to the Performance Guidelines for Non-Capital Criminal Defense Representation. (If you would like a copy to review, email me.)

The 87th Legislature is now entering a third special session…I cannot commend enough our Legislative Committee Lobbying Team for all their hard work. It never ends! Allen Place and Shea Place will continue monitoring the session and all meetings throughout the year. You can see some of their work on the website, a member benefit (MEMBERS ONLY/Legislative Update), including these:

  • •FREE 2021 Legislative Update Paper by David Gonzalez, TCDLA Lobbyist
  • FREE 2021 Legislative Presentation (including SB6) by David Gonzalez, TCDLA Lobbyist, and Allen Place, TCDLA Senior Lobbyist
  • FREE 2021 Legislative Cheat sheet by Shea Place, TCDLA Lobbyist

Upcoming, we will host training on Constitutional Carry and Bail Reform. If your local bar is looking for a Legislative Update or an Innocence 1-hour program, contact me.

As with all good things, the gatherings came to an end and it was time to return home. I had to reflect that I have a job I truly enjoy. If you are not feeling this same way when you attend a TCDLA event, I encourage you to seek me or other members out to introduce you around. Don’t be shy! Once you interact with your brothers and sisters, you won’t be able to wait till the next time.

When is that you ask? How about November 4–5, 2021, at the Menger for the 17th Annual Stuart Kinard Advanced DWI seminar in San Antonio? Or . . . December 2-3, 2021, at the Kalahari Resorts & Convention Center in Round Rock for the Cross Examination & Effective Use of the Rules of Evidence seminar. For this quarterly gathering, we will host a TCDLA Holiday Dinner on Friday, December 3. Let’s keep moving forward, reenergizing, empowering, and motivating each other!

Chief Executive Officer’s Perspective: Change is Now


With Texas opening back up and members faced with more in-person contact, TCDLA is moving at full speed. We continue to deal with change – Covid variants cropping up, new executive orders. We must also now contemplate a second special session, which includes “bail reform” on the agenda. To that end, we will present a legislative update in September. For now, you’ll find a Legislative Update Paper in the members-only section of our website. TCDLA will do everything possible to keep our members up to snuff on every new change, legislative or otherwise. As soon as our legislative cheatsheet is revised, we will share it as a free member benefit.

Our volunteer forces are also mustering to provide help as needed. Our COVID Task Force, co-chaired by Allison Clayton () and Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube (), maintains a timely COVID resource page on TCDLA’s home page, with useful motions, tools, and other resources. As always, if you are being threatened or found in contempt, contact our Strike Force, led by co-chairs Wm. Reagan Wynn () and Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube (). Confronted with an ethical dilemma? Call our Ethics Hotline, and Robert Pelton or one of the committee members will assist you.

Other volunteers on our committees are also contributing to the team effort. Our Amicus Curiae Brief Committee, steered by Chair Niles Illich, has been hard at work this month preparing several new briefs. The Technology Committee is assessing new apps and databases, along with security programs and other tools to enhance your member experience. If you have not visited our committee page, by all means click on the “About” tab on the TCDLA website. We list more than 30 committees there, all designed to assist our members. If you want to join one and contribute to the effort, let us know. We cannot succeed without our members; they make everything possible.

Also of note, TCDLA is working with LPDO and TIDC on responses to Operation Lone Star. As part of Operation Lone Star, Governor Abbott bolstered the law-enforcement presence along the border. The number of immigrants arrested for criminal trespass or related offenses has subsequently mushroomed. More criminal defense attorneys are now needed to lend a hand representing those arrested under this heavy-handed program. We emailed information and have posted this, but you can learn more by emailing or visiting

For those who’ve needed a break from the madness, our monthly zoom meetings with TCDLA past presidents have provided welcome relief, wherein our gentle giants gather, brainstorm, and continue to lead the charge from behind the scenes. They let me crash their meetings, listening in on so many amazing stories. I love the laughs and camaraderie, the obvious affection they share for one another. It reenergizes me every time I visit.

And finally, we’re preparing for the Tim Evans Texas Criminal Trial College, featuring deans Kerri Anderson Donica and Lance Evans and emeritus deans Lydia Clay-Jackson and Tim Evans. We have a cohort who’ve been waiting since March 2020 for the college, and they’re excited for the opportunity. But don’t forget all our other upcoming seminars: Visit our website to sign up. It has been too long since we’ve seen each other! Nothing can surpass the feeling when can we come together, not only reconnecting but also sharing strategies – and assisting one’s brothers and sisters.

Chief Executive Officer’s Perspective: July/August 2021


In the past 16 years I have learned so much about the history of TCDLA. I remember the first year I started I had the opportunity to sit with Judge Frank Malone, the first TCDLA president, to work on a PowerPoint project. We spent a number of hours together. I was so intrigued about criminal defense, its checkered history, and the stories he told me stick with me to this day. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to sit and listen to the stories of many of our gentle giants, who gracefully and humbly shared with me their struggles and successes in the fight for criminal defense.

Many of our giants are not with us today, but who can forget their contributions—Kelly Pace’s smile and energetic pep talks bright and early, Scrappy Holmes’ late-night stories. And I’ll always cherish Weldon Holcomb coming into the office, signing a book, and explaining to me what it was like to be a defense attorney decades ago. To this day we have Weldon’s first gavel memorialized in a shadow box hanging in the office. Many other pictures grace our home office of the charter members who first met in Dallas in 1971 to found TCDLA, if you ever have the opportunity to come and visit.

To honor our leaders, we also began taking an annual presidents picture at Rusty, which we hang in the office to celebrate anew those who sacrificed not just one year but six to work on the officer chain. These now join the more than 50 presidents adorning our wall. Each day I walk by and I look at these people, some I’ve gotten to know very well—helping me grow professionally and mentoring me over the years. The institutional knowledge of our past presidents and board members helps us all in so many ways that one can only understand when you yourself serve as an active leader in the association.

Once a small organization of some 60 attorneys, today we number close to 3,400, training more than 5,000 attorneys each year. With our grants, we continue to expand our outreach to develop experienced criminal defense lawyers. Our efforts in the legislature have also grown, assuming more importance every year. But the continued success of our association comes from relying not only on our leaders but also on our members—who contribute by serving on a committee, writing a Voice article, testifying about legislation, helping a listserve colleague, giving a referral, or assisting with all the tools at their disposal at seminars.

In my years as witness to the growth of our organization, I myself have been given so many opportunities, been exposed to truths I would never have otherwise experienced—such as understanding what actual innocence means and what it means to represent somebody who needs a fair defense. These are things I never would’ve been exposed to short of working in a criminal defense field. Most of all, I’ve been given a chance to be part of the friendship bond. I have made some truly amazing friends in this organization.

When I looked at the video put together of all of our pictures collected over the last 50 years, I was struck by the heartfelt camaraderie: simply overwhelming. I am so proud to be part of an organization with people who not only care about one another but who will also fight alongside each other. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is a singular organization, one we all should be proud to belong to. I look forward to celebrating another decade—no! 50 years!—and making it to the centennial celebration. Cheers to all of our members and criminal defense attorneys who are part of the organization’s past, present, and future.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: The End… & a New Beginning


“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.
  It’s the life in your years.”

—Abraham Lincoln

It seems like only a pandemic ago we were here at this exact moment. We come to an end of Grant Scheiner’s presidency of TCDLA and pass the gavel on to Michael Gross. With this, we also thank our board members who have completed their terms and welcome the new members. We also lose Sarah Roland, our Voice editor of the past five years—but gain her as a board member. The Voice editor is a voluntary position requiring 15 to 25 hours a week, editing, gathering stories, communicating with staff and editors. It was such a pleasure to work with Sarah; she will be sorely missed. Jeep Darnell from El Paso, a member of the editorial committee with years of experience, will be taking over the position.

In the past year, our Executive Committee has met virtually at least once a month—for at least 2 hours at a time, if not more—to stay ahead of issues impacting criminal defense lawyers. For all our committees, this year has been quite busy, somewhat unexpectedly given social-distancing guidelines. More than 32 committees met monthly and developed aggressive to-do lists, which members have worked hard to fulfill. The COVID Task Force, for one, proved relentless in defending our members’ right to be safe while representing their clients. The Ethics Committee fielded numerous calls every week. Overall, this year could only be described a success, with everyone working so close together and achieving many great things! Without all of our volunteers, this would not have been possible!

Now we turn to the anxiously awaited Rusty. Whether in person or live-streamed, it is TCDLA’s signature event—the most prominent seminar specifically designed for criminal defense attorneys. And this year, we will be celebrating TCDLA’s 50th anniversary! For Rusty, as we will be doing moving forward, we will continue monitoring CDC Guidelines to ensure the safety of all concerned. Planning must remain fluid, so we hope everyone remains patient and we learn together.

We have tentatively scheduled the next year of TCDLA and CDLP programs. We will continue to operate under a rather conservative budget, dealing with the unforeseen as we begin opening back up. To that end, we have worked hand in hand with David Guinn, our treasurer, and huddled with CDLP Chair Adam Kobs. You can view the resulting list of upcoming events on our website. We will also start offering all TCDLA seminars in their entirety on demand. If you attend a TCDLA seminar, you will be able to view presentations afterwards in the event you missed something. We will also be reorganizing the video section on the website.

Following Rusty, stay tuned for our Trainer for Trainers, Battling the Resistance, and TCDLA/CDLP/TCDLEI Orientation in South Padre Island July 7–10. There we will celebrate the change in leadership with the Grosses in an event that welcomes all families. Perhaps in Padre, incoming President Michael Gross might provide a hint of the lineup for his upcoming President’s Trip to New Orleans February 9–13, 2022. Already on tap (in addition to excellent company, food, and libations) is the seminar “White Collar—Federal and State.” So some Jazz and CLE to look forward to next spring! On to the new year; here we come!

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