Robb Fickman

Robert Fickman has practiced criminal defense in State and Federal Court for 36 years. He is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, a Past President of HCCLA, past Board Member of TCDLA, and a longtime vocal critic of the criminal justice system. He received the HCCLA President’s Award in 2018; and HCCLA Torch of Liberty Award in 2019 for his many years of fighting to eliminate Harris County’s “Plea Mill” and systematic denial of PR Bonds. In 2006, Mr. Fickman summited Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.

Opinion: Many Texas Judges Acting Inhumanely

Our nation and the world are engaged in an awful battle with a deadly pandemic. Over a million people are already sick and many thousands will die. Officials have urged us to stay at home. They have called on courts to cease operating in all but the most essential situations.

Have all the criminal courts in Texas heeded the official admonishments?


Many of our judges are still requiring the presumptively innocent accused on bond to attend court. These dockets are most often unnecessary. The accused who do not appear risk revocation of their bond and incarceration.

To needlessly require an individual charged with a crime to choose between risking the loss of their liberty or the loss of their life is nothing short of cruel.

People define themselves, particularly in times of crisis. Lincoln said if you wanted to test a person’s character, you need only give them power.

Unfortunately, at this critical time, too many of our Texas criminal court judges have chosen an inhumane path. In so doing, they have failed Lincoln’s character test.

These judges who have abused their authority and needlessly require court appearances have disgraced themselves, the bench on which they sit, and our criminal justice system.

Let these judges who have so acted be remembered for the poor and inhumane judgment they showed when it counted most.

The Defense Strikes Back

There are lots of politicians who claim to be super patriotic. They are generally neither super nor patriotic. These self-proclaimed super patriotic politicians often claim a strong allegiance to our founding fathers. In truth, a good number of these politicians take positions that are contrary to those of our founding fathers. Loudly boasting that one is a patriot while advocating positions that are contrary to those of our founders is disingenuous and sometimes downright delusional.

There is only one group that consistently maintains its fidelity to the principles enunciated by our founding fathers; that group is the defense bar. Only the defense bar daily stands and fights to preserve the Bill of Rights. We do not brag on our fidelity to the Constitution—we live it.

For at least three decades, for as long as I have practiced, our society has cast us as the bad guys. We are often viewed at best as maybe one moral notch above the guiltiest of our clients.

As defense lawyers, we are often treated with disdain. Local news and popular television have largely contributed to our vilification. In defending those charged with a crime, we are often treated as if we support the crime. Such is not the case. It is a libel and it is not true. In supporting the Constitution and defending the accused, we do not thereby become supporters of the alleged criminal conduct.

The next time someone mocks you for being a defense lawyer, take them on cross. Utilize the “Doctor Analogy,” which goes as follows:

  • Doctors take an oath, right?
  • If a doctor is in the emergency room and they bring in a man who is riddled with bullets, pursuant to the doctor’s oath, would you expect the doctor to try his best to save the man?
  • If the man riddled with bullets was also accused of shooting a cop or molesting a child, would you still expect the doctor to use his ability, professional skills, and experience to save the man?
  • If the doctor saved the man accused of shooting the cop or molesting the child, would you think less of the doctor for having done his job, or would you appreciate that the doctor had honorably kept his oath?

As defense lawyers, we take an oath, and our oath is no less serious to us than any doctor’s oath is to him. In many ways, we have the same job as doctors. Like doctors, it is our duty to use our professional skills to try to save those who come to us. Arguably, the only difference is that doctors work in the emergency room, and we work in the courtroom.

It is time that we defense lawyers stop accepting this mistreatment. Our colleagues in the defense bar should be lionized, not demonized.

The words in the Declaration were a start in the long continuing fight for liberty in this country. The words are a rejection of tyranny and a bonding of those willing to give all to fight tyranny.

The defense bar daily continues the fight for liberty against those who would take it. The tyrants of today are not kings, per se. The tyrants of today are abusive judges & prosecutors who think themselves kings & queens.

So when we read the Declaration aloud in front of courthouses, it is a powerful symbolic statement. It is our public embracing of our role in the long continuum in the fight for liberty in this country. It is our announcement that we are united in our fight against abusive judges and prosecutors.

This year, TCDLA members were lead by a tremendous group of 74 volunteer local defense lawyers. In each community, these defense lawyers stepped forward to organize local readings.

In an unprecedented event, TCDLA lawyers lead readings in 74 Texas cities and towns, 4 states, and 2 foreign countries. In an historic event, TCDLA defense lawyers stood shoulder to shoulder in front of courthouses in one out of every four counties in Texas. Together, we held readings from El Paso to Orange and from Pampa to Harlingen.

Together, we made a powerful statement to our adversaries that we, the defense bar, are united like never before.

The long days of the defense bar remaining quiet are over! We are proud of our work! We are the heirs of our founding fathers! As such, we lay claim to the Declaration of Independence. We are the proud guardians of the principles enunciated therein.

From this point forward, TCDLA will annually celebrate July 4th with readings of the Declaration. We will raise our voices across Texas and annually reaffirm our commitment in our fight for liberty and against tyranny.

As the statewide organizer, I thank and praise all local organizers for your leadership, time, and dedication. All local leaders and participants deserve our praise and thanks—for every reading makes us all stronger. The local organizers and the communities where they lead readings are all listed below.

If you have not sent me your group photo please do so. If you are interested in joining us next year by organizing a reading in your hometown, please let me know. Next year we will have 100 readings across Texas!

God Bless Texas!
Robb Fickman
TCDLA State coordinator

The 2014 TCDLA Declaration Readings

Abilene—Joe Pelton
Alice—Michael Guerra
Alpine—Mimi Smith
Amarillo—Jeff Blackburn & Ryan Brown
Angleton—Mark Jones
Anahuac—Donlee Smith
Athens—Dana Mayhall
Austin—Bradley Hargis & Joseph Martinez
Bandera—John & Cindy Payne
Bay City—Scott Markowitz
Beaumont—Dustin Galmor
Big Bend—Jim Darnell
Boerne—Charles Weatherbee
Bryan—Shane Phelps
Burnet—Tony Odiorne & Michelle Moore
Coleman—Gary Smart
Comanche—John Stickels
Conroe—Josh Zeintek
Corpus Christi—Michelle Ochoa & Constance Luedicke
Corsicana—Kerri Donica & Steve Keathley
Dallas—John Gioffredi
Del Rio—Gail Schroeter
Denton—Sarah Roland
Eastland—Landon Thompson
Edinburg—Joseph Connors
El Paso—Jim Darnell
Fredericksburg —Tammy Keener & Cheryl Sione
Fort Davis—Mimi Smith
Fort Worth—Shawn Paschall
Galveston—Julie Hatcher
Georgetown—John Armstrong & Shawn Dick
Graham—Franz Von Hoffman
Greenville—Katherine Ferguson
Harlingen—Omar Rosales
Hempstead—James Rivera
Hillsboro—Terence “Tiger” Russell
Houston—Robb Fickman & Carmen Roe
Huntsville—David O’Neil
Kaufman—Michael Ray Harris
Kerrville—Clay Steadman
Kingsville—Jaime Carrillo
La Grange—Phil Baker
Laredo—Roberto Balli, Oscar Peña & Ray Rodriguez
Livingston—Todd Dillon
Lockhart—David Shulman & Kevin Fine
Longview—David Moore
Lubbock—Rusty Gunter
Marfa—Mimi Smith
Marshall—Kimberley Miller
McKinney—Jon O’Toole & Karen Chesley
Midland—Woody Leverett
Mount Vernon—Bart Craytor
Nacogdoches—Tim James
New Boston—Bart Craytor
New Braunfels—Megan Roper & Jamie Balagia
Odessa—Lane Haygood
Orange—Cindy Henley
Pampa—Edgar Castillo
Plainview—Troy Bollinger
Richmond—Dawn Zell Wright
Rockwall—Justin Hall
San Angelo—Tip Hargrove & Fred Brigman
San Antonio—Adam Kobs & John Convery
San Marcos—Scot Courtney
Seguin—George Taylor
Sinton—Joel Thomas
Sweetwater—John Young
Tyler—Bobby Mims
Uvalde—Emmett Harris
Vanderpool—David Black
Waco—Josh Teton & Tom Ragland
Waxahachie—Cindy Ermatinger
Wharton—Mark Racer
Wichita Falls—Rick Bunch

Other Readings By TCDLA Members

Blank Point Beach, Sea Ranch—Richard Anderson
New Orleans, Louisiana—Sharon Curtis
Mississippi—Nicole Deborde
Yellowstone, Wyoming—Tyler Flood

Readings Outside the States

Paris, France—Mark Bennett
Cancun, Mexico—Danny Easterling

Reading the Declaration of Independence

When I was young, I loved the 4th of July. I was raised in Roswell and Midland. Being a Jewish kid, there were a few holidays, like Christmas and Easter, where I felt downright left out. But that was never the case with the 4th of July. My father, the son of a Russian immigrant, embraced the 4th as if my family had been here since 1776. As a kid I remember the fireworks, the flag waving, and the sense of pride in being an American. Paul Revere and Thomas Jefferson were childhood heroes.

In 1999 the “powers that be” built the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. They were quick to have their names plastered on the front of the building. They were almost as quick to display a crime victims’ memorial plaque in the foyer. In 2006, as President of HCCLA it dawned on me that the Declaration of Independence , the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were all missing from the foyer of the courthouse. HCCLA remedied that by making a gift of beautiful replicas that now grace our courthouse foyer.

When I was married, like many families, we divided up the holidays. The 4th of July was celebrated at my house. Each year I would cook up giant platters overflowing with ribs, chicken, sausage, the works. The kids and adults could not wait to eat. I would bring in the platters with much fanfare. Before I would let anyone so much as touch a chicken wing, I would have one of the younger kids read the first and last paragraphs of the Declaration. Not until those words were uttered did anyone get to eat. I wanted my family to remember why we celebrated the 4th.

Last year, I thought it might be nice for HCCLA members to publicly read the Declaration of Independence. About 20 of us gathered in front of the Courthouse. As we read the Declaration aloud, I think we were all a little surprised at our own reactions. We were stirred. This was not just some reading of a historic document; this was a public declaration of our own opposition to tyranny. One after another, our voices grew louder and read with more passion. Everything we stood for, everything we fought for, came out in the few minutes we stood reading together. Not a one of us had foreseen the visceral reaction we would have. Yet immediately we recognized that we had experienced something unique. Individually and as a group the public reading had empowered us. In reading the Declaration on the steps of the Courthouse, we invoked the spirit of our Founding Fathers and sent a public message to all that we were united in our fight for liberty and against tyranny. We sent a clear message to the courthouse powers that our fight against tyranny did not stop at the door to the courthouse.

A few months ago I had lunch with Gary Trichter. Gary asked me about the Reading. Gary had the idea to take what we started last year in Houston and spread it across Texas. I thought it was a great idea. He wanted TCDLA to encourage criminal defense lawyers across the state to read the Declaration so that people across Texas might remember the true meaning of the 4th.

Gary’s idea was a huge success. At over 30 courthouses this year lawyers read the Declaration of Independence out loud (see below). In Houston , HCCLA President Earl Musick lead over 100 lawyers and friends in a reading of the Declaration.

No doubt in years past the public reading of the Declaration of Independence was an annual tradition. It’s a tradition that has been lost to the media age. I am proud of HCCLA and TCDLA for rekindling the flame and bringing these words back to life. Perhaps, NACDL will follow HCCLA and TCDLA and bring the Declaration of Independence back to life on the steps of courthouses across this country. Only good can come from people hearing criminal defense lawyers reading the Declaration of Independence.