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?

No.

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.

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.