Tip Hargrove

Tip Hargrove graduated from The Citadel (Military College of South Carolina) in 1971 and from Univ of North Carolina Chapel Hill Law School 1974. Went on active duty USAF in 1974. Began solo practice in San Angelo in 1978 handling criminal and family cases. Served on the TCDLA Board of Directors for 9 years and also served on the SBOT Family Law Council.

From the Hooterville Courthouse

Years ago, a rural lawyer – we will name him Bobby – had a client from Dallas who was charged with DWI in a small West Texas county. The case was unfortunately a true loser so he worked out an agreement with which the client could live. Time came to have the plea so Client X made the long drive the night before. Court was scheduled for 1:00. The County Judge was not a lawyer. She was someone Bobby knew well and liked, so he stuck his head in her office about 12:45. “Is the Judge here yet?” he asked. Answer: “No, her daughter had a baby this morning, she’s gone and won’t be back for a few days.” What the heck to do? Here Bobby’s client is, 7 hours from home after having taken off work, and never wants to set foot in West Texas again. Well, never fear, when it’s rural Texas there is ALWAYS a solution. When the County Attorney arrived, Bobby explained the problem and the County Attorney said, “No problem, let’s just go into the court. WE WILL DO IT WITHOUT THE JUDGE.” The client was in near shock. “Shut up, just play along!” Bobby said.

The County Attorney pulled out the plea papers and everyone signed, all the while with the client twitching nervously. The County Attorney approached the empty bench and said, “If the Judge were here, she would ask you if you are Client X who is charged with DWI, are you Client X ?” The client stared at Bobby in disbelief. “Dammit, play along I said,” Bobby whispered. “This whole thing is so messed up it can’t possibly be used against you in the future; it’s probably not valid for any purpose whatsoever.” Admittedly Bobby was guessing, but thought it was a pretty good guess (waive worries aside). So on they went. “Now if the Judge were here she would ask you if you are sane and competent…” The darn thing went like that all the way through! They concluded with, “She would tell you to be a good citizen and she would wish you luck. She would say we are adjourned.” Bizarre? No kidding! Luckily the client never got another DWI that Bobby knows of so he didn’t have to stand good on his commitment of “…don’t worry…” Bobby still shakes his head over it. Was he right? Professor Pat Metz will probably say Bobby was as nuts as the client and the County Attorney. But what can you do? Client says, “I ain’t comin’ back,” the prosecutor doesn’t care if the plea is any good, and appellant lawyers now can speculate and have fun with this one. Only in the Hooterville Courthouse!

Submitted by Tip Hargrove, San Angelo.

Report from the Reapportionment/Redistricting Committee

Friends, as you may know, TCDLA has a Reapportionment/Redistricting Committee chaired by Carmen Roe and myself. President Kerri Donica created the Committee and her successor Grant M. Scheiner kept it in business. We have been working and want to report our progress to the full membership.

Our mission was to determine if, after 50 years, TCDLA districts could benefit from rearranging. Of course, the first thing we did was to consult the bylaws. As it turns out, there is no mention of districts. In fact, they aren’t even called “districts”; they are “membership areas” (MA). See Article III, Sec. 11.  So, while we tend to refer to “districts,” formally there is no such thing.

As we thought through how to proceed, we came to the realization that TCDLA was NOT set up like a House of Representatives or like a Senate. Instead, it originated as a hybrid of both and for good reason. Texas is so vast with large areas sparsely populated, and at the same time, some population centers hold large concentrations of lawyers. Thus, a true House or a true Senate just would not make sense.  We concluded that the House of Representatives model worked well east of and in the neighborhood of I-35, while a Senate model worked well in the more rural and spread out parts of the state.  For that reason, trying to equal the number of TCDLA members in each MA was deemed impractical. 

From the beginning, we had the feeling that some members thought their county was assigned to the wrong MA in 1971 and that they would prefer to be moved. Even if “wrong” is not the correct characterization, have circumstances changed with the passage of almost 50 years was the question we asked ourselves.  The Abilene area and the Valley were our initial focus. We decided to test the Abilene area first. We did an informal survey and followed it up with a formal one. With Melissa’s help, we asked the TCDLA members in Taylor, Fisher, and Nolan counties if they would prefer to be in MA 2 – San Angelo/Midland/Odessa rather than MA 4 – Denton (where they are currently assigned). The answer was 94 percent yes to move to MA 2.  An important aside is that those members have nothing against the fine folks in the Denton area. They just never appear in court there, are far away, and do not know the lawyers there well,  while they are constantly in court in San Angelo/Midland/Odessa. The respondents also felt more attached to West Texas.

So, what is the goal, and what is best to do? We recommended moving those three counties.  Our hope was that members will feel they know their local representatives better, that they will be happier, and that membership in, and satisfaction with, TCDLA will increase as a result. We were of the opinion that a bylaws change is not necessary. We consulted Adam Kobs, Bylaws Chair, who agreed. No counties are listed by name in the bylaws as being in a particular MA. Perhaps a Charter Member can remember how the 254 counties were assigned to the MA’s. Most likely, a few of them sat at a table, pulled out a map and a magic marker, and just drew lines. This is step one, for we have not yet tackled the Valley or other areas of the state. We ask you for suggestions if you see a possible change for the better in your MA.

Based on the above, the Reapportionment/Redistricting Committee made a motion to the Board as follows: that Taylor, Fisher, and Nolan counties be reassigned to Membership Area 2 known in the bylaws as Permian Basin. The board approved the move on 26 Sept. 2020.   This rearrangement should have no adverse impact on MA4/Denton. MA 4 has hundreds more TCDLA members than MA 2, and only about 70 members are “on the move.”

We on the Committee appreciate the help we received from TCDLA staff and the confidence the board placed in us. The Valley is our likely next focus, so more to follow!  As we mentioned earlier, if you feel other similar changes can improve the way we deliver services to you, please contact any member of our committee. In addition to Carmen and myself, the members are: David Hardaway, Donald L. Wilson, and Adam Kobs.

An Artifact of Times Long Gone

Sometimes when you look through a pile of old papers, you find a jewel hidden under them. COVID-19 boredom put me on a spring-cleaning spree at the office, and what turned up but the “MINIMUM FEE SCHEDULE-CRIMINAL CASES” for Travis County dated October 17, 1969. A fine old lawyer gave it to me back in 1978. The contents of this pamphlet are both hilarious and hard to believe. Can you imagine, in today’s world, a county bar association publishing a minimum fee schedule?

I am not a Travis County lawyer, but Betty Blackwell, our beloved past president, is. Betty has written a short summary of the characters involved in the production of the pamphlet back in 1969. Two of them are our own Frank Maloney and Robert Jones, the first and 14th presidents of TCDLA, respectively. In this difficult time for our country and our profession, we hope you enjoy what follows.

The MINIMUM FEE SCHEDULE put out by the Travis County Bar Association was sold for the exorbitant sum of $1. It was intended to let the local bar know what to charge, and it also included an interesting list of offenses. Back then TCDLA didn’t exist to publish code books, so local groups had to assume that role. How far we have come in providing access to resources for lawyers is astounding.

Take a look at the minimums for retained cases and prepare to be amazed: A jury trial for murder with “m” – meaning malice – was $1,500. Hourly rate was $40. And apparently Travis County was the sex-crime center of the world. Of the 11 felonies listed with suggested fees, six of them were sex related. Shame, Travis County, shame! And look at the difference in the fee for rape at $1,000 and sodomy at $1,250. I don’t have the nerve to attempt to explain that.

Appellate specialists, be prepared to go broke. A brief and argument before the CCA was $1,000. You could expect to get the lavish sum of $1,500 if it was a capital case. If Mowla wasn’t already bald, he surely would get that way with these fees!

Now to pleas: A felony plea fee was $250. Considering what some counties have paid in very recent years for court appointments, that is not bad. Obviously, some counties have come a long way to go in regard to fees, while others apparently are currently using a copy of the pamphlet for a guide.

The Penal Code has never been a great source of pleasure for us, but let’s have some fun using what is in the pamphlet. Some of the offenses listed and the punishments associated with them will definitely make you scratch your head: Fornication was a misdemeanor with $50 the minimum fine – no jail time. On the other hand, running a bawdy house would get you a $200 fine and 20 days in jail for each day the bawdy house was open. I suppose wise advice was not to fornicate in a bawdy house. There was no harassment statute but sending an anonymous letter could get you a $25-$1,000 fine and one to 12 months in the county pokey.

Today we deal with gang violence all the time. It was better for the client back then. The fine for firing into a car was a minimum of $5. But the gang members had better not throw a stench bomb because that was a felony punished by $25-$5,000 and/or one to 25 years in the pen! And then there was castration at five to 25 years in the big house. Disfiguring was only two to five years. I guess you had to think twice about what body part to disfigure.

For those inclined to be a Casanova, beware: Seduction was a two-to-10-year felony. But then wife desertion was only a misdemeanor with up to two years in the county jail. The smart move was to marry anyone you seduced. How that conflicts with fornication was probably a bar exam question. If it wasn’t, it should have been. And finally, in this day of deadly viruses and social distancing, we close with a crime that we are all told to commit every day–wearing a mask in public would get you up to a $500 fine and 12 months in jail.

Tip Hargrove, San Angelo

The producers of the pamphlet included Robert Jones, Dain Whitworth, Paul T. Holt, Wallace Shropshire, Herman Gotcher, Jr., Frank Maloney, Forrest Troutman, and Jon Coffee.

Robert Jones, the chair of the committee, is a past president of TCDLA. He brought John Boston on as executive director of TCDLA. Robert personally went around to every criminal defense office in Austin asking that we all join TCDLA. In 1984 he was elected, with no opposition, to a criminal district court bench in Travis County and eight years later he was defeated for re-election and then served as a visiting judge for some time.

Dain Whitworth had been in the district attorney’s office before leaving to join the staff of the Texas District and County Attorney’s association. He and John Boston were great friends and for many years, they were the lobbying team at the legislature on all criminal law matters.  They usually agreed on more issues than they disagreed upon. He moved to the coast of Texas and has a small practice there.

Paul T. Holt was a legend in Austin. He has the largest criminal defense practice here for many, many years.  He never hired more attorneys, only more secretaries, at one time carrying three full-time secretaries on his staff.  He would open his office on Saturday morning to do free wills for any police officer. He was the great advertizer before it was legal, handing out glow-in-the-dark key chains with his name and phone number and always the phrase “To a good friend from Paul T. Holt”. My favorite story of Mr. Holt is that during his prime trial years, he had a card file on every person who ever served on a jury in Travis County and how they voted. It gave him an incredible advantage when it came to trials and every opponent knew it.

Wallace Shrosphire had been the county attorney of Travis County and then went into private civil practice as his wife Doris Shrosphire became the long-serving county clerk of Travis County.

Herman Gotcher, Jr., had been a legal aid lawyer before being hired as an assitant district attorney where he made his name as “Maddog Gotcher.” He was vicious in the courtroom and tried a string of drug cases, winning many long prison sentences in the early 1960s, until the criminal defense firm of Minton and Burton came into existance. Charlie Burton was the brillant mind behind that lawfirm with Roy being the  flamboyant one. But it took the two of them to finally start getting some acquittals in drugs cases in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, to change the DA’s view of those cases.

Frank Maloney was the first president of TCDLA.  He practiced law for many, many years in Austin. The saying in Austin during that time was, “If you are innocent, hire Maloney; if you are guilty, hire Minton and Burton.”  Those offices were the two most prominent criminal defense firms in the state at the time. Frank went onto the Court of Criminal Appeals and upon forced retirement, he taught law at the University of Texas law school before finally completely retiring.

Betty Blackwell, Austin

Many thanks to those wise souls who, in 1969, gave us something we can laugh at in 2020. Keep safe and certainly hope to see you IN PERSON soon.