Chief Executive Officer’s Perspective: Groundhog Day


“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.”

                                                                                        – Roy T. Bennett


It’s been almost a month we have been working remotely. At first it felt like time was going by fast, then it turned into Groundhog Day  on repeat – get up, get dressed, coffee, go work on the sofa, fix lunch for the kids, go back to the sofa to work, fix dinner, go to bed. The only thing that changed each day was the food.

After a week of being sore from just sitting on the couch and working, but not working out, I decided I had to force myself to go outside. Then I got sore from playing basketball and volleyball with the kids – sigh. Three weeks later, I need to make myself take a break during the day just to move around. After reorganizing the pantry and storage closet, I have picked up several hobbies, binge-watched way too much Netflix, and started cooking items from scratch.

Most of the staff are working remotely while a few go into the office to cut checks, open mail, and process orders. We are watching our cash flow as I can imagine most of you are. We continue to ensure our expenses are down to the essentials. We are already projecting out various scenarios to prepare the best we can.

The past couple of weeks have been non-stop working on every aspect of criminal defense and the impact of COVID-19. Our Task Force has put in countless hours and continue to be there for our members. If you need any assistance, I encourage you to reach out to your district representative, who is listed on our website. Utilize the resources TCDLA offers during this challenging time. I haven’t had time to work on the items I would normally be working on due to being faced with COVID-19.

On April 10, 2020, the Hon. Lora Livingston of the 261st District Court of Travis County issued a temporary restraining order enjoining enforcement of Executive Order GA-13 in TCDLA et al. v. Abbott. The following day, the Texas Supreme Court stayed that order and has since ruled the individual judges in Harris County don’t have standing to sue for an injunction. However, the Supreme Court made very clear the constitutional arguments put forth in the petition and in TCDLA’s writ of habeas corpus are very strong and should be considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

TCDLA President Kerri Anderson Donica, Past President Betty Blackwell, COVID-19 Task Force Chair Clay Steadman, along with along with his Vice-Chairs, John Hunter Smith, Nicole Houchglaube, and Jeep Darnell, and the GA-13 Subcommittee members Allison Clayton, Jeep Darnell, and Kyle Therrian, have been instrumental in assisting attorneys throughout the state fight Governor Abbot’s unconstitutional Executive Order GA-13. Their tireless work and dedication over long hours  has resulted in one of the most vulnerable groups in Texas’ population, the poor, being released from jail pending the resolution of their respective cases.

We are each going through our difficulties of being separated from family and friends: family violence has risen, and anxiety levels and responsibilities have increased tremendously. TCDLA has put on several Mindful Mondays to help deal with stress, partnered with TIDC to prepare you for the new norm for online courtrooms, and Financial Fridays to help you with finances. If you missed any of the events, we have them on our website. If you can’t find the recordings, call us – 512.478.2514 – we will point you in the right direction.

With everything going on, I am frequently reminded to slow down just a bit and force my kids to take a break from their electronics, watch a movie, go outside, or play a game. I have to say I enjoy the time with the kids, but miss my family and friends. I look forward to when I get to see adults in person, not on Zoom or FaceTime. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder to be thankful for what we have and for the people we don’t get to see all the time. I try to reach out and say “Hello” to those I haven’t heard from in a while. Kind words go a long way. Whether you call, text, FaceTime, or Zoom, connect with someone today you have had on your mind or someone you haven’t heard from in a couple of days or weeks. Together we must continue to be positive, kind, and thankful. I am grateful for whoever is reading this article at the moment.

Melissa J. Schank
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.
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