Chief Executive Officer’s Perspective: Your TCDLA Family


“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” 

-Jane Howard

June is always a time of rebirth due to changing of the guards. With these strange and difficult times because of COVID-19, we continue into the unknown. Regardless, TCDLA has become stronger. The membership and local bars and under the leadership of Kerri Anderson Donica have united. It has truly been a pleasure to work with Kerri, not only as president but as a mentor and friend.

The executive committee has met numerous hours to ensure we are supporting all the needs of our membership. A huge thanks goes out to TCDLEI Chair Clay Steadman and the board for providing more than $45,000 in scholarships for attorneys enduring hardships.

The COVID-19 Task Force, led by Clay Steadman, Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube, John Hunter Smith, and Jeep Darnell, works endless hours communicating with members and working with counties to ensure safe conditions. Our GA-13 committee, under the helm of Betty Blackwell, Allison Clayton, Jeep Darnell, and Kyle Therrian, have written numerous writs, worked into the late hours of three a.m. to meet deadlines, and assisted so many of our members.

In addition, the Ethics Hotline, chaired by Robert Pelton, fields numerous calls daily and the response time is remarkable. Our members rave about the service and responses they receive from Robert and his committee.

The Strike Force, under Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube and Reagan Wynn, stands ready to defend our attorneys if the need arises. Robb Fickman has fielded concerns with the court system raised by our members as well.

TCDLA has more than 32 committee each serving a unique purpose. All the committees and chairs this year have worked tirelessly and provided support as needed and requested without any complaints.

Laurie Key as CDLP chair has worked very hard to adapt to the new norm and quickly change live events to webinars. Our committees are composed of volunteers. While trying to practice during this time, each has shown so much dedication, support, and selflessly given time.

Our May DWI Defense Project seminar was very successful. Courser directors Larry Boyd, David Burrows, and Frank Sellers, as well as all the speakers, not only hung in there with TCDLA and tried something new, they did it with ease. Of course, we had some glitches, but they were champs along with all the viewers!

The TCDLA staff are also here to assist you. We will get you the information or service you need. Do not ever hesitate to contact us.

As Grant M. Scheiner takes over the responsibilities of president in June, we will continue to work together, develop and maintain strong bonds, and TCDLA will be stronger than ever and be here for our members and support criminal defense attorneys throughout the state of Texas. Together we are your tribe, clan, and most importantly your TCDLA family!

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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