Committee Reports

Young Lawyers Committee

The mission of the TCDLA Young Lawyers Committee is to advance the professional education and welfare of young lawyers, to involve young lawyers in serving the community, to promote fellowship among the members, to serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas while focusing on the specific needs of young lawyers, and to promote the goals and values of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Five Tips for New Lawyers

WORK YOUR RESOURCES. Join TCDLA and/or your local criminal defense organization. The resources are limitless. These forums provide advice, answers to questions, transcripts, knowledge of judges and staff, etc.

WATCH AND LEARN. Go to the courthouse whenever you have time and watch as many trials and hearings as you can. Watching is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

BE VULNERABLE. Ask questions, volunteer for projects, get up in seminars, give your all at breakout sessions, say hello to everyone, try the tough cases, don’t be afraid to be afraid.

BE BRAVE. Never be afraid to try a case to a jury. After all, as a young lawyer, you won’t win your spurs by pleading everything out.

BE NICE. When it comes to court coordinators, clerks, bailiffs, even the security guards working the courthouse door, kindness goes a long way.

DWI Committee

By Lawrence G. Boyd

The TCDLA DWI Committee is one of the most active committees within TCDLA. We collaborate on four annual seminars that have been some of our most well-attended and profitable ventures, including “Mastering Scientific Evidence (MSE),” “Top Gun,” “The [Dallas area] DWI Defense Project,” and “The Stuart Kinard Memorial Advanced DWI Seminar.”

      Other than our educational goals, we have also devoted our time and energies to fighting bad legislation and to participating in public rule-making hearings in “unit actions.” On March 29, 2011, a dozen of our members from throughout the State appeared to provide testimony concerning a bill that would have gutted the defense of ALR hearings in “refusal” cases. Our President, Gary Trichter, and our Chief Lobbyist, Allen Place, provided leadership for this highly successful unit action. At the end of that hearing, the author withdrew the bill.

      The DWI Committee has reviewed, discussed, and made recommendations to our Legislative Committee and lobbyists during every legislature for many years. I remember the year 1999 and the 76th Legislature as being a particularly tough year, when many of us attended “Senate DWI Day” and testified before a packed hearing room. In the very front of the room stood easels with the portraits of four lovely young female victims who had been senselessly killed in a tragic accident with a drunk driver. Their families sat behind us, many of them understandably sobbing out loud.

      Testifying in favor of sane DWI laws under such circumstances required a trained cadre of members who could truly feel the pain of those families while also being able to understand, and articulate, why the worst possible tragedy shouldn’t cause us to enact senseless laws as an overreaction to that tragedy.

      In 2006, the DWI Committee responded to a set of proposed regulations from SOAH and demanded a public rule-making hearing in Austin. In our opinion, the 2006 rule proposals were beyond SOAH’s rule-making power and would have effectively gutted ALR defense. The DWI Committee submitted a set of Comments opposing the changes and fielded a contingent of members to attend the public rule-making hearing on May 31, 2006. After a lengthy hearing, and a “wow” closing statement by committee stalwart, Troy McKinney, SOAH completely withdrew the proposed regulations.

      In 2010, SOAH again proposed a new set of regulations. After much internal discussion, the DWI Committee agreed that we were not opposed to the bulk of the proposed regulations, but that those regulations would be acceptable with certain modifications. On February 26, 2010, your DWI Committee again fielded a delegation to comment on the proposed regulations. Many of our comments found their way into SOAH’s official comments adopting the rules. We got much of what we wanted and a workable set of rules for ALR hearings.

      George Scharmen came up with our mission statement, displaying his usual flair and creativity: “Promoting excellence in ALR and DWI defense through legislation, education, and informed representation pursuant to the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.” Our goals for the coming year will consist of the following: 1. fighting back bad legislation and administrative rule-making; 2. reviewing and disseminating all appellate decisions relating to DWI and ALR in order to educate our members and determine the need to intervene and to assist other lawyers who are involved in appeals involving significant issues relating to the defense of DWI cases; and 3. better communication among Course Directors as to topics, dates, and speakers for DWI seminars.

            Members who volunteer for the DWI Committee should not have thin skins. You should be prepared to defend your ideas and to face tough questioning from your fellow committee members. However, the defense of a DWI is not for lightweights. If your legal and scientific theories can pass the crucible of your fellow committee members’ criticism, then you might be ready to present them to an appellate court. This is a “hot” committee, and we are always looking for new members who want to further our mission.

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