Ethics and the Law: Racehorse


Lawyer Haynes was an inspiration to us all. I had the  privilege to work with him on a few cases. Yes, he was a great lawyer but also a great American. Lawyer Haynes had served our country in one of the worst battles of WWII, the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was in the middle of the battle and would run messages back and forth to different commanders. He told me they picked him because he was short and less likely to be shot. He was fearless in war and fearless as a lawyer. It was my good fortune to get to know him and the other lawyers and non-lawyers who worked with him. Elise Sartwelle worked for Lawyer Haynes for many years, and she cared for and loved Racehorse very much. Elise helped keep up with the clients, helping Lawyer Haynes with personal matters, and her services were priceless. Elise was totally dedicated to keeping his office going when his health started to fade. Jack Zimmerman, one of the original members of the Ethics Committee, wrote this moving eulogy that was read at the funeral. Jack is also a retired Marine Colonel, and Lawyer Haynes was very proud of that.

I think everyone that has spoken so far has given you reasons why Haynes was a great trial lawyer, and in my opinion Richard Haynes was the best trial lawyer that I had ever seen. But I wanted to concentrate on not only Haynes as a great lawyer but also as a great human being. And the reason he was a great human being was that he cared about people.

To give you an example of what I am talking about, he and I were trying a case in a small South Texas town where we were out for dinner in a small roadside diner, and being the junior member of the team it was my responsibility to take care of administrative matters like paying the bill. And he watched what I put on the tip. And I used the standard 15% tip and he got all over me, saying that these people live on these tips and you should be more generous, especially in a small town where they aren’t paid anything. And he made it clear to me that when we are trying an out-of-town case, in a small town—especially in a small town—you should care about people and should tip more than 15% amount.

And while we are talking about pay, he persuaded me after 14 years of active duty as a major of Marines to leave the Marine Corps to come practice law with him in Houston, Texas, and he told me that there would be a significant pay increase. After a while I realized that I had taken a pay cut of about $6,000 that I would be getting as a major, and I went to him and told him: “Haynes, you told me that I was going to be making more money. You promised me that I would be making the pay of a general, and you know I’ve taken a pretty good cut here in my pay.”

He said: “Well Jack, I did tell you you’d make the pay of a general, but I did not tell you what Army it’s in. I was talking about the Mexican Army.”

So he had a sense of humor, but also was concerned with equal rights and the appearance of equal rights. Not just the fake occurrence of it. And the way I first learned that was when he called me in his office one time and said, “Close the door.” And he said, “We got problem with your name.”

I said, “How’s that?” And he said: “Well, the last part of your name is mann. We just can’t have that in this law firm.” He said from now on, your name is Zimmerperson, so you will be referred to as Zimmerperson from now on, and I was for the rest of the time that I was there. So I thought this would give you a little insight into his sense of humor and his sense of fairness.

But the next item is that he trusted the lawyers who worked with him and trusted our judgment. That is why everybody is so loyal, and that is why there are so many former members of the law firm of Haynes & Fullenweider who are present today. There are all of the civil lawyers who worked there, almost all of the criminal lawyers who worked there, here at this funeral service. And I think he generated loyalty because he trusted us, and I use this as an example: trying a major, major murder case involving the widow of the Secretary of State of Texas at the time, who was also the son of the Governor, who was also a former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and the wife was on trial for being the cause of death for the famous fellow.

We heard about midway through trial that someone had contacted one of our investigators and said: “Hey, you guys may be in trouble because some juror was overheard saying that they would never vote to acquit somebody that was associated with the power structure. That wouldn’t be right.”

And then we found out almost on the same day, within just days, that another juror was overheard at the grocery store over the weekend saying, “The way that guy beat that girl up, I would never vote to convict her,” and we reported that to the district attorney’s office. So I contacted the district attorney and he said, “Hey, I need to tell you something,” and he told me about his situation and I told him what happened with mine, and we both realized that we were going to have a hung jury one way or another—whichever way the majority went.

And the county did not want to have to pay for another jury trial and I didn’t want to put my client through another jury trial. We were almost finished with the trial. So that night I called Haynes and I said: “Hey, I need some advice. What do you recommend?”

He said, “I don’t know that Judge.”

They brought in a new judge because it was such a big publicity case. The local judge recused himself. And I said: “I don’t know either. I’ve never tried a case in his court, he is from out of town.”

So Haynes said, “What do you think of the way he is running the trial?”

Now, my last assignment on active duty before I came to Haynes and Fullenweider’s office was as a Marine Corps military trial judge, and so I always gauged the qualifications of the civilian judges I was before based on if they ruled on a motion or objection the way I thought it should be ruled on. If they did, I thought they were really great judges; if they didn’t, I didn’t think they were so good.

So he said, “What you think about this judge’s fairness?”

I said: “Well, every ruling that he has made so far in these several days of trial, I think has been right on. I think he is fair, and it appears he is worthy of trust.”

He said, “Well, do what your gut says to do.”

So the next day, instead of having a mistrial, we agreed to excuse the jury and go to a bench trial, just before the judge, and that advice was sage because, as it turned out, that decision to waive the jury and go to the judge resulted in a 20-minute deliberation. After final arguments the judge came back and found my client not guilty. So I use that as an example of him putting his trust in his subordinates, in developing good trial lawyers.


I end by saying that some of the other people talked about how he loved his family, and let me tell you two things about how I know he loved his wife, Naomi. We were trying a case in a rural Louisiana court, and after dinner we went shopping on a street that had all these shops on it, and he went in and he bought a sconce. Does everybody here know what a sconce is? About half of you raised your hands. I sure didn’t know what a sconce was before. Do you know what a sconce is? It is something you put on a wall and you can put a candle in it, or if it’s electrified, you can put a light bulb in it. But I had no idea what a sconce was, and I admitted I didn’t know. But he bought that for his wife and then he brought it back as a present. I thought, man, I would have never thought to do that, and I love my wife more than anybody loves their wife. But he did it because he knew she would appreciate it, and I understood from the family that they’re still in the house that they bought.

Another example and the last thing I’ll bore you with is when we were trying the case in Louisiana I was telling you about. We were representing a state district judge and the district attorney, who were charged with buying votes in a rural Louisiana parish, being tried in federal court. We ended up getting one of the cases dismissed and the jury acquitted on the other one, so we had a victory party there, and the supporters of the judge and district attorney literally rented the local country club. They only had our party in there that night, and they asked Haynes what kind of music he liked. He said he liked country-western. So they hired a four-piece country-western band, and they were taking requests for songs. And the thing I remembered about that night was that his favorite song that they played was a country-western song that ends with the line “he stopped loving her that day.” I don’t know if you are familiar with that song or not. So now, a few days ago Richard passed away. People can say he stopped loving Naomi that day, but in reality, I know that he and Naomi are looking at us now from wherever they are and he didn’t stop loving her that day. He still loves her and she still loves him.

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine

Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded

By United States Marines.

Robert Pelton
Robert Pelton
Robert Pelton is the former President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA), Associate Director for TCDLA, and Feature Articles Editor of the Voice, as well as serving as editor and assistant editor of Docket Call. Among his many honors, Robert was named by H Texas magazine as one of the top criminal lawyers in Harris County (2004–2010) and one of Houston’s Top Lawyers for the People in criminal law (2004–2010), and he is listed in the Martindale Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Robert has offices in Abilene and Houston.

Robert Pelton is the former President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA), Associate Director for TCDLA, and Feature Articles Editor of the Voice, as well as serving as editor and assistant editor of Docket Call. Among his many honors, Robert was named by H Texas magazine as one of the top criminal lawyers in Harris County (2004–2010) and one of Houston’s Top Lawyers for the People in criminal law (2004–2010), and he is listed in the Martindale Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Robert has offices in Abilene and Houston.

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