“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”
Cynthia Orr orchestrated a joint fundraiser with the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute (TCDLEI) in Austin. Both organizations honored Mike Ware and Jason Hernandez, gathering in Austin at the home of the Hoches.
Mike Ware, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, directs their investigative and legal services. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and supervises the Texas A&M Innocence Project legal clinic, an Innocence Texas partner.
In 1984, Mike began private practice, specializing in criminal defense. His practice included representing police officers in criminal, civil, and administrative matters, as well as investigating and litigating whistleblower claims. From July 2007 until July 2011, Mike was the Special Fields Bureau Chief for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, which included the Conviction Integrity Unit. In 2014, he received the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Percy Foreman Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year award.
Jason Hernandez, an advocate and community leader, was a nonviolent drug offender sentenced to mandatory life in prison at age 17. President Obama commuted his sentence to 20 years in 2013. You can find more information on his story at www.nationofsecondchances.org/jason‑hernandez.
It was truly an evening of fun and entertainment while recognizing the two and raising money for these two organizations. We want to thank our TCDLA members for joining us.
- Kerri Anderson Donica
- Samuel Bassett
- Brock Benjamin
- David Botsford
- Cory Clements
- Aaron Diaz
- Mikel Eggert
- Lance Evans
- Michael Heiskell
- Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube
- Audrey Moorehead
- Gerry Morris
- Carmen Roe
- John Toland
- Amber Vazquez
Also on the calendar was an interactive Voir Dire seminar out of Houston hosted by course directors Stanley Schneider, John Hunter Smith, and Carmen Roe. Participants enjoyed working in smaller groups with our speakers, followed by a one‑on‑one with Joshua Karton. We then gathered for a board dinner and enjoyed our usual camaraderie.
On Friday and Saturday criminal defense attorneys from all districts met and worked on TCDLA business. A subcommittee of the Rural Committee—Clay Steadman, Jody Griffith, Michelle Ochoa, and Judson Woodley— is fashioning a pretrial and trial checklist for rural practice (divided into two parts to make it more user friendly). Michelle took notes during the meeting, and I asked her to type them up and email them so I can help compile the checklists. The Legislative Committee met to discuss legislation, SB6 training, and other developments around the state. Legislative Counsel David Gonzalez will do a two‑ hour introduction breaking down the elements of SB6. Finally, the Executive and CDLP committees met to prepare for the upcoming year.
Sam Basset, TCDLEI Board member, and Michael Gross, TCDLA President, presented Symphony Munoz the Charlie Butts Scholarship Award at the board meeting. Past president Sam Bassett set up the scholarship through the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute to award a 3L law student demonstrating interest in criminal law, especially criminal defense. Eligible students must share their views on our role in the criminal justice system and present recommendations from a member and a professor. Applications for the annual award are due each year in December.
This year TCDLA awarded the scholarship to Symphony Munoz, who is a 3L student at Texas Tech University. Symphony grew up in a small, west Texas town. Her father was the first in his family to earn a master’s degree, and her mother was the first in her family to attend college. She stated, “Now, I am adding to their legacy as the first person in our family to obtain a professional degree.” Despite her parent’s achievements, she has siblings who are also pursuing their own educational paths. At first, Munoz worked as a server, but soon realized her studies needed to take priority. She now expects to graduate Summa Cum Laude.
Dwight McDonald, a Texas Tech University alumni himself, worked in a private criminal defense practice for 22 years. In 2015, he transitioned to the clinical professor position he currently holds. He wrote Munoz a letter of recommendation which helped earn her the scholarship.
Mr. McDonald confidently stated, “I have witnessed firsthand her ability to take complex legal matters, dissect them, explain it to her client in terms they could understand and then provide the Court or opposing counsel a compelling argument based on the facts and the law and secure a favorable outcome for her client. Symphony attacks all assignments and the challenges of representing clients as a student attorney with a positive attitude and a set of intellectual tools that are indeed superbly attuned to quickly mastering and integrating new ideas, facts and the law.”
This month we will hold two more interactive programs with group discussions in Austin— Women in Law and their Male Allies (April 21) and Race in Criminal Law (April 22). Come to one or both! Visit our website for a detailed agenda or email to sign up today. We will cover one or two nights of hotel stay.