A History of Accomplishment: Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Celebrates 35 Years

There are basically two types of people: people who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.
–Mark Twain.

In 2015, the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (LCDLA) will celebrate its 35th year in conjunction with the 34th annual Prairie Dog Lawyers Advanced Criminal Defense Seminar January 8–10 at Texas Tech University School of Law’s Lanier Center. Highlighting the festivities will be a 1980s-themed dinner and dance Friday evening, January 9, at Kershner’s Four-Bar-K, south of Lubbock. About 18 surviving charter members of LCDLA will be honored.1

Now is a good time to take a look back at LCDLA’s history of accomplishment.

Ancient History

Upon the organization of Lubbock County in 1891, the village of the same name was home to fewer than 200 souls, including as many as four lawyers. All were general practitioners who dabbled in criminal law, but there was little crime and very little litigation at the courthouse. When criminal cases were litigated, the pioneer criminal defense lawyers seemed to do very well.

Lubbock County’s first felony jury trial was in June 1892. Jim Vance was accused of stealing a horse from the IOA Ranch the previous November. Vance—described as just a boy—was placed in the custody of his lawyer, W. C. “Connie” Henderson, to await trial.2 The defense was necessity and lack of criminal intent.

“They are after me for killing two Mexicans,” read the note Vance left for the horse owner. “My horse broke down, and I think you would let me have yours if you was here. I will send her back or give you $60.” Apparently the mare was neither returned nor paid for, but Henderson’s defense worked. Vance was acquitted.3

State vs. William E. Taylor, tried in December 1912, was Lub­bock’s first murder trial. Taylor was an assistant city marshal who gunned down two unarmed men in a saloon two months earlier. Nevertheless, Taylor claimed self-defense, as his attorney attacked the characters of the dead inebriates, “Poker Tom” Collins and “Jug” Reynolds. After 3 hours of deliberation, a 12-man jury turned Taylor loose. His lawyer, William H. Bledsoe, went on to become state senator, and is credited with bringing Texas Technological College to Lubbock.4

Over the ensuing few decades, the practice of criminal law in Lubbock was unremarkable. After mid-century, criminal defense lawyers began taking it on the chin, both literally and figuratively. In 1961, District Attorney George Gilkerson became enraged when criminal defense lawyer Byron Chappell made an objection—as a spectator from the gallery—in a felony DWI trial Gilkerson was prosecuting. Gilkerson charged over the rail at Chappell, caught him with a left to the chin, and Chappell went down.5 The judge claimed he dropped his pencil on the floor, looked down to pick it up, and did not see the fracas. The incident was reported by all of the local media. Chappell recovered, and the two adversaries made up over dinner with their wives, but Gilkerson left office soon after the incident.

Without much fanfare, Blair Cherry and Alton Griffin swapped spots as the DA over the next couple of decades. With the death penalty on a hiatus, civil litigation in a high-stakes, drawn-out wrongful foreclosure trial that seemingly involved all Lubbock’s major players dominated the headlines.6 Then, in the DA election of 1978, Griffin was defeated by a brash, upstart young lawyer, John T. Montford.

The times, they were about to change.

LCDLA’s Early Years

Montford, age 36, took office as the Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney on January 1, 1979, and quickly began implementing his “get tough on crime” campaign promises. Soon after, several unsolved homicide cases were presented to the Lubbock County grand jury, resulting in indictments of at least a half-dozen individuals for murder or capital murder. Early on in his term, Montford first-chaired a handful of high-profile felony trials with maximum sentences meted out for the defendants. The media quickly became enamored with the new DA, and he earned a nickname, “John T. 99,” reflective of the number of years in prison defendants always seemed to receive in cases he prosecuted.

The criminal defense bar was reeling, and clients were anxious.

Brown was active in the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA), formed a decade earlier. He felt a local association similar to TCDLA could help educate and motivate the criminal defense bar, and the citizen accused would be more likely to receive effective assistance of counsel. Brown and a few other Lubbock lawyers spent several months planning the creation of a new association.

In February 1980, about 30 lawyers met in the Lubbock Club on the top floor of the First National Bank building, and the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association was formed. The purpose of the new organization was to “encourage cooperation among local lawyers to achieve the purposes of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association; sponsor educational programs and seminars . . . ; receive reports on legislation . . . ; promote local court rules and procedures in furtherance of the common good; promote relations among local judicial and law enforcement officers; maintain a local brief ‘bank’; and otherwise further the common goals, interest and education of the criminal defense bar . . .”8

Clifford Brown was elected LCDLA’s first president. Other officers and directors were Gerald Anderson, Tom Cannon, Alton Griffin, Mark Hall, Dennis McGill, Albert Perez, and Bill Wischkaemper.9 Meetings were held on the third Thursday afternoon of each month at 5:30. The meeting places varied and over the years included the Lubbock Club, the Inn Town Inn, the Holiday Inn Civic Center, the Godbold Center, the law offices of O’Shea, Hall, Hart & Forcum, the law offices of Chappell & Lanehart, Bleacher’s Sports Bar, and the Blue Light Bar.

According to legend, LCDLA bylaws were amended to provide that no meeting of the Association would ever be held in a place where alcohol was not readily available. There is no evi­dence that such a bylaw amendment was reduced to writing, but the unwritten booze bylaw has seldom been violated.

By the end of 1980, LCDLA members were sharing ideas and strategies, learning new trial techniques, and generally becoming more prepared as advocates. They began having success against Montford and his prosecutors in the courthouse, and clients felt more confident with their attorneys.10

Over the ensuing decades, LCDLA developed many services for its members, including a huge form motions catalogue, a local strike force, an email listserve, a website, a brochure program encouraging misdemeanor defendants to hire LCDLA members rather than represent themselves, and even a courthouse closet for clients in need of free trial apparel. In addition, LCDLA has a long-standing tradition of senior attorneys serving as mentors to the “puppy lawyers.”

LCDLA’s educational effort, notably its annual seminar known as Prairie Dog, is no doubt the group’s greatest accomplishment.

Evolution of Prairie Dog

Until 1985, there was no mandatory requirement that Texas lawyers maintain continuing legal education hours. Nevertheless, LCDLA’s early efforts to provide quality CLE were immediately successful. In May 1981, LCDLA’s first seminar, “Criminal Defense,” was presented at Texas Tech University School of Law (TTUSL). The course director was Mike Brown and tuition was $35.11

Out-of-town presenters were Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge John Onion on “Recent Significant Decisions,” Dallas lawyer Vincent Perini on “Criminal Attorney Fees,” and Tyler attorney Weldon Holcomb on “Preserving Error and Protecting the Record.” Local luminaries on the agenda were Ralph H. Brock, George Gilkerson, Alton Griffin, Dale Jones, Dennis McGill, Travis Shelton, and Bill Wischkaemper, all LCDLA charter members. In addition, local judges J. Q. Warnick Jr., John McFall, Robert Wright, and William Shaver appeared on the program.

In 1983, the third LCDLA seminar drew more than 100 attendees, this time at the Holiday Inn Civic Center. The 1983 seminar also marked the first time LCDLA hosted the quarterly TCDLA board of directors meeting in conjunction with the seminar, now titled “Criminal Practice Update.” I served as course director, and I remember a “who’s who” of statewide criminal defense talent featured on the agenda: Rusty Duncan of Denton, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Chuck Miller, Warren Burnett of Odessa, Tim Evans of Fort Worth, Tom Sharpe of Brownsville, Gerald Goldstein of San Antonio, and Bill Habern of Riverside.

Aside from the remarkable speaker lineup and the huge attendance, I have two vivid memories of the 1983 course, both related to the budget. First, the hotel charged about $75 for each vat of coffee. Thereafter, LCDLA opted to use the much more economical law school as the venue for most of its seminars. Following the event, I received a travel expense voucher from presenter Gerald Goldstein for several thousand dollars. It seems he had rented a Lear Jet in San Antonio, made a couple of stops around the state picking up his buddies, flew on to Lubbock to speak, and then the whole entourage took off for an Aspen vacation. Goldstein’s bill amounted to much more than the entire budget for our little conference, so I was horrified: I thought I had bankrupted LCDLA! Of course, it was Goldstein’s idea of a joke, and of the many times he has anchored our seminar over the years, I cannot remember him ever asking for a dime in re­im­bursement. The seminar was a financial success.

Over the next two decades, LCDLA hosted a seminar each year. Some were large events in conjunction with TCDLA. Others were smaller affairs with small budgets designed for and presented by local lawyers.

In 2005, LCDLA celebrated its 25th birthday in grand fashion, ushering in a new era of legal education. The huge event, “25 Years of Wild, Western Justice,” offered not only a star-studded seminar at the law school, but also a blowout of a party featuring Austin country recording artists the Derailers, plus LCDLA souvenir T-shirts and other memorabilia, a tailgate party, and tickets to an Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech basketball game. The affair (co-hosted by TCDLA) was a huge success, drawing folks from all across Texas: About 170 attended the seminar and almost 400 attended the party.12 Profits from the event funded an LCDLA donation of $10,000 to the TTUSL Foundation, which went to benefit the law school’s new criminal defense clinic. The State Bar of Texas later recognized LCDLA with its “Star of Achievement” award for the accomplishments produced through the 2005 event.13

The popular new title chosen for the Lubbock conference in 2006 reflected the roots of rural criminal defense, dating to late 1800s South Plains advocates known as “prairie dog lawyers.” Thus, LCDLA’s Prairie Dog Lawyers Advanced Criminal Law Seminar was born.14 LCDLA’s little legal powwow has gained a well-deserved reputation as the second-best criminal defense seminar in Texas, sometimes nicknamed “Rusty Duncan North,” a flattering comparison to TCDLA’s flagship seminar, the Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course, held annually in San Antonio. The Prairie Dog has grown in attendance and in stature, solidifying LCDLA’s reputation for producing top-quality legal education.15 Via the seminar, annual party, and other efforts, LCDLA has helped raise almost $100,000 for the TTUSL Foundation, which benefits the Brendan Murray Scholarship Fund.16

LCDLA’s Unpopular Causes

In LCDLA’s first year, there was very little controversy to stir the membership to collective action. This would soon change, as a tradition began to develop. LCDLA: the champion of honorable, though often unpopular, causes.

LCDLA vs. Church of Christ Minister, 1981

Dennis McGill was LCDLA’s second president. Early in his term, an article appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about a local Church of Christ minister’s reaction to the verdict in a highly publicized Lubbock capital murder case in which a DPS trooper was killed. LCDLA member Floyd Holder obtained a life sentence for his client, Billy Wayne Alexander.17 The minister, Grover Stevens, preached sermons and published pamphlets for the public condemning the sentence. Reverend Stevens argued the death penalty should have been imposed, and he blamed Holder. The minister was quoted in the newspaper article saying Holder was “as guilty as Alexander because of his efforts to prevent the death penalty.”18

The LCDLA board authorized President McGill’s response, which was published under banner headlines in the A-J: “Lubbock Lawyers Condemn Minister’s Remarks.” McGill used strong language in outlining the obvious reasons the minister was so misguided. “Every person in our community, state, and nation should be outraged at the commentary by Mr. Stevens; for to follow his advice would return us to the dark ages.”19

The minister never recanted his remarks, of course, but LCDLA had strongly and publicly stood against intolerable legal and moral abuse. It was just the beginning.

Gilmore vs. Lubbock County, 1981–1982

A new Lubbock County Jail Annex was constructed in 1980. Although the new facility included rooms for attorney-client visitations, Sheriff D. L. “Sonny” Keesee refused to allow attorneys to use the rooms, citing safety concerns, as prisoners would have to be transported to the rooms through a security corridor used by jailers. Defense lawyers were relegated to public jail visitation areas and forced to confer with clients through glass walls via telephone as public visitors sat nearby. There were no provisions for private attorney-client conferences.

President McGill and Alton Griffin spearheaded LCDLA’s public response to the sheriff’s position, petitioning the Lubbock County Commissioners and CDA Montford for relief. But LCDLA’s concerns fell on deaf ears.

In August 1981, on behalf of clients of LCDLA members, Mike Brown and Danny Hurley filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Lubbock County, the sheriff, and the commissioners, citing constitutional complaints about the lack of attorney-client visitation facilities.20 Litigation followed, forcing a settlement in favor of the plaintiffs that was reached in the summer of 1982.21 Space in the adjacent old county jail facility was converted, and five new attorney-client conference rooms were constructed. The new visitation cells, with no glass and no telephones, provided for face-to-face visits between attorneys and clients.

The 1982 visitation facilities served the needs of Lubbock lawyers and their clients for almost 30 years, until the new Lubbock County Detention Center was opened in 2010. The sheriff during construction of the 2010 facility, David Gutierrez, made it a point to confer with LCDLA representatives before planning new inmate visitation cells.

Stearnes vs. Clinton, 1987–1989

Carlton McLarty and I were appointed to represent a young man named Michael Stearnes, one of four accused in a high-profile drug-related triple murder case in 1987. Damon Richardson was the first co-defendant to face trial. He was convicted, largely on the testimony of one Anita Hanson—known as “Snowgirl”—who said she witnessed the murders. Richardson was sentenced to death.22

Snowgirl had been held in “protective custody” until the verdict in the Richardson trial. After her release, Snowgirl called McLarty asking for legal advice. McLarty declined, but Snowgirl agreed to an interview with McLarty. He appeared at her home with Quinn Brackett, an attorney for another co-defendant, and a legal assistant armed with a tape recorder. At first, Snowgirl cooperated and answered all of McLarty’s questions. However, midway through the interview, she secretly called an assistant Criminal District Attorney. The prosecutor soon appeared at Snowgirl’s home with police and ended the interview.

Outraged, McLarty and I immediately filed a motion to take Snowgirl’s deposition. However, at the hearing on our motion, something unexpected happened. The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney, Travis Ware, alleged that McLarty had tampered with his “protected witness,” and that the attorney had violated the CDA’s rule “to ask permission before interviewing a state’s witness.” Judge Thomas Clinton agreed, stated on the record that McLarty and I lacked experience to handle the case, and fired us as Stearnes’ attorneys.

Stearnes stood to address the Court, “I ain’t gonna stand for no shit like that!”

The judge replied, “You keep a civil tongue in your mouth or I will have you up for something else besides capital murder.”

Stearnes: “Well, this is wrong!”

LCDLA agreed with Stearnes: What Judge Clinton did was very wrong. At an emergency special meeting, members passed the hat to send LCDLA Vice President for Court Liaison Mark Hall and me to TCDLA headquarters in Austin to seek help from the TCDLA strike force. The result: Austin lawyer David Botsford volunteered to join LCDLA lawyer Ralph H. Brock to file a mandamus action on behalf of Stearnes. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund would join the effort as well.

After the dust settled, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted mandamus relief in a landmark opinion, holding zealous representation requires even a court-appointed lawyer to interview witnesses, and “the power of the trial court to appoint counsel to represent indigent defendants does not carry with it the concomitant power to remove counsel at his discretionary whim.”23

Once reinstated as Stearnes’ counsel, we demolished Snowgirl’s credibility. We also attacked the credibility of another prosecution witness, Dr. Ralph Erdmann, a local pathologist who seemed to tailor his testimony in every case to favor the prosecution. Stearnes was acquitted.24

Revelations in the Stearnes trial helped clear the remaining two co-defendants, and a new trial was eventually ordered for Richardson, who settled for a life sentence.25 Dr. Erdmann’s scandalous body of work came under intense scrutiny, including a memorable CBS “60 Minutes” exposé by Ed Bradley in 1992.

“The Range Wars,” 1992–1994

About the same time, two West Texas criminal district attorneys who promoted Erdmann’s fabricated evidence brought vindictive prosecutions against famed Georgia criminal defense lawyer Millard Farmer and two Lubbock police officers who had criticized Erdmann.26

Once again, members of LCDLA, including Rod Hobson, Danny Hurley, Brian Murray, and Denette Vaughn—joined by volunteers from TCDLA and NACDL—jumped into the fray on behalf of Farmer and the police officers. Murray and Hobson were also threatened with grand jury action, so David Botsford and I volunteered to assist, and the LCDLA lawyers dodged indictments.

The prosecutors found themselves the subject of a federal racketeering lawsuit, which resulted in injunctions halting their prosecutions against Farmer and the police officers and a $300,000 civil judgment against Lubbock, Randall, and Potter counties.27 The prosecutors were defeated in the next election, and Erdmann went to prison for faking autopsies.28

Victim’s Memorial, 2005

In April 2005, local victims advocacy groups erected a granite monument on the west lawn of the Lubbock County Courthouse, along with two benches and a stone flower garden. The monument carried an inscription that read, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” The quote was misattributed to Benjamin Franklin.

The members of LCDLA were not pleased. LCDLA President Pat Metze, along with Alton Griffin and Rusty Gunter, led the charge to have the memorial removed. “It encourages people to become enraged,” Metze said in a newspaper interview.29

Griffin, a former Lubbock County CDA, told the newspaper he had a great deal of sympathy for victims of crime. “However, our country is based upon the fact that a defendant is entitled to a fair trial. Victims don’t have any liberty at all without that.”30

When the Lubbock County Commissioners Court ignored LCDLA’s request to remove the memorial, the organization threatened to file a lawsuit. Within days, the commissioners capitulated, and the monument was demolished.31 LCDLA members kept chunks of the smashed granite as souvenirs.

LCDLA vs. The Party Patrols, 200732

The annual return of Texas Tech students each August is historically known to cause an increase in minor alcohol-related crimes, but 2007 was quite different. That fall, citations issued by Lubbock law enforcement for minor in possession, minor in consumption, public intoxication, and violations of the local noise ordinance reached record numbers. According to Lubbock Municipal Court records, about 1,300 of the tickets were issued in the first month of the semester. The figure reflected an increase of about 500 percent for alcohol-related violations from the same time period the previous year.33

LCDLA members began hearing stories of outrageous con­duct engaged in by the Lubbock Police Department’s ag­gres­sive “Party Patrol.” One student reported that revelers refused consent for a Party Patrol officer to enter an apartment to investigate a noise complaint. The officer climbed a ladder to reach the apart­ment balcony, entered through an unlocked door, and issued citations to everyone at the party. Another officer crawled under a garage door opened only 12–18 inches to gain access to a home where a party was in progress, and gave everyone present at the gathering some kind of citation. There were many reports of large parties being busted—50, 60, or even more students—and every individual received some sort of citation. Minors were typically issued possession or consumption tickets. Those of age were issued noise ordinance tickets.34

LCDLA initiated a pro bono effort to assist the young people accused by the Party Patrol. LCLDA member Jill Stangl, Director of Student Legal Services at Texas Tech, recruited about 20 members to offer their expertise free of charge for those impacted by the Party Patrol’s enforcement efforts. Several hundred students were served by the LCDLA volunteers.35

The pro bono group successfully caused enough havoc to return the enforcement of minor alcohol offenses and noise ordinance tickets to their usual levels. Of the hundreds of cases accepted by the LCDLA volunteers, very few resulted in any sort of sanction.

Ben Webb vs. Jim Bob Darnell, 200936

In June 2009, young LCDLA member Ben Webb was subpoenaed by the Lubbock County CDA’s office to testify in the punishment phase of a trial involving a former client. The prosecutor wanted Webb to provide information that involved attorney-client communications in order to prove up an unindicted felony.

Webb, who had been licensed but three years at the time, sought the counsel of more experienced members of LCDLA be­fore appearing in court. Their advice and willingness to stand and fight with Webb gave him the confidence to do the right thing. When called to the stand, he refused to testify. Furious, Judge Jim Bob Darnell of the 140th District Court ordered Webb to jail.

Following the contempt allegation, Webb’s attorney, Rod Hob­son, fought aggressively to prevent a finding of contempt at the hearing to follow.37 Throughout the process, members of LCDLA were there to offer their time, expertise, and encouragement to Webb and Hobson.38 In the end, the CDA’s office and Judge Darnell backed down and signed off on an Agreed Finding of Not Guilty on the contempt allegation. At the hearing to enter the order, LCDLA filled the courtroom to capacity in a show of continued support and solidarity as a group.39

Lubbock County Frequent Courthouse Visitors Badge Program, 2010–present

In May 2010, Lubbock County officials authorized a security system utilizing conveyor-belt scanners and metal detectors at the main entrances of the courthouse. The Lubbock County Sheriff implemented a screening policy that allowed county employees and many other designated classes of courthouse visitors to bypass the security system. Sheriff Kelly Rowe did not include private lawyers among courthouse visitors allowed to bypass security devices.40

Beginning long before the new security measures were

implemented in 2011, LCDLA representatives met informally with the sheriff in an attempt to establish a procedure to allow private attorneys to bypass security devices. The meetings continued, eventually involving the lobbying efforts of Lubbock Area Bar Association leaders and State Senator Bob Duncan. In October 2012, the sheriff decided local attorneys would not be

included among those exempted from the security procedures.41

In November 2012, LCDLA led a collaborative effort to establish a security bypass program to be approved by the Lubbock County Commissioners Court, pursuant to Government Code § 291.010. Six bar organizations, representing more than 500 local and area lawyers, joined in the planning and formulation of the Lubbock County Frequent Courthouse Visitors Badge Program (LCFCV).42

The Lubbock County Commissioners were individually briefed on the proposal in the fall of 2013, and LCFCV committee members participated in a work session with the full Commissioner’s Court earlier this year. The Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the measure before the end of the 2014.

The Lubbock Private Defender Office43

LCDLA established and oversees one of the largest undertakings of any local bar organization in Texas, the Lubbock Private Defender Office (LPDO). LPDO evolved from the Lubbock Special Needs Defender Office (LSNDO), a pilot program created in 2007 to serve the needs of offenders with a mental health diagnosis.44

Within four years, LSNDO had proven so successful, expansion of the pilot program was sought to include all indigent defense in Lubbock County other than juvenile and capital murder cases. In 2011, Lubbock County sought a grant from the Indigent Defense Commission to assist with expansion of the program and put out a request for proposals, seeking an entity to run the program. LCDLA rose to the occasion, forming a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation to accept the county and state funds and oversee the Managed Assigned Counsel Program, administered by the LPDO.

Modeled after a similar program in San Mateo, California, the LPDO opened for business in October 2011. It was the first of its kind in Texas, and only the second nationwide. Working much like a public defender office, the LPDO receives referrals from the courts and assigns the cases to various private attorneys based on the level of experience of the assigned attorney. Since its inception, the office has averaged processing between 6,000 and 7,000 cases each year, utilizing an average of 75 private contract attorneys, all LCDLA members, to handle the representation of the clients.

The program, operating on a $2.7 million budget, has proven to be a win-win situation. Lubbock County pays a fair and foreseeable price for indigent defense, clients are represented by well-trained and effective advocates, and lawyers are fairly compensated for their services. There is a general consensus that the local justice system has been well served by the LPDO.

LCDLA Statewide Leadership

The Lubbock criminal defense bar has produced a great number of statewide bar leaders. Prior to the 1980 formation of LCDLA, Travis Shelton had served as president of the State Bar of Texas. George Gilkerson was a founding member of TCDLA and its third president.

Since 1980, LCDLA members Clifford Brown, Bill Wischkaemper, and Danny Hurley have each served as president of TCDLA, and Mark Snodgrass is the current treasurer of TCDLA. Numerous LCDLA members have served as directors and associate directors of TCDLA. Others have volunteered as seminar speakers statewide, and have helped other legal communities establish similar local organizations across Texas. In addition, Ralph H. Brock and I each served as director of the State Bar of Texas, District 16.45

Softball and Other Diversions

In the summer of 1980, LCDLA President Cliff Brown suggested LCDLA organize a softball team and challenge the Lubbock County CDA’s office to a game. Brown felt friendly competition might create a bit of comradery among the fierce advocates, and it might give the defense attorneys a chance of winning against prosecutors who were regularly hammering LCDLA’s best lawyers in the courtroom. And, it might be a lot of fun.

The CDA’s office agreed to the challenge, and the two sides took the field on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Mose Hood Park near downtown. CDA Montford managed the prosecutor’s team, and Brown managed the LCDLA team. Brown was 60 years old at the time, but he penciled himself in as the starting pitcher. He was also a switch-hitter and batted left-handed his first and only trip to the plate, swatting a double to right field. Advocates on both sides now claim victory, but the actual outcome of the game is lost in history. What is certain is that a good time was had by all, and Brown’s plan to create a comradery among the participants was quite successful.

The softball games continued sporadically through about 1990, and there was even an LCDLA vs. CDA basketball game in 1985. Following each game, a party was usually held so the two sides could socialize. At one particularly wild party held at Bill Wischkaemper’s home, some legendary fraternization among opposing advocates occurred, too graphic to be recounted here. The softball tradition faded, and there were no LCDLA vs. CDA sporting events for years.

LCDLA President Pat Metze suggested reviving the softball tradition in May 2005. New jerseys were ordered, including Metze’s special manager’s jersey (number .08). The game was well-attended, even drawing media attention from the courthouse beat reporter of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, present perhaps in hopes of documenting some bench-clearing brawls. There was nothing to see other than a lot of fun. LCDLA’s version of the San Diego Chicken made an appearance. Several local judges served as umpires, drawing catcalls for their perceived blindness. Adult beverages were smuggled into the dugouts in coffee mugs. In the end, the prosecutors won the first game of the doubleheader 8-4. The second game was taken by the defense lawyers 10-8 after a walk-off home run in the 9th inning by Dwight McDonald. Following the game, Bill Wischkaemper again hosted the post-game party, though this time the prosecutors mostly stayed away, perhaps wary of the palpable trouble that was expected to follow.46


Since its inauspicious beginnings, LCDLA has come a long way. Membership has grown from about 30 original members to more than 120 dues-payers in 2014. LCDLA has been offered as a paradigm for others hoping to form similar local criminal defense organizations. The educational efforts sponsored by LCDLA have no doubt dramatically improved the effective assistance of counsel rendered by those in attendance. LCDLA’s willingness to step in and act when injustice arises has resulted in dramatic rightings of wrongs. Thirty-five years is a short time for a small organization to have made such a big difference in the way criminal law is practiced in a community. Those of us who are longtime members of LCDLA are justifiably proud of our accomplishment, and we are eager to see those who follow us build on our remarkable history.


1. Surviving charter members of LCDLA are Gerald Anderson, David Bass, Mike Brown, Judge Tom Cannon, Judge Mark Hall, Judge Mackey Hancock, Judge Kevin Hart, Bob Jones, Dale Jones, Chuck Lanehart, Dennis McGill, Carlton McLarty, David Martinez, Carolyn Moore, Albert Perez, Everett Seymore, Jack Stoffregen, Tommy Turner, and Bill Wischkaemper. Deceased LCDLA charter members are Jim Aldridge, Jim Alexander, Lane Arthur, Dan Benson, Quinn Brackett, Ralph H. Brock, Clifford Brown, Byron Chappell, Ralph Daniel, George Gilkerson, Alton Griffin, Rusty O’Shea, Travis Shelton, and Wanda Wray.

2. Max Coleman, From Mustanger to Lawyer, Part B, 170 (Carleton Printing Co., 1953).

3. State v. Jim Vance, Cause No.10, 50th District Court of Lubbock County, Texas (1891).

4. Chuck Lanehart, “The Trial of William E. Taylor,” Voice for the Defense (June 1990). Bledsoe also founded the Lubbock law firm now known as Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam.

5. Jerry McCarty, “DA Punches Attorney in Court Row,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, January 28, 1961, at A1.

6. Broadus Spivey and Jesse Sublett, Broke Not Broken (Texas Tech University Press, 2014).

7. Clifford Brown was a charter member of TCDLA, later served as TCDLA president, and was enshrined in the TCDLA Hall of Fame. Other elders of the Lubbock criminal defense bar in 1980 included former Lubbock County CDA Alton Griffin, past president of the State Bar of Texas Travis Shelton, and past president of TCDLA George Gilkerson. Shelton and Gilkerson—both former Lubbock County DAs—were charter members of TCDLA, and Shelton was later enshrined in the TCDLA Hall of Fame. Byron “Lawyer” Chappell, eldest of LCDLA’s charter members, was in 1989 the first inductee into the LCDLA Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Lubbock County Bar Association’s Distinguished Senior Lawyer Award in 2000.

8. Original Bylaws of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Article II, approved February 21, 1980.

9. News Release Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Voice for the Defense, March–April 1980, at 13.

10. Montford said in a 2014 telephone interview the Lubbock criminal defense bar was the best he encountered as a lawyer. He served one term as CDA, then became a popular and effective State Senator, later was appointed the first Chancellor of Texas Tech, and then became President of AT&T. Now a business consultant in San Antonio, Montford fondly remembers his years as CDA in Lubbock, and most of the defense lawyers from that era respected him as prosecutor. “I remember Lawyer Chappell coming to see me when I took office,” Montford recalled with a chuckle. “He said I’d make a good DA if I learned the difference between crime and sin.”

11. Mike Brown remembers LCDLA’s early CLE efforts: “Continuing legal education was sparse for criminal lawyers on the South Plains in the 1980s. The first seminar developed from necessity. I organized the initial seminar, with the able help of Ralph H. Brock and Mark Hall, among others. The budget was modest, and the speakers donated their time and efforts. The goal was educational, not financial. The custom continues. Ambitious vision prevailed over perceived limitations, and LCDLA staged a successful program that exceeded expectations. The seminar began to draw lawyers from beyond the Caprock. Soon, Lubbock lawyers were invited to speak statewide. The Prairie Dog seminar remains one of LCDLA’s most ambitious, significant, and successful projects.”

12. Chuck Lanehart, “LCDLA Celebrates 25th Birthday in Grand Fashion,” Lubbock Law Notes, February 2005, at 11.

13. Chuck Lanehart, “Defense Lawyers vs. Prosecutors Softball Doubleheader a Big Hit,” Lubbock Law Notes, August 2005, at 20.

14. Austin lawyer Keith Hampton and I are both avid history buffs. Separately, we had studied old manuscripts describing the colorful South Plains and Panhandle lawyers of the late 1800s. The lawyers often had no formal offices. Instead, they followed the district judge on his circuit from town to town, carrying the tools of their trade—statutes, pen, and ink—in saddlebags. These tough, transient, mostly self-taught advocates became known as “prairie dog lawyers.” (The black-tailed prairie dog, a type of ground squirrel native to the Lubbock area, resides in colonies of burrows known as “towns,” but often relocates when conditions become difficult.) When Keith and I got together in Lubbock in 2005, we compared notes about our history research on prairie dog lawyers, and somehow the idea was hatched to rename the LCDLA annual conference the Prairie Dog Lawyers Advanced Criminal Law Seminar. Meanwhile, LCDLA had already adopted the prairie dog as its mascot and symbol. During Mike Brown’s term as LCDLA president (1990), he asked renowned Lubbock cartoonist Dirk West to create a new logo for LCDLA, and the now-famous LCDLA prairie dog logo was born.

15. Since 2009, LCDLA has been privileged to utilize the new Mark and Becky Lanier Professional Development Center at TTUSL for its annual seminar. The 34,000-square-foot facility includes a lecture hall with a capacity of about 300 and a teaching courtroom featuring the latest in trial technology.

16. The Brendan Murray Criminal Defense Scholarship was created following his tragic death on September 14, 2006. Brendan, son of longtime LCDLA and TCDLA member Brian Murray and wife Lynne, was a 22-year-old Texas Tech law student and TCDLA employee. He was a zealous advocate for the poor and oppressed throughout his life. The scholarship benefits worthy law students attracted to defending God’s children who have not yet attained perfection from those who have. To date, the fund has reached more than $90,000 in donations.

17. State v. Billy Wayne Alexander, No. 21744 (137th Dist. Ct. Tex., 1980).

18. Pat Graves, “City Lawyers Respond to Minister’s Charges,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, February 27, 1981, at A12.

19. Pat Graves, “Lubbock Lawyers Condemn Minister’s Remarks,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, February 28, 1981, at A12.

20. Vernon Ray Gilmore and Ricky Laverne Smith v. Lubbock County et. al., No. CA-5-81-130, (D. N. Dist. Tex., Lubbock Div., 1981).

21. Mike Brown remembers the back story: “After initial pleadings, U.S. District Judge Hal Woodward called a chambers conference with me, Hurley, and a representative of the CDA, Yvonne Faulks. The judge opined that his order would garner only grudging compliance from Sheriff Sonny Keesee, and foot-dragging in the future. Judge Woodward explained to Faulks that LCDLA would likely get the order they requested. He encouraged discussion and settlement, which promptly ensued. LCDLA got its way.”

22. State v. Damon Richardson, No. 87-406,922 (72nd Dist. Ct. Tex. 1987).

23. Stearnes v. Clinton, 780 S.W.2d 216 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989).

24. State vs. Michael Stearnes, Cause No. 87-406,927 (99th Dist. Ct. Tex. 1987). Brock, Botsford, McLarty, and I were each honored with the TCDLA President’s Commendation “in recognition of outstanding service on behalf of the citizen accused that exemplifies the highest standards and goals of this association and promotes justice through law.”

25. Jason Womack, “Richardson Deal Could Bring Parole,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 3, 2005, at A1.

26. Joe Gulick, “Indictments Hit Police Sergeant,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 22, 1992, at A1.

27. Farmer, et al. v. Sherrod, et al., No. 2:93-cv-00017-J (D. N. Dist. Tex., Amarillo Div., 1993). See also http://archive.voiceforthedefenseonline.com/story/1993-vol-22-no-7 .

28. State v. Ralph Rodney Erdmann, No. 92-415,716 (364th Dist. Ct., Tex. 1992).

29. Rana Sharkaway, “Crime Victims’ Memorial Comes Under Fire,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, June 27, 2005, at A1.

30. John Reynolds, “Monumental Disagreement Between Attorneys, County Unresolved,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, July 22, 2005, at A2.

31. John Reynolds, “County Sacks Monument, Keeps Garden,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, July 22, 2005, at A1.

32. Jill Stangl assisted in writing this chapter of LCDLA’s history.

33. Chuck Lanehart, “Lubbock Lawyers Volunteer to Oppose ‘War Against College Kids,’” Lubbock Law Notes, November 2007, at 1.

34. Mary Alice Robbins, “Tech Students Fight Party Patrol Citations with Pro Bono Help,” Texas Lawyer, November 5, 2007, at 1.

35. Id.

36. Ben Webb assisted in writing this chapter of LCDLA’s history.

37. Rod Hobson, a former president of LCDLA, had previously participated in the Range Wars, supra, involving Dr. Ralph Erdmann.

38. LCDLA members who assisted Webb included Ralph H. Brock (who previously participated in Stearnes v. Clinton, supra), Danny Hurley (who previously participated in the Range Wars, supra), Everett Seymore, Ted Hogan, David Guinn, and me.

39. Logan G. Carver, “Attorney Who Refused to Testify Against Client Cleared of Contempt,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, September 30, 2009, at A1.

40. Chuck Lanehart, “Commissioners to Consider Courthouse Security Bypass Program,” Lubbock Law Notes, May 2014, at 1.

41. Id.

42. Id.

43. Philip Wischkaemper assisted in writing this chapter of LCDLA’s history.

44. The LSNDO was the brainchild of Jim Bethke, Executive Director of the Task Force on Indigent Defense (now the Indigent Defense Commission), who approached Lubbock County with the idea in 2006.

45. LCDLA member Roger Key is the current chair of the SBOT Board of Directors. Roger practices business and transactional law, not criminal law, but joined the defense lawyers group “because they are so much fun.”

46. Chuck Lanehart, “Commissioners to Consider Courthouse Security Bypass Program,” Lubbock Law Notes, May 2014, at 1.

Chuck Lanehart
Chuck Lanehart
Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, P.C., where he has practiced law since 1977, and he is a 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law. He is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is statewide co-coordinator of the annual TCDLA Declaration readings and serves on TCDLA’s ethics committee and strike force. He previously served as president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association, president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, director of the State Bar of Texas and director of TCDLA. He is author of the History Press books “Tragedy and Triumph on the Texas Plains” and “Marvels of the Texas Plains.” He is co-author of “Carol of Lights/ Dirge of Darkness,” to be published by Texas Tech Press in 2023. In 2018, the Lubbock Area Bar Association presented Chuck the James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award, the Bar’s highest honor. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at or 806-765-7370.

Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, P.C., where he has practiced law since 1977, and he is a 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law. He is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is statewide co-coordinator of the annual TCDLA Declaration readings and serves on TCDLA’s ethics committee and strike force. He previously served as president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association, president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, director of the State Bar of Texas and director of TCDLA. He is author of the History Press books “Tragedy and Triumph on the Texas Plains” and “Marvels of the Texas Plains.” He is co-author of “Carol of Lights/ Dirge of Darkness,” to be published by Texas Tech Press in 2023. In 2018, the Lubbock Area Bar Association presented Chuck the James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award, the Bar’s highest honor. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at or 806-765-7370.

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