It is hard to believe that the time has come to write my last TCDLA President’s message. I would say it is also a little bit sad to be writing this last message, but I am guessing that would only apply to me and not to the good folks who have had to read these columns for the last year. Those of you who know me and have read these columns know that I try not to take myself too seriously. I try to live by the philosophy I stole from Willie Nelson—if the sun don’t come up tomorrow, roll over and turn on the light.
I assume that I am supposed to recount to you all the great things that I personally have done over the last year, but no one wants to hear that, and I would have to make most of them up. The thing I take the greatest pride in doing is simply getting out of the way and letting the great men and women of this organization lead us forward.
Mark Twain once said: “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.” There are far too many people to thank for all they have done for me personally and for TCDLA as an organization. I hesitate to name names because I will surely leave someone out, so please forgive me in advance if I missed you personally, but I would be remiss if I did not mention a few of the people who accomplish things for TCDLA.
The engine that makes this organization run on time is Melissa Schank. Melissa has been with TCDLA for nearly 15 years, and the executive director of TCDLA for a little over a year. I have been the beneficiary of her tireless work over the past year keeping me and the organization heading in the right direction. In addition to Melissa, the whole TCDLA staff is a well-oiled machine of women and men who work tirelessly to provide for our members.
My executive committee—consisting of Kerri Anderson Donica, Grant Scheiner, Michael Gross, Heather Barbieri, John Hunter Smith, Sarah Roland, Clay Steadman, Thuy Le, Dan Hurley, and Sam Bassett—have been invaluable with their time, advice, and dedication over the past year.
Sarah Roland as always has done a tremendous job as editor of the Voice. Reagan Wynn and Nicole DeBorde continue to offer tremendous guidance as co-chairs of the Strike Force Committee. The hardest-working man in the organization may be Clay Steadman, who serves as chair of both CDLP and TCDLEI. Clay and CDLP Vice Chair Laurie Key have done a tremendous job taking the “Come and Take It” seminar to cities and towns across the state. Allison Clayton and the Amicus Committee have been extremely active and done great work for TCDLA this year. Bill Harris and Bobby Mims, who have headed our Legislative Committee, have us in tremendous shape this current legislative session—with the help and guidance of Allen Place, who heads our lobbying efforts. Michael Mowla has been invaluable with his knowledge and insight as our Significant Decisions editor as well as serving with Jeep Darnell as a moderator on our listserve. Robb Fickman and Chuck Lanehart have done an incredible job organizing and leading the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence throughout the state.
There are of course many course directors and committee chairs, too numerous to thank individually, who are a tremendous benefit to this great organization. I do want to point out Jani Maselli Wood, Bobby Mims, and Doug Murphy, the course directors for this year’s 32nd annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course. They have put together a tremendous lineup of speakers and have made this year’s Rusty as good a program as any that have ever come before.
Most importantly, I cannot thank my wife Christi and our two wonderful children, Claire and Luke, nearly enough for their love, support, and sacrifices over the years. They truly are the reason I keep going a lot of days. I also have to thank my work family, Mary Lou, Megan, Taly, Rebecca, and others.
As I head out the door as president, I cannot help but look around at what is happening in the world. We are living in a time when it seems that bigotry and hatred cloaked in the name of patriotism and nationalism are on the rise. We are living in a time when the line between what is right and what is just is blurred at best and is often moved in the name of advancing one’s beliefs. We are living in a time when the poor and downtrodden are treated as less than others. We are living in a time when children are being separated from their parents and caged like animals. We are living in a time when good men and women must stand up and fight in the name of the common good and defend those whose rights are being trampled.
All my life I wanted to be a lawyer. Once I became a lawyer, all I wanted to be was a criminal defense lawyer. I do know whatever level of success and knowledge I have achieved has been in large part due to being a member of TCDLA.
I look forward to seeing all of you at Rusty Duncan, where it will be my honor and privilege to swear in Kerri Anderson Donica as the next president of TCDLA. After that I will proudly head back to being a member of the largest and best statewide organization of criminal defense lawyers in the country—who stand up to every day to defend the constitution of this country.