Chron is Clueless Again

The Houston Chronicle editorial board has endorsed Pat Lykos for DA. The column endorsing her regurgitates her campaign soundbites — basically, she sold herself to them. There’s a lot of empty air in Lykos’s campaign promises. In fact, they are almost 100% empty air. But the Chronicle editorial board doesn’t understand the criminal “justice” system any better than the voters, so Lykos’s empty promises sound good. With this endorsement, the blind are leading the blind.

Virtually everybody who actually practices law down at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, however, agrees that Lykos is not the best person for the job. AHCL and I might disagree on whether she is the worst, or only the second- or third-worst of the four-candidate Republican field, but we — and the vast majority of defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges we know — agree that Jim Leitner, at least, is a better choice for DA than Pat Lykos.

The good thing I can say about her is that, if elected, she’ll bring change that Kelly Siegler wouldn’t bring. The anarchist in me relishes the idea of the DA’s office being gutted by (or gutting itself under) Lykos and taking a decade or more to recover. I have reason to think that a Lykos administration will be repugnant to the judiciary (most of whom came up as prosecutors under Holmes or Rosenthal) as well, which will probably help to end their feeling of affinity for the DA’s Office. The quality of justice will likely improve when judges feel less familiality with the prosecutors in their courts.

The pessimists in the criminal defense bar worry about an influx of new criminal-defense lawyers — refugees from the DA’s office — if Lykos becomes DA. They feel threatened by the prospect. I’m not worried about it — few people could come out of that office and immediately be a real criminal-defense lawyer, and those that do will displace the pretenders who already embarrass the criminal bar.

But still I am keenly aware that, in the words of Pat McCann, “things could always be worse.”

0 responses to “Chron is Clueless Again”

  1. Ah, Pat Lykos — the Anarchist’s Choice. That would be a great campaign slogan.

    I agree with you article Mark, and I just want to clarify my opinion, in case there is any doubt. My choices in who is most qualified for the D.A.’s Office are:

    1. Kelly Siegler
    2. Jim Leitner
    3. Pat Lykos
    4. Clarence Bradford
    5. Doug Perry

    I’m not saying that you got anything wrong about what my feelings in your article, I just wanted to clear up any ambiguity.

    Because, you know that a lot of people have really been waiting on my ultra-important endorsement.

  2. Really, Lykos over Bradford?

    Because, you know, come November those’ll probably be the candidates the voters have to choose between.

    Not that the DA candidates’ qualifications or personalitites will matter in a race that’s really between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. The only way Lykos wins is in a Republican sweep; the only way Bradford wins is in a Democratic sweep.

  3. Yeah, I’d take Lykos over Bradford. At a very minimum, she’s been a courtroom in some role other than Defendant. And I don’t pick her over him by much. I do agree with the conspiracy theory that the Chronicle is picking Lykos because she would be the weaker candidate against Bradford.

    I think that Bradford will be the biggest thing going against a Democratic sweep (other than perhaps, Hilary on the ticket). He’s got so much baggage that is RIGHTFULLY attached to him that even some normally straight-ticket Dems would hesitate pulling the lever for him.

  4. OK – I know Bradford probably doesn’t have much trial experience, but he does have administrative experience and law enforcement experience.

    So, what’s so bad about Bradford?

  5. 1. The DNA Lab Scandal
    2. The KMart Raid Scandal
    3. The Perjury Scandal
    4. The Pay Hike Exit Scandal
    5. The fact that even as he is RUNNING for D.A., he has yet to even attempt representing somebody in court.
    6. FOUR WORDS: First Assistant Lloyd Kelley

  6. No, Mark, the Chron’s editorial board isn’t clueless. And they haven’t made an endorsement to bolster Bradford’s chances. I think their endorsement of Lykos is an attempt to be relevant, knowing that historically no one has really cared who they endorse. My guess is that they want to see real change. Although Leitner represents change, they don’t believe he can win. Face the blunt truth, notwithstanding Jim’s outstanding qualifications, most Republicans will not vote for him because he is a defense lawyer. That leaves the only two candidates who can win the nomination–Lykos and Siegler. They prefer Lykos for two reasons: 1) Siegler represents business as usual, not change; and 2) Lykos has the political backing to beat Bradford, who is a far less qualified candidate than any of the Republicans. They said as much in the last sentence: “her solid political backing” makes her “the Republicans’ best choice”. They don’t want to see Bradford, a man best known for the disgraced HPD DNA lab, elected any more than local criminal practitioners.

  7. AHCL’s preferences for DA are her own; I’m not certain the criminal bar agrees that Bradford would make a worse DA than Lykos. But the fact that Lykos would be a stronger candidate against Bradford than Leitner would is wholly irrelevant.

    Leitner can win as easily in the general as Lykos or Siegler or, for that matter, Perry. Face it: the winner of the DA’s race in November is going to be the nominee from the party that gets the most votes in Harris County. We’re not going to see Harris County voting for Obama and Lykos, nor for McCain and Bradford.

    If Lykos wins, the judiciary will remain the same (except for the 174th, of course).If Bradford becomes DA, we’ll see a bunch of Republican incumbent judges out on their butts as well. It’ll be the end of business-as-usual at the Harris County courthouse; nobody can possibly predict how the dynamics will work out.

    The behavior of the bench is, in my opinion, of much greater concern than the behavior of the DA’s office. Sure, the DA’s office is supposed to seek justice, but nobody really expects that, do they? Everyone expects the judiciary to be fair, which makes their misbehavior all the more insidious.

  8. Mark, aside from big bad Brian, what do you mean by “impropriety on the bench”?

    I wasn‚Äôt shocked by the Chron’s endorsement of Lykos. She had a long record of light probations and adjudications as a judge. What they want is a complete change at the DA’s office. Forget about the recent unpleasantness; the Chron wants to redefine the role of DA in the mold of Dallas ‚Äì replace the adversarial nature with a system of two judges assisting the defense.

    And, btw, you guys who are still trying to make a living in the defense business are out of your ever-loving minds if you think you’d be ok with a mass influx of ex-ADA’s into the profession.

  9. Also, I think the Chron disqualified Jim simply because he once worked for Johnny, which is complete garbage. If they were really looking for a qualified independant prosecutor, JL would have been a far more obvious pick than Lykos.

    Agenda, agenda, agenda.

  10. CS,

    Judges? Many of our judges have a decidedly pro-DA’s office inclination. You hadn’t noticed? Maybe that merits a blog post — in general terms, without naming names, of course.

    Judge Rains, for all his many faults, does not have a pro-state bent: he treats everyone, as far as I can tell, equally crappily.

    The ex-ADAs are no threat to me at all. The worriers say that an influx of ex-ADAs will be “like flood days”, with too many lawyers and too few cases.

    I wouldn’t mind that — I had an excellent year after the flood.

    If I had a volume practice, I might be worried about the prospect of a hundred or more ex-ADAs becoming defense lawyers in one year. But I don’t need more than three or four new clients a month to keep going; one or two are enough, most months. After the Next Flood, the clients will keep coming to see me, I’ll keep quoting them higher fees than the ex-ADAs, and some of them will keep hiring me instead of my less-expensive exprosecutorial brethren.

    Consider also this: if a hundred people leave the DA’s office, not all of them will become criminal defense lawyers, but all of them will have to be replaced by other lawyers, some of whom are criminal defense lawyers already and some of whom might have become criminal defense lawyers.

  11. CS said:

    “the Chron wants to redefine the role of DA in the mold of Dallas ‚Äì replace the adversarial nature with a system of two judges assisting the defense.”

    Man I love a good dose of hyperbole in the morning.

    I think a lot of ADA’s need to get out of their ivory towers and take a look at the real world.

  12. For the record: Pat Lykos ranks at the very bottom. Spent 2 years in hell there! She wasn’t anti-state, she was anti-people.

    Mark, you’re right about causing chaos. Within a month all 31 judges would be anti-state and plea bargaining might be out the window.

    For one who never litigated, she sure made us try everything. Remember her 350 case backlogs?

  13. The Chronicle IS clueless. As the wife of a Homicide Sgt. at HPD, I can tell you that Pat Lykos is detested by many at the department and the D.A.’s office. She is considered unprofessional and lacking the necessary skills to actually run the D.A’s office.

    Kelly Siegler is favored by many in law enforcement (check out copsforkelly). She’s an honest person with a proven record AS an assistant D.A.

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