New Ideas at HCDAO? Unwelcome!

Harris County Assistant District Attorney George Weissfisch, hours after giving notice, sent the following email to Pat Lykos, CCing all employees:

This is part one of a six email series of my suggestions to improve the office.

We have never been able to fill the felony courts with #4s.

Weissfisch solution: We make a new hire’s first stop in the office the #4 felony position.  They then go to #3 in misdemeanor. Rather than throw new hires right into trial with no experience we start them out as 4s in felony.  Their job is mostly to handle rip calls and any other to do (which should be limited under the no more to dos system- coming soon)  #4 can sit 2nd chair with the number 3 or sometimes with the number 2. The advantages of this system is that all new prosecutors get their initial training from a district court chief rather than a felony 3 (misd chief).  Second they get their feet wet on how to try a case before they have to try cases solo.  Third they get a better perspective before going to misdemeanor (in terms of the seriousness of cases and how to interact with the defense bar and ethics) The burden on the felony #3 is alleviated and some #3s may even be able to take some of the #2’s trials. The rotation should be for no more than 6 months.  There should be no #4s in misdemeanor and the rotation after #4 in felony would be exactly as it is now.

Under this system the next 22 people that we hire would fill the 22 district courts with #4s. If we add paralegals one day then it’s even better because the #4 won’t have to do as much of the grunt work and can learn more before misdemeanor.


(D.A. Lykos: Do not doubleplusunhire George like you did Murray. I did not get this from George, but rather from Mr. X.)

This is a reasonable suggestion. It’s got some merit, and it shows that George gave some thought not only to the problem of overwork, but also to improving training and giving new prosecutors some perspective before they start trying even misdemeanor cases. I’m sure there’s a downside to it that I’m not seeing, but at least it deserves discussion.

It also whets the appetite for parts two through six of George’s suggestions to improve the office.

If I were in charge of an organization, I would want its members to discuss ways to make the organization work better. As president of HCCLA I’ve favored more open discussion rather than less, and gotten crosswise with those on the board who knew that free discussion would not lead to the result they desired.

Someone at the Harris County DA’s Office has a different philosophy, though, and George was told in no uncertain terms that sending out parts 2-6 to all prosecutors was not a proper use of the “all prosecutor email function.”

So, George, if you want the rest of the Office to read and discuss your ideas for improving the Office, those ideas are welcome here.

0 responses to “New Ideas at HCDAO? Unwelcome!”

  1. Mark,

    The only downside I can see is if the #3 has to spend time training the #4. Also, the #4 will have to learn the various computer systems (CAD, JIMS, HPD) which are things they would have learned in misdemeanor.

    I think a possible solution to the problem of training would be a week or two week “intro course” where they are in a room and have to learn the systems and “basics” and then begin their tenure as a #4. Also, during this training, members of the Defense bar would be brought in with some tips and advice. Not only would this show that we all need to work together, but that the defense bar is not “the enemy.”

    Personally, I think you teaching a half day session could be very valuable.



  2. While I’m sure Lykos has her own ideas as to what new ideas are and are not welcome, I think the issue here is how it was done. An all-prosecutor e-mail on your way out the door is a decidedly un-classy way to do it. It says that you’re trying to make a statement, not just that you think changes need to be made.

    • No.

      Lykos might wish that George didn’t share his constructive suggestions with the rest of the troops, but even taking the trouble to make those suggestions while on the way out the door was classy in the extreme.

      • Had he made them so publicly before he gave notice I’d agree with you. It’s one thing to work for change from within (however difficult that may be under Lykos) and be subject to the wrath of the powers that be. It’s quite another to look back over your shoulder and tell them what they’re doing wrong when you have one foot out the door.

        Advocating openly for constructive change is decidedly classy. But doing it this way smacks of “I’m taking my ball and going home.”

  3. JGL –

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. George has voiced this suggestion time and time again in different forums, just never in an all-prosecutor email. And he made this suggestion (among many others) even before Lykos took over, for that matter. Perhaps he sees this as his last chance to do so and for that reason, he’s taking it office wide and sending it to everyone instead of only the brass that never seems to give a damn anyway (Lykos AND her predecessors). George is a class act… he says what he means and means what he says. And he’s the only one with enough balls to continue making suggestions right about now. I CANNOT WAIT FOR 2-6!!!!!!

    • I think I was fairly specific in saying that if he did it in a constructive way it would have been a good thing.

      But his new tactic smacks of sore loser. In other words, by doing this he seems to have diluted the value of his previous suggestions.

      My guess is that if he doesn’t do 2-6 in in a single e-mail, they don’t get done. They’ll show him the door after one more goes out.

  4. I applaud George for publishing his list to the Office, and I join you in saying that I’ll be glad to publish it on my blog, too.

    But I think it is very telling that Lykos is trying to shut them down. There is nothing that is anti-administration in them. There are no attacks against the morons in the upper admin. They are just long thought out suggestions that he has had that have been ignored by them. He was just throwing them out there because George (like so many of us who have left the Office) still care about the place and want it to be a good place to work and where we can be proud of saying we once worked.

    Lykos and Leitner have effectively told him to keep his damn comments to himself, which shows their unbridled arrogance in the fact that they SHALL NOT be told what to do. It’s this same arrogance that has them in over their head on the budget, a hiring freeze, and senior prosecutors checking out of there faster than a Sunday morning at the Holiday Inn.

    Way to go go, George!

  5. What the hell is the interoffice e-mail system for? Seems everyone is afraid to use it at all. Good for you George. Shame on you Jim.

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