Now, What Else Can We Get “Clarified”?


It took a little over a month.

The Houston Police Department Chief’s Command issued a memo of questionable legality forbidding cops from talking to defense lawyers without permission.

Some 60 HCCLA members, incited and led by former president Robb Fickman, descended upon Houston City Council to protest (video).

And the Chief rescinded the suspect order.

Except he didn’t call it a rescission. He called it a clarification. Because “officers shall have no discussion with criminal defense attorneys regarding any pending criminal case without first obtaining express permission from the federal prosecutor, assistant district attorney or municipal prosecutor assigned to the case” is certainly unclear, when what you mean is “permission from the prosecutor is NOT required before speaking to a criminal defense attorney about a pending case.” (All emphasis in original.)


8 responses to “Now, What Else Can We Get “Clarified”?”

  1. Seems to me that it would be unethical for a prosecutor to ever instruct a law enforcement officer he could not speak to a defense attorney. At the end of the day, a law enforcement officer is nothing more that a witness in a case. And it is unethical for a party to instruct a witness not to speak to another party, or that they cannot.

    “It is the general rule that attorneys for one party in a pending cause are free to interview the other party’s intended witness without the consent or presence of opposing counsel.” 35 Fla.Jur., Witnesses § 5

  2. Emphasis aside, it’s not much of a recession. Police officers will still understand they should not talk to defense attorneys without permission of their supervisors.

  3. “…officers shall have no discussion with criminal defense attorneys regarding any pending criminal case without first obtaining express permission from the federal prosecutor, assistant district attorney or municipal prosecutor assigned to the case” is certainly unclear,”..

    How can anyone inside the system attempt to impose such rules when it is clear it goes against the spirit of the legal system of the country? The rights of a defendant (and his legal counsel), are to interview and present witnesses to show reasonable doubt isn’t it? If I am wrong please correct me sternly, but maybe I am just the fool that believes there is still some true (legal) rightousness in the system.

  4. I am glad I got to see this. This would never happen in Austin. HCCLA rocks.

    The Sixth Amendment does demand that lawyers investigate their cases, which means contacting and talking to witnesses. The offending rule is a direct affront to the Sixth Amendment, in addition to the frequently mentioned due process argument.

  5. Hello Mark,

    If you say the original memo was bad or even illegal, I’m happy to take your word for it; you know much more about these things than I do.

    On the other hand, now that you’ve won, perhaps consider showing a little magnanimity? In my experience, letting people give in to you gracefully helps them work better with you in the future – and makes you seem all the more powerful since apparently you can afford to be generous.

    As you don’t need me to tell you, one of the best ways to make an enemy for life is to, after you force him to say uncle, mock and belittle his very surrender. For heaven’s sake, can’t this police chief be allowed to save a little face? If you can’t say anything nice even now, can you not resolve to say nothing at all?

    Cheers,

    Jeff Deutsch

  6. Jeffrey,

    Mark didn’t “win”, as he is only a commenter. So, should he not comment? If not, what does that say about you?

  7. Hello John,

    (1) As I hope I made clear, my issue is not with Mark commenting per se. It’s with the tone he took.

    (2) Whether he actually participated or is just cheering makes no difference in this context. He’s on the winning side, and should be gracious in victory.

    What do you think?

    Jeff Deutsch

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