2015.1


I do not write I’m sorry I haven’t written more lately; here’s why; I promise to do better blog posts.

The first part strikes me as narcissistic—as though it matters to the world that any particular blogger hasn’t written more lately; the third part is usually a lie—people who write these posts almost always return to silence shortly afterwards. And I don’t figure readers generally care much about the why of silence. But Scott Greenfield has called me out:

As for those of you who have paid only rare attention to your blawgs, let your posts dwindle, left the heavy lifting to others, this might be a good time to explain why. You know who you are. I know who you are too. Is the genre dead?  Is it not worth the effort?  Are things so wonderful that there is nothing left to write?

So here’s why:

In 2014 I tried three jury trials and won all three. Two of them saved clients from certain deportation and the other saved the client from a felony conviction, a lifetime of sex-offender registration, and a possible prison term. Three jury trials is not a lot for a criminal-defense lawyer in Houston to try, but it’s fifty percent over my yearly average.

I also got part of a statute held unconstitutional. No, check that. Two statutes. Two-hundred-plus people were on probation or in prison because of their convictions for violating Texas’s “dirty-talk-to-a-minor” statute. After I killed that statute on First Amendment grounds in the Court of Criminal Appeals a few of them found their way to me, and I got them out of prison or off probation and off the sex-offender registration list, and started the process of clearing their names.

One of those whose name I am clearing was the first client for whom I had argued (unsuccessfully at the time) the unconstitutionality of the statute. I got to tell the trial judge, “I told you so.”

I took on several civil First Amendment cases on behalf of web publishers and a newspaper, and won.

Throughout this professional triumph, it was the voices of the many clients I haven’t been able to save whispering in my ear, “memento mori.” I have three cases set for jury trial in the first three months of this year, and I’m not going to let the distinct possibility that I will break my short streak by losing one of them stop me from fighting like hell.

I have First Amendment challenges pending against Texas’s Online Impersonation statute, the remainder of its Online Solicitation statute, the remainder of its Improper Photography statute, and its Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information statute. These should all be winners according to U.S. v. Stevens and U.S. v. Alvarez, but I’m not letting the possibility that Texas courts will fail to follow Stevens and Alvarez stop me from prosecuting these appeals, especially since I do it better than the other lawyers I have seen challenging Texas statutes on First Amendment grounds. I may not win, but I have the best chance. And, unlike many in this profession, I am not my record.

I’m debating whether to jump into the fray and try to get the Texas Legislature not to pass any of the unconstitutional speech-restricting statutes that have been proposed, or to lie behind the log.

I taught jury selection, ethics, legal writing, and constitutional law to groups of law students and lawyers across Texas and farther afield, and scheduled more of the same for this year.

Personally, I got my family through 2014 with no surgery, serious illness or death. I couldn’t say the same about the three years before. I reconnected with old friends whom I hadn’t heard from in up to three decades. I took my family on a three-week European vacation, showing the kids a part of the world they hadn’t seen before. I spent some quality time with them, watched my oldest play some lacrosse, started building an AR-15 with my youngest, and spent some time at the shooting range.

I took Jen to Eric Clapton, Eric Taylor, and Greg Trooper concerts. Held the fort while she got through her first semester of the University of Houston’s post-baccalaureate accounting program.

I made dinner for my family almost every night. I got my oldest to school almost every day.

I declared victory in my war with TSA, and resumed air travel: to DC (for a reunion of my cohort from the American Embassy School in New Delhi in the mid 80s, Columbus (where I hung out with Scott Greenfield, Brian Tannebaum, Mirriam Seddiq, Jeff Gamso, and Appellate Squawk), Miami (where I celebrated with Brian and his family the release of Brian’s book), and Colorado (where my brother and some high-school buddies took a couple of hikes, broke bread, and drank some good whiskey). Not to mention Beaumont, Lake Charles, Fort Worth, Austin, Odessa, and Round Top. (Next Friday I’m flying to Abilene! Woohoo!)

I also resumed my psychodrama and improv training. I found the synergy between the two, applied it to my advocacy, and taught others to do the same. I went back (after a few-year hiatus) to the National Psychodrama Training Center’s Round Top training, and I attended staff training for TCDLA’s psychodrama-based Fourth Annual Advanced Skills course (but was, unhappily, prevented by circumstances from attending).

I found a new improv home, Station Theater, took two groups of young lawyers there for introductory classes, performed twice before paying audiences, and joined a troupe that will do four shows in the next two months.

I don’t imagine that I’ll be long-remembered. I consider my protégés, and their protégés, my professional legacy. Three of my protégées started taking regular improv classes.

I wrote a few brilliant briefs. Came to terms with the existential loneliness inside my head. Perfected my prime rib and my dark chocolate cake. Drove cool cars. Rode motorcycles. Made new friends. Cried a little. Laughed a lot.

In short, I’m sorry I haven’t written more lately. I’ve been busy living and lawyering. I promise to do better.


13 responses to “2015.1”

  1. In short, I’m sorry I haven’t written more lately. I’ve been busy living and lawyering. I promise to do better.

    So were you not busy living and lawyering before, or am I (and a few others) not busy living and lawyering now? If I recall correctly, Carl David Ceder suggested pretty much the same thing.

  2. In 2014, I took out the garbage, read cartoons in the New Yorker, and posted a comment on Simple Justice. Then I took a nap. This year I will skip the nap.

  3. You Sir are an amazing person and a true seeker of justice. The amazing work you have done has given me faith that not all people part of the in-justice system are corrupt. I wish your 2015 to as amazing as your 2014 and keep standing up for the rights of the people. I tip my hat to you.

  4. You also showed me how to be a course director for CLE, spoke at CLEs, worked informally with lawyers (young and old) to better themselves personally and professionally, improved professional organizations dear to your heart, very publicly stood up for core beliefs, worked on a paper regarding the existentialism of pi within a lizard brain, sat where you damn well pleased, and laughed at yourself. I am looking forward to your duet with Katie Perry at the Super Bowl.

  5. While reading this post my curiosity got the best of me, diverting my attention to the Privacy & History tab in my browser, where I discovered something about myself that is a little disturbing:

    From November 1, 2014 to present—
    • I’ve visited Defending People 91 times
    • an average of 1.44 visits per day
    • with hopes that maybe there would be a new entry
    • 85 of the 91 visits* were disappointing
    • 6 of the 91 visits* were pretty darn exciting
    *not taking into account the fact that your posts come in spurts

    The part of me that finds this disturbing is the part of me that asks myself 91 times in 60 days?! Are you looking for a new dad or something? Well, that’s just on my home desktop computer.

    I hate to sound like such an ass kiss, but I must say that you are, without a doubt, the biggest Bad Ass around these parts. And your writing affects people in a very meaningful way… more people than you will ever know. I mean, I work for a family law attorney and do FOH at a shitty, punk rock dive bar, so the chances that our paths would ever cross are nil.

    You’ve given a lot, it would be greedy to ask for more. 937,178.

  6. I’m pleased to have shared some range time with you…
    But you [email protected], you didn’t share your triumph over TSA–what’s the secret?

    You know mine…I have the young boy, and carry him. TSA–at least at the international terminal–opens the taped-off magnetometer, and our whole family waltzes through unmolested and un-irradiated.

    Until one day he’s old enough to assume the prisoner pose and stand in the cancer machines receiving his dose.

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