The Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston

 Posted on October 11, 2008 in Uncategorized

There's sometimes talk about who the best criminal-defense lawyer in Houston is, as though we are show dogs or golfers.

The truth, of course, is that there is no "best" overall. The lawyer who is best for one case might not be best for another; nobody can say that the thousand-dollar lawyer who gets a case dismissed was not the best lawyer for that case, nor that the six-figure lawyer whose client gets maxed out was the best lawyer for that case.

There are a few lawyers in Houston who would make most "best" lists. Some of them belong there; a few don't (but appear to because, in the 21st century, exposure is equated with competence) There are more who the criminal bar (both sides) know belong on the list who keep their heads down and never get named publicly. Lawyers in the know wouldn't have much trouble finding enough great Houston criminal-defense lawyers to fill out the Top 25; we would not be able to agree on which one is better than what one or what one is better than who. In 1994 the Chronicle polled judges and prosecutors on who they would choose to represent them, and published the results. (This was before I started practicing.) Judges and prosecutors voted for six defense lawyers each. The top choice, Dick DeGuerin (who I suspect is one of those on the 1994 list who would still do very well in such a poll) was named by only 28 of the 69 respondents. So not even a majority of the judges and prosecutors put the top votegetter in their top six.

Even though we're unlikely to agree on how to fill the top six slots, when the press does a legit story (that is, not paid advertising) on "the best", the criminal defense bar pays attention. We like to see how the outside world sees our community, and congratulate (or razz) those among us who getting the good pub.

When the free weekly Houston Press tabloid newsletter published its annual "Best Of" issue this month, and named the best criminal defense attorney in Houston, it wasn't one of my high-dollar brethren or sistren. It was Danalynn Recer of the Gulf Regional Advocacy Center (GRACe).

Danalynn came to the Houston Press's attention for (along with David Lane of Denver) saving the life of Juan Quintero (and in the process driving Houston's booboisie of so-called conservatives batshit insane with rage). Danalyn is in the business of keeping the government from executing people - in the most execution-happy county in the United States. She's representing people who don't have the money to hire competent counsel. She's doing it for next to nothing - no six-figure biglaw salaries here. And she's very, very good at it - I'm pretty sure she's never had a client sentenced to death at trial.

It's hard for an outsider to know that a lawyer who makes a good living defending people is doing it for reasons other than money. Not so with Danalynn. It's understandable that those who would trust the government to decide who lives and who dies are outraged by the fact that she's able to do what she does, and perplexed by the fact that she's not doing it for lucre. So in my view there's nobody better to represent the Houston criminal defense bar - not only what we are, but also what we should be and aspire to be - in the public view.

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