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Criminal Lawyers: Ex-Partisan Judges and Ex-Partisan Prosecutors

Houston criminal lawyer Murray Newman, to his credit, comes to the defense of his friend Judge Hanger. Good for him. Somehow he finds a tenuous connection between my views on Ms. Hanger, who hasn’t (officially) been a prosecutor in years, with collegiality or the lack thereof between defense and prosecutorial bars, but he misses the point — or, sorry, he writes as though he misses the point.

It’s not that a judge can’t make an excellent criminal-defense lawyer. I know of several who have, and several more whom I expect to. It is, rather, that a judge who has, while in a supposedly impartial job, revealed herself as a partisan for the State cannot be reasonably expected to switch her sentiments as easily as switching offices.

Imagine Sharon Keller, who ran for judge on an explicit pro-State platform (and how the criminal defense bar let her get away with that without a grievance, I’ll never know) hanging up a shingle.

In that sense, I mean to distinguish the pro-State judge as defense lawyer from the ex-prosecutor as defense lawyer. The prosecutor is an advocate with a client to represent; he is expected to be partisan; it’s no surprise to anyone when he switches clients and remains an effective advocate. It will come as no surprise to anyone I know in the defense bar, for example, if Murray defends his own clients well and zealously.

It’s true that (as Murray says) Harris County prosecutors are, as advocates, the best in the nation. I’ve never denied it. Steel sharpens steel, and Houston has the best criminal defense bar anywhere. But it’s also true that Harris County judiciary leaves much to be desired.

Should the things we do in one job follow us into another? Absolutely. If I ran for judge or D.A., would my opponents point out my anti-State views? You betcha. They’d consider it a public service.

As to the question of who appointed me the Yoda of the Houston criminal defense bar: nobody (well, nobody but Remy Orozco). A year before I was HCCLA president, I started writing the truth as I saw it, and a few people started reading it. I was advised when I became president to be more diplomatic; I ignored the injunction. I wrote more truth, and more people read. And so on and so forth. Some agreed with me, some disagreed. I pruned the comments section carefully, keeping out the YANACLs and anonymous car-keyers (I don’t even read the venom spewn by the anonymous cowards at Murray’s blog anymore), and, after about 350,000 words and more than a thousand posts, Defending People is what it is and will remain. It’ll never be as big as Simple Justice, but as long as I keep writing the truth, I expect that a couple of people will read it every day.

I’m happy with it.



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