Trey Apffel 2014-11-27 09:38:34
Midterm Musings At the dawn of my term, I used this space to call for a “year of inclusion” and pledged to engage our members in new ways to ensure our State Bar remains vibrant and prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges. I laid out my initiatives to engage, inform, and inspire, and I challenged all of us to recommit ourselves to this noble profession. Now, six months and thousands of miles later, it’s time to take stock and prepare for the second half. This year, we’ve celebrated the 75th anniversary of the State Bar, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and the 25th anniversary of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed. We applauded the work of volunteer attorneys during National Pro Bono Celebration week and encouraged more efforts through Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans around Veterans Day. We also traveled to Galveston for a free CLE for solo and small-firm practitioners; with about 100 participants, it was our best-attended seminar yet, and I am looking forward to a Jan. 13 session in Waco. In June we introduced a new member benefit—free legal research through Fastcase— and started offering enhanced nocost legal research services through Casemaker. We responded to the influx of unaccompanied minors by developing helpful Web pages on the topic and launched our members-only social network, Texas Bar Connect, in test mode and continue to add new State Bar sections. As president, I’ve visited local bar associations, participated in inspiring programs like LeadershipSBOT and the Texas Minority Counsel Program, and engaged with state and national bar leaders at conferences across the country. I’ve offered advice to law students, welcomed newly inducted lawyers, and spoken at CLEs across the state. In the attorney discipline area, cases involving prosecutorial misconduct continue to garner media attention. Prosecutors hold unique positions in the criminal justice system, and there are specific rules of professional conduct governing them. As a former member of both the Commission for Lawyer Discipline and a district grievance committee for many years, I can assure you that the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel and the commission take allegations of prosecutorial misconduct seriously and thoroughly review all complaints raising such allegations. The CDC has developed training for its lawyers focused on the proper investigation and prosecution of these cases and developed strong working relationships with individuals and entities in the criminal justice system to facilitate the sharing of information and the ability to quickly obtain relevant evidence related to prosecutorial misconduct. The CDC and commission are also diligent in ensuring that the process is fair to all those involved and ever mindful of confidentiality obligations. Recent sanctions imposed—including a resignation in lieu of discipline, a disbarment, two probated suspensions, and a public reprimand—demonstrate the commission’s and the CDC’s commitment to fulfilling their mandate to protect the public by thoroughly investigating any grievances involving prosecutorial misconduct and pursuing those with merit. The Michael Morton case brought the bright light of public scrutiny to this issue in 2011, and the light has not dimmed. The Legislature amended the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure in 2013 with a law known as the Michael Morton Act, which requires the disclosure of all mitigating information to the defendant, even if it is discovered after trial. In this issue of the Bar Journal focusing on criminal law, you’ll find two different perspectives on the act: one from a prosecutor, the other from a defense attorney. You’ll also find an interesting article on sweeping changes in federal sentencing. In closing, thank you for the feedback over the past six months. Sometimes you come with “attaboys,” other times with constructive criticism, but I value it all. As I said in my first column, I need your help as we work together to make our profession stronger. TREY APFFEL President, State Bar of Texas @ApffelT
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