Thursday, December 03, 2015

Texas Voices v. small towns; CLEAT v. Governor, Lawyers v. client, and other stories

Here are a few short tidbits while your correspondent's attention is focused elsewhere:

Texas Voices may litigate to overturn illegal small-town sex-offender residency restrictions
See bloggerly coverage of possible litigation by Texas Voices for Reason and Justice to repeal municipal sex offender residency restrictions in 46 small municipalities which are not legally authorized to impose them. See an announcement from Texas Voices leader Mary Sue Molnar, who's done a great job with her team building the group from scratch and giving it a credible presence at the Legislature. Legal action would kick their work up a few notches. Good for them. I'm proud of you, Mary Sue, keep up the great work!

Wrong question about lawyers refusing to help death-row client
At the American Constitution Society blog, Brandon Garrett poses the question, "Can a Lawyer Oppose His Client's Plea to Live?" In Texas, we know the answer to that question is clearly, obviously, and incontrovertibly, "Yes." The real questions are, "Does that make said lawyer an asshole?," and "Will the lawyers' peers at the state bar tolerate such behavior as acceptable?" Grits believes the answers to those questions are also "Yes," and "Yes." I'm kind of pissed at the defense bar right now. They're not very good at policing their own, Mark Bennett's on-point blog screeds notwithstanding. See the latest on the case from the Texas Tribune and coverage from The New Yorker.

CLEAT adopting Alinskyite attack tactics vs. governor
Fascinating. Our Alinskyite friends at the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) are mad at Governor Greg Abbott, reported the Dallas News' Brandi Grissom, because he "appointed Josh McGee, a vice president at the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation, to the State Pension Review Board this week.The review board, created by the state legislature, is charged with overseeing state and local government retirement systems. McGee has penned articles warning of financial ruin cities could face because of mismanaged pensions." CLEAT, naturally, has adopted a Chicken Little stance, pronouncing that the end of the world is nigh and the Governor has sold them out. That didn't take long!

Anthony Graves hagiography
Check out a sweet little profile of exoneree and Houston crime-lab board member Anthony Graves at Houstonia. I'd vote for him. What's he running for, again?

Well, probably not the only one
"The Real Problem With Police Video" Should police control the footage?

Apologia obscures accountability on Sandra Bland death
Read the Austin Statesman's Ken Herman on "What white people think about Sandra Bland" "Cops hands not bloodless but Sandra Bland not murdered." For the record, Grits never thought she was murdered. But I do think, as Herman finally acknowledged near the end of his column, that "Law enforcement’s mishandling of this case led directly to Bland’s death." And I wish law enforcement and their apologists spent as much time focusing on that fact as they do debunking an emotional statement to the media by Bland's family in the immediate aftermath of her passing. Sandra Bland wasn't murdered. So what? If "Law enforcement’s mishandling of this case led directly to Bland’s death," what will be done to impose accountability and ensure similar "mishandling" won't recur in the future? Why isn't that the focus of MSM opiners?

On the consequences of locking up Mom
Researchers at Sam Houston State are studying whether having an incarcerated mother contributes to criminality among adult offspring. The not-shocking answer from a longitudinal study is "yes."


Anonymous said...

It's kind of amusing to me to watch the anti-death penalty folks getting all worked up into a lather over the ethical lawyers in the Holiday case not being willing to file frivolous claims on a client's behalf and not agreeing to step aside so some other lawyer could file such claims. I've felt for some time that the anti-death penalty zealots believe the end justifies any means, i.e., keeping a guilty killer alive, such that the ethical rules of Disciplinary Conduct did not apply to them. Consequently, in capital litigation all sorts of bogus claims are perpetrated upon juries and and the courts. Bogus claims of mental illness, retardation and child abuse are routinely asserted with impunity and little or no factual support or justification. Frankly, this type of unethical conduct undermines the public's confidence and makes mockery of our judicial system. Not to mention the enormous waste of taxpayer resources which are routinely expended responding to these bogus claims. Frankly, I think it's commendable that Holiday's lawyers had the ethical wherewithal to say no. This violent, sadistic killer had way more due process than the law should allow.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:28, you have a skewed and weird view of legal ethics. For reasons Mark Bennett explained, it's the two lawyers in question who believed "the ethical rules of Disciplinary Conduct did not apply to them."

Anonymous said...

Much of what Josh McGee has written is accurate in that telling cities how under funding pensions over time puts both the pensions and the city at risk. The problem is that he seems to go way overboard in a slanted manner as to solutions and the reasoning behind the willingness to not fund pensions fully, most people believing he follows the directives of his employer, the Arnold Foundation in that regard. Some suggest the foundation bought McGee's spot on the overseeing board, certainly not unheard of in Texas politics, while others suggest McGee volunteered when he was told an opening was coming up and was the only such volunteer, again, not a big stretch.

As his body of work has been so one sided regarding public pensions, it is not unreasonable to expect McGee to step down from any positions with Arnold or some of the other groups that hire him as a "pension hawk" in order to accept the appointment or to caution him that he is not to use the position to further his agenda and/or act as the official voice of the pension board. An alternative would be to also appoint a heavily biased person from the other side of the equation to balance McGee out, letting the ideas from opposing sides go at it in an adversarial manner.

But I doubt Abbott gave much thought to the appointment since the pension board is purely advisory in nature, now having to deal with the fallout as Perry did when he would appoint a particularly biased person to a position most would frown upon from the resulting conflict of interest.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Your first paragraph included some excellent gossip, 5:12, so thanks for that, but graph 2 goes off the rails. You're exactly wrong, it is indeed "unreasonable to expect McGee to step down." If "the pension board is purely advisory in nature" and the governor wants that advice to include a "pension hawk," the elected gets to choose. There's no valid argument McGee should quit his job.

Also, I suspect the entire rest of the pension board qualifies as people biased in the the other direction. Having one voice on the pension board concerned about the big-picture financial impact of pensions is not unreasonable

The Phantom Bureaucrat said...

Grits, the board is comprised largely of fiscal conservatives to begin with, one retiree from a public pension and one actively contributing member of such a system. Currently, the active member is considered less pension friendly as his benefits are tied to an executive benefit clause (he's a judge). Off the top of my head, I thought there were two openings this year, both unfilled since January, but last time I checked, only one member of the sitting board could be considered anything close to the kind that employees under such systems would like, the others ranging from middle to the road to right of center (as expected from a GOP based appointment system).

The biggest difference between previous appointees of the last 25 odd years and McGee is his existing body of work railing against defined benefit pension systems. Such benefits are common in governmental employment so it would have been largely unheard of to appoint such a person previously, this fact not stopping the board from warning cities like Houston when it increased benefits 15 years ago or providing a clear analysis of the constitutional provision passed that protects most public pensions in Texas back in 2003. As a rule of thumb, they are less concerned about what specific benefits are than on making sure pension systems follow state laws on reporting so I suspect McGee will have limited chances to greatly influence his peers on the board even if concerns about the appointment are valid.

Bill Habern said...

Thank you for posting comments about TEXAS VOICES. What a hell of a job Mary Sue Molnar has done organizing and moving this organization forward in combating the irrationality of Texas sex offender laws. I remember Mary Sue calling my law office before she got her organization "off the ground". At the time our law firm was engaged in the process of challenging the constitutionality of certain parole procedures affecting "sex offenders", and we were successful. She became one of our first advocates and regularly attended the trial of these cases.
As one who has never been a great enthusiast of prison family support organizations, I had some doubts about getting involved with Texas Voices, but she had my attention from that first meeting.
From that point on it was clear to me this woman was intending to change things for the better. Even though at the time she knew little about the political system, how the legal system worked, or where to start. As I got to know her it became obvious right away she has a real talent at self education of the workings of political organization, is a fast study on the issues involving legislation and sex offenders, and can move well among what goes on in Austin. From the day I met her I have been amazed at her energy, dedication, and ability to remove the haze of misinformation that clouds the mistaken public fear of sex offenders.
Texas Voices is the organization to afford assistance to sex offenders and their families. This group helps clear the haze of fear that clouds the lives of sex offenders. She has become one of the experts in this area of public concern.

Bill Habern
Houston, Texas

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TPB, my wife's job had their defined-benefit pension plan eliminated a decade ago. (Benefits were defined in a union package, though she's considered "management.") Most have gone the way of the Dodo. That the pension board only now has a single member who would even question defined benefits on fiscal grounds strikes me as rather extraordinary.

Also, your final sentence makes me wonder even more, "why all the fuss?"

Bill, I agree, I couldn't be more proud of Mary Sue and her crew. She's the real deal.

Peter.Marana said...

I too am a big fan of Mary Sue the leader of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. She cares deeply about the registrants and has been the spark for the growth of this organization. The issue of sexual abuse is a serious one but the legislature, police, prisons and press react emotionally to the subject and spend very little time understanding what the evidence shows. One example is that 93% of offenders were already known to their victim - neighbors, family, coaches, teachers, clergy and law enforcement. With this FACT as a starting point how do residency restrictions, or the registry for that matter, make anyone safer? This is a modern example of criminal justice policy going off the rails. I am 100% in support of closely monitoring those who pose a real risk but that is a small percentage of the 85,000 individuals on the registry in Texas and over 800,000 in the country.