Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reset King

When a criminal defendant has a court appearance, such as an arraignment, pretrial, or docket call, and the case is not disposed of at that setting, the alleged offender obtains a “reset.” This is simply another date on which to appear in court, i.e., the case is reset to a future date. The first, second and even third resets are generally granted without much reluctance by the court. One is entitled to a reset after the first appearance, the arraignment, because at that time, the accused person’s identity is confirmed, he or she is informed of the charges, and a plea is entered (not guilty). At subsequent pretrial settings, the defendant’s attorney and the assistant district attorneys may negotiate the plea offer further. Repeated resets might be necessary if the client or attorney is not ready to conclude the matter. If the client has received too many pretrial resets, however, it may become necessary to seek judge’s approval.

Resets are generally simple to obtain, and for the most part take up time that could be better spent on more important tasks. That is why it frequently falls upon me, the most junior attorney, to go to court to reset clients. Lloyd, the deputy in County Court Number Four, becomes irritated when a large number of defendants are reset, because that means they will be back in his court on another day. Lloyd has dubbed me the Reset King. He jests that I need to stop resetting defendants and start pleaing some people.

I live up to my moniker as the Reset King. Not only do I frequently obtain resets in the Montgomery County Courts at Law, but also I drive hundreds of miles out of county merely to obtain resets. Twice I have even finagled resets when the judge would not have approved it. After the client and I had departed the courtrooms, the judges became upset that we were granted the resets, I later learned. It’s an unglamorous job, but somebody has to do it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Frat Boy in Chief

President Bush reminds me of a frat boy. The only people who take fraternity members seriously are the other members of the Greek orgs. The only people who take President Bush seriously are his supporters and members of the Republican Party.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Out of County

I’ve never been to Brazoria County before – before this week. Tuesday’s drive to Angelina County marked a first for me, also. I put over 500 miles on the car this week, traveling for various counties four out of five days. Going out of county for court settings is fine with me, as it is nice to have a respite from the craziness at the office. If one is not traveling south on I-45 into Houston, the drives are actually quite nice. My employer is good about reimbursing me for mileage, also.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Probation Is Hard for Non-Law Abiding Citizens

When the punishment of probation is imposed, the offender is usually sentenced to jail or TDC, but the sentence is suspended, and the defendant is placed on community supervision probation, for a year to eighteen months for a misdemeanor, or for perhaps five to ten years for a felony. If the defendant is unsuccessful in completing probation, the original sentence of confinement in jail or prison is imposed. Probationers are subject to a number of conditions. First, the defendant must not violate any other laws of the State of Texas. The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited. This is enforced by random drug tests. Probationers are required to pay monthly community supervision fees of $60. They also must report to their probation officer monthly. Community service is a frequent punishment.

These are but a few of the conditions, but they seem to be the most difficult by which to abide. When you are on probation, and must submit to monthly tests for drugs or alcohol, don’t use drugs or alcohol. Don’t drink and drive while on probation. If you have been convicted of your second or third DWI, I think it is a safe bet you have a drinking problem. How difficult is it to meet with your community supervision officer once a month? Paying $60 a month and performing at least 16 hours of community service a month may seem onerous, but, if it will keep one out of jail or prison, it seems quite manageable. When you fail to comply with the conditions of your probation, don’t be surprised, dismayed, angered, or frantic when the State moves to revoke your probation and put you away for a while.

Monday, April 17, 2006

There’s Always Next Year

Another weekend goes by that I do not shine my shoes or vacuum the floor, as I have intended to do for a number of weekends now. I have some poppy seeds that I have been meaning to plant, but I think it has become a bit late to put them in the ground. Poppies do not fare well in warmer weather. I actually meant to plant them last spring, as they were packaged for 2005. I suppose I can sow them late this year or in early 2007, and see what sprouts. At this rate, I will also be putting off vacuuming the floor and shining my shoes until next year.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Throw Enough Money at It…

Despite providing the Columbian government with more than $4 billion since 2000 to combat drugs, Colombia’s coca crop expanded by nearly 21 percent last year, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The White House’s explanation: rather than an increase in the crop’s size, the higher numbers may reflect a more thorough job of surveying the Colombian countryside. Interestingly, the numbers seem to be more reliable when they are favorable for the anti-drug efforts, the Houston Chronicle reports. When the CIA survey showed a decline in coca production in 2002, White House drug czar John Walters interpreted the figures as evidencing the success of the drug war: “These figures capture the dramatic improvement.... Our anti-drug efforts in Colombia are now paying off.” I’ve not been in the market for cocaine, but the continued ready availability of the narcotic on the streets also suggests that eradication efforts are failing. Even if the strategy has no chance of being successful, with enough perseverance and taxpayers’ money, any plan can work.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Must Be Dreaming!

This is the first three-day weekend I have had since New Year’s! I have been in great need of an extra day off from work. Now I can do over three days what I normally must try to accomplish in two days. Maybe there will even be time for some relaxing. It felt weird not being at work yesterday. I kept expecting someone from the office to call to ask where I was.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter Is a Celebration of Spring

What says “spring” like green bean casserole? It’s not a holiday meal if there is not a green bean casserole on the table! I recently inquired of a family member as to suggestions or requests for Easter dinner. He stated a preference for a spiral sliced ham. I was hoping for something different this year, perhaps a meal featuring lamb. In the same sentence, he uttered the words “green bean casserole.”

I associate green bean casserole with Thanksgiving, although I avoid the concoction consisting of Campbell’s soup, fried onions from a can, and canned green beans. Fare I associate with Easter includes produce that is coming into season during the spring, such as asparagus and greens, or ham or lamb. Processed foods don’t seem to fit. I suppose there will be a green bean casserole on the table this weekend, but a serving of it will not make it onto my plate.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I did not vote in the primaries…

But I did sign Kinky Friedman’s petition. Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey has referred to Friedman’s efforts as a “tired collection of old one-liners [Friedman] calls a campaign.” I tend to agree, as Kinky seems to spew a series of sound bites. Nonetheless, I much prefer Kinky to the politicians who are running for Texas governor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fair Weather Follower

I would characterize myself as agnostic, or even atheistic. Although Easter is a religious holiday, I celebrate it as a day that announces spring. However, I do want all the benefits of the Christian holidays. That is, I will be very disappointed if I don’t have Good Friday off this week. Why stop at Christian days of religious observance? I should start taking off days that hold significance in the Jewish and Islamic religions, also!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Count Chocula

My sister requested that I purchase from the grocery store a box of “Count Chocula” cereal. I had heard of Count Chocula, probably from the adverts back in the day when I watched Saturday morning cartoons.

I could not spot Count Chocula after several trips up and down the cereal aisle. Why is it necessary that there be thirty-six hundred different brands of cold cereal? The generic store brands with slightly different names placed right next to the national brands only complicate efforts to select a product. I called my sister and asked her if she knew where I could locate the insipid, sugarcoated, artificially flavored, preservative laden junk food. Following a six-minute telephone conversation during which she attempted to assist me in spotting the requested item, there was still no Count Chocula in the shopping cart. When I sought the assistance of a grocery store employee in accomplishing my mission, he responded, “Do they still make that stuff?”

Count Chocula does not appear to be among the products General Mills offers anymore. My sister had to settle for Chocolate Lucky Charms and a box of some artificial peanut butter flavored cereal.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses

I don’t understand why there must be a debate about immigration. Why should it not be easier for willing laborers who do not have criminal backgrounds or who do not harbor animosity towards the United States to enter the country, and eventually attain citizenship? Punitive proposed immigration laws must be motivated by racism. I am sympathetic to Mexican immigrants. The migrants from our southern neighbor generally come here to work, not to live off the system or to fly airplanes into buildings.

Some people – those with economics degrees – say that the costs of illegal immigration do not have a significant positive or negative economic impact. Although immigrants pay taxes, their incomes are not substantial and they do not consume much, thus limiting the tax revenue they generate. They do use some services at taxpayer expense, but I have read that they are not as inclined to seek medical attention as are legal residents, thus not taking advantage of our healthcare system to the extent that is alleged.

Making it a felony to enter this country illegally is asinine. The courts are backlogged with criminal cases as it is. (In addition, our office already has an unmanageable number of clients.) Clogging the courts’ dockets with people accused of attempting to immigrate illegally is an incredibly bad idea. The people who cross the borders for a better life are not deterred by the current penalties, and it is unlikely that more severe criminal charges would affect their perseverance.

Immigrants should be allowed entry into the country. If they hold jobs, pay a series of fines, become current on taxes, undergo background checks, learn English, work for ten or so years, and apply for a permanent visa or citizenship, why not grant them citizenship?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Am I Dense?

A young lady attorney asked me today in court the procedure for approaching the judge for a reset. She wanted to know whether one had to wait for the client’s name to be called. I informed her that she could just wait until there was no one before the judge, at which time she could horn her way in. Shortly afterwards, another attorney pulled me aside and said, “Dude, that blonde is hitting on you!” I had not perceived that she was “hitting on” me. I just thought she was new to County Court One and was unfamiliar with how court was conducted. Of course, that might also be the reason why I am still single.

Do You Know Where Your Money Is Going?

Our IT guy frequents strip joints, or, in euphemistic terms, gentlemen’s clubs. An attorney from another law firm recently asked the aforementioned IT guy to scan a document into the computer as a PDF file. As compensation, the attorney handed the IT guy a $20 bill. The IT guy advised, “You know that is going straight to a dancer?”

Shenandoah Municipal

Having to appear in Shenandoah Municipal Court at 7:00 p.m. is punishment enough for violating the Texas traffic laws in the City of Shenandoah, Texas.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Who Stole My Hour?

I’m slightly irritated because I lost an hour. At least I will get off work an hour earlier. Sort of. Not really.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Making It Difficult for the Criminal Bar

I can only conclude that district attorneys want to make it as difficult as possible for their adversaries. For what other reason would they require that criminal defense attorneys copy by hand the offense reports, rather than providing a photocopy or an additional printed copy of the arresting officers’ accounts of the events surrounding the confrontation between citizen and law enforcement personnel? Most DA’s have an “open file” policy; that is, defense attorneys are allowed limited access to the DA file on a defendant (save for the little manila folder labeled “confidential.”) However, photocopying, or even photographing, is forbidden. I can understand that requiring the DA’s clerks* to photocopy offense reports for every offender’s attorney who wanted a report would consume a tremendous amount of person-hours. However, there are often multiple copies of every document in the DA file! Thus, making a copy of the offense report available to the defenders of the Constitution is not implausible. If the arresting officer would print just one additional copy of his or her grammatical error-ridden narrative, the alleged offender’s attorney could be provided with the chronicle of events surrounding the purported offense.

Five hundred open cases, four attorneys – I am beginning to feel the pressure.

* As an aside, a tobacco addiction and an unpleasant disposition are prerequisites to holding a position as a clerk for the District Attorney’s office.