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Email from Judge re: Judicial Rep on Public Defender Org Dev Cmte

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2 years 1 month ago #647 by JoeHon
Subject: Judicial Representative on the Public Defender Organizational Development Committee
Date: Monday, July 29, 2019 at 3:49:51 PM Central Daylight Time
From: Sarah Eckhardt
To: Brenda Kennedy, Clifford Brown, Elisabeth Earle, Michael Denton, Nancy Hohengarten, David Wahlberg, Karen Sage, Julie Kocurek, Tamara Needles, Brad Urrutia, John Lipscombe, Brandy Mueller, Carlos Barrera, Kimberly Williams, Chantal Eldridge
CC: Commissioners-Court
Attachments: Item 13 - ADDITIONAL.pdf

Judges,

I am excited to be moving forward with a Public Defender’s office in partnership with the State. I write today to ask the judges to collectively name a judicial representative to the 7-Member Organizational Development Committee for a new Public Defenders Office at the 8/5 meeting of the Commissioners Court.

At the 7/16 Voting Session the Commissioners Court approved a Charge to a 7-Member Organizational Development Committee for a new Public Defenders Office (see backup attached). Below are the 7 categories approved by the Court on 7/16 and in brackets are the specific individuals I plan to nominate as a slate for the Commissioners Court approval on 7/30 (which is the last day that the TIDC grant proposal may be amended).

1. Academic (Andrea Marsh)
2. Private Attorney (Gerry Morris)
3. Public Defender (Alex Bunin)
4. Justice Involved Individual (Darwin Hamilton)
5. Advocate/Community Activist (Ofeliia Zapata)
6. Commissioners Court Representative (Roger Jefferies)
7. Retired Criminal Judge or Civil Judge (selected by the judges)

I plan to recommend to the Commissioners Court tomorrow that it await and accept a consensus appointment by the criminal judges in the 7th spot on 8/5.

Some things to consider in your deliberations regarding who to select:
  • We have an embarrassment of riches in that both Judge Lynch and Judge Livingston are willing to serve on The Organizational Development Committee.
  • Judge Lynch certainly has the edge in criminal experience and would provide a valuable judicial vantage point to the Committee.
  • Judge Livingston does not have the criminal experience that Judge Lynch possesses. But, she has served on the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) and has deep experience in management and organizational decision making.
  • There is an ABA Best Practice that excludes active judges from management of public defenders’ offices. The ABA Best Practice is difficult to apply in a Texas which, by statute, places the responsibility for indigent criminal defense with the same criminal judiciary that the Best Practice seeks to exclude. You all addressed this conundrum to some extent in the Charge you recommended to the Commissioners Court in May by suggesting a subcommittee of the whole- “... Develop a hiring committee, not to include active judges, to screen and interview candidates for the position of Chief Defender and present recommendations for the selection of the Chief Defender to the Commissioners Court”
  • Judge Lynch rarely sits the bench and avoids presiding over trials at this point in his career as a visiting judge. The judges may choose to overlook the ABA Best Practice in light of his deep knowledge and light attachment. Judge Lynch could serve as a non-voting member, although I fear that would be a waste of his participation on this team.
  • A different judge who does not sit the bench in Travis County could be sought. Judge Kennedy mentioned
    • Judge Stubblefield
    • Judge Mark Atkinson
    • Judge Cheryl Johnson
- SE

Joe Hon
Project Coordinator
Information Technology Services

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