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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 1999, Thomas Coleman took part in what became the notorious Tulia narcotics sting operation. Four of the Tulia defendants � Freddie Brookins Jr., Christopher Jackson, Joe Welton Moore and Jason Jerome Williams � filed writs of habeas corpus challenging their convictions. Coleman testified in a joint evidentiary hearing regarding these habeas applications in March 2003. Swisher County District Attorney Terry McEachern represented the state of Texas in that hearing, as well as in the underlying criminal prosecutions. An investigation into Coleman’s possible perjury was initiated after his testimony in that hearing. McEachern then filed a motion for recusal with the trial judge, stating that because he represented the state of Texas during the trial of the cases involving Swisher County, he had a conflict of interest in presenting any cases against Coleman. McEachern requested that a special prosecutor be appointed. The trial judge granted the recusal motion. He appointed attorneys Rod Hobson and John Nation “as special prosecutors to engage in all acts necessary to present the Swisher County Grand Jury any cases concerning offenses involving Tom Coleman, and if said cases are true-billed, to engage in any acts necessary to prosecute Coleman.” Authorities indicted Coleman for three counts of aggravated perjury. Five and a half months later, the trial court granted Coleman’s motion for a continuance to allow a newly added defense attorney to become familiar with the case. The trial was, at that time, set to begin on May 24, 2004. On March 31, 2004, Coleman requested another continuance because one of his attorneys had a personal matter arise that could not be handled before trial. The trial judge granted this second continuance, and a new trial date was eventually set for Jan. 10, 2005. McEachern’s term of office ended on Dec. 31, 2004. On Jan. 1, 2005, newly elected district attorney Wally Hatch took office. Six days later, on Jan. 6, 2005, Coleman’s attorney filed motions objecting to and seeking to recuse Hobson and Nation. He argued that the original conflict-of-interest grounds for the appointment of the attorneys pro tem no longer existed, because the newly elected district attorney, not having been involved in the Tulia drug sting cases, was not disqualified. Therefore, he argued, the trial court did not have authority to continue the appointment of the attorneys pro tem. The trial court overruled Coleman’s objection and denied his motion. After a five-day trial, a jury convicted Coleman of one count of aggravated perjury and sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment but recommended that he be placed on community supervision. On appeal, Coleman claimed that the trial court erred by denying his motion to recuse the special prosecutors. The 7th Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the trial court’s denials of the motions. The CCA granted Coleman’s petition for discretionary review to address the trial court’s authority to permit an attorney pro tem to continue his representation of the state of Texas after the original rationale for that attorney’s appointment has ended. HOLDING:Affirmed. Under Texas law, the CCA stated, “[e]ach district attorney shall represent the State in all criminal cases in the district courts of his district and in appeals” from those cases. There are, however, a few instances in which the district attorney is legally disqualified from acting. A district attorney who is not legally disqualified may request that the district court permit him to recuse himself in a particular case for good cause. This procedure allows the district attorney to avoid conflicts of interest and even the appearance of impropriety by deciding not to participate in certain cases. The attorney pro tem, the CCA stated, stands in the place of the regular attorney for the state and performs all the duties the state attorney would have performed under the terms of the appointment. The attorney pro tem acts “during the absence or disqualification of the attorney for the state.” The appointment of an attorney pro tem lasts until the purposes contemplated by that appointment are fulfilled. Coleman claims that the court of appeals erred by not following the plain language of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 2.07. He argued that the statute limits an attorney pro tem to serving only during the disqualification of the district attorney and that the disqualification in this case ended the moment that the newly elected district attorney took office. The state responded that the trial court did not disregard the statute, that McEachern’s disqualification continued after he left office and that there was no statutory requirement that a newly elected district attorney must assume responsibility for a case that a properly appointed attorney pro tem has been handling. The CCA found that the decision not to modify the order appointing the attorneys pro tem was within the trial court’s sound discretion. Because 1. the new and nondisqualified district attorney had taken office only nine days prior to the start of trial; 2. the new district attorney did not object to allowing the attorneys pro tem to continue; 3. the two attorneys pro tem had spent over 21 months researching, investigating and preparing this case for a trial that was then imminent; and 4. the trial would have occurred months earlier (during McEachern’s tenure) but for the defense-requested continuances, the CCA agreed that the trial court did not err in allowing the trial to proceed with the attorneys pro tem representing the state. OPINION:Cochran, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which Meyers, Price, Womack, Johnson and Holcomb, JJ., joined. CONCURRENCE:Keller, P.J., filed a concurring opinion in which Keasler and Hervey, JJ., joined. “I agree that the trial court did not err when it refused to modify the order appointing the attorneys pro tem. I do not join the Court’s conclusion that that decision was”within the trial court’s sound discretion.’ Saying the trial court has”discretion’ suggests that the trial court may have the power in this type of situation to act contrary to the wishes of the district attorney a proposition that is at least questionable.”

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