Honoring Mike Anderson

Harris County honored Mike Anderson, the former Harris County District Attorney who lost his battle with cancer on Aug. 31, by renaming the STAR (Success Through Addiction Recovery) Court courtroom after him on Dec. 17. It’s now the Mike Anderson Memorial Courtroom. Anderson, who took office as DA on Jan. 1, is a former STAR Court judge. He was a Harris County assistant DA for 17 years and a district court judge for 12 years. The STAR Drug Court Program provides non-violent, repeat drug offenders with treatment. According to a press release from the Harris County DA’s office, currently 144 defendants are participating in the program and more than 400 have graduated since 2003. At a dedication ceremony, where a portrait of Anderson was unveiled, 262nd Judge Denise Bradley, one of the Harris County judges with a STAR docket, said there is no better way to honor Anderson than by naming the courtroom after him because he got “great joy” from his work in STAR court. “He was an absolute sucker for a happy ending,” Bradley said to a packed courtroom. “He always had words of encouragement and he always, always made people think they could do it.” In September, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Anderson’s widow, Devon, to succeed him as DA.

Construction Time Again

Starting in 2014, there’s a new resource for Texas lawyers who practice construction law. The Construction Law Foundation of Texas will host educational events, update attorneys about legislation and engage in charitable giving, according to an announcement by the State Bar of Texas Construction Law Section. The Section’s officers will also lead the foundation. The foundation will run the section’s annual conference and other educational events. Revenue from those events will support the foundation’s other efforts. “The Foundation’s future activities will help assure that revenues generated through the hard work and financial contributions of construction law practitioners who support the educational programs and events will be used to achieve maximum benefit to those in the construction law and construction industry communities for many years to come,” said the Dec. 6 announcement. The announcement added that section leaders are particularly “excited” about the foundation’s “independence to be governed and directed” by the section. Section chair Matthew Ryan, partner in Allensworth & Porter in Austin, and vice-chairman William Sommers of The Gardner Law Firm in San Antonio, each didn’t return a telephone call or email seeking comment.

Paging Dr. Phil

On Dec. 14, 16 new graduates of Texas Tech University School of Law got copies of the latest book by Dr. Phil, personally autographed by the TV star. The book was a gift from litigator Bill Dawson, who spoke at the school’s fall hooding ceremony. Dawson’s keynote speech explained that trials are a “microcosm of life.” Among other things, Dawson discussed his good friend Phil McGraw’s work as a jury consultant before becoming a TV star. “Winning a trial is much the same as winning in life,” Dawson, a partner in Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Dallas, said that he told the graduates during the speech. Key moments in every trial determine the outcome of a case, and the same is true in life, he told the graduates. “It is how we handle those few defining moments that makes all the difference. You’ve got to be watchful for those few moments, and have the courage to act decisively,” Dawson said. He said he discussed trial stories in which McGraw was a jury consultant. Dawson notes that lawyers tend to look for a certain trait in potential jurors, and that trait also drives success in the lawyer’s own life. He explained, “Successful people accept responsibility for their own choices in life, and tend not to blame forces beyond their control.” Dawson graduated from Texas Tech law in 1975, and in 2012, he was the school’s distinguished alum, noted Kari Abitbol, assistant director of communications for the law school.

New Writ Rules

After handling nearly 4,300 applications for writ of habeas corpus last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is trying to streamline the process by changing rules to create word limits for applicants and deadlines for courts. “It gives us the ability to process the writs a little better—maybe quicker, more efficient,” said CCA Clerk of the Court Abel Acosta. The CCA on Dec. 13 amended parts of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure governing habeas writ applications. The court approved the changes in an order that also laid out rules for electronic filing of court documents. The habeas rule changes begin on page 25 of the order. Among other things, the applications can’t be longer than 15,000 words if computer generated, or 50 pages if handwritten. “That’s really the biggest change,” said Acosta. The court changed the form that inmates or their lawyers can use to file an application. But one new rule requires district clerks to accept all applications “whether it’s on the form or not,” Acosta noted. Another major change creates a 180-day deadline, starting when the state receives its copy of an application, for district courts to resolve issues that the application raised. But courts can ask the CCA for a time extension.