Tuesday June 17, 2014

by admin

On June 17, 2014 Janine Geske, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and Distinguished Professor of Law at Marquette University will provide a compelling argument for using restorative justice practices for greater victim satisfaction, better offender outcomes, cost- effective sanctions, and closure of the revolving criminal justice door. Although the drive to obtain convictions remains high, public concern over wrongful convictions, costly prison sentences, and racial disproportionality require criminal justice professionals to consider options beyond the increased use of plea bargaining to avoid life-destroying sentences. Justice Geske’s comments will be followed by remarks from a panel of local criminal justice professionals:

The Honorable Judge Brenda Kennedy
Assistant District Attorney Dana Blazey
Assistant District Attorney Buddy Meyer
Assistant District Attorney Dana Nelson
Bill White
Liza House-Friend
David Gonzalez

by admin

On Friday, May 30, 2014 David Gonzalez was one of several lawyers invited to conduct the annual Juvenile Court Certification training program. David taught the subject of Determinate Sentencing.

Determinate Sentencing is a mechanism to provide greater flexibility – and punishment – for juvenile respondents charged with the most serious felony offenses but lack the sophistication and maturity to be certified as an adult. A child can be placed on determinate sentence probation until 19, and then the district court can transfer that probation to the adult system. If the court believes the child does not need any further supervision, the court may also terminate the determinate sentence probation.

In recent years trial courts in central Texas have been upholding lengthy determinate sentences, and then approving transfer to the adult prison system. The result is that a 16 year old who is adjudicated for a serious felony often enters a plea bargain for 15-20 years with the promise that if they do well at TJJD, they could be discharged and paroled from the system. When they do not do as well as the judge expected, the court has little power but to transfer the balance of the sentence to the adult prison system.

This leads to a very important reality: children can receive just as long and harsh prison sentences through juvenile court as they could in adult felony court. Most people erroneously assume that juvenile court is not as serious as adult court.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

by admin

On Tuesday, May 27, 2014 David Gonzalez and Patricia Cummings will be presenting a seminar entitled, “What Defense Lawyers, Prosecutors, and Judges Should Know About the New Discovery Rules: Effective Assistance of Counsel Under the Michael Morton Act.”  David worked as part of the legislative team for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association that played a substantial role in negotiating the drafts of the bill.  Patricia is a member of Michael Morton’s defense team. They both teach as adjunct professors at the University of Texas School of Law in clinical teaching roles.

The presentation will be held in the 389th Judicial District Court of Hidalgo County from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. and is sponsored by the Hidalgo County Bar Association and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Thursday May 15, 2014

by admin

Next Wednesday, May 21, 2014 attorney David Gonzalez will be addressing the federal bar as part of a training program for federal criminal defense lawyers who practice in the Western District of Texas.

Wednesday May 14, 2014

by David M. Gonzalez

Last evening I was at a function with Trevor Taylor, a fantastic lawyer and outstanding professional colleague.

At some point in the conversation, we started talking about teenage daughters – which then led to a conversation about the delicate subject of whether or not to encourage your children to enter the legal profession. Trevor mentioned the same thing that I heard growing up: “You like to argue. You should be a lawyer.” Trevor correctly noted that one of the main problems with our profession is when people seem to recruit you simply for being disagreeable.

As any parent with teens or tweens would know: there is no topic undeserving of a good argument.  Whether the milk should go back in the fridge? That’s good for at least 5 minutes of disagreement.  Whether clearing your plate includes or excludes putting it in the dishwasher? 4 minutes. Whether putting it in the dishwasher necessarily incorporates scraping your plate before putting it in the dishwasher? 8 minutes. If the legal profession simply needed a limitless supply of argument, the best lawyers would have to retire once they were old enough to drive.

As we (attempt) to explain to our kids, people don’t pay us to argue. They can do that for free. The world is full of conflict and fighting and dispute and disagreement outside of the legal profession. If being disagreeable is the only prerequisite for entry in the legal system then the value of lawyers would be less than fast food wages.

Instead, people pay us to resolve arguments – not start them. This is the reason we have value.  Arguing for argument’s sake requires no skill, no expertise, and no formal education. Unfortunately, it is often missing in legal education. We teach law students to advocate in law school, but we rely upon their own instincts to learn how to resolve conflict. Unless a law student chooses to take coursework in mediation he or she will miss one of the most important parts of our profession: making ourselves unnecessary.

Our work, when done well, is to talk people out of filing lawsuits. If the situation can be resolved between the parties it substantially reduces the transaction costs (e.g. legal fees) and results in much greater satisfaction. Otherwise, if you add a pair of disagreeable lawyers to a conflict with a couple of disagreeable parties, what service does the lawyer provide by simply escalating the conflict?

If being disagreeable and getting into conflict is the main interest in practicing law – don’t go to law school.  Haggle for used cars. Write people parking tickets they don’t deserve. Or better yet –  simply come over to our house for dinner tomorrow night and try to negotiate the bedtime routine with our kids.  Take it from two lawyers trying to raise four kids – conflict and argument and disagreement have zero value.

Convincing  a 3 year-old to get in bed on time? Incalculable value.

Tuesday April 22, 2014

by David M. Gonzalez

Earlier this morning the United States Supreme Court announced the decision in the Michigan Affirmative Action case, Schuette v. BAMN.  David Gonzalez was interviewed by the Daily Texan this afternoon to help explain the decision and provide context for how this ruling may affect the current litigation in Fisher v. University of Texas currently before the Fifth Circuit (on remand).  The following are excerpts from his interview.

“Today the Supreme Court has embraced the political process’s promise that legislation passed to protect equal protection” –  (I am pausing for a moment to marvel at the unintentional and uncanny alliteration) – “performs what it alleges to do. The Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action, and given similar constitutional amendments in California, Washington, and Florida, delegates to each state the power to decide whether to implement or prohibit affirmative action.

I have three observations based upon today’s ruling.

First, the assumption in the case “that there was no infliction of a specific injury” is ironically juxtaposed against a groundbreaking book that has rocketed to the top of the nearly ever best seller list. Economist Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is a detailed look at 200 years’ worth of data on the distribution of income and wealth.  Piketty’s thesis is that the United States and the developed world are on a path toward a degree of inequality that will reach levels likely to cause severe social disruption.  While the United States was founded upon principles that reject royalty and inherited wealth in favor of economic self-determination, the data from the past two centuries shows that today, birth matters more than effort and talent.

Education is the fundamental tool to reverse generational poverty and inequality. If colleges in Michigan were overflowing with black and Hispanic students one could understand why programs encouraging minority applicants to attend college would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, the percentage of minority enrollment is woefully under the percentage of minority adults in the college-age demographics. Further, the prison population for these minority groups is over-represented. While Michigan’s law prohibiting affirmative action does not inflict a “specific” injury the way a poll tax or literacy test might, the law certainly does little to help remedy a problem 200 years in the making.

Second,  the majority opinion attempts to claim the moral high-ground by explaining that affirmative action’s “attempt to use race based categories carries the danger of perpetuating the very racial divisions the policy seeks to transcend.”

Transcend? We’re nowhere near transcendence – we’re in the trenches. I don’t know about you, but as an aging taxpayer, all I want is to make sure there are more kids with high paying jobs coming into the workforce so that we can keep the government afloat in the midst of monstrous deficits.  College graduates earn more money than high school dropouts, and I don’t care what color you are – I want our colleges stacked to the brim. I want more colleges than prisons. I want to beat back the flood of overqualified workers from India and Pakistan and China who our high tech industries keep hiring because there aren’t enough qualified Americans to do the work.

Will a race-based admission preference solve this? Probably not. But could it attract kids to college who might not otherwise thing they could hack it and end up being the next Einstein? God I hope so. We need more Zuckerbergs and Brins and Pages. (And I’ll even take college dropouts like Bill Gates or Michael Dell, for that matter).

But the very existence of this law begs the question: if there are so few Blacks and Hispanics enrolled in college, why would voters in Michigan need to enact these laws? Are the universities being flooded with black and Hispanic students? Are they applying – and being admitted – in record numbers?

Or are we debating about single percentage points?

This very issue calls into question the assumption of “transcendence” the majority opinion wishes to convey. It’s as if the majority is saying, “we’re trying to help all the black kids who graduated from college from being labeled as affirmative action babies” when, in reality, it’s exactly the kind of problem we should want to have. I am happy to deal with the consequences of too many kids in college. Then I’ll address the issue of racial “transcendence.”

Finally, it will be interesting to see how Texas will handle this. Undoubtedly, a bill prohibiting affirmative action will be the first thing filed during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session. However, given the political tightrope surrounding the immigration debate, and both political parties’ desire to court the massive Hispanic vote, it appears the Supreme Court has just given both parties a new wedge issue for the mid-term elections.”

Tuesday April 10, 2012

by Blake

The University of Texas School of Law (c. 1960’s)

This semester David Gonzalez is honored to be teaching a Trial Advocacy class to second year law students at the University of Texas in Austin.

Course Description:
Advocacy Survey and Basic Litigation Skills is designed for beginning advocacy students who are interested in exploring all areas of litigation.  Although the primary focus of the class is learning how to develop basic trial skills; the course will cover topics such as the art and theory of persuasion, motion practice, mediation, arbitration, voir dire, and courtroom technology.  This class is for all law students, not just those who intend to become litigators.

David has confessed that before accepting his admission to Stanford Law, he was torn as to whether he would pursue the path of education or law.  From high school debate club to educational presentations in his community, David has always chosen to fill his spare time with speaking engagements.  He is thoroughly enjoying this venture and is geared up to teach the same class next fall and the following spring. As to whether today’s class of law students is finding his fast paced method of orating in-sync with a visual presentation intermixed with movie clips effective…. the jury is still out.

Thursday April 5, 2012

by David M. Gonzalez

Why is there such a long interruption between posts?

1. Hard cases.
2. Steady diet of hard cases.
3. I forgot my login name and was increasingly frustrated having wasted weeks with all my standard ones. What idiot puts a middle initial in a login name?

In other news, I’ve spent a good bit of time over the past year at the law school teaching a class on Advocacy. In between all the readings, writing lectures, and creating different methods to teach law students – most of my creative energies have transfered to this undertaking. And because I was trained as a teacher – I love it.

Fear not, oh audience of one: I finally dusted off my login and password, and the blog entries shall once again rain fire upon the internets.

Thursday August 26, 2010

by dan

David was on KXAN yesterday morning with some advice for parents and teenagers on how to avoid being arrested for venting on Facebook. Check out the video below:

Tuesday August 24, 2010

by David M. Gonzalez

I received a call today from a dad whose daughter had been cited at her prom for Minor in Consumption of alcohol. Because it was a school-related event, she was facing disciplinary sanctions at school.

As we got further into the conversation, she already had received disciplinary sanctions: She was going to be sent to the Alternative Learning Center for the remainder of the school year, and it was likely that she was going to miss graduation. The dad was still trying to figure out how quickly everything happened. He thought they were attending a meeting with the school, and one administrator had assured them that this was “no big deal” and that his daughter “was a good kid who had never been in trouble before.”

He relayed the details of what we’ve seen again and again and again: The informal meeting was far more formal that he anticipated, the school appeared to have already decided the resolution of the case before the meeting even started, and no matter what the parents said in their daughter’s defense, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that she was going to be removed to the Alternative school.

Welcome to the world of removal and expulsion hearings.

Few parents ever think of hiring a lawyer at this early stage in the process, and almost all are under the mistaken impression that “good kids” wouldn’t be removed to the Alternative Learning Center with all those bad kids. Furthermore, parents don’t realize that the school has indeed already decided what to do before the removal hearing; it isn’t a search for truth as much as it is an expedited process to efficiently remove the student to ALC.

We’ve had frustrating experiences where hearings officers wouldn’t allow us to bring in witnesses which affirmatively proved our clients’ innocence, acknowledge lab results authoritatively proving the a substance was indeed candy and not cocaine, and even tried to prevent us from speaking during the hearing.  Schools are fiefdoms where enforcing due process rights only comes from playing a contact sport.

If your teenage son or daughter gets in trouble at school and you get a call asking to you come to a removal hearing or an expulsion hearing the next day, chances are that the school has already decided to remove or expel him.

Please: call a lawyer. Even if you don’t call us, call any lawyer that has experience in school law. You have no idea how serious the consequences are, how complicated the process is, and how forceful you must be in order to get a fair hearing.

© 2010 Sumpter & Gonzalez , L.L.P.
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