Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brazos County Election News

The candidates for Brazos County Attorney put their best foot forward this week in the local news magazine, aboutTown Press. In a nice little Q&A, both Rod Anderson and Shane Phelps claimed to be the best man for the job, but for differing reasons, of course.

Anderson believes he is better qualified because he's worked in the County Attorney's Office for 20+ years and knows the system. Anderson is a certified peace officer and has strong ties to the prosecution staff already on board. I'm not crazy about peace officers posing as prosecutors, but I've known Rod for a long time and believe he is a fair man.

Phelps claims he's the man because of his extensive experience trying both felony and misdemeanor cases all over Texas. He wants to try more jury trials in the county courts and sees this as the answer to making our county safer. He has an interesting proposal called "Second Chance." He didn't explain the program but it sounds like a pre-trial diversion program to me. Pre-trial diversion is akin to "informal" probation that often leads to dismissals upon successful completion of the terms. I like pre-trial diversion for many reasons and can't figure out why Brazos County has not instituted such a program long before now. Many counties in Texas sport such a diversion program.

What I didn't hear either candidate talking about is how they will make the justice system more equitable to those accused by re-tooling the discovery rules currently in place. Currently, the discovery process is extremely limited and without an open file which requires defense lawyers to beg and plead for information about their case.

Fellow blogger, Shawn Matlock, recently offered a comment here about the system in Tarrant County that provides for liberal discovery in criminal cases:
Tarrant County has an open-file policy. In fact, we are now completely electronic in that there are no more paper files. I get access to my client's D.A. file via a secure website.
This is what I'd like to hear both Phelps and Anderson talking about in more detail. If they want support from the local bar, they need to think about developing systems that help resolve cases more quickly and evenhandedly.

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