April 21, 2009
Either way, they still get paid

The Chron returns to the theme of inadequate representation of death row inmates.

Texas lawyers have repeatedly missed deadlines for appeals on behalf of more than a dozen death row inmates in the last two years -- yet judges continue to assign life-or-death capital cases and pay hundreds of thousands in fees to those attorneys, a Chronicle records review shows.

Missing deadlines means their clients can be automatically denied constitutionally mandated reviews before their execution. Houston lawyer Jerome Godinich missed three recent federal deadlines, the Chronicle reported in March. One client was executed in February after the federal appeal was filed too late. In March, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals chastened Godinich for using the same excuse -- a malfunctioning after-hours filing machine -- for missing another deadline for a man still on death row.

A recent review of the Harris County Auditor's billing records and district court records shows Godinich remains one of the county's busiest appointed criminal attorneys, billing for $713,248, including fees for 21 capital cases. He was appointed to handle 1,638 Harris County cases involving 1,400 different defendants from 2006-March 2009, court records show.

He refused comment.

Godinich is not the only attorney to miss death row deadlines. A San Antonio lawyer failed to file four state appeals on time, according to opinions last year by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A Fort Worth lawyer has missed both state and federal deadlines in at least five recent cases, though he sought and was granted more time to prepare on four of them, according to court records reviewed by the Chronicle.

The article goes on from there - it's all about how many deadlines various lawyers missed, and how much in fees they collected anyway. I'll say again, the lack of sanctions on the incompetent attorneys is the troubling aspect of this. Even if you don't punish the incompetents, I don't think it's too much to ask to not give them any more chances to screw up. But again, this is a matter of priorities, and the system doesn't really care about this. We can work to put judges in place who will care, but ultimately this has to be a matter of process. As long as it isn't, this story won't change.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 21, 2009 to Crime and Punishment

Good Judges must be Appointed.
I just learned that ALAN BLAKLEY is interested in the appointment to the U.S. District Judge position, Galveston Division. We both live in Brazoria county and I have met at several events. Mr. Blakley is well spoken, a sharp dresser and appears knowledgeable about the judicial system.
On at least one occasion he helped me communicate with a person who spoke Spanish. I've heard Mr. Blakley works with Latin America company's and seems to understand the language barrier.
It would be wonderful to have a Judge appointed who lives in Brazoria County. Brazoria is the largest county and growing in population in the division of Texas covered by that court. I can't remember if there has ever been a Judge from Brazoria appointed to a Federal Court.
I know Mr. Blakley is on the S.D.E.C. but he is acceptable to Republicans and has the support of some of my Republican friends.
I think ALAN BLAKLEY is the most qualified lawyer for this position.

Posted by: Jacqueline Acquistapace on April 21, 2009 10:03 PM
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