Prickett: Open Letter to Grant Scheiner, President of the TCDLA

Ed. Note: Greg Prickett is former police officer and supervisor who went to law school, hung out a shingle, and now practices criminal defense and family law in Fort Worth, Texas. While he was a police officer, he was a police firearms instructor, and routinely taught armed tactics to other officers. He is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association (TCDLA).

Dear Mr. Scheiner:

On July 27, 2020, you forwarded to all members of the TCDLA that the Executive Committee had decided to participate in the public lynching of the State Bar of Texas President, Larry McDougal.

First, I’m going to point out some things that should have been considered before you took action on behalf of the entire TCDLA, especially without consulting the membership.

  • Larry made comments in response to a question on electioneering. These remarks were off the cuff and were not researched. And they appear to be wrong. He stated that he made the comments in his personal capacity, not his capacity as the SBOT President.
  • He has apologized for any offense that this may have caused and laid out what he intends to do to moving forward.
  • He has followed through on this by having meetings with concerned groups of the SBOT. Some of the groups don’t like his apology or his statements and are pressing their own agenda.
  • People who have known Larry for years, and in some cases, decades, have repeatedly said that he’s not a racist.

Now I’m going to point out some other issues that as a lawyer you should have taken into consideration, and that I would hope you would take into consideration for any of your clients.

  • Larry was a police officer and a deputy sheriff for about 15 years before he became a lawyer. Being a cop is not just another job, it changes a person no matter who they were before. Gallows humor and inappropriate comments about street justice are not uncommon.
  • Someone had to be very interested in doing harm to Larry to search through his social media posts, especially going back five and eight years. What was their motivation? Are they some type of social justice warrior?
  • Larry has been recognized on multiple occasions as a top criminal defense attorney in his part of Texas, and that doesn’t happen if one is a racist. That happens when the attorney in question works hard and diligently in his client’s best interests.

I’m sure that some people will want to jump on me and my past posts because of my support for Larry. That’s fine, you can start at the stories I did about the shooting of Tamir Rice, or Alton Sterling, or any number of other incidents involving the police and black people. You can look to where I wrote about police driving toward the sound of gunfire, and what they do to protect society. That should give you plenty of ammunition to come after me.

And it won’t matter that I’ve called for reforming how we handle police shootings and use of force before that, because once the lynch mob is formed, it has one goal, and it doesn’t matter what justice requires.

But I’m not the only one that supports Larry, nor am I the only one who has objected to the TCDLA letter on Larry to the SBOT. There were a number of comments on the TCDLA listserv, none of which condemned Larry, and one noted that his “offense” was in not being respectful enough of Black Lives Matter “and failed to hate on the police enough.” Another noted that he wasn’t consulted, disagreed with the letter, and was leaving the TCDLA over this issue.

Less than half of the people commenting at a SBOT special meeting called to lynch discuss Larry wanted him to resign. Some pointed out, like I have, that he’s not a racist. Some defended him on free speech grounds.

On the back of my business card is a quotation from Clarence Darrow, one of the best criminal defense attorneys in our nation’s history. It says “You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.” That quotation comes from Darrow’s defense of twenty alleged members of the Communist Labor Party against criminal charges leveled against them not for the actions they took, but for what they thought and said. They were being tried for what they believed, for thought crimes.[i]

But the lynch mob still gathered. It wants to take Larry out and hang him. As criminal defense lawyers, we’re supposed to defend people, one person at a time. That’s not what you and the TCDLA are doing. No, you are in the street, screaming “git a rope!”

Which side would you rather be on? Protecting another man’s freedom? Defending people even when they screwed up? Standing between that person and the lynch mob?

Or carrying a torch and a rope?

I’m sorry, I can’t do that, either as a criminal defense lawyer or a former cop. I’ll stand between Larry and the mob. And the TCDLA should be standing there with me, not with those who want to lynch Larry.

[i] As a side note, all twenty were convicted and sentenced to between one and two years in prison, affirmed by People v. Lloyd, 136 N.E. 505 (Ill. 1922).

23 thoughts on “Prickett: Open Letter to Grant Scheiner, President of the TCDLA

  1. Dan

    What is a state bar president doing on social media acting like a teenager anyways? I’m not in Texas and this isn’t my fight, but did you see what he was posting about the looks of a female lawyer who was before the states disciplinary board?

    In my opinion if he’s dumb enough to think it’s ok to insult a young females attorney’s looks on social media and say she used to be hot but now she looks like a meth head, he probably doesn’t really have good enough judgment to hold such a high position.

    We criticize our clients all the time for how dumb they are on social media, he absolutely should have known his behavior on social media could impact him in the real world. He knows he shouldn’t write anything on social media that he wouldn’t want presented publicly about him.

    State Bar presidents are supposed to set an example for lawyers in the community, not engage in foolish behavior online like a kid.

    Just my meaningless two cents.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      No, I didn’t see, because I’m not part of that puny-minded crowd of scolds who spend their nights desperately turning over every rock in search of any collateral reason to condemn the heretics. And it wasn’t involved in any way with the issue at hand.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        I have some empathy for this guy because lots of people who I respect ideologically (yourself included) vouch for him. But the incident really does make me question his judgment. To be the state bar president and run around on social media acting like a 15 year old is garbage behavior below what we as lawyers are supposed to be exhibiting. It’s a constant gripe I have with our profession, so many lawyers want to act like children, when the job requires us to be adults. I’m not holding him to a standard I wouldn’t hold myself to, and I have to believe you hold yourself to that standard. You would never post something like that on social media about another lawyer in your community. I don’t think he should be disciplined or lose his license or any such foolishness, but if I was a member of the TX state bar would I think somebody acting like that on social media is below the standard I’d hope for the president to set? I probably would.

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          You don’t have to think well of the guy, and if you don’t like him, don’t vote for him for state bar president. But neither his “adulting” nor your approval has anything to do with the issue at hand, and your harping on your collateral shit is irrelevant and stupid. Apparently, enough people thought well of him to elect him. That’s the end of your personal gripe.

          Reply
        2. Lee Keller King

          Dan, with the exception of the opinion on whether a poll worker wearing a Black Lives Matters shirt constituted electioneering, all of the posts were dredged up from the past, long before Larry was elected Bar President. So he was a state bar president “acting like a 15 year old” on social media.

          One of the problems I see in this whole mess is that the “anti racists” apparently leave no room for a person’s beliefs and political views to change over the years. Post one “objectionable” thing (that is, objectionable to their hyper-sensitive sense of propriety) and you are condemned for life. That goes counter to American being “the land of second changes” and seems just plain stupid to me. YMMV

          Reply
        3. Gregory Prickett

          Dan, IIRC, that incident was eight years ago, and the suspended female lawyer who was caught practicing law during her suspension, was, in fact, using methamphetamines. And from long experience, the use of methamphetamines does a number on the way one looks. Was it a well-reasoned and thought out comment? Obviously not. Was it factual? Very much so, and I’ll ask each of you here if you want someone who is on a methamphetamine binge to represent you legally–or if you want to know if your lawyer is eligible to practice law at all..

          Reply
    2. Natalie

      He’s exactly the kind of State Bar president we need in Texas – he’s an “everyman’s lawyer,” not an establishment lawyer. The last thing we need is a social justice idealogue who’s more interested in sucking up to academia and intellectual elites who engage in these gotcha games. He’s not part of the establishment, which has a lot to do with why he’s being targeted. It’s also happening to Steve Fischer, who is a State Bar board member, and who is wildly popular among the lawyers in the trenches practicing law.

      Reply
      1. Gregory Prickett

        Yeah, but the big box firm lawyers, who wear wingtips instead of proper footwear (i.e., boots) and who would never be seen in a Stetson or Resistol, they don’t like Larry. Or Steve or Bob for that matter. Between them and the academics, they want to hang at least Larry and Steve.

        Reply
  2. Richard Kopf

    Greg,

    Thanks for writing this.

    As a federal judge, I have posted numerous ill-advised and even stupid things. These writing, such as, but not limited to, a post about the attire of a female lawyer that was intended to be funny (referring to myself as a “dirty old man”), were hammered out in a sort of blindness that was innocent but too often puerile. Thus, I am particularly sensitive to two things.

    First, a large number of CDLs, including especially Scott, came to my defense but properly called me to task for my errors. By the way, I am not known for going easy on criminal defendants, and yet Scott and so many other CDLs stood up for me.

    Second, your willingness to defend Larry McDougal is entirely consistent with my deep respect for you as a fearless writer and thinker in the best tradition of criminal defense lawyers throughout this nation. The fact that Mr. McDougal and you once were cops in a previous life is all the more insightfully poignant. You have demonstrated that being a lawyer, particularly a CDL, requires standing up against anti-intellectual mobs whose ideology trumps reason and, yes, empathy and forgiveness.*

    All the best.

    Rich

    * A long time ago, Clint Eastwood reminded us that “we all have it coming.” The irony is that the woke don’t see it coming but, of course, it will come–to their utter disillusionment. If I were a better man, I would not luxuriate in anticipatory schadenfreude.

    Reply
    1. John V. Burger

      I agree with your comments. Scott’s post is important, especially seeing is going on with Larry McDougal’s alleged offenses against The Woke. Pres. McDougal’s biggest defender is Steve Fischer, who is also taking quite a beating on some of the bar Facebook pages.

      I am amazed that lawyers who are supposed be to experts and trained in critical thinking have abandoned all pretense of “due process”* and are demanding their pound of flesh. That some of these brandishing pitchforks and torches are supposedly criminal defense lawyers leaves me questioning whether the criminal justice system is truly working.

      The Mob doesn’t seem to know much about history. Perhaps they should study up a bit on the fate of our long-lost Jacobin friend, Maximilien Robespierre. The guillotine doesn’t discriminate.

      jvb

      *Ed. Note: I know it’s Facebook and due process doesn’t apply. I wrote it more broadly to encompass our sense of fairness and decency.

      Reply
      1. Lee Keller King

        John V. Burger, I would also note that another of Larry’s biggest supports is Bob Bennett. Like Steve Fisher, Bob is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Larry in most areas, but is a traditional liberal who believes in free speech and supports the needed changes that Larry is trying to bring to the Texas Bar.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Boy, Bob Bennett got so screwed for going against the establishment. He and Steve Fischer and Larry MacDougal are role models in my book.

          Reply
  3. B. McLeod

    People who launch the cancellation campaigns don’t really care about reason or logic or whether their targets are really racists. It isn’t about any of that. It’s about signalling their own, undying loyalty to the hat on the pole. (Often, likely motivated by fervent prayers that nobody will look behind the show to review their own past words and deeds).

    Reply
  4. Miles

    Hope this isn’t getting too deep in the weeds, but the question of whether a poll worker wearing a BLM shirt is politicking strikes me as a fair question, and if it’s a fair question, then one could come out on either side of it and still be fair.

    Clearly, it’s not “Vote Democrat” or “Vote Trump,” but to not recognize its political message is fantasy. Trump hats do not say BLM on them. Does that make it wrong? I dunno, but there’s nothing wrong with entertaining a fair question or taking a position either way. And if that’s what makes one a racist, then we’re fucked.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      I thought it was a fair question as well, and frankly, I’m not sure Larry’s reaction was wrong. It’s hard to deny that it’s in support of one, and only one, of our two beloved political parties.

      Reply
      1. John V. Burger

        Same here. He may have been wrong about wearing the tee shirt being a crime, but it is certainly questionable.

        jvb

        Reply
  5. John Barleycorn

    Lynching?

    See what happens when you don’t let me live blog your guilds squabble rodeos, esteemed one!?

    Heck, there was more talk of the Texas Lawyers code and censure than the desire to see Larry hanging from a tree. The moderator even made a slip up at the end called that an oath before he corrected himself to pledge.

    Nonetheless it was a grand disappoint all around especially via the utter lack of articulate verse and well spoken advocacy from either side. In fact ya’ll might seriously consider remedial public speaking courses along side a few logic fallacy seminars instead of what was suggested for training courses throughout the meeting.

    Anyway, the best part of the meeting was the closed session where the lawyers talked to their lawyer/s. That went on forever consuming most of the afternoon and it was a fine time to reflect and confirm my own personal basis that passing the bar don’t mean shit nor do years of experience, as most lawyers could’t talk themselves out of a barrel if they didn’t have a rule book to reference.

    Anyway, it was moderated professionally except they only took a half an hour for lunch and didn’t use cowbells to remind the speakers when their time had expired and instead chose to deploy the most feeble electronic ringer I have ever heard in my life.

    Hell, Larry didn’t even wear his cowboy hat, and you can tell he wears his regularly by the hat line on his buzz cut.*

    Anyway Greg, another part of that lawyer-ing deal is knowing how to best to choose your words to bring the your adversaries around to your side of the table or at least clear the wax out of their ears**

    It wasn’t a lynching it was a joke all around, but then again it did confirm some of my lawyer prejudices so there is that…

    *Is the buzz cut still a cop thing in Texas?

    ** I know this is a cop thing.

    P.S. Lawyers in Texas need better tailors ACROSS THE BOARD, and as a PSA just because it is a zoom meeting doesn’t mean you should’t be dressed for the affair or wandering around the park streaming on your cell phone, etc, etc, etc!

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Open Letter to Grant Scheiner, President of the TCDLA – Lex Ferenda

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