Annual Criminal Defense Bar’s National Reading of the Declaration of
In 2010, Houston criminal
defense lawyer Robb Fickman had the idea that the Declaration of Independence
should be read in front of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in honor of
July 4th. For him, the
Reading of the Declaration on the steps of the Courthouse by members of the
defense bar would be a symbolic protest against the injustices so frequently
encountered in the Courthouse. That
year, Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) President, Nicole
Deborde, supported the Reading. Some
arms were twisted and fifteen good criminal defense lawyers showed up to
read. In turn each attorney read a
section of the Declaration. When those
fifteen Houston criminal defense lawyers finished the Reading, everyone was
quite moved. It was then that they all
agreed to make the Reading of the Declaration of Independence an annual event
In 2011, HCCLA President
Earl Musick embraced the Reading. Earl
organized a much bigger event than the previous year, with more than 100
criminal defense lawyers showing up and thirty-eight reading sections of the
Declaration. Also in 2011, Texas
Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) President Gary Trichter embraced the
Readings. Gary and TCDLA’s Executive
Director Joseph Martinez and Melissa Schank got the word out to TCDLA
members. Thus, in 2011, what started in
Houston spread across the Lone Star State.
In 2012, HCCLA President
Chris Tritico again supported the Reading.
Additionally, TCDLA President Lydia Clay Jackson supported TCDLA’s full involvement. Earlier in 2012, Robb Fickman decided that it
was time to take what had started in Houston and make it a national grassroots
movement. TCDLA’s Joseph Martinez,
Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Ann Cooper, Georgia’s Jennifer
Mackall, Utah’s Kent Hart, San Diego’s Knut Johnson, Mississippi Public
Defender Leslie Lee, and The National College of DWI Lawyers joined in
spreading the word. On July 3rd,
2012, HCCLA again led the way in Reading the Declaration in Houston,
Texas. President Chris Tritico led
thirty-eight lawyers in the Reading.
TCDLA again followed HCCLA’s lead.
Criminal Defense lawyers held Readings in front of courthouses across
Texas in places like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Lubbock, Fort Worth,
San Angelo, Uvalde, Kerrville, Longview, Tyler, Athens, Nacogdoches, Lufkin,
Huntsville, Conroe and Fort Bend.
Efforts to make the Reading
a national event immediately paid off. The
Reading of the Declaration of Independence spread across the country. In 2012, in the “First Annual Criminal
Defense Bar’s National Reading of the Declaration of Independence”, Criminal
Defense Lawyers held Readings in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Grand Junction,
Albuquerque, Wichita, Little Rock, Lansing, Jackson, Mobile, Montgomery,
Atlanta, Macon County, Savannah, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and many other
cities and towns. These Readings marked
the beginning of the Defense Bar’s National Reading.
What began with fifteen
lawyers in front of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in Houston, Texas in
2010 grew in 2013. In 2013, criminal
defense lawyers held 73 Readings in 10 states and Washington D.C. Texas again led the way with the criminal
defense bar holding Readings in front of courthouses in 51 cities and towns
(For photos from this year’s reading, click on the 2013 Pictures tab).
In Alabama, Ann Cooper
organized Readings throughout the state.
Criminal defense lawyers held Readings in Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Bessemer,
Gadsden, and Washington County. Ann’s
unwavering leadership has made this a new tradition in Alabama.
In Tuscaloosa, Hays
Webb led a Reading with sixteen other defense lawyers. Accompanying the crowd of
spectators was the local newspapers and news stations. This Reading was a collaborative effort by
the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Tuscaloosa County Bar
In Bessemer, Paula
Lampkin led a Reading with local newspaper coverage. There were so many participants that Paula
nearly had to give up her reading section.
Prior to the Reading there was a singing performance by Nathanial
Ruthedge as well as a performance by the local school’s ROTC. Bessemer has big plans for next year including
fireworks and a barbeque cookout.
In Mobile, Vivian
Beckerle, Mike Wing, and Amy Adams held their Reading in front of the Mobile
In Washington County,
Ruth Lynch organized a Reading.
Charles Hart organized the Reading in front of the Spirit of American Citizenship Monument.
In California, criminal
defense lawyer Knut Johnson again led the way.
Readings of the Declaration of Independence grew from last year’s single
reading in San Diego to three readings this year in San Diego, El Cajon, and
In San Diego, Knut
Johnson led 23 criminal defense lawyers in a Reading in front of the San Diego
County Courthouse. The Second Annual
Reading of the Declaration of Independence in San Diego was also covered by
local news media.
In Vista, Richard
Duquette and seven other defense lawyers read the Declaration of Independence
on the steps of the Vista California Courthouse. Each participant read a page of the historic
document to the gathered spectators.
In El Cajon, Criminal
defense lawyer Kathleen Lee organized their first Reading
The state of Georgia held
the second most Readings this year.
Jennifer Mackall again did a remarkable job in organizing Readings
throughout the Peach State. Readings
were held in Augusta, Cobb County, Jefferson County, Laurens County, Fayette
County, Catoosa County, and Bartow County.
A big thanks goes out to all the individuals responsible for making
these Readings happen as well as everyone that participated.
In Augusta, Elmer
Young and Travis Saul accompanied by a small group of individuals fought the
inclement weather and gathered at the “Signers Monument” downtown. These defense lawyers read the Declaration of
Independence in its entirety at this memorable and symbolic venue.
In Dublin, Catherine
Bernard gathered a group of nearly 25 people to read the Declaration of
Independence on the steps of the Laurens County Courthouse. Of these 25 individuals four lawyers, a
paralegal and an intern joined from the Public Defender’s Office. All read The Declaration of Independence in unison.
In Ringgold, David
Dunn and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers organized a Reading
that garnered an immense amount of media attention, including local newspapers
as well as two Chattanooga television stations.
Due to the inclement weather the Reading was inside the courthouse. The turnout from last year nearly
quadrupled. When speaking to WDEF News
12 about the reading of the Declaration of Independence David Dunn said, “This
country’s being torn apart by all kinds of political divisions and people get
so wound up in that they forget the things that unite us as Americans.”
In Bartow County, Kelley
Dial led twenty three defense lawyers in the second Reading of the Declaration
of Independence. Inclement weather forced
these criminal defense lawyers inside the Old Bartow County Courthouse to a now
unused courtroom, where many of these lawyers’ careers began. Defense lawyer and organizer Kelley Dial told
the Daily Tribune News, Kelley Dial said, “It’s a good way to talk about the
beginnings, not only of our nation, but our justice system and to remind people
how it started.”
In Cobb County, poor
weather and a last minute change of location did not keep Kim Keheley Frye and
the other 21 readers, nor the twenty spectators, from reading the Declaration
of Independence. The Reading was covered
by local media TV23 as well as the Marietta Daily Journal.
In Fayette County, criminal defense
lawyer James J. Dalton II organized a slightly different Reading. The main readers of the Declaration of
Independence were the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. These young men each read a section of the
Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps of the Fayette County
The Reading in Jefferson
County was organized by Betty Kirby-Williams.
Three years ago this
grassroots movement began with 15 criminal defense lawyers reading the
Declaration of Independence in front of the courthouse in Houston, Texas. This year, Robb Fickman and TCDLA made it their
goal to organize 50 Readings in Texas.
This year, TCDLA members held Readings in front of courthouses in 51
cities and towns. From Abilene to
Amarillo, from Austin to El Paso, From Galveston to Fort Worth, From Houston to
Huntsville, criminal defense lawyers gathered at their local courthouses to
read the Declaration of Independence.
HCCLA President Todd DuPont led 38 HCCLA members in the Reading. There were 100 spectators including lawyers,
judges, and press on hand to watch. National
and state organizer Robb Fickman stated, “We are not the Tea Party. We are not some fringe group. We are criminal defense lawyers dedicated to
supporting the Constitution and zealously representing our clients. The Declaration was a beginning not an
end. It was followed by the
Constitution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. In Reading the Declaration, we re-affirm that
we are the heirs of our founding fathers.
We are part of the continuum in the long fight for liberty in this
county. We will fight tyranny inside and
outside the courthouse.
Rick Mabry joined 5 members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association,
Ken Leggett, Jenny Henley, Stan Brown, and Randy Crownover. There were approximately a dozen spectators
listening intently as these criminal defense lawyers read.
In Alice, Michael
Guerra organized the Reading. It may
have been held slightly later than the other Readings; however, this group
wasn’t short on patriotism.
outstanding defense lawyer Jeff Blackburn, Adam Tisdell, Todd Hatter, Joe
Batson, Diana McCoy, Ryan Brown, and John Bennett gathered on the steps of the
Potter County Courthouse to read the Declaration of Independence. This Reading received local media attention
and had an article published on the website of Connect Amarillo.
Danna Mayhall organized the Reading of the Declaration. Danna was joined by five other defense
lawyers on the steps of the Henderson County Courthouse. These criminal defense lawyers sang the
National Anthem, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and read the Declaration.
TCDLA Vice President Sam Bassett and local legend Bennie Ray once again
organized a very successful Reading that consisted of 25 lawyers from the Texas
Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the local Criminal Defense Bar. TCDLA Executive Director Joseph Martinez
joined in the Reading.
In Bandera, past
TCDLA President, cowboy lawyer Gary Trichter, Tammy Keener, and Harold Danford
were joined by other lawyers and retired military servicemen to make the
Reading possible. Twenty people read the
Declaration of Independence.
Gary Trichter, Tammy Keener, and Harold Danford were joined by five other
people to read the Declaration of Independence.
These three outstanding criminal defense lawyers were responsible for
making four Readings in central Texas happen.
the Reading was organized by Mary Jo Holloway.
Mary Jo and four other readers gathered at the Gazebo outside the
Washington County Courthouse to read the Declaration. Mary Jo’s grandsons handed out American flags
to all individuals in attendance.
Alex Dominguez led a very successful Reading that landed on the front page of
the Brownsville Herald.
Christi, Michelle Ochoa and Constance Luedike lead criminal defense lawyers
in the Reading on the front steps of the Nueces County Courthouse. Channel 3 covered the event.
Deandra Grant and Susan Anderson along with 18 other defense lawyers joined
together on the steps of the Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building to read the
Declaration in honor of the Fourth of July.
In the crowd of spectators was local press.
In Del Rio,
Gail Schroeter led Eric Bayne, Angela Saad, Liz O’Connell, and Jeff Mahl joined
in reading the Declaration of Independence.
They read on the steps of the Val Verde County Court of Law
In Fort Worth,
Shawn Paschall and 17 other criminal defense lawyers read the Declaration on
the steps of the Tim Curry Justice Center.
Together they read the Declaration to more than 20 spectators.
Gary Trichter, Tammy Keener, and Harold Danford were joined by others to read
the Declaration of Independence.
Julia Hatcher and Lori Laird organized the historic first Reading. They were joined by 3 other criminal defense
lawyers and read the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Galveston
County Courthouse. This reading came
with a sound system and a video recording.
defense lawyer Shawn Dick led 16 defense lawyers in the Reading of the
Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Historic Courthouse. Several friends and family members joined the
readers. Shawn Dick and all the other
readers have big plans for next year’s Reading, which include color guards, PA
systems and costumes.
Tigar Russell led a Reading. Local press
David O’Neil and TCDLA members William Savoie, Barbara Law, Thomas Brewer,
Tracey Sorenson, Temple Ramming held the Third Annual Reading on July 3, 2013
at the Gazebo in front of the Walker County Courthouse. Among the audience were members of the
judiciary, the Mayor, a former Mayor, City Council Members, as well as many
Gary Trichter, Tammy Keener, and Harold Danford led another Reading. The 30 spectators in attendance included
judges, law enforcement, lawyers, citizens, and retired military and local press.
David Schulman organized a Reading drive to Lockhart from Austin to assure
there would be a defense bar Reading of the Declaration. The Reading was a success (with all the
readers going to Black’s Barbeque Restaurant to eat), as well as hand out more
copies of the Declaration.
TCDLA officer David Moore again organized a Reading of the Declaration of
Independence on the steps of the Gregg County Courthouse. David was joined by 10 other criminal defense
lawyers in reading the Declaration.
Chuck Lanehart and David Hazlewood led 14 members of the Lubbock Criminal
Defense Lawyers Association read the Declaration of Independence. The Reading was on the Lubbock County Courthouse
steps. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal was
in attendance and ran an article about the Reading in its July 4th
Karen Chesley and Sharon Curtis were joined by 7 other criminal defense lawyers
in reading the Declaration of Independence at the Collin County
Courthouse. All the readers gathered
around the county seal in the rotunda.
Among the 20 spectators in attendance were judges who gathered to
criminal defense lawyer Tim James was joined by John Heath Jr., John Boundy,
and Noel Cooper in reading the Declaration of Independence in front of the
Nacogdoches County Courthouse.
In New Boston,
Bart Craytor and Mark Elliot read the Declaration of Independence for the first
time as a part of the grassroots effort.
Barney Sawyer along with 13 other lawyers
read the Declaration of Independence at the plaza downtown.
TCDLA President-Elect Emmett Harris organized another very successful Reading. More than 100 people attended this year. Warren Wolf made an appearance and was the
featured speaker. There was also a
special scout group that came and performed Native American dances.
David Black, his wife, and their two grandchildren proudly read the Declaration
John Roades is responsible for organizing the Reading. John was joined by fellow defense lawyers
Colleen Manske, Richard Manske, James Perez, and Dawn Allison.
In El Paso
and Big Bend, Jim Darnell organized the Readings. The Reading in Conroe was organized by
Josh Zientek and Lydia Clay-Jackson.
Readings in Comanche and Corsicana were organized by John
Stickels and Steve Keathley respectively. The City of Denton, Texas held
a Reading thanks to the efforts of Sarah Roland. The Bryan-College Station Reading was organized by Shane Phelps.
Reading was organized by Landon Thompson. Martin Zimmerman organized Readings in New
Braunfels and Seguin. The Richmond
Reading was organized by Lee Cox and Lisa Gonzalez. The San Angelo Reading was organized
by Tip Hargrove. The San Antonio
Reading was organized by John Convery, Adam Kobs and Jaime Balaglia. The San Marcos Reading was organized
by Scot Courtney.
the Reading was organized by John Young.
The Reading was the headline story in the local newspaper.
Jason Ellis organized the Reading. In Waco
the Reading was organized by Josh Tetens and Tom Ragland. In Waxahachie, the Reading was
organized by Cindy Ermatinger and in Wichita Falls the Reading was
organized by Bob Estrada.
In Albuquerque, Rod
Frechette was joined by Tom Mescall for the second consecutive year for their
Reading. This year’s Reading took place
on July 3rd on the front steps of Bernalillo County Metropolitan
Courthouse. After the Reading the
audience voiced their immense appreciation for Rod and Tom for reading the
Declaration of Independence.
In Wayne County, criminal
defense attorney Marcus Evans stood alone and read the Declaration. The local newspaper covered.
In Grand Junction, Daniel
Shaffer and eleven defense lawyers read the Declaration of Independence on the
steps of the Grand Junction Courthouse.
In Lansing, for the second
year outstanding criminal defense lawyer Mike Nichols led the way for 6 other
defense attorneys in reading the Declaration of Independence in front of the
county courthouse. The Lansing State Journal
and the Channel 6 News covered Mike’s efforts.
For the second year, criminal
defense lawyer Debbie Anderson led the Reading.
Debbie was joined by five other defense lawyers to read the Declaration
of Independence in front of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
In Minden, Gary Peak from
Eastland, Texas and two other people decided to stop at the local
courthouse. Gary read the Declaration of
Independence on the steps of the courthouse.
People stopped while passing by to hear the words that our Founding
Fathers so eloquently wrote almost two and a half centuries ago.
In Ogden, Devan Coggins
organized the second annual Reading.
Houston criminal defense lawyer and HCCLA officer Rand
Mintzer took advantage of a family vacation to spread the defense bar’s
message. With his family and local
lawyers Rand led the Reading of the Declaration.
And now for something completely different…
Houston criminal defense lawyer and HCCLA board member Tyler
Flood was in London on July 4th.
Standing before Parliament Tyler read the Declaration of Independence. A reminder to all that we will go wherever we
must go and prove our dedication to fighting tyranny.
Thank you to every Criminal
Defense Lawyer that organized or participated in a Reading of the Declaration
of Independence this year. Everyone that
has ever taken part in this national grassroots movement should start planning
their Readings for next year now.