The Travis County legal community is choosing sides in the battle over whether our currently-incarcerated district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, should get to keep her job when she gets out of jail in a few weeks. She is currently serving a 45-day sentence for driving while intoxicated, which could be as short as 22-23 days if she manages to stay out of trouble while in there. A Travis County lawyer (also a colleague, law school classmate, and friend) filed a petition to remove her from office, citing a Texas statute allowing removal of a district attorney for intoxication. The County Attorney’s office has now filed suit under that statute to seek Lehmberg’s removal, and a group of Austin attorneys has filed a “Friends of Rosemary” memorandum opposing her removal.
My first thought upon hearing about the memorandum in Lehmberg’s support was a sense that, as a non-practicing but still-licensed attorney, I am somewhat on the sidelines of this debacle. The district attorney is elected by all the voters of Travis County, though, not just the attorneys who vote (even if the attorneys are usually the only ones who closely follow DA and judicial elections.) This affects me and every other individual in this county, even if I will never professionally deal with Lehmberg or her office. I understand the arguments in favor of Lehmberg remaining in office. Considering all of the factors at play, I’m not entirely happy to say this, but I agree that she should go. I think it would be better for her to resign, but the chess pieces are in place now, so I guess we’ll see what happens.
To be clear, I have one reason for this position: public safety. I do not care if the district attorney was drinking alcohol per se. I do not care what a public servant does in their private time, except when it directly threatens the safety of others. Driving while (apparently, very) intoxicated is a direct threat to public safety. The end (of my position statement.)
Here is a bit of a play-by-play of what has happened so far.
I. THE ARREST
According to a police affidavit, as reported by KXAN, a 911 call at about 10:45 p.m. on Friday, April 12, 2013 reported that a Lexus had been driving in the bike lane and weaving for about a mile on southbound FM 620 in west Austin. Police arrested the driver, DA Rosemary Lehmberg. Her behavior at the police station is sure to be the stuff of legend (the affidavit reportedly described her as “both polite and excited, insulting and cocky.”) (Also, restraints were involved.) She was released on a personal bond at about 7:30 that Saturday morning. Continue reading