I couldn’t be more excited about my dear friend, Joe Patranella, joining our law firm. Joe and I first met at a Brazos County Young Lawyers board of directors meeting many years ago (when I was still considered a young lawyer), and we instantly clicked. He is smart, kind, and charismatic. I am most excited about how much Joe loves this community and helping people here. Joe practices a totally different kind of law than Dad and I do, and I’m thrilled about the expanded services we will be able to offer our clients. -Amy
In our line of work, we often find ourselves dealing with members of the community who are unhappy, irritated, or even angered that we defend criminals.
During the presidential race, Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, was questioned about defending a man charged of rape. Clinton responded, “When you’re a lawyer you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent. And by the very nature of criminal law there will be those you represent you don’t approve of. But, at least in our system, you have an obligation.”
Now I may not agree with everything Clinton says, but I certainly agree with her remarks on this issue. Lawyers do have an obligation to diligently represent their clients. Our American justice system requires each individual’s liberties and rights to be protected to the fullest extent. The United States Constitution was drafted by the Framers to safeguard each individual’s liberties and rights—especially the rights of the accused.
Our Founding Fathers lived a time when they did not always have rights. Their liberties were not always protected. They had faced the corrupt powers of government. Our US Constitution was formed to prohibit the government from tyranny, oppression, and corruption.
Our obligation is to defend the Constitution. Not just part of it, or some of it, but ALL of it.
First, Article III, Section 2 gives each person accused of a crime a right to a trial. Second, the 4th Amendment protects each citizen from illegal searches and seizures. Third, the 6th Amendment provides each criminal defendant the right to an attorney. This right extends to every single person regardless of race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status.
As an attorney, I took an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Texas. My oath requires that I diligently defend my clients to the best of my abilities. For many people it might be hard to imagine representing an individual who is being accused of any crime at all much less a crime involving abusing or harming children, women, or even murder. It might be hard to imagine a scenario where those accused of such heinous crimes have the right to a fair trial or the right to have an attorney represent them.
As I come up on my one-year anniversary of practicing law I reflect on what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer. Defending alleged criminals can certainly be a challenging job. It can be extremely hostile, stressful, complex, but more importantly, it can be rewarding. My job is more than explaining to clients legal theories and defenses; it is about believing in, upholding, and defending the Constitution. It is a display of what I stand for.
A defense lawyer ensures that the government does not abuse its power and infringe on a citizen’s rights. Many may believe “if you’re innocent, you don’t need a lawyer,” but attorneys represent any individual simply accused of a crime. The Constitution isn’t just there to protect “criminals”; it protects all of us.
I think most defense lawyers can relate to situations where they were faced with tough cases. But during those times, may we be reminded of what our obligation is: we have an obligation to be an advocate for our clients, an obligation to protect their rights, and an obligation to defend the constitution.
Back in August 2007, I was standby counsel for an attorney who was accused of forgery in a Nigerian check scam. The opposing counsel was Shane Phelps, who I had enjoyed a cordial relationship with prior to the trial.
Shane was one of the best prosecutors in the state and a fierce and zealous advocate for the government. I got frustrated when I thought Shane was trying to needlessly prolong the trial (and my suffering) and I lost it.
I made some comments that were rude, vulgar, and completely out of line. Shane, understandably, responded in kind. We were like two mean little boys on the playground and the Judge admonished both of us for our unprofessional demeanor.
We both apologized and have been good friends ever since. When we made our closing arguments, we showed up wearing identical seersucker suits. It turned out we were both fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, and we both realized we had fallen short of conducting ourselves like our hero Atticus Finch.
Accordingly, Shane and I decided to start Atticus Finch Day to remind ourselves and the local legal community of the wonderful heritage we have as attorneys and the standards we all strive to achieve.
This will be the eighth annual Atticus Finch Day celebration and will be held May 6, 2016 at 11:30am in the Brazos County Administration Building. Our speaker this year will be the legendary Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin and Dr. Jerome Loving of the English Literature Department at Texas A&M.
It is open to everyone. You don’t need a seersucker suit or a law license to attend. Please join us for lemonade, cookies, and an enjoyable program.
I have occasionally had clients become irate after seeing me laugh with an Assistant District Attorney. People seem to think that because we are on the opposite side of the criminal law system, it is a betrayal of loyalty to befriend a DA. To the contrary, my relationships with the DAs office benefit my clients, and make me a better lawyer. Debating legal issues, sharing a beer, laughing together...all of that helps me when I'm working on a case.
This gorgeous statement from Justice Ginsburg on the death of her “best buddy” Justice Scalia is perhaps the most poignant and dramatic example I’ve seen of people who are diametrically opposed on nearly every issue having an enriching relationship outside of the courtroom and using their polar views to spur the other to greatness in the judicial realm. See her tribute here.
This recent article in The New York Times discusses the increasing prevalence of "Gray Divorces." Gray Divorces oftentimes involve people who have been married twenty or thirty years or more before deciding to separate.
They pose unique issues in a family law context because rather than fighting over children and child custody, people divorcing later in life are concerned with complex property division and retirement division. Banks & Banks can help you or your loved one navigate these issues. We have handled numerous late in life divorces and pride ourselves on making the difficult process of divorce as painless as possible. Call us today at 979-822-8533.
We are proud to practice law in Aggieland, and we consider it a privilege to help Aggies though difficult times. In this video, Phil Banks talks about his Aggie roots, his father Dr. W.C. Banks, and his deep appreciation for Texas A&M.
The youngest member of our family is already a proud Aggie supporter like his granddad, great granddad, and great Aunts, Uncle Scott, and too many other family members to name! Gig 'em!
Phil Banks, Amy Banks, and David Barron represented Kevin Godfrey and secured the dismissal of Capital Murder charges stemming from the 2012 death of Hearne City Councilmember Charles Workman. Godfrey was facing life without the possibility of parole if convicted of Capital Murder. He accepted a plea to 15 years on a non-aggravated Arson case. He has served almost three years, so he is already eligible for parole.
Workman was found dead in his residence on September 12, 2012, having been shot seven times. Godfrey was found at a crime scene the day before where Workman’s white Jaguar was set on fire. Attorney Phil Banks said, “Our client maintained his innocence in the Capital Murder charge throughout the case, but admitted his guilt in the arson. I am thankful that the District Attorney had the integrity to plea him to the crime he was actually guilty of committing.”
Attorney Amy Banks said, “Kevin is a young man with no adult criminal history. Now, rather than dying in prison, he will have the opportunity to contribute to society.”
The dismissal of a Capital Murder charge is extremely rare.
Banks & Banks is proud to fight for people, like Kevin Godfrey, who are falsely accused of a crime, and will relentlessly seek justice.
This video taken during a DWI roadblock over July 4th weekend, has recently gone viral, and serves as a great example of why DWI or DUI sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks are so controversial nationwide. In Texas, a DWI arrest based on a sobriety checkpoint or roadblock is illegal and the Court of Criminal Appeals has held that it is a violation of the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
A DWI charge is a serious offense in Texas with serious penalties. If you have been arrested and charged with DWI in Bryan, College Station, Robertson County, Grimes County, Burleson County, or surrounding areas in the Brazos Valley, contact the experienced DWI defense lawyers of Banks & Banks, Attorneys at Law, P.C.. We will fight to protect your rights while working to expose cracks in the prosecution's case in order to better your chances at a favorable outcome.
Brazos County Texas has always been considered an Insurance Defense oriented venue on Civil Liability issues. Injured plaintiffs frequently get “poured out” due to the extremely conservative juries that show up for court.
Insurance companies hire extremely skilled, experienced trial attorneys to do their work. None are better than Colin H. O'Neill of Fulbright Winniford who defended Ruben Mora in a lawsuit brought by James Scott Wilson.
Wilson had been accidentally shot by Mora on New Years Eve, January 1, 2011 in Bryan, Texas. Wilson was a roommate of Mora’s who was renting a room in Mora’s home.
Wilson had been awakened (a Recovering Alcoholic, he didn’t celebrate New Years) by the sound of gunfire. Wilson opened the front door and was shot through the lung by Ruben Mora who was highly intoxicated.
As a result of the shooting Wilson, had medical bills of $26,485.00. Mora’s insurance company would not offer more than $7,500.00 to settle all claims. Wilson’s lawyers Lane Thibodeaux and Philip C. Banks took the case to trial on March 30 and March 31 in the 361st District Court.
The jury evaluated the case differently than the Insurance Company. They found Wilson suffered damages in the amount of $124,735.00. Since the Jury gave Wilson 15% contributing negligence this was reduced to $106,024.00.
Wilson’s co-counsel Philip C. Banks said that this was a very fine verdict especially here in Brazos County. Banks explained that he had grown up with James Scott Wilson and “it means a lot to win a case for an old friend.”
Wilson has battled Mental Illness and Drug and Alcohol Addictions most of his life. Banks said that although the Jury knew of Scott’s problems that didn’t affect their evaluation of the evidence.
Scott had terrible life threatening injuries that he has a true verdict for. Scott’s comment was “I am proud to be a friend and client of Philip C. Banks. I was so lucky to hire Philip C. Banks as my attorney. He believed in me and my case and he never gave up; he helped me so much.”
Phil Banks, Amy Banks, and Joe Patranella are attorneys in Brazos County, Texas.