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A Republic If You Can Keep You can Keep It

Friends – In 2010, I organized a reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. During that time, we were engaged in an ongoing fight with some tyrannical judges. The first Reading was meant to be our statement that we rejected tyranny inside and outside the courthouse. All the lawyers involved with the Reading liked it and got pumped up. We resolved then to make it an annual event. This year, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association will hold its 15th Annual Reading of the Declaration in front of the courthouse. The Readings are conducted by the defense bar. We invite the community to watch the event. With the exception of a few veterans, the readers are defense lawyers only. It is our event. Judges, court staff, and prosecutors are invited to listen if they care to.

Original Art of Benjamin Franklin by Robert J. FickmanIn 2011, l started to spread the Readings around Texas. I asked other defense lawyers to lead Readings in their community. My colleague, Chuck Lanehart from Lubbock, quickly joined me in this effort. I am proud to announce that this year will mark the 14th Annual Statewide Reading of the Declaration by the Defense Bar. These Readings are held in conjunction with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Most years, we have Readings in over 100 counties. In 2016, we had Readings slated in all 254 Texas Counties.

In addition to Readings in Texas, I have called out-of-state lawyers over the years and encouraged them to start similar Readings in other states, including California, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, and Washington, DC. When our members travel over the July 4th weekend, I have encouraged them to read the Declaration wherever they are. Defense lawyers have read in the Caribbean, Iceland, and even London. If you are interested in joining us. Please contact me at

The Declaration is a flawed document. It did not free any slaves or recognize the rights of minorities, and it refers to Native Americans with a vile word. Nonetheless, the Declaration was written by our Founders as a statement enunciating the principles that should guide us as a nation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, the Declaration was a promissory note to all Americans that every American would have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was part of a continuum in our Nation’s long and continuous fight for all Americans to be free.


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