Less than 1 percent of the attorneys practicing criminal law in Texas are certified specialists in the field.
Walker County already has four of those lawyers, and now that number has increased by half.
Assistant district attorneys Stephanie Stroud and Chris Thompson recently became board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. They join District Attorney David Weeks, and his wife Kelly, District Judge Hal Ridley and defense attorney Frank Blazek with this rare feat.
“In terms of being a lawyer, this is a big deal,” David Weeks told the Walker County Commissioners Court on Monday. “There are something over 88,000 attorneys in the state of Texas and only 856 are board certified in criminal law and 136 are board certified in criminal appellate law. It requires five years of practice, substantial involvement on the misdemeanor level, felony level and code law. It requires a working knowledge of federal criminal law and a six-hour test.”
Weeks brought the issue before the Commissioners Court to ask county officials to reward Stroud and Thompson for their accomplishment of becoming board certified in criminal law. He was seeking pay raises, which the commissioners gladly approved by a unanimous vote.
“This is a really special deal. It requires a lot and it adds a lot to our office,” Weeks said. “To give you an example, Galveston County doesn’t have a single board certified criminal law attorney on their staff. Not one. The salary increase they give in other counties is $3,500 in Montgomery County and up to $9,000 in Williamson County, or at least it used to be.
“This is also important to all of us because these are my two most senior experienced prosecutors. They teach our young lawyers. In the past year, I have lost lawyers to Tarrant County and Harris County because we train them well here.”
The Commissioners Court approved Weeks’ request of raises of $3,000 for Stroud and Thompson, which, with benefits included will cost the county around $7,200 annually.
“This is a big deal for them,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie White said.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jimmy Henry told Weeks to be sure to congratulate Stroud and Thompson for the Court.
“For them to take the initiative to do that is great,” Henry said. “There are so many things people can improve on period, but they do not have the motivation to do so. Thank them.”