The Initial Family Interview
Although the inmate will be the client, the attorney's first contact will usually be with family or friends of the inmate. The initial interview with the family is a session in which questions can be asked and answers given so that the attorney can determine whether he can be of assistance to the inmate. Equally important, it is the best opportunity for the family to determine whether or not the attorney is competent in this field. Emotions are generally running high and it is extremely difficult for those who seek assistance to cope with the realities of the situation. The family and friends often believe their loved one is innocent and should not be in prison in the first place. Or, they are convinced that the inmate has been confined too long and if the attorney is even minimally competent it should not be any problem making the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles understand that their loved one should be freed to come home. The attorney should try to ease their minds by explaining how the parole process works and how the rules and regulations control the case. Even if the outcome looks bleak, everyone has the right to seek legal counsel to represent him during the parole process.
If the attorney believes that the case can benefit from his assistance, the attorney needs to know exactly where the inmate is in the parole process. Is the inmate even eligible for review? If the inmate is eligible for parole, does the case fit into the time frame for the Board to begin the review process? Has the Institutional Parole Officer interviewed the inmate? The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles does not have a formal docket. Files arrive at each of the Board offices on a weekly delivery schedule and the office staff does not know in advance when a given case will arrive. A file can be voted soon after arrival in a Board office. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ATTORNEY TO KEEP UP WITH THE FILE. All seven Board offices have different procedures, therefore, it is essential that the attorney is familiar with when the file will arrive at the office and how that office handles requests for presentation.
If the attorney determines there is nothing that can be done to help, he should explain the facts to the family and explain why he will decline the case. No one should ever be given false hope for an attorney's personal gain. While there is no way to predict or guarantee the outcome of a parole panel decision, if the attorney believes the case has a high possibility of a favorable outcome without his representation, the party seeking assistance should be told that they may not need the assistance of counsel. The attorney should also tell the party the basis for that conclusion. In most instances families will still want to hire an attorney to gain every possible advantage.