November 16, 2017

Capital Area Private Defenders Service Honors Austin Attorney

Chris Oddo Recognized at Recent Austin Bar Board Meeting

Betty Blackwell, president of the Capital Area Private Defender Service, and the Honorable Mike Lynch, CAPDS board member, attended the Austin Bar Board of Directors meeting on October, 25, 2017 to present a plaque to Chris Oddo for his service on the CAPDS Board of Directors.  The plaque recognized Oddo’s extraordinary contribution to improving indigent defense in criminal cases in Travis County.  According to Blackwell,

“In 2013, Chris Oddo was approached by the Chair of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Bradley Hargis, with the request for the Austin Bar Association to partner with ACDLA to completely revamp the court appointments system in criminal cases in Travis County.  Judge Lynch began the project, suggesting the two organizations create a new nonprofit to take over the appointment of counsel, the screening of the court appointed attorneys, and the payment of vouchers.  Oddo was a driving force behind the creation of the Capital Area Private Defender Service, which received a five year grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to get started.  After months of negotiations with the Travis County Commissioners’ Court, the criminal law judges, and the State Commission, CAPDS was launched. Oddo then agreed to serve a three-year term on the new nonprofit’s Board of Directors.

He spent the next three years helping to set up the office of CAPDS, spending countless hours of time helping to write the by-laws, hiring the staff, and overseeing the new organization. The first assignment for CAPDS was to reviewed all the attorney applicants to determine whether each attorney was capable of effectively handling criminal court appointments.  Next, CAPDS  implemented the first ever exam for attorneys,  to guarantee a base level of knowledge of criminal law and procedure when handling indigent cases.  CAPDS created a client complaint process so the indigent defendants and their families had a place to express their concerns. Immigration lawyers were hired to help assist clients with immigration needs, and social workers were brought on to help those with mental health issues. A nationally recognized mentoring program was established to help young lawyers become better litigants and advocates for their indigent clients.

This new organization has been highlighted around the state as a model for how to implement effective reforms in the criminal justice arena.  CAPDS and ACDLA wish to express their sincere appreciation that Chris Oddo was willing to take on this monumental project.”

Betty Blackwell and Judge Mike Lynch present award to Chris Oddo (left).