When Robert Pelton, co-owner of Pelton Law Offices in Abilene and Houston, saw a need for an ethics hotline for criminal defense attorneys, he convinced the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) to create one in 2011.
“I get calls day and night from lawyers all over the state,” says Pelton (pictured), chairman of the TCDLA Ethics Committee.
Pelton says his work on the hotline is the reason the College of the State Bar of Texas named him the recipient of the Jim D. Bowmer Professionalism Award for 2012. Merianne Gaston, managing director of the College of the State Bar, says the award is named in honor of the late Jim Bowmer, who originated the idea for the college and is one of its co-founders.
Pelton says that his selection to receive the Bowmer award came as a complete surprise.
“I was in the state of shock,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it . . . . It was very humbling.”
For Pelton, 2012 had been a bad year in terms of his health. He says he had several health problems during the year, including suffering a heart attack in his office on Dec. 21, 2012, which had been predicted to be the day that the world would end.
But Pelton, whose primary area of practice is criminal law, also had cause to celebrate in 2012. Pelton says he got a capital murder charge dismissed against his client in State v. Michael Jackson.
“They had the wrong guy,” Pelton says. “After the judge dismissed his case, he [Jackson] did a moon walk in court.”
Pelton says that U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, a former state district judge in Harris County, called him the “Champion of the Underdog.”
But Pelton was not a likely prospect for a legal career. He says he grew up poor in Abilene and hated school as a youth. The fact that he became a lawyer probably surprised some people, he says.
Before enrolling in law school, he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1972 and was in the 36th Infantry Division. Pelton says he earned his J.D. from South Texas College of Law in 1975.
His activities include serving on the faculty of the Center for American and International Law, Pelton says.
Gaston says the award presentation is scheduled for July 18 during the college’s annual summer school course at Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston.
— Mary Alice Robbins
Robbins is an Austin-based freelance writer and a former Texas Lawyer senior reporter.