The Appellate Division handles all post-conviction criminal matters for the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. Its responsibilities include appeals in misdemeanor, felony, and death penalty cases, motions for rehearing, petitions for discretionary review, and state and some federal writs of habeas corpus in misdemeanor, felony, and death penalty cases. The Appellate Division also handles petitions for expunction and nondisclosure.
Typically, the Appellate Division attorneys research the law and apply it to the facts in preparing written documents. The greatest part of the work involves responses to documents prepared by the defense, but on occasion, the staff will initiate an appeal challenging the ruling of a trial court or a motion for rehearing and a petition for review challenging the decision of an appellate court. The attorneys also prepare and present oral arguments before the state’s fifteen criminal appellate courts and, sometimes, in hearings before Collin County’s fifteen trial courts. On a daily basis, the Appellate Division staff provides support to the fifty-plus trial attorneys of the Office both before and during trial. In addition, the staff prepares and presents continuing legal education programs both for the Office and for criminal law practitioners across the state.
Presently, six attorneys and two secretaries use computers, electronic research tools, and written materials to accomplish their tasks. The staff frequently coordinates with the staffs of other appellate divisions around the state, the State Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Post-Conviction Litigation Division of the Attorney General’s Office, and various law enforcement agencies. The attorneys are licensed to appear in all the state courts, the northern and eastern districts of Texas’s federal courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.
John Rolater, Chief of the Appellate Division since 2007, received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1989 and his Juris Doctorate from the Texas Tech University School of Law in 1994. At Texas Tech, he was an editor of the Law Review and elected to the Order of the Coif. He served for one year as briefing attorney to the Honorable Paul McCollum and the Honorable Ann Crawford McClure at the Eighth District Court of Appeals in El Paso. He then spent over eleven years at the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, serving three years as Deputy Chief of the Appellate Division. Mr. Rolater has served as a legislative liaison for both the Collin and Dallas County Criminal District Attorneys. He has also co-authored a book on confessions and taught continuing legal education courses for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the State Bar of Texas, the Center for American and International Law, and UT-CLE. In 2003, he received the Henry Wade Prosecutor of the Year Award from the Greater Dallas Crime Commission.
John Rolater - Ext. 4715; email@example.com
Katharine Decker received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Baylor University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law. She began her legal career as an associate in the banking and finance department at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler in New York City, representing lending institutions in secured asset-based lending, and then practiced general corporate law at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, New York. Later, she served as a lobbyist with the Environmental Planning Lobby before the New York Legislature and was a freelance editor and proofhandler for Word Publishing Company. Ms. Decker joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2002. She co-authored the book Expunction and Nondisclosure in 2007 and has taught continuing legal education courses for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the Center for American and International Law, and the District Attorney’s Office. She also serves on TDCAA’s publications committee.
Linda D. Kirklen received her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Texas Woman’s University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis School of Law. After three years in private practice, she served as law clerk for two senior appellate judges and the Honorable Alan E. Glenn at the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2000, she joined the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office in Memphis, where she served as a child abuse/child homicide prosecutor and a felony violent crimes prosecutor before becoming lead prosecutor for the White Collar Crime Prosecution Unit and Task Force. She served on two statewide advisory committees to the Legislature, the Child Abuse Task Force and Children's Justice Task Force, and received recognition awards from the Tennessee Department of Revenue for her work in prosecuting sales tax fraud. Ms. Kirklen also taught as an Adjunct Law Professor at the University of Memphis for six years. In 2007, Ms. Kirklen joined the Specialized Crime Division of the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, and since 2008 she has worked in the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, first in the Special Prosecution Division and then in the Appellate Division.
Emily Johnson-Liu received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rice University and then taught writing and literature for one year at a university in China. She graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, where she served as editor and contributor to the American Journal of Criminal Law. During law school, Ms. Johnson-Liu worked as an appellate clerk for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Later, she served as a briefing attorney to Justice Scott A. Brister while he was Chief Justice of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston. She joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2002. Ms. Johnson-Liu has taught continuing legal education courses to the Office and writes the “As the Judges Saw It” column three times a year for the Texas Prosecutor magazine.
Andrea Westerfeld received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a concentration in Political Science from Wells College in 2000, during which time she studied in England and Germany. She received her Juris Doctorate in 2003 from Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, with a certificate in International and Comparative Law. Ms. Westerfeld joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2004, where she served one year as a misdemeanor trial prosecutor before joining the Appellate Division. She co-authored the book Expunction and Nondisclosure in 2007 and has taught continuing legal education courses for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the Collin County Bar Association, and the Texas Law Enforcement Records Personnel Association. She is also a member of TDCAA’s Editorial Board, has served as its Chair, and has had four articles published in its Texas Prosecutor magazine.
Crissy Hinojosa joined the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2001, where she served as a receptionist and as a misdemeanor secretary in the Intake Section of the Grand Jury/Intake Division and in County Court at Law No. 4 before becoming a felony secretary in the Appellate Division in 2003. Ms. Hinojosa created and maintains the Division’s database using Microsoft Access. She is also certified by the Texas Department of Public Safety to access NCIC/TCIC for criminal histories.
Lara Jaramillo has been with the Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office since September 2003. Before joining the Office, Ms. Jaramillo was a legal secretary in the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office in Salinas, California and also worked as a legal clerk at the Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California. Ms. Jaramillo also has over ten years’ experience as a claims service and underwriting assistant with State Farm Insurance. She is currently assigned to the Family Justice Division, serving in both the Juvenile Law Section and the Domestic Violence Section.