Griffith and Associates announces that Monica Pierce Bishop has joined the firm’s criminal defense team.

“My focus is the same as it’s always been,” said Mark Griffith, the firm’s owner and lead attorney. “I just like the fight. I like trial. I like putting the government to their burden.

“I believe in protecting the unprotected by making sure the U.S. Constitution means something,” he said.

That protection includes assembling the best team possible, which is why Griffith said he tapped Bishop to join his practice.

On her part, Bishop brings a wide range of experience to Griffith and Associates.

She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science with pre-law from the University of Saint Thomas in Houston and her juris doctor from South Texas College of Law in Houston, where she was a three-time member of the champion team in the mock trial intramural tournament. She also earned second and eighth best speaker honors in two of the tournaments.

Bishop began her career as a law clerk for the firm of Abraham, Watkins, Sorrels, Mathews and Friend in October 2002, working also as a temporary law clerk for the Jackson Law Offices and Alexander and Hammonds LLP firms before joining the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as a contract attorney in October 2003.

She served as an assistant county attorney for the Johnson County Attorney’s Office from February 2004-July 2005, when she joined the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office in July 2005.

Griffith said he couldn’t be more pleased with the addition of Bishop to his team, which also includes tenured legal secretary/office manager Venita Phillips and lead investigator Bill Vansyckle, who started working cases for Griffith in 2003.

“This office runs as smoothly as it does because of her, period,” Griffith said of Phillips. “Everybody who comes in here, I don’t care who you are, where you are in society, whether you’re rich or poor or what color you are, when you see Venita, you feel welcomed and taken care of.”

“When those people come in, they’re here for a reason and I treat them like I would want to be treated by them,” said Phillips, who began her work in the legal field with the late attorney Steve Kelley.

Vansyckle, who handles the lead investigative work for Griffith and Associates, opened his own agency in 1981. State-licensed as a private investigator, Vansyckle’s experience through the years includes assisting attorneys in the preparation of about 40 capital cases in several counties, of which the death penalty was sought in about 19.

Griffith is a lifelong, third-generation Ellis County resident. Since he started his practice 14 years ago, he’s garnered experience that includes 75 trials taken to the courtroom. He also is one of only two attorneys taking capital cases in Ellis County.

“I wouldn’t do anything else in the world than what I’m doing,” Griffith said of his criminal defense practice. “I can’t fight over money, but a fight over a man’s life? I can get passionate about that.”

Griffith, who has never worked for anyone else and who has always maintained his own criminal defense practice, said it was his goal from the beginning - when he started out as a new attorney working out of his truck as his office - to put together a top-notch team.

“I wanted to put together my own office and team so that when someone is in trouble and needs their liberty and name protected they know that me and whomever I am associated with are the people they can go to,” he said.

“My philosophy is I work for the client regardless of the facts and the odds,” he said. “If they want a fight, they’re going to get a fight,’ he said. “And I needed somebody else with that same philosophy. There’s something about teamwork when you’re fighting the government and all of the assistance that the government has.

“The client stands behind us,” he said. “Whatever power the government brings to try and put him or her into prison, we stand between that client and the government. The government doesn’t scare me.”

Griffith said he saw that same philosophy in Bishop - that she wasn’t scared of a courtroom or of a jury, and that she wasn’t scared to try a case.

“This firm won’t be bullied,” he said.

For Bishop, it’s a passion to go to trial, which is one reason she enjoyed her work as a prosecutor and is evidenced by her already having about 30 trials under her belt.

“The quickest way to get that courtroom experience is via prosecution,” Bishop said. “You can go to trial monthly and many times twice a month.”

After working three-plus years as a prosecutor, Bishop is looking forward to moving her skills and experience to the field of criminal defense.

“I wanted to fight a different fight,” she said. “I look forward to ramping up the passion.”

Regardless of the side, for Bishop - who Griffith describes as “tenacious” - it’s simple: “The best part is winning. You don’t think about anything else except the winning.”

Griffith said, for him, the best part is going up against the government.

“That’s because they have all of their resources, and I’ve got at times somebody with no resources sitting next to me,” he said. “The only chance my client has is me and the Constitution.

“I try to humanize every client, and every client deserves that fight, everyone of them,” he said.

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com