Texpatriate endorses in Judicial primary runoffs

In preparation for March’s primary, we endorsed a number of candidates for local judicial office. Among those races, two advanced into a runoff. In both of those races, our preferred candidate in the first round advanced into the second round. Specifically, M.L. Walker for 247th District Court and Tonya McLaughlin for Harris County Criminal Court at Law #10. Additionally, we have made a new pick in the Republican primary for the 311th District Court. We have reiterated the endorsements from our March articles below:

247th District Court
M.L. Walker is the exact type of centrist the Family District Court needs far more of. Judge Bonnie Hellums, after many terms on the bench, is retiring, and three candidates have filed to succeed her in the Republican primary. Among these candidates, Walker is the only hold who holds both the experience and the pragmatism needed to be a good Judge.

We got the chance to hear from Melanie Flowers earlier, and have been thoroughly impressed by her devotion and passion involving the issues, but we do have some big concerns regarding her lack of experience. Likewise with another candidate, John Schmude, though without the impressed part. It is Walker who has years of experience as an Associate Judge in the Family District Court, though she also has the capacity to be a fair-minded and middle-of-the-road jurist. We think voters would be wise to choose M.L. Walker next month in the Republican primary.

Click here to read more!

DA looking into Judge Pratt again

The Houston Chronicle reports that the District Attorney’s office is once again investigating Denise Pratt, the embattled Family District Judge, for a complaint recently lodged against her for summarily and unilaterally dismissing hundreds of cases. As many will recall, this is not the first time that the DA’s office has looked into possible wrongdoing from Judge Pratt. Last year, a grand jury was even impaneled against her following accusations of backdating orders. A grand jury later no-billed her for those alleged offenses.

In this new round of complaints, however, Judge Pratt has been accused of backdating some orders in open court. Additionally, the aforementioned issues over unilateral dismissal of ongoing cases have continued to dogged Judge Pratt. The significance of these legal and ethical issues is that Judge Pratt will continue to be hounded by negative publicity as the final days pass before the Republican primary. As many may recall, Judge Pratt drew four challengers in her Republican primary, including the very capable Anthony Magdaleno (who, of course, Texpatriate endorsed).

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Texpatriate endorses in GOP Judicial primaries

There are seven contested judicial races at the local level in the Harris County Republican primary. Three feature incumbents and four are open seats. One seat is on the Court of Appeals, three are District Courts and one is a County Court. All told, there are 21 candidates vying for all these competitive contests. The following are our recommendations, bearing in mind that the vast majority of our readership are not Republicans. Accordingly, we have abridged our arguments.

This race has three good candidates that would serve their constituents well on the Court of Appeals. Dan Linebaugh has been a prolific attorney for many years, Chad Bridges has very strong ties to the Fort Bend County community and Russell Lloyd has invaluable experience in the legal system not shared by his opponents. The choice is yours, but we must admit our biases. Unfortunately, we were unable to receive any correspondence from the candidates, which drastically limits the scope of our knowledge about any possibly divergent political or legal issues.

Given that none of the members of this board reside in Fort Bend county, we see no reason to necessarily reward strong ties to that community, though we do acknowledge that the constituents of the 1st Court of Appeals outside of Harris County have probably been under-served. However, the experience of Lloyd has truly caught our attention. As a former District Court Judge, he would not require any on-the-job training in this important post. Accordingly, we urge a vote for Lloyd.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

Judge Pratt cleared

The Houston Chronicle reports that Judge Denise Pratt, a family District Judge that had been investigated for wrongdoing, was officially cleared after a grand jury declined to indict her. Back in October, a frontpage article lambasted Judge Pratt for allegedly altering timestamps on her records after falling behind on court records. Shortly thereafter, the Houston Bar Association berated her for the issue, among others.

Judge Pratt has drawn a Democratic opponent next year. Sherri Cothrun, an attorney who previously run for Judge in 2010, will seek the post. Additionally, Pratt drew four Republican challengers in the primary: Donna Detamore, Alicia Franklin, Anthony Magdaleno and Philip Placzek. You see, the Republicans actually understand how elections work and are not so lazy as to pass the buck to others, but I digress.

The Republican Party had been considering kicking Judge Pratt off the ballot if charges went forward on the corruption, but since this ultimately did not happen, she will be free to continue in a grueling knifefight for the party’s nomination. As differences between parties go, Democrats are too chicken to do anything productive, and Republicans are far too caustic to play nicely. Accordingly, even though official criminal wrongdoing has been ruled out, do not expect her political opponents to ease up any time soon. To do so would be extraordinarily naive.

For background on what Judge Pratt was accused of, click here!

Judge Pratt berated by Bar Association

A few days ago, I noted that Denise Pratt, a Family District Court Judge in Harris County, had been accused of corruption. Specifically, the Republican judge has been accused of falsifying important records in order to issue late opinions.

Now, the Houston Chronicle reports that, in a recent evaluation of all Houston-area judges by the Houston Bar Association, Judge Pratt received the lowest marks –by far– of any jurist. In fact, her evaluation has more negative that, as one participant noted, anything he could recall in the last 40 years. Judge Pratt received overall disapproval of 79% of applicants, with 76% saying her “following the law” skills were especially poor and 80% saying likewise about issuing timely rulings. The marks were far lower than many other Judges with similar baggage, including Sharon “Killer” Keller of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The astute will recall from my article last week on the subject the original controversy was launched by Greg Enos, the Galveston-area attorney who brought down Christopher Dupuy. Speaking of Enos, the Houston Chronicle recently ran a profile on him. As I have said before, he is a high-profile Democrat who runs the influential Family Law newsletter “The Mongoose.”

To read more about how this factors into 2014, click here!

Judge Pratt accused of corruption

The Houston Chronicle reports that Denise Pratt, a family District Court judge, has been accused of falsifying records and issuing illegally retroactive rulings.

Pratt, a Republican first elected in 2010, is currently running for re-election in 2014 to the bench of the 311st District Court. Anthony Magdaleno is currently running against her in the Republican primary. I am unaware of any Democratic candidates, though I must admit I have not been keeping up with these elections recently.

The alleged impropriety is a serious offense that, if confirmed, could lead to her removal form office. The Chronicle article notes two individuals with pending cases in her court, where the Judge would issue opinions in May, for example, with the decision timestamped as the previous January. As they note:

“Marcia Zimmerman, a 30-year veteran family lawyer based in Clear Lake, said she resorted to filing a motion after waiting for months on a ruling from Pratt. When the ruling finally came in, she was surprised to see the date listed was months before she had filed her motion.

‘I don’t think any of us believed the ruling was actually made before the petition for writ of mandamus because, why would she rule and not tell anybody?’ Zimmerman said, noting that Pratt also missed two scheduled hearings.

Family lawyer Robert Clark said he had a similar experience, arguing a case in January and then waiting five months for a ruling from Pratt that the official court record now says was issued on Jan. 30, the day before the two-day trial actually ended.”

To read who is behind this complaint, click here!