From the inbox:
Harris County Grand Jury “No Bills” Judge Denise Pratt
“We are pleased that the grand jury agrees with us that there’s absolutely no evidence that Judge Pratt tampered with court documents or did anything illegal,” says her attorney, Terry W. Yates.
“The office of the District Clerk was created by the Texas Constitution as a backstop for the judges. One of their primary jobs is to keep the court papers in proper order. Unfortunately, this did not happen in the 311th District Court,”says Yates.
“The problems with the court documents emanated from the number of deputy clerks that were assigned to this court; more than 20 in the last three years. Some of these clerks were not properly trained and were otherwise unqualified for the position of deputy clerk,” says Yates.
Yates added, “Judge Pratt is very relieved that this matter is behind her and she is working hard to serve the citizens of Harris County.”
See here for previous blogging. It’s been a rough few weeks for Judge Pratt, and I’m sure she’s happy to get a bit of good news going into the holidays. She’s not out of the woods yet, however. Here’s the Chron story with more details.
Several family court lawyers who have sought to recuse Pratt from their cases in recent weeks have presented documents from her 311th family district court that appear to be backdated. A pair of visiting judges approved nine of those requests earlier this week.
District Clerk Chris Daniel, who launched his own investigation after receiving a copy of Enos’ complaint, released a statement saying that “our office’s own investigation of these alleged backdating incidents found only one instance of backdating by a court clerk.”
His spokesman, Bill Murphy, said the office found another document that appears to be backdated, but no one initialed it, so it is “unclear who processed” it.
[Greg] Enos said in an e-mail that the backdating of court orders “was always just the tip of the iceberg of problems with her, but that was what happened to arguably be a crime.”
The 53-year-old family lawyer filed a similar complaint last year against a Galveston County judge that preceded an investigation by the state attorney general and multiple indictments that led to the judge’s suspension and eventual resignation.
Enos’ complaint detailed other problems with Pratt. Lawyer Fred Krasny said Pratt regularly shows up to morning and after-lunch hearings an hour late, costing lawyers time and clients money. Others have said she sometimes has not shown up to hearings at all.
Lawyers who have spoken out against Pratt since Enos filed his complaint expressed frustration on Friday with the grand jury’s decision.
Matthew Waldrop, a lawyer who had eight cases removed from Pratt’s court this week by a visiting judge, said he is considering filing another criminal complaint.
Lawyer Robert Clark, who still has more than a dozen cases in Pratt’s court, said he is readying motions asking her to be removed from some or all of them. Clark argued a case in Pratt’s court in January for which she issued a ruling in May. The official court record now says the ruling was issued on Jan. 30, the day before the two-day trial actually ended.
“I don’t want my clients to suffer any adverse actions as a result of my being a vocal opponent of the judge,” Clark said.
See here and here for stories about those recusals. Even if Judge Pratt survives further complaints, she still has that primary and a November election to get through. I’m thinking she’s got a very tough road ahead of her.