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Jan Krocker

Mental health court coup


Judge Jan Krocker

Citing problems with the administration of Harris County’s mental health court, a board of judges has ousted the court’s founder and presiding judge, Jan Krocker, officials confirmed Friday.

“There were a lot of valid complaints about Judge Krocker’s administration of the court, and she didn’t like the idea of oversight,” said Michael McSpadden, Houston’s most senior felony court judge. “We are all behind a mental health court. We just want it run the correct way.”

Krocker will continue to preside over the 184th State District Court, a bench to which she was first elected in 1994, but two other judges, David Mendoza and Brock Thomas, will oversee the mental health court.

Krocker said the move was the natural evolution of the program.

“Once we knew the court would be funded for another year, I had hoped to reduce my involvement because it had become so time-consuming,” she said in an emailed statement. “I would have been glad to transition out and turn it over to Judge Mendoza and Judge Thomas. It is too bad this wasn’t handled differently.”

What’s interesting about this is that the mental health court has only been in existence since October. That’s an awfully short period of time for everyone to lose patience with the person who brought this thing to reality. Or maybe there was something else going on.

The abrupt removal may have been spurred by Krocker releasing a statement in December accusing another judge and newly elected District Attorney Mike Anderson of trying to kill funding for the court.

Last year, Krocker said then-District Attorney Pat Lykos had promised $500,000 for the court to continue. When that promise dried up days before Lykos left office, Krocker blamed Anderson and state District Judge Belinda Hill.

Anderson and Hill, who was the chief administrative judge over the 22 district judges and is now Anderson’s first assistant, have both publicly supported the mental health court.

The problem was not the court, McSpadden said. It was Krocker.

“She wasn’t following the mental health advice of the people we hire, the doctors we hired,” McSpadden said. “There were a lot of complaints, from inside and outside the court.”

As a non-lawyer I have no insight into this, so let me throw this out to those of you who who may have some insight for your comments. What do you think?

The felony mental health court

I’d celebrate, too.

Judge Jan Krocker

[State District Court Judge] Krocker and others celebrated the official opening of Harris County’s felony mental health court, which started putting mentally ill defendants on probation instead of sending them to jail in May.

Krocker has been working to get a special court to oversee felony cases of defendants diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression since 2009.

“The youngest participant was 17 years old when he came in, the oldest is 61, and all of them are very sick,” Krocker told the group that included County Judge Ed Emmett, Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

She said the program, paid for by an initial federal grant of $500,000 with matching funds from the county, has 45 people on probation. Krocker said the program has room for 80 probationers.


Statewide, Whitmire told the group, 18,000 inmates take psychiatric medication. Of the 153,000 people incarcerated in Texas, Whitmire said, 32,000 were in a mental health system before they ended up in prison.

“Those 32,000 people are in our penitentiaries, at a cost of millions of dollars, because they couldn’t get the mental health services they need,” Whitmire said. “When we solve the problems of the mental health defendant, we’re preventing the next criminal act.”

This is great, and the only complaint I have is that there isn’t more of it. As Sen. Whitmire notes, the need for mental health services far outstrips the state’s resources for them. As a result we lock ’em up, which is more expensive, less effective, and far less humane than treatment. Judge Krocker’s court is a small step in the right direction, and kudos to her for it.