Issue No. 96
December 26, 2018
In this issue....

  • One Last Gasp of Injustice: Will Judge Franklin-York Go Out Like She Came In?
  • New Judge Profile - Barbara Stalder
  • The Enos Plan for a New Family Law Courthouse

A New Era of Change and Uncertainty Dawns in the Family Courts

New judges and associate judges assume office on January 1. Below is a chart showing what we know at this time. Note that Conrad Moren will be Judge Berg's associate judge in the 247th through February 2019 and then Bethany Arnold will take over as A.J. on March 1, 2019.

Click here to download a PDF that you can print and cut out for you and your staff. Click here to download short profiles on each of our new judges (which was just updated to include Barbara Stalder).
There is a lot we do not know about how the new judges will operate their courts, including:

  • What times will docket call in each court be? (or for Judge Longino, will there even be docket calls?)
  • When will mediation be required before temporary order hearings?
  • Will all judges follow the example of Judge Maldonado and refuse to sign standard divorce TRO's using Texas Family Law Practice Manual language? If so, will someone provide us a TRO form a judge will sign?
  • What days will certain types of hearing be set (e.g. - enforcements on Tuesdays, CPS cases on Thursdays, etc.)?
  • If we have trial settings in early January, can we realistically expect those to go forward?

I have been pestering the judges-elect for these details and have not heard anything except one feisty soon-to-be jurist confirmed docket call times will change and told me, "We will get to court procedures when we get to them. It is not my intent to rush to satisfy anyone but to take my time to make sure I’m satisfied with what we choose. We have circulated some rough drafts and intend to meet as a group on procedures the 28th." So perhaps, those of us who seek knowledge as our highest form of satisfaction will know more by next week when the new judges start work.

Again, we all want procedures in all courts that are as uniform as possible. Docket call times need to be staggered to lessen elevator congestion and make it easier for attorneys to answer dockets in multiple courts. We just need some basic idea of how things will work in the Harris County family courts starting next week!

Our New Harris County Family Court Judges
These good folks have a lot to learn and the lawyers should be patient and respectfully help them figure out their new jobs. I am their friend and advocate as long as they work hard, are honest and fair, do not play favorites and do their best to follow the law and use common sense. I do hope they will tolerate my many questions and frequent advice on how they should do their jobs.

Everyone can attend the mass swearing in of all the Democrats who were swept into office in Harris County on January 1 at NRG Center at noon.
Some judges are scheduling their own separate investiture ceremonies. These events re-create the judge's swearing in and are a chance for lawyers who never spoke to the judge when she or he was a candidate to gather and act as if they now consider the jurist the smartest, most charming person ever. It is sort of like going through your high school graduation with everyone in the big auditorium and then, a few weeks later, staging your own graduation where you are the only one in cap and gown and some official hands you a diploma and shakes just your hand in front of adoring family and friends. Then you get to give your own speech (even if you are not the Valedictorian) and everyone claps and claps and then they line up to shake your hand and tell you how great you are.
I may not win every case (even if in my heart I expect to). I just want an efficient system in which my client gets a fair hearing before a judge who works hard, knows the law, and does not play favorites. I also expect judges to appoint qualified amicus attorneys who zealously look after children (and who actually personally visit their minor clients in their homes). Is that asking too much? Stay tuned.
Greg Enos
The Enos Law Firm
The Enos Law Firm
  17207 Feather Craft Lane, Webster, Texas 77598
 (281) 333-3030
   Please forward this e-mail newsletter to everyone who cares about our family courts! 
One Last Gasp of Injustice: Will Judge Franklin-York
Go Out Like She Came In?
Judge Alicia-Franklin York may well end her brief judicial career in the same ethically questionable way it began. She has scheduled a hearing in a notorious case that reeks of apparent political influence for December 28, the very last work day she will be a judge. As set forth below, it is absolutely unbelievable that Franklin-York is going to conduct this hearing under the circumstances I describe in this article.

Sleaze In

Alicia Franklin-York was sworn in as judge on June 13, 2014. In September 2014, I reported in The Mongoose that:
  • Franklin-York, as a lawyer appointed on CPS cases, submitted payment vouchers to the county that claimed hours worked that could not possibly be true. For example, she billed for a total of 32.25 hours on March 20, 2013, when Alicia Franklin billed Harris County, as well as the parents in a private amicus case, for the following all on one day: 28.5 out-of-court hours in CPS cases, 3.75 hours on a private amicus case, one CPS trial appearance and 4 non-trial CPS court appearances. Click here to read the Houston Chronicle story that shot down Franklin's defense that her bills included work done by others and "everyone is doing it."
  • Franklin billed the county for non-lawyer work on her CPS cases. For example, in Cause No. 2008-02442J, Franklin billed a quarter of an hour twice for "post office run" on April 10 and May 19, 2014. On May 1, 2014, Franklin billed the county in Cause No. 2013-41503 a quarter of an hour to e-file a document. She did the same thing on May 7, 2014 in Cause No. 2013-39931 when she charged a quarter of an hour for "e-filed affidavit." Franklin also billed the county frequently for merely printing documents, something attorneys or their clerical staff do simply by pushing a button. In Cause No. 2011-04867-J, on May 5, 2014, for example, Franklin billed the county for 15 minutes (0.25 hours) to print a CPS report on what must be a really slow printer. She then billed an hour to review the report.
  • Franklin submitted a pay voucher to the county for lawyer work on a CPS case done after she became a judge. York tried to hide from the Houston Chronicle the fact that she was secretly sworn in as a judge on June 13, 2014 by Lisa Millard because York had submitted a handwritten invoice for CPS work signed by her on June 17 for legal work she had done on June 13, 16 and 17, including one hour of "in court appearance."
  • Ms. Franklin accepted a campaign contribution from a party to a custody case where she was the amicus attorney. She was appointed an amicus attorney for a young boy in a hotly contested custody case by Judge Lisa Millard in case no. 2012-04106 on April 20, 2012. This case involved parents and grandparents. On October 15, 2013, Ms. Franklin and the grandparents' attorney filed a joint motion for enforcement against the mother for not obeying a court order on visitation. It is extremely unusual for an amicus attorney to file a joint motion with another party.  It certainly shows that on October 15, Franklin was very actively involved in the case and would have known who the grandfather was. On the very next day, on October 16, 2013, Ms. Franklin, who then was running for judge, accepted a $1,000 contribution from the grandfather in that case. That contribution was not disclosed by Ms. Franklin to the other parties or their attorneys or to the judge.

Click here and click here to read my newsletter issues that exposed this apparent wrong-doing. I filed a criminal complaint with the Republican District Attorney that resulted in no action. Click here and click here to read the Houston Chronicle stories about this scandal.
Judge Alicia Franklin became Alicia Franklin-York when she married lawyer Doug York. In March 2015, Houston news outlets reported the unseemly spectacle of Judge Franklin-York soliciting wedding gifts from the public, including lawyers who appeared in front of her. I actually appeared on ABC 13 news partially defending her. Click here to read the article in the Houston Press . Click here to read the Houston Chronicle "Big Jolly" column by a staunch Republican who wrote that what the judge had done made him ill. David Jennings also wrote:

Which reminds me, where again is Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson? It has been over six month since Greg Enos filed a criminal complaint against Judge Franklin ( click here to read more about that complaint) and still NOTHING from the DA. NADA, ZIP, ZILCH. Do you think the DA would have been silent if Judge Franklin had run as a Democrat? I surely don’t.
Franklin and York are obviously classless and tasteless.
Sleaze Out?

Judge Franklin-York has scheduled a hearing in a notorious case on December 28, the very last work day she will be in office. This case involves the most serious injustice and grossest display of apparent political influence in a family case that I have ever written about in this newsletter. It appears that Franklin-York may use her last day in office to rule in a way that powerful Republicans want even if it is horribly unfair and makes no sense. Franklin-York set this hearing on her own initiative to possibly change primary custody of the children after she has just disqualified the amicus attorney who has worked on the case for over four years. The hearing is being held in clear violation of Harris County local rules. This somewhat lengthy article will explore what seems to be behind Franklin-York's unseemly rush to get in one last hearing on this case even though a new judge takes office just four days later and even though the Texas Supreme Court is considering a mandamus action that could void Franklin-York's very questionable decision to throw out a jury verdict in Judge Schmude's court in this case. In short, almost everything about this case should horrify those who care about real fairness in our family courts.

I hope Judge Germaine Tanner's first actions as a judge are to carefully review everything Franklin-York has done in this case.

This disgusting tale involves a child custody modification case that has been pending since 2014. The father and mother (using mostly funds from an influential church friend) have spent well over a million dollars in legal fees. Bobby Newman has represented the father throughout the litigation.

The court appointed psychologist and the amicus attorney appointed by the court to represent the children both strongly recommended that the father have custody of the children. For a while, the mother had been given only supervised visitation with the children, in part because of concerns about unfounded abuse allegations the mother had repeatedly made against the father and his family. In March 2017, a jury in Judge John Schmude's court quickly decided that the father should have custody of the children. Then, the mother fired her lawyer, Robert Hoffman, and hired two attorneys known more for their political connections than their courtroom skills, Gary Polland and Jared Woodfill. Polland and Woodfill are both former Republican county party chairmen. Polland is an influential slate endorser who has endorsed Franklin-York.

Those lawyers then attacked the rulings of the judge and associate judge who heard the case and they sought to recuse Judge Schmude. Visiting Judge Doug Warne denied the motion to recuse. But, then, Schmude shocked everyone by recusing himself from the case. This happened as Mr. Polland was openly saying he was going to promote a primary election opponent for Judge Schmude. Polland is one of "Big Three" Republican slate mailers who have huge influence in GOP politics. The matter was transferred to Judge Alicia Franklin-York (a Republican), who granted the mother’s motion for new trial and set aside the jury's verdict. It is extremely unusual for a judge to consider a motion for new trial when that judge did not preside over the jury trial.

Judge Franklin-York granted the mother a "do over" after a hearing where Republican heavy-weights Steve Hotze and Edd Hendee sat on the front row eye-balling the judge. This happened in 2017 when Franklin-York knew she faced a tough reelection campaign in 2018. Everyone in Republican circles knows how powerful and influential Steven Hotze is and Edd Hendee is also a very well known, influential Republican. The judge obviously knew who those two men sitting on the front row were when she conducted the hearing on the motion for new trial.

Franklin-York granted a new trial in part because of Schmude's ruling to follow the Constitution and keep religion out of the jury trial. At the start of the jury trial, Judge Schmude (a very religious and Christian man) granted a motion in limine which forbade the lawyers and witnesses from discussing the religious beliefs of the parents. The mother attends Second Baptist Church. The father’s family is Muslim but the father is not devout and is basically not religious.

Franklin-York ruled it was legally wrong for Schmude to forbid discussion of the parents' religious beliefs. However, case after case in Texas have held that it is incurable error to inject a parent’s religion into a child custody case. For example, in the case of In re Knighton , 685 S.W.2d 719, 721 (Tex. App. – Amarillo 1984, no writ) a child custody verdict was reversed because the judge allowed evidence of the parents’ religious differences. The Court of Appeals said, “The State cannot prefer the religious views of one parent over the other in deciding the best interests of the child.” Schmude granted the motion in limine but the mother’s attorneys never approached the bench and tried to get that sort of evidence in anyway.

So, it was crazy wrong for Franklin-York to overturn the jury verdict and grant a new trial based on this religious issue. This ruling is so wrong that in the pending mandamus action before the Texas Supreme Court, the mother's lawyers did not even try to defend Franklin-York on this issue.

Judge Franklin-York's other reasons for throwing out the jury veridct were based on the fact that Schmude’s associate judge, Paula Vlahakos, had worked for a law firm which represented the mother in the original divorce for three months in 2012. Vlahakos worked at the law firm during those three months but she never worked on the mother’s divorce. Schmude appointed Vlahakos to be his associate judge in January 2015. The mother and her lawyer did not object to Vlahakos when she presided over the hearing on temporary orders or later hearings. The mother’s motion for new trial argued that Vlahakos was disqualified under the Texas Constitution and therefore Judge Schmude was also disqualified. Judge Doug Warne refused to recuse Schmude based on this same argument. Judge Franklin-York's decision to grant a new trial ignored the case McElwee v. McElwee , 918 S.W.2d 182 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, pet. denied). In McElwee , the associate judge was disqualified because he had practiced law with his father who was an attorney in the case. However, the Houston First Court of Appeals ruled in McElwee that the disqualification of the associate judge did not disqualify the elected presiding judge.

It turns out the mother and her lawyer, Robert Hoffman, apparently knew all along about the grounds to disqualify Vlahakos and did not raise that issue until after the jury ruled against the mother. In fact, the mother has now sued Hoffman for malpractice and her lawsuit would appear to show that the mother and maybe her attorneys have mislead several courts by not revealing that the mother and Hoffman knew about the problem with Vlahokos all along. Click here to read the astounding motion for rehearing filed by the father in a still pending application for writ of mandamus before the Texas Supreme Court, that says in part:
Sarah argued in the trial court, as she has argued here, that she could not have preserved error on the disqualification issue because she discovered it only after trial. This turns out to have been a falsehood. Sarah recently sued her trial attorney for malpractice. In her pleading (filed after Kian’s reply in this mandamus), she confesses that she and her then-attorney learned of the grounds for the associate judge’s disqualification immediately after the temporary orders were signed. That was before the district court’s de novo hearing of the orders and a year before the trial.

I urge you to read this document filed with the Texas Supreme Court because it strongly implies that the mother and maybe her attorneys mislead Judge Franklin-York and then the court of appeals and supreme court in the mandamus actions about when the mother knew about the issue with the associate judge.
Franklin-York granted the new trial in part because of the notion that the associate judge was disqualified, her temporary orders were thus void and it was error for those temporary orders to be admitted into evidence in the jury trial (even though the mother's lawyer agreed to the admission of those temporary orders). Franklin-York specifically ruled that the mother had not waived her objection to the admission of the temporary orders. Now, thanks to the mother's lawsuit against Hoffman, we know that the mother and Hoffman knew about the grounds for disqualifying the associate judge within days of the temporary order hearing and before Schmude conducted a de novo hearing and well before the jury trial. Surely, even Franklin-York would now have to admit that her reasons for overturning the jury verdict and granting a new trial are clearly invalid. But, instead of waiting for the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the pending mandamus action or instead of setting aside her order granting the new trial or instead of letting the newly elected judge of the 311th to rule on this case, Franklin-York has scheduled a hearing on this case for December 28, her last working day as a judge.

This is what Franklin-York has done in this case:
  • Franklin-York granted the motion for new trial and threw out the jury verdict for the father for legal reasons that are just not supported by the facts or the law. She did so with two powerful Republican former party chairs serving as the mother's attorneys and two very influential Republican big shots sitting on the front row of the audience watching her. In fairness to the judge, some of the facts came to light after she ruled because of the mother's lawsuit against Hoffman. The court of appeals and Supreme Court have denied the father's request for mandamus, but that was before the mother's lawsuit against Hoffman revealed the truth. But, the Supreme Court has been considering the motion for rehearing for months now after the mother's own lawsuit revealed her false assertions about the associate judge's disqualification. Appellate lawyers assume that this extraordinary delay in ruling on the motion for rehearing means that the Supreme Court may well grant the mandamus and thus void everything Franklin-York has done in this case. It is also possible that the Supreme Court might stay the mandamus action to see if the new judge of the 311th changes Franklin-York's ruling and sets aside the granting of the new trial.

  • Franklin-York just granted a very questionable motion to disqualify the amicus attorney, Bruce Steffler, who represented these children for over four years through the jury trial. Steffler, like the court appointed custody evaluator, thought the father should have custody of the children. Jared Woodfill and Gary Polland sought Steffler's disqualification because he had once represented a lady disclosed as a fact witness by the mother three days before trial but who did not testify in the first jury trial. I have read the parties' briefs on this disqualification and the hearing transcript. The motion should not have been granted in my opinion. It seems clear that the mother wanted Steffler off the case because he argued the father should have primary custody. Steffler even recommended that the mother only have supervised visitation early in the case. Now, Franklin-York is going forward with a hearing on temporary orders to give the mother primary custody again without the services of an amicus attorney. Franklin-York did not grant the motion to disqualify Steffler until after she had lost her election.

  • Franklin-York set the hearing at a time when there was no current pleading seeking the hearing. The mother had filed a "First Amended Motion to Modify Temporary Orders" on September 26, 2017. So, it appears that Franklin-York on her own initiative set a hearing on a motion filed 15 months before. According to Newman, the December 28 hearing was set by the court at a time when neither party had actually filed or requested the hearing.

  • Franklin-York scheduled a hearing on a dead week when Harris County local rules say that hearings cannot be conducted during dead weeks unless all counsel agree. Local Rule 3.7.5 says: "Except with the consent of all parties, and the court, no cases will be assigned to trial on the merits nor for ancillary hearings during: ...5)  The last two weeks of December."

  • Franklin-York scheduled a hearing for December 28 even though Mr. Newman is under an order protecting him from conflicting settings because he is set for a two day arbitration on December 27 and 28. Click here to read Bobby Newman's objection to this setting.

  • Franklin-York set a hearing on the very last day she will be a judge to consider whether the children, who have lived primarily with their father since 2015, will now move back to live primarily with their mother despite the jury awarding primary custody to the father and despite the fact that the court appointed custody evaluator concluded the father should have primary custody. Obviously, this is a hugely important decision. Why does Franklin-York feel she needs to rush and conduct this hearing instead of letting the new judge who takes office on January 1 make the decision? Why would Franklin-York go forward on this huge custody matter without the assistance of an amicus attorney to represent the children?

  • Franklin-York set a hearing even though the Texas Supreme Court still has under consideration the application for writ of mandamus the father filed challenging Franklin-York's order granting the new trial and setting aside the jury verdict for the father. The Supreme Court originally denied the application but then the father filed his motion for rehearing based on the admissions in the mother's lawsuit against Hoffman. That motion for rehearing has been under consideration longer than any other such motion and it is obvious that the Supreme Court is seriously considering granting the mandamus, which would undo everything Franklin-York has done.

  • Given the history of this case, it is very unlikely that a contested custody hearing can even be completed in one day, so why even set or start the hearing?

My real question is this: what is the sudden stinking rush ?

There is no pending emergency or recent scary developments that would support this big hurry to conduct a hearing on custody before the new judge takes office. It makes no sense for Franklin-York to do what she is doing in this case that reeks of political influence unless it is one last gasp of injustice to please the powerful and influential no matter what is right or fair. Why set this hearing just four days before Germaine Tanner takes office? Could it be that Judge Tanner, a Democrat, is not likely to be influenced by the Republican big shots supporting the mother in this case? Why put the parties to the expense of this hearing when it will probably all be reheard by Judge Tanner after January 1 anyway? Why ignore local rules about hearings during dead weeks or Newman's protective order signed by another judge well before Franklin-York set this hearing? Why proceed with this hearing without an amicus attorney or before the Supreme Court rules?

Franklin-York is said to be determined to run for judge again in four years. If she does, she will need the support and help of Republicans like Gary Polland, Jared Woodfill (if his possible, alleged criminal problems do not distract him), Steve Hotze and Edd Hendee. Franklin-York should be worried that her improper rush to conduct this hearing just makes it appear like she is currying favor with those powerful Republicans. Or, maybe, that is exactly what she is doing.

A judge is supposed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Franklin-York seems determined to end her judicial career as the epitomy of impropriety, unseemliness and unfairness.

The hearing in this case is set for December 28 at 8:30 a.m. in the 311th District Court on the 8th floor of the Civil Courthouse. I plan to be there to observe and I am making sure the real news media in Houston knows about this hearing. The last time I showed up to watch a hearing in this case, Franklin-York conducted the hearing in her chambers instead of her empty courtroom and I was unable to see and hear what happened. I can only hope that if she goes forward with this hearing, that Franklin-York will at least do her dirty deed in public.
New Judge Profile - Barbara Stalder
Barbara Stalder will be the judge of the 280th family violence court. Her resume and life experience should encourage any victim of domestic abuse who appears before her. Those who are accused of violence and who know the judge's biography might be slightly less optimistic.

There is certainly no doubt that Ms. Stalder is familiar with the field of family violence. She is not shy about saying she left what she calls "an eleven year abusive relationship" in 1989. Stalder has spent much of her legal career representing alleged victims of domestic violence. Experienced attorneys know that for every hundred cases of real scary domestic violence, there are also cases where the allegations are just made up or exaggerated or one-sided or the facts just do not allow for a protective order. Time will tell whether the 280th will become an automatic protective order machine or a place where the accused feel they received a fair hearing. Stalder assures me she will be fair to all parties.

In El Paso, Stalder served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in El Paso where she was nominated as National CASA Volunteer of the Year. Barbara was a founding Board Member of the Advocacy Center for Children of El Paso.

Judge-Elect Stalder moved to Houston and received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Houston. Stalder was awarded her law license in 2003. She did a two year fellowship with Equal Justice Works, an organization trying to expand legal services to low-income citizens. She then went to work for Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence (AVDA), where she represented women and child victims. Mrs. Stalder was also a supervising attorney at the University of Houston Law Center Civil Clinic, helping second and third year law students provide legal services to low income families.

Stalder is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

During the campaign, Stalder said this about her qualifications:

I have tried hundreds of often complex family law cases to both a judge and jury and have several appeals including a case to the Texas Supreme Court. I have also presented at local, state and national conferences on family law and family violence topics. I am former clinical professor at UH Law Center where I taught and mentored law student attorneys in a low income legal aid clinic. I taught semester courses in family violence and marital property. I have been appointed by the family courts as an Amicus for a child in a contested custody matter.
Barbara Stalder was born in Kansas City and still roots for the Chiefs. She lives with Fred, her husband of 22 years, and, a pack of "fur-ever" kids, KC, Kaine, Tag, Maya, Iris and Magic. She is pro bono counsel for Texas Sled Dog Rescue, is a member of the Texas State Bar Animal Law Section, and was a past board member of the HBA Animal Law Section. We can all expect that the safety and happiness of family pets will always be considered in the 280th.
The Enos Plan for a New Family Law Courthouse
Here is the Enos Plan for the Harris County courthouses:

Step 1. Repair the current Criminal Justice Center just enough to take the IVD courts and misdemeanor criminal courts out of the disgusting and dangerous old Family Law Center at
1115 Congress Avenue. Do not go forward with the current plans to expand the lobby and add more elevators in the current Criminal Justice Center.

Step 2. Finish repairs on the current Criminal Justice Center and move most, but not all, of the criminal courts back from the Civil Courthouse. Some criminal courts would remain at the Civil Courthouse to avoid the crazy overcrowding that plagued the Criminal Courthouse’s lobby and elevators.

Step 3. Persuade voters in November 2020 to approve bonds for a new criminal courthouse that is properly designed to handle the crowds, resist floods and handle projected growth.  I think this will be a relatively easy sell in a Presidential election year.

Step 3A. Destroy the old Family Law Center, finish demolition of the old District Attorney’s building in the same block and build the new criminal courthouse there. Provide for space for future expansion as new criminal courts are created and include a huge lobby (that would look more like an airport security screening center) and elevators that can handle the crowds. 

Step 4.  Move all of the family courts and the 280th family violence court to the lower floors of the current Criminal Justice Center to house just family courts and IVD courts.  Allow for four empty courtrooms to be used by visiting judges and to allow room for creation of future family courts. The elevators in the current Criminal Justice Center, that were never sufficient for the thousands of criminal defendants who visited the 38 criminal courts each day, are more than enough to handle fifteen family and IVD courts. The county can then use the upper floors of the new “Family Justice Center” for county administrative offices without putting much pressure on the existing elevators.

Step 5. Build an above-ground jury assembly building on top of the ruined jury assembly annex and make sure all of these buildings are actually flood proof!
Harris County voters in 2007 approved a $70 million bond issue to replace the Family Law Center that 11 years ago was dilapidated. Sadly, that project never went forward. County leaders moved the family courts to the Civil Courthouse and the Family Law Center was empty until Hurricane Harvey flooded the bottom of the Criminal Courthouse and the sprinkler system throughout the building flooded it from top to bottom. Now, the IVD child support courts and the misdemeanor criminal courts are crammed into the even more dilapidated Family Law Center.

In June 2018, the top four floors of the Criminal Courthouse reopened for jail dockets and trials.

The county was planning to spend at least $86 million to not just repair the Criminal Courthouse but renovate its lobby and add additional elevators. District Attorney Kim Ogg last week convinced county commissioners to delay starting the first phase of that plan. My plan would eliminate the need for that additional renovation and extra elevators.

The Houston Chronicle reported last week:

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Tuesday persuaded Commissioners Court to hold off approving $14 million in repairs to the flood-damaged criminal courthouse in downtown Houston. Ogg said the county should spend more time evaluating whether to repair or replace the 20-floor tower before sinking more money into it. Commissioners were set to approve nearly $14 million to repair the building’s elevator shafts and remodel parts of floors two through 20.

“To spend $14 million right now puts us on a trajectory that really puts the cart before the horse,” Ogg said in a rare appearance before the court. “You deserve more information to make a reasoned choice about the direction to follow, ultimately.”
Ogg said she worried that repairs to the building would force those reopened courtrooms to close again. “Based on the evidence, I have a reasonable doubt. I think it will disrupt our functions,” Ogg said. “We can use those courtrooms now.”

County Engineer John Blount estimated the cost of repairing the building at $86 million. He said a new structure would cost $430 million and take four years to complete. Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said paying for a new building may require the county to persuade voters to approve a bond issue. They may be unlikely to do so after passing a $2.5 billion flood protection bond in August, which taxpayers will be paying off over the next decade to 15 years. Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack proposed removing the repairs from Tuesday’s agenda, and his colleagues agreed. The move punts the thorny issue to the incoming court, which in January will include Democrats Lina Hidalgo as county judge and Adrian Garcia as Precinct 2 commissioner.

My plan should please everyone:
  • Kim Ogg’s concerns about losing the top four floors of the Criminal Courthouse for a year or more because of elevator expansion are eliminated. Repairs on the Criminal Courthouse can move forward so that more and more criminal courts can be moved there.
  • We can quickly get the criminal misdemeanor courts and the IVD child support courts out of the dangerous and overcrowded old Family Law Center by moving them to the repaired Criminal Courthouse as soon as possible.
  • The criminal courts and the DA get a new criminal courthouse that is designed correctly and is big enough for future growth.
  • The civil judges will eventually get the family courts out of their building and reduce strain on their elevators and cafeteria.
  • The family courts will eventually get their own building which will have all kinds of space for family-friendly features such as specially designed rooms for judges to interview children and for children to testify in court via remote video connection. There will be room for expansion as the county add more family courts in the future.
  • The county will get badly needed administrative offices at the top of the future Enos Family Law Center.

I only ask that the county not use the idiot architects who designed the Criminal Courthouse that was not only vulnerable to flooding but never able to handle the crowds anyone should have known were going to visit every day.
Thank you for your support! Together We Can Make Our Profession Better and Our Courts More Fair
Attorney Greg Enos has been through his own divorce and child custody battle (he won) and understands what his clients are going through. Enos graduated from the University of Texas Law School and was a successful personal injury attorney in Texas City before he decided his true calling was to help families in divorce and child custody cases. Greg Enos is active in politics and in Clear Lake area charities. He has served as President of the Bay Area Bar Association and President of the Board of Interfaith Caring Ministries. The Enos Law Firm serves clients in Galveston County, Brazoria County and Harris County, Texas.
Greg Enos
Board Certified in Family Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization
The Enos Law Firm
www. divorce
Want to join the mailing list?
Just send your email address by text message
Text the code: THEMONGOOSE to 22828 to get started