Category Archive: Tarrant County

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Feb 28 2015

Courts Keep Track of Who ‘Wins’

Family Courts Keep Track of Custody Outcomes

Click on the embedded links in this post.


According to the Tarrant grant contracts, the Domestic Relations Office does not need to market the grant based services…..therefore the participants in the program are not aware they are enrolled in the program.

 

Judges, Child Support Enforcement, Family Court Services, Child Protective Services and court-appointed professionals are disregarding and proactively working against the protective parents (often the mother) who allege legitimate sexual and physical abuse.  Instead of protecting the child from the perpetrator, the judges are giving the abuser more visitation and custody than before the allegations. 

This organized case-rigging is to ensure parent’s abuse allegations are discredited.  Select judges contribute to the corruption of our family courts by their associations with secret judicial groups and father’s rights groups.  These patterns are revealed in documentation from father’s rights organizations,  HHS-ACF (Health and Human Services Department- Administration for Children and Families), American Humane Association,  Access and Visitation programs and AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts).

Judges and court-appointed licensed professionals are rigging these pro-father cases by terminating child support to mother and redirecting child support to pay the amicus attorney, ignoring statutes that protect children who have credible evidence of past sexual and physical abuse, court- appoint unethical and biased amicus attorneys who act on behalf of the court instead of the child,  manipulate the case outcome by favoring the father and use licensed professionals to talk to children alone to either intimidate, discredit or teach child to recant their outcry to protect the perpetrator. 

The National Quality Improvement Center on Nonresident Fathers and the Child Welfare System, National Fatherhood Initiative, American Humane Association and American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law created the Father Friendly Check-Up (FFCU). The FFCU is supposed to encourage courts to be more father friendly through the court administrative functions.  The checklist defines a non-resident father as “a father who did not live with his child at the time the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.”

ACCESS AND VISITATION GRANT CONTRACTS 

13-C0109 Tarrant

Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office Report 2012

Click here to read the guidance sheet for spreadsheet.

Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and Tarrant County Contracts:    No: 11-C0108  and 13-C0109:

CONTRACT MANAGER: OAG Point of Contact as it relates to this contract.  

Anita Stuckey -Contract Manager within the Department of Family Initiatives and the Child Support Division in Austin TX.

Anita was the AFCC Texas Chapter Director-At-Large 2010 and an AFCC member for 15 years. The Texas Chapter AFCC, according to the website,  formed in 2001 to “work diligently during the 2001 legislative session monitoring the Texas legislature and laying a foundation for a future relationship between our elected officials and AFCC.”.  

The Texas AFCC is responsible for the 2003 and 2005 Texas Family code legislation providing access facilitators and amicus’ the authority and immunity to make decisions in custody cases.  On the OAG’s Access and Visitation Services web page, Stuckey markets AFCC member’s businesses on the OAG website in order to solicit business for them.  Texas parents are referred to parenting classes, father’s right groups, legal services, parenting coordination, supervised visitation centers and mediation experts on this page.

GRANTEE– Janet Denton is the Director of the Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office.  Denton is not only is the Director of Family Court Services, but she is also the past-President and Council of the Texas Chapter AFCC and the past-President of the Tarrant County Family Law Bar Association.

Denton must submit all invoices to the OAG in person or via mail in order for Tarrant County to receive the grant money.  Denton and Stuckey  control the length of contract, approve invoices, investigate complaints, maintain strict confidential  reports and the cases are private.  The parents in the program are not entitled to information in their case and there is no follow-up or survey with the family.  According to the contract, the program is highly successful because “the judges know us and trust our judgment, plus we are conveniently located in The Family Law Center.’

The grant supports and funds only the Noncustodial Parent (NCP: identified as the father) and the OAG and Tarrant County have aligned with pro-father organizations in order to comply with the grants requirements.

Cases involving abuse and neglect findings are excluded from the grant program.  This could be why so many parents report allegations of abuse are ignored by the Tarrant County family courts in custody disputes.

Referrals to this program must be COURT ORDERED.

The grant pays 90% of already existing employees salaries of Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office .  The grant adds an additional $265,000 to Domestic Relations Office of Tarrant County’s labor budget.

According to the Tarrant grant contracts, the Domestic Relations Office does not need to market the grant based services…..therefore the participants in the program are not aware they are enrolled in the program.

Fragile Families Project is endorsed in the contract. This program refers FATHERS to the Fatherhood Initiative Program through the non-profit organization NewDay Services (who has a separate contract with the OAG for the same pro-father outcomes).  

Judges, attorneys, non-profit organizations, battered women’s shelters, churches, and commissioners are all active in the NewDay Services organization, especially since they are located inside family courthouse since 2005.

Tarrant County’s goal in 2012 was to refer 15 cases a month to the Access Coordination program and to impact a minimum of 540 Tarrant County resident’s lives annually.  This case goal increases every year. 

****The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your competent attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site is not legal advice. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not be viewed as legal advice.

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Feb 16 2015

DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN amicus attorney IS?

DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN amicus attorney IS?

February 16, 2015

1Since the passage of this code in 2003, there have been significant complaints by litigants and attorneys working in Family Courts of Texas. The assignments have been in many cases rampant with charges of corruption, collusion, and abuse of power. Where the statute is of dubious need, some courts have used the appointment of an amicus to create additional confrontation, animosity, additional costs, and a longer more prolonged litigation. 

The appointment creates an untenable opportunity for the Amicus to ally with one of the other parties’ attorneys and to enter into a Mary Carter Agreement and commit fraud. In many cases the sitting judge encourages and supports this by appointment of specially selected counselors and social studies caseworkers to fully support what the Amicus advises the Judge.  Communications with the judge are frequently done without full disclosure to the targeted party.  This is a fundamental denial of due process and is blatantly unconstitutional. This process is destroying families, through mental distress, and most often bankrupts the family. Monies set aside for the children for education, health, and travel are often peculated through abusive billing practices and demands for child support often having been changed through sharp practices and absent any tangible evidence. This abuse is made possible by the Amicus.

 

–   The court mandates parents to enter into a services contract with a named private party (amicus attorney) in violation of the Commerce Clause.

 

–    The trial court is the amicus attorney’s client and an obvious conflict of interest.

 

–   Statutorily the ‘amicus’ role is quasi-judicial and frequently in direct violation of constitutional and statutory rights as a parent.

 

–    Amicus has the right to access reasonable fees and classify them as ‘additional child support’, says one appeal court but another disagrees.

 

–   Ex-parte communication between amicus and judge violate the Confrontation Clause of both the US and TX Constitutions.

 

–   Amicus attorney recommends involuntarily termination of parental rights based on amicus’ investigation if parent has been involved in child’s life.

 

–    District Courts are violating a Supreme Court Order by a not reporting amicus and court appointment fees.

 

–    Hearsay and not evidence is being presented to the court by court appointments.

 

–    Special Interests Groups are training attorneys, CPS and influencing judges.

 

*****Click here for related amicus attorney article.

 

***The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your competent attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site is not legal advice. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not be viewed as legal advice.

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Dec 19 2014

Eighth Administrative Judicial Region Rules in Texas

EIGHTH ADMINISTRATIVE JUDICIAL REGION

RULES OF ADMINISTRATION IN TEXAS

The State of Texas is divided into nine administrative judicial regions–The Eighth and is composed of the following 16 counties: Archer, Clay, Cooke, Denton, Eastland, Erath, Hood, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Stephens, Tarrant, Wichita, Wise, and Young. (See Other Judicial Regions link for the remaining regions and the counties they cover).

 evans 2

Per 8th Judicial Region website, “Judge David Evans is the Presiding Judge of the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region, and as such, is involved with “administrative aspects” of the region and does not enter into the disciplinary arena. (See Complaints and/or Grievances link for contacts.) One of Judge Evan’s primary administrative duties is to see that the courts of the region have judges available to meet caseload demands. In this regard, he may, from time to time, assign judges to assist in courts where the regular judge of that court is sick, on vacation, or otherwise absent; or in cases where the regular judge must, under the rules, step aside. Occasionally, the regular judge of a court may request that the Presiding Judge assign a judge to assist with case backlog. He is also involved in the oversight of the Title IV-D child support enforcement courts.”

 

 

EIGHTH ADMINISTRATIVE JUDICIAL REGION

RULES OF ADMINISTRATION IN TEXAS

AUTHORITY.

These rules are promulgated pursuant to Article 200a-1. V.T.C.S., and Supreme Court Rules of Judicial Administration, adopted February 4, 1987.

RULE 1.    TIME STANDARDS FOR THE DISPOSITION OF CASES. 

District and statutory county court judges of the county in which cases are filed should, as far as reasonably possible, ensure that all cases brought to trial or final disposition in conformity with the following time standards:

a.    CRIMINAL CASES

As provided by law with the preference given to defendants held in local custody

b.    CIVIL CASES OTHER THAN FAMIY LAW

(1)   Civil Jury Cases

Within 18 months from appearance date.

(2) Civil Nonjury cases

Within 12 months from appearance date.

 

c.    FAMILY LAW CASES

(1)    Contested Family Law Cases

Within 6 months from appearance date or within 5 months from the expiration of the waiting period provided by the Family Code were such is required, whichever is later.

(2)    Uncontested Family Law Cases

Within 3 months from appearance date or within 3 months from the expiration of the waiting period provided by the Family Code where such is required, whichever is later.

 

d.    JUVENILE CASES

As provided by Title 3, Texas Family Code or other applicable law.

 

e.    COMPLEX CASES

It is recognized that in especially complex cases or special circumstances it may not be possible to adhere to these standards.

click here for the full Rules of the 8th Region

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Nov 23 2014

Tarrant County Can’t Handle the Truth

Tarrant County Can’t Handle the Truth

OPINION  – PPC

November 23, 2014

Surprising to see what seems to be the entire Tarrant County Family Court System engaging in the next Title IV-D Associate Judge appointment discussion on the November 21, 2014 PPC Facebook post.  Everyone from private attorneys, county attorneys, county executive directors to district judges supported comments suggesting PPC’s only purpose is to “hate”.  Isn’t it ironic that the victims of the broken family court system are called ‘bullies’ and ‘haters’ when it is the legal community harassing the litigants inside and outside the court?  TruthThe opposing respondents posted comments as if people who felt they were denied due process were making unprecedented statements.

Just yesterday, the Fort Worth Police Department was in the news because they are under a federal investigation for falsifying traffic tickets under a ticket quota system that violates Texas state laws.   Nine officers and the police chief have either resigned or were fired for the accusations of falsifying the documents in order for the officers to earn overtime pay.

Fort Worth Weekly has been reporting regularly the Tarrant County probate courts have been abusing their discretion.  Eighty-five year old Dorothy Luck has been fighting the probate court’s 2008 decision to appoint her a guardian and remove her of all of her rights because the court found her mentally unstable.  While she was a ward of the state, the courthouse appointees decided Luck’s living conditions, and more importantly the court cronies drained her of her assets.  Dorothy Luck has been working with state wide organizations advocating guardianship reform in Texas. In this article, she states she believes the reason the Tarrant County District Judge King decided to release the guardianship ruling was due to the media exposure and led to public awareness.

Ten days ago the Dallas Morning News wrote an article questioning why there is no public outrage when men are victims of domestic violence.  A father in the article was quoted stating the Tarrant County court ‘refused to believe’ the assaults, even with photographs, videotapes of assault and police reports.  His comments substantiate the complaint so many other people report.  Tarrant County is refusing any and all evidence and making rulings based on a belief system instead of the law.

Is this why members of the Tarrant County Family Law Bar Association mobbed the PPC website in the last few days?  Some comments from attorneys appeared to be pure psychological projection. (Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.  For example, a person who is rude may constantly call other people rude.) 

Embedded in the posts, lawyers are attacking individuals for their opinions, which are protected under the first amendment of the Constitution.  Victims of the family court might find it hard to believe the Constitution also guarantees the right to be free from intrusion by the government.  If you saw these same lawyers in court, you might see them advocating first amendment rights when they defame and slander individuals before the honorable judge.  Custody and divorce evaluators will call people names in open court without proof such as: “pathetic”, “disgusting”, “alcoholic”, “liar”, “vindictive bitch”, “drug addict”, “mentally unstable”,  “diagnosed with munchausen by proxy syndrome” , “cheater”, “prostitute”, “sleezy”, “criminal”, “low life”, “abusive”, “crazy”, or “lunatic” .

Do the lawyers opposing the PPC post feel their first amendment rights to free speech precede the general public’s rights due to the lawyers elevated position of power?  Unconstitutional intimidation has been a method for some time now in Tarrant County and that behavior needs to end.

 

Is the Tarrant County legal community in denial of the truth,

or are they just trying to bully their critics into silence?

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your competent attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site is not legal advice. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not be viewed as legal advice.

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Nov 17 2014

Misinterpretation of the Law or Ego?

Misinterpretation of the Law or Ego?

COURT WATCHER REPORT:  November 11, 2014
–click blue text to open embedded documents in another window–

Court Watchers have observed District Judge Judith Wells of the 325th Tarrant County court for several years.   During this period, the court watchers have been entertained with the pattern of theatrics displayed in the 325th associate and district courts.  Attorneys walk into the 325th District Court Judge Judith Wellscourtroom and are usually able to predict exactly what motions the judge wants filed on the case.  Are the attorneys mind-readers? Or, are attorneys and court appointments given instructions by the judge in advance?

Years ago a court watcher asked a local attorney their opinion of Judge Wells.  The answer from the attorney suggested she had gotten really good at screwing people over and making it look legal. Wells has been on the bench since 1991,  so if this is true, imagine the number of families she has devastated with her adverse rulings.

On November 11, 2014, only one court watcher observed a scheduled hearing for a case that has been mishandled since May 2013.  This case is one of the greatest examples of denial of due process, parental right violations and denial of constitutional rights the court watchers have witnessed. Some outsiders have even described the case as criminal.

She has gotten really good at screwing people over.

A married couple was sued separately by their ex-spouses for custody at the same time.  One case was assigned to the 325th and the other to the 231st District court.   District Judge Jesse Nevarez of the 231st court and Judge Wells decided to consolidate the two cases into one instead of having two separate cases heard in two different district courts.   The 325th District court is hearing both cases at the same time with all of the same court appointments.  During hearings, the couple’s ex-spouses sit together on one side of the courtroom with their attorneys while the married couple sits on the other without legal representation.

The judge’s hypocrisy suggesting ‘justice for all’ in a court where parents who are represented by attorneys with personal relationships with the judge triumph and those without counsel or obtain attorneys without favor in her court, are denied all guaranteed constitutional rights.  Today the judge was an obvious hypocrite. Usually Judge Wells tries to appear impartial, but on this date she did not suggest any impartiality.  Attorneys were excused from the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 21a but yet the parents (without attorneys) were challenged and forced to prove compliance. 

Judith Wells Bumper Sticker copy

The attorneys and the parents filed motions for this hearing,  just three weeks before the jury trial the first week of December.   All motions filed by the attorneys were granted, however; every single motion introduced by the parents was denied.  She wanted to let the jury decide the parents’ motions since the trial was only a few weeks away.

Judge Wells hand-picked a faith-based amicus attorney for the children just four weeks before the final trial. Brooks Harrington is a minister and the Legal Director with The Methodist Justice Ministry.  Harrington had to be convinced by Judge Wells to take this case pro bono.  Other PPC members have applied for pro bono representation by Mr. Harrington’s organization and have been turned away.  This is why we are even more curious as to the reason Mr. Harrington has agreed to  represent four children in a complicated jury trial last minute.

The judge and Harrington are trying (in open court, emails and private meetings) to convince the parents that the amicus attorney is there to represent the children’s best interest. So far, the amicus has been a devise tool filing motions with the court that the trial court can’t legally file.

The parents have really done a great job representing themselves in court. The parents filed motions to remove the amicus and an explanation as to what the amicus could possibly accomplish just weeks before the jury trial. The opposing attorneys, Harrington and Judge Wells are all advocating for the amicus to remain on the case. When the mother questioned the court as to why the amicus was needed, they all struggled to convey a  convincing reason.

Judge Wells really showed her hand when this dialogue transpired about the mother’s Motion to Vacate the Amicus Appointment.

JUDGE WELLS: Do you want to argue?

HARRINGTON: Well, I am concerned.

JUDGE WELLS: Well, I’ll ask you the same question that I asked you in the last hearing.  Have you had time to meet with the child?

HARRINGTON:  I have.

JUDGE WELLS: Have you had time to get a brief overview of the case?

HARRINGTON:  More than that your Honor. 

JUDGE WELLS:  Is it your opinion, that the child needs representation independent of the parent parties?

HARRINGTON: yes.

JUDGE WELLS:  Is their anything else you want to say?

THE MOTHER: Yes, an amicus doesn’t represent the child.  An amicus represents the court.

JUDGE WELLS:  I disagree.

THE MOTHER  But an ad litem represents the child.

JUDGE WELLS: I disagree.  But anyway, the Motion to Vacate the Appointment of Amicus Attorney is denied.

Harrington’s first motion filed was a Motion of Limine, an order to deny the jury information pertinent in deciding the custody for 4 children.  The parents would like the opportunity to point out the differences in the hearsay allowed into evidence and lack of convincing evidence that has been excluded into the case.   If given the chance, the parents would be able to demonstrate the fraud that has occurred to an impartial jury and maybe they too would see the parents’ parental rights terminated with (extreme) prejudice.

The Motion of Limine would only benefit one party and that is the court. But wait, the court isn’t a party, so this motion must benefit the children.  Since the amicus attorney was recently appointed to represent four children in a terribly complicated case, one might wonder how this attorney could represent their best interests’.

Per Texas Family Code statute 107.001, (1) “Amicus attorney” means an attorney appointed by the court in a suit, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a child’s best interests rather than to provide legal services to the child. (2) “Attorney ad litem” means an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. And, according to O’Connor v. O’Connor (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] May 17, 2007), the court is the amicus attorney’s client. The amicus is going to cooperate with their client, the court.

“Because the amicus attorney is “to provide legal services to assist the court,” the trial court is, in effect, the amicus attorney’s client for a limited purpose.   But the trial court is not a party either to the underlying case or in this appeal.   Therefore it is as inappropriate for the amicus attorney to file a brief as it would be for the trial court to file one.”

It would appear the appellate court and the statute seem to have an opinion that the amicus attorney represents the court and not the children, unlike what Judge Wells suggested.

Apparently Harrington’s Motion of Limine had some loopholes and the father’s attorney, Matt Riek, decided to file another Motion of Limine on the same case protecting his client and the court’s amicus attorney.  Riek’s Motion of Limine is asking the court to consider contempt of court upon the mother if she, as her own attorney, brings up any issues that prevent his client from a fair and impartial trial. 

Since history has a way of repeating itself, particularly in this case, Judge Wells will sign this order too; thus preventing the parents from seeking justice for themselves and preserving their rights to their children.

If the judge appointed Harrington to represent the children’s best interests, why does Harrington appear to only be protecting the court and Riek’s client’s best interests?

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Nov 10 2014

Opinion by Tarrant County Judge: Limine Motions

Limine Motions – Their Uses And Limitations

Written by District Judge Bonnie Sudderth, 352nd District Court of Tarrant County
July 9, 2011
sudderth

I can’t think about that right now.  If I do, I’ll go crazy.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.
– Scarlett O’Hara

Limine motions use a Scarlett O’Hara approach to evidentiary problem-solving  –  at best, the most they accomplish is putting off the ultimate decision for another day.  No matter whether a limine motion is granted or denied, no final ruling has been made on the admissibility of any evidence whatsoever.  A limine order simply establishes the ground rules by which an offer of evidence can later be made.  Because of this, no limine ruling will ever be considered error or grounds for reversal on appeal.  Understanding this concept is a key component to learning how to most effectively use this evidentiary tool.

It is also important to understand the two basic ground rules which a limine order puts into play.  They are simply this:  If the limine motion is granted, the proponent of evidence must first approach the bench for a ruling outside the jury’s presence before referring to the matter in front of the jury.  If the limine motion is denied, the proponent of the evidence may offer that particular evidence at trial just like any other piece of evidence.

Keeping these broad concepts in mind, when making or responding to a limine motion, here are the basic guidelines:

  • Rules:  Limine motions are creatures of common law.  Because in Texas there are no procedural rules which govern their use, attorneys should generally look to case law for guidance on substantive issues concerning limine rulings, and look to local rules for guidance on deadlines and other procedural aspects of getting them filed and heard.
  • Purpose:   Motions in limine are best used for situations involving inflammatory or highly prejudicial facts of questionable admissibility.  It is an exceptionally good method of identifying in advance evidentiary situations which invoke Rule 404 of the Texas Rules of Evidence – evidence, which although relevant, may be excluded because its probative value is outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice.  A limine order keeps the skunk out of the jury box until the court has made a TRE 404 determination on whether the evidence can come in.  Because this is the essential purpose of the rule, many judges are disinclined to waste time considering limine requests on more mundane matters, absent an agreement between the parties which can be enforced without argument on the point.
  • Preserving Error:  Never rely on a limine ruling to preserve error — it doesn’t.  If the judge denies a motion in limine, then the objecting party must act just as though the limine motion were never filed at all.  At the time the objectionable evidence is offered, a timely, specific objection must be made and a ruling must be obtained thereon.  If the judge grants the motion, the proponent of the evidence must approach the bench outside the hearing and presence of the jury, make an offer of the evidence and get a ruling on the offer.  Oftentimes these offers are made during a bench conference or during a break when the court reporter is not recording the proceedings.  No error is preserved if no record is made of the offer and ruling.  It is also important to remember that error is not preserved unless this offer is made before the jury is charged (even if the parties agree otherwise).
  • Violations:  The appropriate remedy for a limine violation is contempt of court, which is punishable by up to a $500 fine, a 6-month imprisonment, or both.   Because contempt (of court order) is the appropriate remedy for a limine violation, it is important to have a limine order actually entered.  Therefore, a prudent attorney will provide the judge with an order to sign immediately after the court rules on the limine motion.  Without a written order, contempt may not be available as a remedy.  However, a judge may also grant a mistrial in response to a limine order violation.
  • Persuading the Court to Grant the Motion:  Given the fact that many courts don’t allocate much time to hear limine arguments, don’t bury an important limine issue among voluminous boilerplate requests.  Pick the most important issues and focus on them.  Don’t wait until the last minute to file the limine motion.  Absent a local rule governing their use, limine motions may be filed at any time, even after a trial has commenced.  But waiting that late is not advisable.  If a limine motion is important enough to file, then it’s important enough to be filed early and heard well in advance of voir dire.  This is especially important if the admissibility issue is unique or complex.  The chances of having a limine motion granted increase if the judge has had ample time to consider the issue, arguments and perhaps briefing.  Finally, since many limine issues cut both ways, obtaining agreement from opposing counsel on limine issues which are clearly appropriate and mutually beneficial is the easiest way to ensure that your motion is granted.
  • Persuading the Court to Deny a Motion:  Most judges frown on conducting jury trials in piecemeal or disjointed fashion.  If an opponent’s limine motion would require frequent bench conferences outside the jury’s presence on non-inflammatory issues, an attorney may argue that this would impair the effective and efficient presentation of evidence in the case.  So, if the matters raised in the limine motion aren’t potentially prejudicial or inflammatory (such as an attempt to call a non-disclosed witness), then it may be argued that these matters are the type which would best be ruled upon in the ordinary course of trial.
  • When Not to File:  In a bench trial, for obvious reasons, although, believe it or not, I’ve actually seen that attempted a few times.
 
 
 
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Nov 07 2014

You Decide: Can the new Tarrant County Associate Judge (AJ) be impartial?

imagesYou Decide:   Can the new Tarrant County Associate Judge (AJ) be impartial?

Before the AJ was appointed in her position, a modification case between a mother and father had already begun.  PPC has been following the case for a couple of years and ‘politics’ has been an issue. The father is a Fort Worth police officer and Republican candidates in the 2014 local elections made phone calls on the father’s behalf earlier this year.  After the coercive calls, the new AJ  was appointed to the bench.  Her husband works for the Fort Worth Police Department, just like the father in this case.

This month the parents scheduled a hearing before the AJ.  The mother walked into the courtroom and witnessed the judge and police officer father speaking up at the bench without her.  Both parents do not have attorneys so this conversation could be classified as an ‘ex parte’ meeting.  When the mother asked if they started without her, the response from the AJ was she wasn’t sure if she would come or not.  The mother has attended all hearings in the past.

Do you think the AJ’s spouse working for the same department as one of her litigants is a conflict of interest?

 

Grounds for Recusal in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 18b

Grounds for Recusal. A judge must recuse in any proceeding in which:
(1) the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned;
(2) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning the subject matter or a party;
(3) the judge has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;
(4) the judge or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law has been a material
witness concerning the proceeding;
(5) the judge participated as counsel, adviser, or material witness in the matter in controversy, or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of it, while acting as an attorney in government service;
(6) the judge knows that the judge, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge’s spouse or minor
child residing in the judge’s household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding;
(7) the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:
(A) is a party to the proceeding or an officer, director, or trustee of a party;
(B) is known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding; or
(C) is to the judge’s knowledge likely to be a material witness in the proceeding.
(8) the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person within the first degree of relationship to either of
them, or the spouse of such a person, is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding.

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Oct 23 2014

CPS fights to reunite kids with mother but kids’ attorney supports foster parents

COURT WATCH REPORT OCTOBER 15, 2014

Associate District Court 325th in Tarrant County, Texas

CPS fights in court to do the right thing, but child’s ad litem fighting against reunification with mother

CPS-Tarrant

 

Two court watchers observed CPS argue to Judge Terri White, the biological mother is fit to care for her two children removed from her home 15 months ago and placed in a foster home.   CPS attorney, Melissa Paschall, called witnesses and reiterated CPS’ purpose is to reunify parents with their children.  The mother has completed all of her services,  is not accepting any welfare or government aid, is currently raising a 5 month old baby and is living with her parents in a nice four bedroom home.  
Last year, the father of the two children committed family violence and injured one of the children.  Luckily the child’s injury is not permanent, however the father was booked, charged, did time in jail  and currently is on probation.  Court watchers did not hear any testimony supporting why CPS took the children from the mother in the first place.  Court watchers have observed other victims of domestic violence lose their children in other cases too.

 

 

 

The children have been in foster care since June 2013.  The mother has taken many classes including:
1.  A drug program through CPS because she admitted to CPS that she had done drugs as one time in the past.
2.  Individual counseling sessions.
3.  Parenting classes.
4.  10 week FOCUS classes with NewDay Services.
5.  Attended drug and alcohol classes with Safe Haven because she tested positive for marijuana.
6.  Has assessments at the Recovery Resource Council in Fort Worth.

The mother’s  drug test results are negative, she has a job, a stable home with the support of her parents, no longer in a relationship with the abusive father of her children; so, what’s the problem?  The problem is the court appointed ad litem attorney representing the two children is objecting to the reunification.  Attorney Laurie Robinson objected constantly to any information offered to the court suggesting the mother was a positive role model.  The children are under the age of 5 and they have an attorney actively working to keep them in the foster care program.  Robinson’s focus to the court was who the father was of the 5 month old baby the mother has had since her children were removed last year.  The baby is not included in this suit, nor is Robinson representing the baby as the ad litem attorney.

The mother, who resides in Arlington, is only allowed a visit every 2 weeks in the Dallas CPS office.  This arrangement seems to be very inconvenient for the mother and her attorney, Sonya Carillo argued this point as well.  Arlington does not have public transportation and  on a couple of occasions the mother has missed visits with her kids due to problems with her vehicle.  

Robinson did not find this excusable and doggedly wanted the CPS caseworker to testify to the court that the mother was lying about her transportation problems.  Instead, the CPS caseworker testified that CPS seeks to reunify children with their parents but this case has taken longer because the department wanted to be satisfied with the care the mother would give her new baby and the foster parents of her 2 children didn’t agree with the return of the children.  CPS also said under oath, the 5 month old was not removed because their were no grounds, there are no services left for the mother to complete, the mother has done an excellent job with services and her new baby, she has never committed domestic violence on her kids, and the children’s therapist has only worked with the foster parents and has never worked with the mother.  

This case will be dismissed in two months and the foster parents hired attorney Greg Housewirth to intervene in this case two days ago. Housewirth filed a Petition to Intervene for Termination and Adoption of Child on behalf of his clients.  Interestingly, Mr. Housewirth appeared at this hearing when his clients were not part of the motion.  The judge allowed him to sit with counsel and he attempted to ask questions and make objections.  The mother’s court appointed attorney, Carillo, continuously reminded the court the inappropriateness for his behavior and presence, but the judge only made exceptions for him.  Judge White allowed him to cross examine witnesses on the stand through the ad litem attorney.  Attorneys Paschall and Carrillo throughout the hearing were visibly irritated with the many exceptions the judge was allowing.  

Even worse, Judge White and attorney Robinson would interrupt attorney Carrillo’s line of questioning of the CPS caseworker.  CPS was answering questions related to findings and investigations of the mother by their department.   Judge White and Robinson both interrupted and discussed together what they remembered was different than what was being offered in testimony.  CPS attorney Paschall was able to validate the caseworker’s testimony.

The therapist, Andrea M. Davis LPC.,  in this case was clearly biased.  She had never met the mother, but was able to make recommendations and opinions of the mother’s ability to parent based on other therapist’s progress notes and CPS’s  records.  The mother’s attorney obviously objected and asked how she could offer an opinion based on someone else’s opinion.  The therapist has weekly counseling sessions at the foster parent’s home or in her office (total of 24 times) but is not willing to hold any sessions in the mother’s home.  I believe at one time while the therapist was testifying, the ad litem offered to the court the older child has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  CPS and the mother’s attorney kept objecting, but the judge would side with the ad litem.  Attorney Robinson may be a nurse, but she not licensed as a psychiatrist or psychologist who can diagnose mental illnesses.

The judge was to rule on CPS’ motion to allow the mother to have 4 hour unsupervised visitations with her boys to start a process of a rapid return of permanency in their mother’s home.  CPS reiterated in the hearing their desire to reunite the children with their mother as this is always their goal. The judge’s ruling is unknown at this time, however, she did rule the mother is court ordered to take a paternity DNA test to determine who the father of her 5 month old baby is, who is not a part of this suit.

On this day, PPC Court Watcher’s witnessed CPS fighting to do what is in the child’s best interest of the children, while the court appointed attorney fought to keep the children from their mother.

In this case, there are 4 court appointed attorneys paid by Tarrant County.  So far a total of $4683.54 has been spent on the case just in attorney fees.  In CPS cases, attorneys are paid $100 an hour.  According to invoices submitted to the court, the ad litem attorney, Laurie Robinson, has been paid a disproportionate amount in this case.  Robinson has made $3600  (76%)  and the mother’s attorney, Sonya Carrillo, has been paid $613.54 (13%) of the total fees expenditures.  The percentages actually represent the number of hours the attorneys have worked on the case and according to the invoices.  Robinson has worked 36 hours representing the two toddler children versus Carrillo who was just as prepared for court, has worked 6 hours representing the mother.

This case begs the question, whose interests is the court protecting?

 

 

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Aug 13 2014

Tarrant County 360th District Court Reversed For Not Providing a Record

 

Another recent appeal from a Tarrant County family court ruling resulted in a reversal and remanded family case. The 360th District Judge, Mike Sinha, failed to ensure that a reporter’s record was taken at trial even though Section 105.003 of the Texas Family Code says a record SHALL be made unless waived by the parties.

See the full appeal here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2SxgmLebjiLb3BCazgzOVdZNmM/edit?usp=sharing

The statute says:
§ 105.003. Procedure for Contested Hearing
(c) A record shall be made as in civil cases generally unless waived by the parties with the consent of the court. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 105.003 (West).
 

Texas courts say:

“This provision places a duty on the court to make a record of the proceedings.” Rogers v. Rogers, 561 S.W.2d 172, 173 (Tex. 1978).

A “record refers to the recording of oral testimony. Thus, the pleadings, motions and orders here—which do not record oral testimony—are not section [105.003(c)] records.”  Ramirez v. Sanchez, 871 S.W.2d 534, 535 (Tex. App. 1994)

“The court has a duty to make a record in all suits affecting the parent-child relationship, unless such record is waived by the parties with the consent of the court. A party may waive the making of a record by express written agreement, or by not objecting to the lack of record during the hearing. However, if the “appellant was not present and was not represented by counsel when the testimony was taken, and he later discovers no record was made, the lack of record cannot easily be waived.”  O’Connell v. O’Connell, 661 S.W.2d 261, 263 (Tex. Civ. App. 1983)

“When a party is present before the court, due diligence must be exercised in seeking a record… The appellate record reflects that Marks was present and represented by counsel at the final hearing, that Marks entered an agreed order authorizing the associate judge to conduct the final hearing, that the parties waived the making of a record and that the associate judge, while neglecting to include an affirmative statement of waiver in his report, proceeded to conduct the final hearing without a court reporter or other means of recordation. The actions of the associate judge, viewed together with the recitation of waiver in the final order and Marks’s failure to show or even allege that he actually objected to the lack of a court reporter, support the conclusion that Marks waived the making of a record in the final hearing before the associate judge.” In re D.J.M., 114 S.W.3d 637, 639-40 (Tex. App. 2003)

 

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Aug 01 2014

District Judge Nevarez sanctions wife for jury request

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COURT WATCHER REPORT- 231st District Court -Tarrant County
AUGUST 1, 2014

On February 19, 2013  a motion was brought before the court for a Post Divorce Division of Property.  The husband is represented by attorney Mark Cochran and the wife currently by attorney Robert Widner.  The records suggest the father’s salary is close to $1 million a year. The wife alleges fraud and perjury by her ex-husband because he intentionally was deceitful to the court by hiding $850,000 worth of assets at the time of the divorce.

On April 21, 2014, Judge Nevarez ordered the wife to pay $30,000 into the ‘court registry’. The 231st District Judge (Nevarez) ordered her to pay the court the full amount within 10 days of the ruling.  She works part-time and was forced to empty her IRA account and take out a home equity loan in order to comply with the judge’s order.  Court watchers have been reporting ‘conditional rulings’ by the 360th District Judge (Sinha) and it would appear the newly elected 231st District Judge is doing the same.  This $30,000 was ordered after the mother requested a trial by jury.  The transcript images attached are from the April 28, 2014 hearing.  Could the conditional sanction by the court be because the mother requested a jury to hear the case?

After today’s hearing, a witness reported to PPC the husband’s attorney, Mark Cochran, was overheard stating “if I don’t get all of the $30,000 then I will get $15,000 or something”.  

When the hearing was over, the PPC Court Watcher asked Judge Nevarez what a ‘court registry’ was and he explained it as an account held and controlled by the judge when parties cannot be trusted with money.  

PPC’s question is:  Why does the wife have to provide the court $30,000 when the husband is hiding close to a million dollars in assets?

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