Category Archive: Tarrant County

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Apr 07 2016

Is a Family Attorney Blaming the Judges for Toddler Leiliana Wright’s Death?

Is a Family Attorney Blaming the Judges for Toddler Leiliana Wright’s Death?

April 7, 2016

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.36.38 PM

Judge Bill Harris interviewed by Fox 4 News April 5, 2016.

A Tarrant County family law attorney reached out to Protective Parents Coalition to set the record straight about what Judge Harris & Judge Haddock WOULD have known about Leiliana Wright’s case.  Not only is the public outraged by Judge Harris’ response on Fox 4 New’s interview, but so are some local attorneys.  

In the interview, Judge Harris states, “The associate judge did not hear a word of evidence and did not have one document admitted into evidence,” said Harris. “[She] based her recommendations solely on the representations of all of the parties and all of the attorneys of record.”

Fox 4 News also reports, “Harris says Quezada’s arrest record was not offered into evidence. He says he still has questions of his own.

Harris says there’s no court documentation of CPS’s involvement, and it’s unclear when it stepped in. Harris says it’s potentially one reason why some critical information didn’t come to light.

‘It certainly appears that there should have been a hearing in this case,’ said Harris. ‘It certainly appears the court should have been given evidence about the mother and her circumstances. I think it was tragic the court was never allowed to hear that evidence.’

Harris says he’s requested all of the information and material related to Leiliana’s case from CPS. He hopes to get that information by next week.”

A local family rebuts Judge Harris’ comments he and his associate judge had no evidence offered in their courts.

Quote from a Tarrant County family attorney*:


1.  From the outset the court record included the affidavit by the Grandparents attached to the Original Petition. The files are sent up to the judges always the day before the hearing, and they are supposed to review the files BEFORE the scheduled hearings. (You have likely seen the court going through the file extensively during court proceedings to make sure things are in order and asking questions). The Judges had sufficient information in the file to give them notice that it was a high-risk case. CPS is even mentioned in the affidavit.  See FULL Petition for Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship filed by paternal grandparents.

GParents Affidavit Quezada

CPS and drug use in grandparents affidavit in the Leiliana Wright case.

2.  The Judge can require the parties to appear before them with their proposed agreed order and probe further before electing to sign the agreed order.  It clearly states in all prepared Orders that “The Court Finds that the following orders are in the best interests of the child”, regardless of the parties agreements.  Further, the Judge can always call a hearing such as those to ascertain the status of the case as was done in the Wright case.  In fact, the parties appeared at a Status Hearing ordered by the Court before Judge Haddock where the contested issues in this case were to be discussed.  Again, Judge Haddock would have had the file before her and all filings while she conducted the status conference.

3.  The scribbled out Associate Judges Report –Agreed TOs [temporary orders] in this case is weird enough so that a judge should have noticed upon signing that this is an odd agreement and checked the file for the case and called them up.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.39.54 PM

4.  This case was in front of a judge numerous times, including:

(a) having Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Orders presented and signed prior to service on the killer mom. The judges would have read that affidavit in order to approve these Orders.

(b) presenting and having Orders for Alternative Service signed;

(c) Judge Haddock ordering drug testing for the dad and killer mom; and

(d) according to the final Order, the killer mom and the grandmother appeared at the prove-up in person in front of [District Judge] Harris. THE ENTIRE FILE WAS IN THE HANDS OF THE JUDGE AT EACH OF THESE OCCASSIONS AND RIGHT UNDER THEIR NOSE. IF THEY DID NOT LOOK THROUGH IT THEY FAILED TO OBSERVE PROTOCOL AND EXERCISE DUE CARE. This includes the day that the parties agreed to waive a hearing and enter the agreed Temporary Orders. The judges had sufficient information in the record to challenge and should have challenged the parties and the attorneys in this case on these arrangements for the child.

5.  The Affidavit references CPS.  If CPS had a case open on this, they should have been consulted.  Again, the Judge should have seen the reference to CPS in the file.

6.  The attorneys should have engaged the court more fully. Apparently the grandparents’ attorney was afraid they would be punished somehow by [Associate Judge] Haddock if they pushed a hearing for primary custody. This is a very reasonable fear on his part given how notoriously abusive [District Judge] Harris and [Associate Judge] Haddock are. There is a culture of intimidation at the family court and many attorneys & parties know that they will be abused if they go before a certain judge, get a punitive ruling, or get slammed with ad litems and costs. That’s all. This is a big one and I don’t like hearing [District Judge] Harris act like they were clueless. As a matter of record they were not.

The bottom line is this.  There was sufficient information in the court file to give the court notice that there was a high risk situation here.  All they had to do is look at the file when they had it, which was frequently in this case.  They had the authority to and should have raised the obvious concerns. The attorney also shares some fault for not fighting hard enough for this child. AGAIN, the reason he wasn’t fighting is he was afraid of these judges, which is unacceptable.  He was understandably worried about his client being punished and abused if he fought and that is the fault of the judges for fostering a culture of intimidation instead of doing their jobs.

Really sickening case.”

* (Attorney name confidential due to fear of retaliation)

 

Not legal advice:  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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Mar 29 2016

Judge Diane Haddock ruling puts child in harms way

Judge Diane Haddock ruling puts child in harms way

March 29, 2016

TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS

233rd Associate Judge Diane Haddock, Fort Worth, Texas

233rd Associate Judge Diane Haddock granted this mother sole managing conservator of her daughter. And now the child is dead and the mother charged.

Another example of Judge Haddock’s order harming children by placing children in unfit homes. Texas judges are required to meet the ‘best interests standard’ and Associate Judge Haddock is failing.

District Judge Bill Harris of the 233rd Court selected her, therefore he is held accountable for Haddock’s reckless decisions under his watch.

This case is an example of children dying due to the family court judges’ sadistic rulings.

Associate Judge Order: CLICK HERE 

District Final Order: CLICK HERE

 

 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

STAR-TELEGRAM ARTICLE – March 29, 2016

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Mar 29 2016

Tarrant County needs a Task Force to review child abuse cases and deaths

Tarrant County needs a Task Force to review child abuse cases and deaths 

BY PROTECTIVE PARENTS COALTION

MARCH 29, 2016

Maybe the Mayor of Fort Worth should have some discussions with the Tarrant County family judges about how they rule in child abuse abuse cases.

PPC sees many children court ordered to abusive and unfit homes and the judges choose to ignore the substantiated evidence of abuse. Sometimes the judges will make excuses for the unfit parent.

Tarrant has been the leading county with the most abused children in the state of Texas for many years. It is time for a change and an investigation.

 

**  (Update:  Another child death in Tarrant County.  April 5, 2016:  Leiliana Wright (4 year old), died after court ordered mother sole managing conservator.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Child abuse cases, deaths increase in Tarrant County in 2015

 

BY DIANE SMITH

dianesmith@star-telegram.com

MARCH 28, 2016

FORT WORTH
Tarrant County dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 statewide in the number of confirmed child abuse cases from 2014 to 2015, but child and parenting advocates say there is nothing good about the news.

That’s because the number of abuse cases grew to 6,213, from 6,097, and the number of child fatalities increased to 16, from 11, according to a recent report from Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“This is a devastating issue for our community that we simply must talk about,” Mayor Betsy Price told community leaders Monday during a Child Abuse Prevention Month kickoff event held at The Parenting Center in Fort Worth. “I’m not proud of the statistics on child abuse in our county.”

6,213 confirmed child abuse or neglect cases in Tarrant County in 2015.

Harris County led the state with 6,360 confirmed child abuse and neglect cases in 2015, Dallas County was third with 5,847 and Bexar County had 4,941. Statewide, there were 66,721 cases.

In 2014, Tarrant County led Texas in the number of confirmed child abuse cases.

The Parenting Center is putting the spotlight on child abuse prevention in April with the 2016 Shades of Blue campaign. At Monday’s kickoff, blue pinwheels were dedicated to victims of child abuse and neglect. Community leaders dipped their hands in blue paint and put their handprints on a playground fence to mark their commitment to this fight.

“We feel that the various ways in which abuse or neglect might look like mirrors the way that different shades of blue might be,” said Paul Gravley, executive director at The Parenting Center. “Since blue is the color of Child Abuse Awareness Month we wanted to make sure that we represented that well.”

“We have a lot of work to do in order for that number to go to zero,” Gravley said.

Deaths increase by 45 percent

The 16 deaths attributed to child abuse in Tarrant County represent a 45 percent increase from 2014, according to the data. Tarrant County had the third highest number of child abuse/neglect related fatalities in Texas. Harris County led the state with 25 cases and Dallas County was second with 24 deaths.

Tarrant County Family CourthouseAmong high-profile fatalities in Tarrant County:

Kamron Taylor, 2, of Fort Worth, died from injuries that authorities said were inflicted by his father, 25-year-old Demarcus Trishun Taylor. He was arrested on a capital murder warrant.

Adrian Langlais, 2, of Fort Worth, died after suffering severe head trauma, including multiple skull fractures and bleeding on the brain. Christian Tyrrell, 22, the toddler’s mother’s boyfriend, was indicted on a capital murder charge in the case.

Lamont Bickerstaff, 10 months, of Arlington, died of “battered infant syndrome,” and his mother, Shakira Bickerstaff, 23, was arrested on a capital murder warrant after admitting to police that she shook her infant son, Lamont, and hit his head on a table. She initially told police that Lamont had fallen out of bed.

The cases typify some of the local data on child abuse. For example, 79 percent of confirmed perpetrators are parents and 42 percent are between the ages of 26 and 35.

Price said perpetrators are often “very young adults” who lack parenting skills. Stress and frustration can lead to abuse, she said. Parenting education is a critical piece of addressing abuse, Price said.

“They have to stop and think before they make a terrible mistake,” Price said.

Assistance available to parents

Suzanne Stevenson, family life education program director at The Parenting Center, said child abuse leaves a legacy of “hidden scars.” It often happens in secret and it cuts across demographic lines.

“Parents are suffering from a lot of stress,” she said, adding that The Parenting Center can help parents better handle the situations that can lead to abuse.

Gravley said there are many resources available for parents at The Parenting Center, including a free and confidential parenting advice phone line people can access from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center has offered classes throughout the county on issues that cover birth to college.

“If you have a kid, we have a class tailored specifically to that kid,” he said.

Andrea Rios, 32, went from loving aunt to loving parent of her niece and nephews when her sister passed away from an asthma complication almost three years ago. She needed help and began attending sessions at the center. The classes helped her cope with loss and become a stronger parent of little ones.

“It was hard to handle,” said Rios, who cares for children ages 3, 4 and 5. “They came for their grief and my grief.”

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

HELP FOR PARENTS
Parents and caregivers can get advice about raising children from noon to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday by calling 817-332-6399.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article68687037.html#storylink=cpy

 

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Mar 03 2016

Did the judge condone a theft in her courtroom committed by her bailiff?

Did the judge condone a theft in her courtroom committed by her bailiff?

March 2, 2016

Associate judge’s courtroom runs amok

TFRW Senate District 10 Director

Associate Judge Diane Haddock of Tarrant County & TFRW Senate District 10 Director

THE PRE-MEDITATION

At 9:35 am, a court watcher walks into the almost empty 233rd courtroom in Tarrant County. Only the bailiff, Associate Judge (AJ) Diane Haddock and an attorney setting up for her hearing are in the room. As we sit in silence, the judge from the 325th District Court, Judge Judith Wells enters the courtroom through the public entrance. This was a surprise not only to the court watcher, but also to AJ Diane Haddock. The judges usually do not enter other judge’s courtrooms from the public entrance. Instead they would use the back door to the courtroom across from the judge’s chambers. AJ Diane Haddock made a joke with District Judge Wells wondering if she should stand when she walked into the room. District Judge Wells stated, ‘Oh I was just here to see Laurie,” then whispered to ‘Laurie’.

Five minutes later, Judge Well’s AJ Terri White, peeks her head in the courtroom from the chambers entrance and asks if AJ Haddock has a minute. AJ Haddock leaves the bench and ducks out into the hall to meet with the judge. At this time only the attorney, the court watcher and the bailiff were in the courtroom. AJ Haddock returns to the bench after several minutes and by this time the courtroom was filling up with people. Approximately 17 people entered the courtroom by 9:50 am.

The bailiff appeared to be on a mission and walked briskly from his desk, down the aisle and exited the courtroom three times. Several attorneys were ‘staged’ to stand behind and in front of the court watcher. AJ Diane Haddock was sitting at her bench doing paperwork while the courtroom was filled with litigants waiting for their cases to be called. The litigants sat in silence waiting while attorneys and the bailiff walked in and out of the courtroom.

THE ILLEGAL ACT

Finally around 10:22 am., the judge appears to be ready to begin. But, she suddenly says, “Do you hear that phone ringing?” The courtroom was silent and the court watcher heard no ringing. The bailiff said, yes I do. Then two  attorneys agreed they heard a ring too. The bailiff then walked away from his desk, plowed down the aisle and began to exit the courtroom. The court watcher was sitting in the seat closest to the back door and could not see but heard the bailiff behind her. Then, he suddenly turned around and as he was walking back towards the judge he bent down and reached into the court watcher’s purse on the floor, grabbed her cell phone, and held it up in the air and announced, “I found it!”. He then walked straight up to the bench and set it on the judge’s desk.

The court watcher protested and demanded her cell phone back. She stood up and approached the bar and told the judge her bailiff had reached into her purse and took her cell phone. The judge then began to set an example of the court watcher and said that the reason cell phones have to be completely off is because phones can be used as recording devices, per Texas Supreme Court orders. The next thing she said was grossly inaccurate and one might question her moral turpitude  after she made the next statement.  Children are committing suicide because parents are recording court hearings and posting them online.  The courtroom was packed with a hired expert, two subpoenaed witnesses, attorneys, litigants and family members.  All of these individuals are witnesses to the statements made by the judge.

As the court watcher stood there shocked the bailiff stole her phone, she became mortified that a judge would made such a reckless statement before the court. Kids are killing themselves because of what they heard inside a courtroom. If this is AJ Haddock’s experience, what kind of horrific events are happening in her court that cause children to want to kill themselves?

It was obvious AJ Haddock, the bailiff and attorneys imagined a cellphone ringing in the courtroom to attempt to embarrass the court watcher. After the lecture from AJ Haddock, she asked the court watcher if she was recording.  She said no, then instructed the bailiff to return the court watcher’s phone. The court watcher sat back down and took more notes about what had just occurred.

Shortly after the court watcher was berated by AJ Haddock for her quiet cell phone in her purse, one of AJ Haddock’s ‘friends of the court’ was in the courtroom named ‘Deborah’.  Deborah’s cell phone rang loudly in the courtroom. This of course created an awkward situation for the judge and bailiff because of their recent treatment of the court watcher when an imaginary ring was heard by only the court personnel.  Again, AJ Haddock talked about the Texas Supreme Court rules and this time she said, children are harming themselves because parents are recording and posting their court cases online.

THE HISTORY OF THREATS

In November 2014, the bailiff’s supervisor filed a complaint with Internal Affairs for ‘violating Civil Service Rule 12.02.15; specifically Tarrant County Electronic Communications System Policy (3) (A) (2), while on duty and at his assigned duty station, he sent several messages and instant messages which contained offensive references.” The bailiff was investigated for electronic communications with two other 233rd District Court employees (another bailiff and the court coordinator) about this court watcher. The bailiff used the court watcher’s full name and compared her to a Nazi, stated members of the PPC are a threat to public safety, called court watchers “P.O.S” (acronym for ‘piece of sh@t’) and wrote she could be stopped if the bailiffs would “Cock and drop your ASP and accidentally take out a knee trying to catch it before it hits the floor. That should do it.”

BAILIFFS Pg1 BAILIFFS Pg2

The two bailiffs were under direction of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department and investigated by Internal Affairs.  The bailiff featured in this article quit and was never sanctioned by the Sheriff’s Department.  PPC does not know if District Judge Bill Harris disciplined the 233rd court coordinator for her participation in the inappropriate emails.

THE BAILIFF BILL 

Judge Harris was reportedly furious with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office not only disciplining his bailiffs, but was also angry Sheriff Dee Anderson removed them from his court. The sheriff might have believed it wasn’t the court watcher that was a threat to public safety but instead it was his bailiffs. Judge Harris requested State Representative Matt Krause to author a bill to give him the power to hire his own bailiff. The bill failed, but was presented as an amendment in another bill and it passed. Therefore, the two bailiffs who were sanctioned for harassing the public are now Judge Bill Harris’ employees and he is directly responsible for their conduct.   (Click here for related bailiff harassment post)

AFTER THE ILLEGAL ACT

When the courtroom was empty again, only AJ Haddock, the court watcher and bailiff were in the courtroom. The court watcher wanted clarification on a couple of items the judge had mentioned. The court watcher asked the judge to clarify which Texas Supreme Court law did not permit recordings in the courtroom. AJ Haddock was not able to name the law. At first she said it was posted on a sign by the bailiff’s desk. She was referring to District Judge Bill Harris’ court policy, not a Texas Supreme Court law. Then she thought the law might be in the Texas Court Reporters rules but she wasn’t sure. Then she thought maybe the Office of the Attorney General wrote an opinion for the IV-D courts to have limited recordings in the courtrooms. No law was given however AJ Haddock told a courtroom full of people TWICE there was a law.

Then the court watcher asked about what case she was referring to when she said a child killed themself over a court hearing recording. She said she never said the word ‘killed’, she said she only used the word ‘harmed’. (The court watcher looked back at her notes and revealed the first lecture by AJ Haddock the word ‘suicide’ was used and the second lecture AJ Haddock used the word ‘harmed’.) So the court watcher pressed and asked for details about this child ‘harming’ themselves. AJ Haddock did not know of a situation when a parent posted a recording online and a child injuring themselves – ever. The only conclusion the court watcher could come to was that AJ Haddock, as an un-elected judge who was appointed by District Judge Bill Harris, just lied twice in a public forum. The real question is, how often does this happen?

The bailiff has always been under direct supervision of the judge while in the courtroom even when the Sheriff provided the bailiffs to the family courts. Since the ‘Bailiff Bill’ has been passed under SB 1139, the district judge that hires the bailiffs is responsible for all of their actions. When a district judge hires a bailiff for his associate judge’s courtroom, the associate judge is responsible for their actions and is their direct supervisor. But after the bailiff had 17 witnesses of him reaching into the court watcher’s purse, all of a sudden AJ Diane Haddock said she was just an employee and was not in charge of anyone.

As an associate judge, she has almost as much power as a district judge authorized by the Texas Family Code. One could argue the judge and bailiff coordinated the theft of a phone from their common adversary.  The court watcher reported to AJ Haddock repeatedly her bailiff reached into her purse and took her cellphone without permission.  AJ Haddock ignored and did not address the complaints until after the 5th time.  AJ Haddock looked at the bailiff and sarcastically said, “Okay, now don’t reach into anyone’s purse.  Okay?” 

RESULTS

(1)  Instead of hearing the cases on the docket for the day, the judge reset the cases to be heard on another day.  The litigants did not have their day in court today.

(2)  When the court watcher challenged the associate judge, she could not recite the law prohibited court recordings or a case where a child self-harmed due to court recordings being posted on the internet.

(3)  The expert and two subpoenaed witnesses will be forced to come back to court in three weeks.  And, after all the judge’s fear mongering on the bench, the courtroom was empty (again) by 11:30.

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Tarrant County’s tax dollars are being drained by premeditated shenanigans against members of the public attempting to hold the family judges accountable. It was obvious on this day why court watchers and audio/video recordings are desperately needed in the Tarrant County kangaroo family courtrooms.

****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 22 2016

The Family Court’s Secret Wheel

The Family Court’s Secret Wheel

February 22, 2016

Everyone follows the rules, except the Tarrant County (Fort Worth, TX) family courts.  Across the street from the family courts, is the brand new $4 million dollar courthouse handling the county’s civil and probate cases.  Several blocks away sits the criminal courthouse.  Since 2015, all of these courts are statutorily required to post and utilize a rotating court appointment wheel.

Not only to rotate qualified attorneys appointed on cases, but the courts must post, manage and report all court appointments to the Office of Court Administration. Part of the motivation by Senator Zaffirini authoring SB 1876, is to ensure transparency and foster efficiancy in the Texas courts.  

A Houston probate court judge questioned the new bill.  “As characterized by Judge Olsen, SB 1876 requires judges to make a list of ‘qualified persons’ for appointments, then move down the appointment list in a robotic fashion, ‘mindlessly picking the next person on the list, unless there is cause.’ The judge is no longer free to pick the best qualified person at his disposal, unless he jumps through the hoop of finding good cause,” said the letter. “By requiring a judge to make individual appointments for each case, the legislature is interfering with the manner by which a judge manages his docket.”   

Protective Parents Coalition (PPC) for years have questioned the appointment practices in the family courts and were quite pleased when Senator Zaffirini agreed some of our courts were plagued with a horrible disease called cronyism.  We hoped the problem would be fixed, so we checked.

As of today, the Tarrant County Probate Court Appointment policy can be found here:  TC Probate Appointment Policy. The Tarrant County Criminal Court Appointments are handled through the (Tarrant) Office of Court Appointments. And, the Tarrant County Civil Courts post their qualified court appointment lists on the first floor for the public to view, per Texas Gov. Code 37.005.

IMG_2293 Texas Gov. Code: Sec. 37.005. POSTING OF LISTS. A court annually shall post each list established under Section 37.003 at the courthouse of the county in which the court is located and on any Internet website of the court.

On February 16, 2016, PPC filed an open records request for the family wheel policy, appointments since 9/1/2015, and the public list of qualified attorneys on the wheel.  We were notified today these documents are not considered open records and we must put a request in writing to each judge for the information.  The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Open Records Office stated,

I am in receipt of the above referenced request. However, I am not the custodian of judicial records. Since your request seeks judicial records, you will need to direct your inquiry to each district court judge for the records they maintain. You can get the contact information for each district judge on the County’s web page www.Tarrantcounty.com.”
 

Yes, the family judges maintain the records, but the statute requires posting inside the courthouse and online.  We will file a request to each Tarrant family judge and report back with our results.

One could argue there is no accountability or transparency in the Tarrant County family courts.  

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Feb 17 2016

Ad litem gets paid behind closed doors of 231st District Court

 

Ad litem gets all expense paid trip to Europe in a behind-the-doors-proceeding paid for by the parties

February 19, 2016

 

Jesse-Nevarez

FACTS:

  •  An elderly couple wanted a divorce in the 231st District Court of Tarrant County.  Wife has dual citizenship and lives in England.

  • Divorce involves a disputed prenuptial agreement and a respondent residing in England (the wife) allegedly suffering from dementia.

  • Wife had adult daughter help her move and receive medical help her husband refused to give. Wife alleges physical and mental abuse by her husband.  

  • Judge Jesse Nevarez orders wife a court ordered ad litem attorney due to wife’s state of dementia/Alzheimer’s/medical state. (click here)

  • Husband was ordered to pay ad litem fees and the fees of attorney #1 who is representing the ad litem. Apparently a second attorney for the ad litem, attorney #2, was being paid as well according to case records when husband appealed court’s ruling regarding $16,000.00 for ad litem travel to England. (click here) & (click here)

  • The wife appeared in person and had her deposition taken in Fort Worth,Texas. (click here)

  • The filings indicate that the wife was moved to England by family members due to decreased health.

  • The findings indicate that the doctors of the wife had been interviewed on video tape and provided to the attorneys and the ad litem in the case. The daughter of the wife had been the party videotaping.

  • Attorney ad litem insisted over the objections of the husband side to go to England in person to depose the same doctors. The husband suggested that another video tape of the doctors be made with a different person filming if necessary.

  • The demands of the ad litem were approved by the judge and the husband filed a writ of mandamus to the Court of Appeals asking them to reverse this ruling for what they considered to be unnecessary fees. (click here)

  • The Court of Appeals declined to review based on technicalities so the judges order allowing this trip to England stood.  Filing also indicate that wife’s ad litem was provided an order giving her control of wife’s bank account in Texas – presumably to pay for ad litem’s own fees and other attorneys ad litem hired for herself.  Shockingly no record was made of the hearing before the lower court arguing over this trip and ad litem fees.

  • No record was made of the hearing before the lower court arguing over this trip and ad litem fees.

  • The husband argued that other methods were available to determine information regarding the wife such as email mail or phone. His objections were overruled by the court. The husband argued in fact that the ad litem have presented no evidence during the in chambers hearing supporting this trip to England or to support the $16,000 amount demanded for this trip to England.

  • After this dispute the records show only activity for motions and orders to secure attorney fees for the attorney ad litem and her personal attorneys which were never appointed by the court or the wife.

  • The husband shortly thereafter asked for the divorce case to be dismissed all together. The attorney ad litem objected to having this case dismissed. However, Judge Nevarez ruled in the favor of husband allowing him to dismiss the case.

  • The husband appealed the trial court’s decision stating the court abused it’s discretion by ordering him to pay ad litem to travel to England to speak with his wife and her caregivers through evidence offered during “the in chambers hearing with respect to the Motion filed by [ad litem] Robinson.”

—COURT OF APPEALS DECISION BELOW—

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.22.29 AM

 

 


 

Court of Appeals OPINION:

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fort Worth.
IN RE: Ronald P. Quintana
NO. 02-15-00305-CV
Decided: October 22, 2015
PANEL: GABRIEL, DAUPHINOT, and WALKER, JJ.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 1

In this mandamus proceeding arising from a divorce action, relator Ronald P. Quintana argues that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to pay for the real party in interest’s attorney ad litem, Laurie D. Robinson, to travel to England to speak with the real party in interest, Mary H. Quintana, and her caregivers.  Because we conclude Ronald has failed to comply with the procedural requirements to gain such extraordinary relief, we deny the petition.  See Tex.R.App. P. 52.8(a).

Ronald and Mary, who have no children together, are in the process of divorcing.  Robinson filed a motion for additional temporary orders, requesting that Ronald “be ordered to pay reasonable interim attorney’s fees and expenses” to allow Robinson and her attorney “to travel to England to obtain deposition testimony of the medical care providers of ․ Mary.” Both Ronald and Mary agree that a hearing was held on Robinson’s motion and that no record was made of the hearing.2  Ronald’s attorney states in her affidavit attached to the mandamus petition that “[n]o evidence was presented by the Attorney Ad Litem of a need for her to travel to England to see Mary.” Mary’s attorney states in his verified response that “evidence was offered during the in chambers hearing with respect to the Motion filed by ․ Robinson.”  Indeed, Ronald recognizes in his petition several facts that were “reported” or “stated” at the hearing.

In any event, the trial court ordered Ronald “to deposit the sum of [$8,000] with LAURIE ROBINSON, R.N ․ as a deposit against the cost of her traveling to England” and ordered Frost Bank to “disburse the sum of [$8,000] from [Mary’s] account ․ payable to LAURIE ROBINSON, R.N. for the purpose of traveling to England.”  Ronald objected to the order because “[n]o evidence was presented to support the payment of expenses and travel time for the Ad Litem to travel to England in the amount of $16,000” and because “other methods are available to determine information regarding Mary,” such as “mail, email, or phone.”  Ronald states in his petition that his objections were overruled.

Ronald now seeks mandamus relief from the order requiring him to pay for half of the costs for Robinson and her attorney to travel to England to speak with Mary and her medical caregivers.  Ronald argues that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the temporary order because “[n]o evidence was presented by the Attorney Ad Litem of the necessity to see Mary, no request had been made for the Attorney Ad Litem to come to England, and no evidence or argument was made of why the trip was reasonable or necessary.”  Ronald also seems to assert that the order was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion because Ronald and Mary had signed a prenuptial agreement, requiring each party to pay their own legal fees in the event of a divorce.  Although Ronald states that he raised the prenuptial agreement in his objections to the trial court’s order, he did not.

Ronald attached to his petition copies of Robinson’s motion for temporary orders, the resulting order, and his objections to the order.  Ronald’s attorney certified that “[t]he documents attached in the appendix are documents filed in this cause of action.”  Ronald also attached his attorney’s affidavit in which she swore to several facts regarding the underlying divorce, the need for the appointment of an attorney ad litem for Mary, and what occurred at the hearing on the attorney ad litem’s motion.

In seeking mandamus relief, a relator is required to file a record that includes “a certified or sworn copy of every document that is material to the relator’s claim for relief and that was filed in any underlying proceeding.”  Tex.R.App. P. 52.7(a)(1);  see also Tex.R.App. P. 52.3(k)(1)(A).  We must strictly adhere to this requirement to ensure the integrity of the mandamus record.  See In re Hunting, No. 05–15–00200–CV, 2015 WL 737408, at *1 (Tex.App.–Dallas Feb. 20, 2015, orig. proceeding) (mem.op.).  Here, Ronald’s attorney merely certified that the three attached filings were “documents filed in this cause of action.” 3  This is insufficient to render those documents sworn copies of those filed in the trial court.  See In re Kim, No. 05–14–01344–CV, 2014 WL 6556269, at *1 n.1 (Tex.App.—Dallas Oct. 23, 2014, orig. proceeding) (mem.op.) (concluding that affidavit stating “all the documents included in the Record ․ are either pleadings that are on file in the underlying suit ․ or orders signed by the trial court in the underlying suit” insufficient to authenticate mandamus record under rules 52.3(k) and 52.7(a));  In re Butler, 270 S.W.3d 757, 759 (Tex.App.–Dallas 2008, orig. proceeding) (finding affidavit insufficient to authenticate mandamus record because it did not state affiant had “personal knowledge the copy of the order in the appendix is a correct copy of the original”).

Additionally, “[t]he person filing the petition must certify that ․ she has reviewed the petition and concluded that every factual statement in the petition is supported by competent evidence included in the appendix or record.”  Tex.R.App. P. 52.3(j).  Although Ronald’s attorney included such a statement in her certification, most of the factual statements that she certified were supported by competent evidence in the mandamus record solely relied on her affidavit and not on the trial court filings.  The affidavit attempts to establish operative facts going directly to the propriety of the trial court’s action, which should be revealed by the documents themselves—e.g., the prenuptial agreement, the divorce petition, the order overruling Ronald’s objections—and not in an affidavit.  See Tex.R.App. P. 52.7(a).

Finally, the absence of a reporter’s record from the hearing and Ronald’s reliance on that fact to assert an abuse of discretion is troubling.  Ronald’s attorney states in her affidavit that no evidence was presented at the hearing but then avers in the petition that Robinson made several statements at the hearing relevant to her request to personally interview Mary and her caregivers.  Mary contradicts Ronald’s assertion and states in her response that evidence was offered at the hearing.  We conclude that the affidavit is insufficient to dispense with the requirement to request and provide a reporter’s record from the hearing.  Although Ronald’s attorney avers in her affidavit and in the petition that no evidence was presented, her argument is that no evidence was presented that supported the trial court’s order, not that no “testimony was adduced in connection with the matter complained.”  Tex.R.App. P. 52.7(a)(2).  As such, we presume that any testimony heard by the trial court supported its conclusion.4  See In re Bill Heard Chevrolet, Ltd., 209 S.W.3d 311, 313–17 (Tex.App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, orig. proceeding).

We cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in the absence of a sufficient record upon which to do so.  See In re Athans, 458 S.W.3d 675, 679 (Tex.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, orig. proceeding) (denying mandamus petition arguing evidence was insufficient to support trial court’s ruling based on failure of relator to include exhibits introduced at hearing as part of certified or sworn mandamus record);  In re Le, 335 S.W.3d 808, 813 (Tex.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, orig. proceeding) (“Those seeking the extraordinary remedy of mandamus must follow the applicable procedural rules.  Chief among these is the critical obligation to provide the reviewing court with a complete and adequate record.”).  Accordingly, we deny Ronald’s petition.  We deny as moot Mary’s motion to strike Ronald’s attorney’s affidavit.  Finally, to dispel any belief that this holding impliedly approves of the court’s underlying order, we explicitly express a serious concern about the necessity and propriety of the order.

FOOTNOTES
1.  See Tex.R.App. P. 47.4.
2.  Mary filed a response to Ronald’s mandamus petition at this court’s request.  See Tex.R.App. P. 52.8(b)(1).
3.  This statement was included in Ronald’s attorney’s certification under rule 52.3(j).  Ronald’s attorney stated in her affidavit that she had “personal knowledge of the facts stated herein,” but she did not refer to the three filings in the affidavit.
4.  Ronald argues that Robinson’s testimony cannot be considered evidence because she was “legal counsel.” But it was Robinson’s motion as the attorney ad litem, and the evidence Ronald argues was missing could only have been supplied by Robinson. Cf. Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 3.08(a), reprinted in Tex. Gov’t Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit. G, app. A (West 2013) (allowing party’s attorney to testify as fact witness regarding the nature and value of legal services without risking disqualification). Ronald does not dispute that Robinson was present at the hearing and made factual statements relevant to her motion.
PER CURIAM
– See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/tx-court-of-appeals/1716458.html#sthash.mOB8vMba.dpuf

****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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Jan 07 2016

Tarrant County Court Watchers Harassed

Tarrant County Court Watchers Harassed

January 7, 2016 

Judges, bailiffs and the employees of the Tarrant County family courts have been at odds with court watchers for years. We have not publicized all the harassment court watchers have experienced because it is par for the course. After all, it is alleged many attorneys who choose to practice family law are bankrupting families instead of representing the best interests of their clients in court. Court watchers exist due to many public complaints of denial of due process and violations of local, state and federal laws in the family courts.

Protective Parents Coalition (PPC) has documented courtroom harassment by obtaining affidavits, videos, pictures and public information.  Prior to November of 2014, the court watchers were unaware of the emails and instant messages between judges, family court personnel and bailiffs about the court watchers. We thought we would share some of our findings.

Top 10 comments about court watchers:

  1. Pictures of court watchers on a public street were left in sealed envelope on a Tarrant County district judge’s desk mysteriously overnight. The forged return address is one of a court watcher’s and no finger prints are found on the envelope or pictures. The incident was not formally investigated.

  2. A district judge creates impromptu policies in order to discourage (or intimidate) court watchers from observing her court.

  3. Court watchers are compared to Nazi’s in this YouTube video. (click here)

  4. Bailiffs from the 233rd District Court discuss how to physically take out one of the court watcher’s knees by using their ASP baton.

  5. Discussions when to deny or delay public information requested by the court watchers.

  6. Tarrant executives add ‘court watchers’ to county meeting agendas.

  7. Attorneys ‘watching’ court watchers by following them from courtroom to courtroom.

  8. Judge’s calling court watchers to the bench to inquire who they were and why they were there.

  9. Discussions of discretionary policies to confiscate court watcher’s cell phones.

  10. Many people elected, appointed and privately employed in Tarrant County discuss PPC’s website and Facebook accounts on a regular basis.

The purpose to ‘court watch’ is intended to educate the public about how our family courts function.  Really, the only level of oversight and accountability over the family courts is by the public.

By observing hearings, the public can make opinions based on first hand knowledge. This is very uncomfortable to the family courts. By design, the family courts have alienated themselves from the civil and criminal courts. The outcome is a tight clique and anyone who intends to challenge their objectives will be retaliated against and the court watchers are no exception.Sgt. Glenn Burton and PPC Executive Director, Jennifer Olson

In September of 2015,  the 233rd district court hired their own bailiffs instead of using the Tarrant County Sheriff’s deputies.  This was the first time any Tarrant County family district judges were statutorily permitted to hire their own bailiffs.  We question Judge Bill Harris’ decision because the bailiffs he hired were investigated by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office nine months earlier.  The bailiffs violated mulitiple Tarrant County policies  and threatened to physically harm a court watcher in his courtroom.  The sheriff suspended one bailiff and the other resigned while under investigation.  

According to Sheriff Dee Anderson of Tarrant County, the bailiffs are not under his watch while working inside a courtroom. It is the judge who calls the shots and the sheriff’s hands are tied. With the bailiffs now Harris’ employees, Judge Harris and Haddock are responsible for their own safety in their courtrooms and the bailiffs no longer report to the Tarrant County Sheriff.

Last year, the court watchers in the Tarrant County family courthouse were overly monitored by bailiffs, often under direction of Sergeant Glenn Burton. He managed all the bailiffs assigned to work in the family courts.  

When a court watcher asked for the county’s court docket (a schedule of court cases for the day), Sgt. Burton stated he was asserting his 5th amendment right and would not respond.  He later sent emails out to all of the bailiffs asking if they gave any court dockets to court watchers.  It was discouraged for the bailiffs to comply with any requests made by court watchers without the permission of their judge.

Sheriff Dee Anderson removed all bailiffs including Sgt. Burton from the family courts and assigned them to new posts after he learned the court watchers were harassed in 2014.  Judge Bill Harris and Judge Diane Haddock however, hired the two disciplined bailiffs to work directly for them in their courtrooms in September of 2015.  Both bailiffs are still employed by the 233rd District Court.  

 

 

 

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Dec 25 2015

Attorneys Pick a Bone with PPC

UPDATE: On February 11, 2016 this petition was dismissed in favor of the Defendants. Attorneys named in article were ordered to pay attorney fees and sanctions. On June 24, 2016 the attorneys appealed the judge’s decision to the Second Court of Appeals and no ruling has been made as of July 27, 2016.

Attorneys Pick a Bone With Parents Group

By DAVID LEE
COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE – Thursday, December 24, 2015

FORT WORTH (CN) – Two Texas attorneys want to know who accused them of colluding with a judge to take “unearned attorney fees and child support” from a mother.

Attorneys Lori Deangelis and Laurie Robinson, both of Arlington, filed a petition for presuit depositions in Tarrant County Court on Tuesday. They seek information from six members of the Parent Protective Coalition (PPC), a family court watchdog group.TFamiliesMatter-1

The attorneys say they are “victims of slander and/or libel” published on the group’s website and Facebook page. They say the statements were posted with “actual malice” and “reckless disregard” for the truth.

On July 26 the PPC posted on Facebook that “one attorney representing children partnered with a district judge to take unearned attorney fees and child support from the mother of the children who out-cried inappropriate conduct by their father,” the petition states. This was posted on the PPC Facebook page at 9:53 a.m. that day, the attorneys say.

That post did not appear on the Facebook page of the Protective Parents Coalition on Wednesday.

The attorneys claim that the 9:53 a.m. July 26 post stated that the unidentified female attorney’s “primary motivation is attorney fees collected in each case.”

The attorneys want to know “The names of each and every PPC member, officer, and/or director that requested the posting of the banner bearing the photographs of each of the petitioners that described the petitioners as ‘three of the most family court appointed Fort Worth attorneys.” They say this post was published on the PPC Facebook page on July 26 at 8:43 a.m.

They want to know the identity of the post’s author, and any evidence he or she has that supports accusations of scheming with a judge.

The 9:53 a.m. post also stated that “one attorney appeared drunk at the doorstep of a father’s home demanding to see the children she was court appointed to represent. She did not leave until police were called,” according to the attorneys’ petition.

The 9:53 a.m. post also said that one of the petitioners “had the power to have her paralegal direct a Tarrant County caseworker to select and destroy records collected in a social study” and that one of the petitioners “regularly advises one of the parties to fire their current attorney and to hire one of her friends” while acting as a court-appointed attorney, according to the petition.

That post also said that other “attorneys consistently file motions to remove her as a court appointment due to misconduct and yet the judges keep appointing her,” according to the petition.

The Protective Parents Coalition did not immediately respond to an e-mail message requesting comment Wednesday morning.

The attorneys want to take depositions from six members of PPC, and want them to produce the requested documents.

They are represented by Jim R. Ross in Arlington.

 

Link to article: http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/12/24/attorneys-pick-a-bone-with-parents-group.htm

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Dec 11 2015

Lawyers Take an Oath?

 

lawyers take a oath?

December 23, 2015

 

The holidays is a time to share with your families. However, many families will not be celebrating this holiday due to the actions of the Tarrant County family courts. The Tarrant County family courts consists of the judges, associate judges, counselors, receivers, amicus attorneys, ad litem attorneys, and case workers.

The Tarrant County Family Law Bar Association members work in the Tarrant County family courts, it is unfair to say that all members condone, or agree,  to the unethical practices held by some of the bar members.   

Family lawyers take an ethical oath intended to protect the due process  families are entitled to when suits have been filed.lawyers oath  

With the Texas Lawyer’s Oath in place, why are attorneys collectively silent when obvious violations by their peers is observed?  It is the duty of these members to report professional misconduct as referenced below:

8.03 Reporting Professional Misconduct
Back to Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct
(a) Except as permitted in paragraphs (c) or (d), a lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of applicable rules of professional conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate disciplinary authority.
(b) Except as permitted in paragraphs (c) or (d), a lawyer having knowledge that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judges fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.
(c) A lawyer having knowledge or suspecting that another lawyer or judge whose conduct the lawyer is required to report pursuant to paragraphs (a) or (b) of this Rule is impaired by chemical dependency on alcohol or drugs or by mental illness may report that person to an approved peer assistance program rather than to an appropriate disciplinary authority. If a lawyer elects that option, the lawyer’s report to the approved peer assistance program shall disclose any disciplinary violations that the reporting lawyer would otherwise have to disclose to the authorities referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).

“Every minute a judge or a lawyer spends dealing with a colleague’s unprofessional behavior is valuable time taken away from the critical work of evaluating and deciding substantive legal issues on behalf of Texas citizens and businesses”, according to Jonathan Smaby of Texas Center for Legal Ethics – (May 19, 2015). In order to receive your bar license, lawyers must swear to this oath.  Is the Texas Lawyers Oath taken seriously?

“Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 534, which passed through the Texas Legislature with unanimous support this year . Authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, SB 534 amends the existing Texas Lawyer’s Oath to require the pledging attorney to “conduct oneself with integrity and civility in dealing with and communicating with the court and all parties.” The key additions to the oath added “integrity” and “civility” which demonstrates a need for more direct terminology for lawyers to follow.

It is time that Tarrant County attorneys take a stance and report what is going on in the family courts of Tarrant County. Too many children and families have suffered enough at the hands of these judges, court appointments and private attorneys.

The attorneys’ have an ethical duty to report and inform and let the families of Tarrant County have the right to due process.

****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 10 2015

Tarrant County Court Watching Report: December 7-9, 2015


Through the eyes of our volunteer Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Texas) Nevarez, Haddock, Mendozavolunteers this week, the following has been reported to Protective Parents Coalition regarding three family courts.

 

Tarrant County Court Watching Report:  December 7 – 9, 2015

231st District Judge Jesse Nevarez:

Jesse-NevarezTen observers attended a custody case before a jury. The parents did not have attorneys and represented themselves. Both parents did very well representing themselves without any legal training and were courteous, according to Judge Nevarez.

According to the observers, one party was a loving parent with the best interests of the child in mind, and the other was a narcissist Fort Worth police officer who believed professional relationships with other employees inside the family courthouse should warrant sole custody. It appeared that the officer wanted to remove the other biological parent from the child’s life with the sole custody court order and instead have the new spouse take the place of the biological parent.

A word of caution, the jury bought the questionable narrative of the police officer hook, line and sinker. Since the jury can only make conservatorship (custody) decisions, the judge is authorized to make the visitation schedule. Judge Jesse Nevarez appeared to recognize the sole conservatorship decision would negatively impact the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent and gave that parent the most visitation he statutorily could.

This is an example of a judge actually making a sound judge based on evidence and not on personal or professional relationships as a judge. One would think judges always behave this way, but this is not the norm in the Tarrant County family courts.

360th Associate Judge Cynthia Mendoza:

MendozaThis is a first for Court watchers. We have never heard this from this court or any other court, but Judge Mendoza said in open court she was not concerned about who the therapist was for the children and encouraged the parents to continue therapy for their children with their chosen therapist.

Normally, judges like to remove the therapist prior to court because they have no relationship with the therapist and in my opinion, can control the therapist’s recommendation. Another important reason judges like to pick the therapist is because the role of the therapist changes from a private therapist to a forensic therapist. The client of the forensic therapist is the COURT, and a private therapist’s loyalty lies with the PATIENT. In forensic therapy sessions, the therapist is not there to help the patient but instead are to report opinions and confidential dialogue to the judge.

This is why PPC is surprised Judge Mendoza had an unusually carefree attitude with the parents about therapist selection. She also asked the parents to pick a therapist under their insurance plan for family counseling. Usually the judges court appoint their favorite therapist who will not accept or file with insurance companies. They will charge anywhere from $180 – $250 an hour and tell the parents since the court appointed them the visits are considered ‘forensic’ and insurance will not cover the visit. This is incorrect and the Texas Department of Insurance will investigate such crimes.

Judith Wells and the court appointed amicus who is now associate judge Lindsey DeVos, appointed a therapist alleged of triple dipping while acting as the court appointment- charged both parents, a credit card and the insurance company for the same visit. This could be a reason Judge Mendoza has backed off the liability of court ordering a therapist.

Anyways, we hope the trend continues because parents definitely have a better interest of doing the right thing for the children than many of the Tarrant County family judges.

233rd Associate Judge Diane Haddock:

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As taxpayers and regular observers of the Tarrant family courthouse, we are concerned about the lack of access plaintiffs and defendants have to the 233rd District Court. Families are issued temporary hearings before final orders and yet the judge responsible for the temporary hearings is not on the bench.

On Monday, December 7th a court watcher entered her courtroom two times before 11:00 a.m. and the bailiff sat alone in her court. When asked when she would be on the bench, he said, “Quite frankly, she will be in here when she wants to.” At 2:30 p.m. the same court watcher witnessed her exited the courthouse in her vehicle.

 

 

 

 

****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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