Category Archive: Tarrant County

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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 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:

403963_90643163_XLarge

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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Nov 18 2015

Biased 360th District Judge Michael Sinha Seeking Re-Election

Biased 360th District Judge Michael Sinha Seeking Re-Election 

November 18, 2015
*  Many external links throughout post.

98% of the time, Tarrant family courts favor fathers over mothers

SinhaTarrant County 360th District Judge Michael Sinha is seeking re-election.  Judge Michael Sinha was appointed as a district judge in 2010 while he was serving as the associate judge for then District Judge Debra Lehrmann.    Lehrmann’s new appointed title is Justice Lehremann as she now serves on the Texas Supreme Court.  Lehremann has had ties with the father’s rights movement since 2003 and passed her biased view against mothers to Judge Michael Sinha.  Click here for the timeline.

Fathers and mothers both have parental rights to make important decisions on behalf of their children.  But favoring one parent over another, due to gender,  is obviously prejudiced and violates the American Bar Association’s judicial canon Rule 2.3. The issue we have found is the Texas family courts are currently ignoring the “best interests of the child” standard:

Texas Family Code Sec. 153.002. BEST INTEREST OF CHILD. The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

Judges are changing custody to the father, even when evidence would support his household violated the best interests’ standard.  The question next would be, why?  Why would judges make such reckless decisions?  The answer is one that is always the root of evil, money.

As we have been reporting, the Tarrant County family courts are given financial incentives to grant fathers custody over mothers.  This is part of The President’s National Fatherhood Pledge through the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.  Millions of dollars are funneled through the U.S. Health and Human Services and straight to Texas family courts influencing district and associate family court judge’s decisions. President Obama’s fatherhood webpage states:

“The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, includes the broad range of federal programs that address the needs of children and families. These programs are at the heart of the federal effort to strengthen families and help all children succeed by bringing new ideas, insights, and leadership on issues that impact the lives of all Americans.

Why is it Tarrant County has the most abused children in Texas?  The family judges will tell you they work tirelessly for their constituents, but Tarrant has had this record for years and today the children of Tarrant County are still regularly placed in abusive environments.  

Many Tarrant parents who have faced the family courts would say the judge ordered the children to live in an unfit (and abusive) home because the judge refused to review the evidence presented. It is reported by the parents and family attorneys, judges make decisions based on the attorneys’ interpretation of the law, the relationship with the attorney in the case or a personal prejudice.  Protective Parents Coalition would even suggest the decisions are made based on the fatherhood grant criteria in order for Tarrant County family courts to receive grant money.

Did you know since 2005 Tarrant County gives the father’s rights organization NewDay Services free office space inside the family courthouse?  NewDay Services is on the second floor and a recipient of Obama’s fatherhood grant program.   Tarrant County does keep track of how many fathers and how many mothers are given custody in order to receive the grant funds.  See the Tarrant County family court child custody outcome spreadsheet for 2012 which demonstrates the bias against mothers.  98% of the time, Tarrant family courts favor fathers over mothers in contested child custody cases enrolled in this grant program.  Or, view this contract between Tarrant County and the Fatherhood Coalition.

Sinha Special Interest GroupJudge Michael Sinha is not active in local political groups until election time.  The Texas Ethics Commission reports since Judge Sinha has been a district  judge,  he has maintained his membership at one Republican club, participated in several golf tournaments, and advertised twice in a father’s rights program, NewDay Services.  In 2015, Sinha spent 28% of his political expenditures to NewDay Services, and $50 in 2013.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

****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 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?

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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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