Misinterpretation of the Law or Ego?
COURT WATCHER REPORT: November 11, 2014
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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 courtroom 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.
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?
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?