Did the judge condone a theft in her courtroom committed by her bailiff?
March 2, 2016
Associate judge’s courtroom runs amok
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.”
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.
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?”
(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.
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.
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