Click here to read the November 4, 2013 Houston Chronicle story about the letter from Houston attorneys calling on District Judge Denise Pratt to resign.
Letter a rallying cry to oust embattled district judge
A letter sent to hundreds of Houston-area lawyers on Monday asks them to support a call to oust an embattled state district court judge by signing a petition, withholding election endorsements and contributions and reporting any criminal wrongdoing to the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
Family Court Judge Denise Pratt of the 311th District has come under fire for altering court records to mask tardy rulings, as well as a host of other doings that many lawyers have described in interviews as not criminal but highly unusual, unprofessional or unethical, including rampant absenteeism and communicating with lawyers on one side of a case without the other side knowing.
Pratt, a Republican judge first elected in 2010, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter, signed by 32 prominent Houston-area family lawyers was penned by Webster family lawyer Greg Enos, whose criminal complaint sent last month to the district attorney’s office has sparked an investigation, according to county and courthouse sources.
The complaint also led to an internal investigation by the Harris County District Clerk’s office, the keeper of all court records, which led to the resignation late last month of Pratt’s lead clerk.
The Monday letter asks colleagues to support “our effort to get Judge Denise Pratt off the bench for the good of the family bar, the families and children of Harris County and the many excellent family court judges whose re-elections might be endangered with Judge Pratt on the same ballot with them.”
“We are all too familiar with the problems caused by Judge Pratt’s work ethic, her refusal to accept agreements made by parents regarding their children and her rulings which are so frequently delayed or contrary to the law or facts presented in court,” the letter says. “We are ‘sticking our necks out’ to stand up for what is right and asking you to do the same.”
One of the signatories, longtime divorce lawyer Joan Jenkins, said she would have signed the letter just based on all the complaints against Pratt she has heard from reputable lawyers. She said she has, however, experienced problems with Pratt on a case this year that led her to draft a complaint that she sent to Enos for consideration.
“I have never in my entire career experienced a judge that I felt was more corrupt with less actual knowledge of the law and with a poorer work ethic than Judge Pratt,” Jenkins said. “There is really nothing I can say about her that I consider to be representative of a good judge.”
That sentiment is reflected in the results of the Houston Bar Houston Bar Association’s latest judicial evaluation, in which Pratt rated abysmally.
Enos said more than 50 lawyers have signed the petition so far. He said he does not want Pratt “get in trouble, I just want her off the bench.”
“These apparent instances of backdating orders really are not the main problems attorneys and families have with her; it just happens that this behavior might be criminal,” Enos wrote in an e-mail.
Leaders of the Harris County Republican Party have convened to discuss whether the allegations are serious enough to ask Pratt, who has filed to run for re-election next year, to step aside.