The January 12, 2014 edition of the “Mongoose” newsletter discussed the illegal and horribly unwise dismissal of 661 cases by Judge Denise Pratt on December 30 just to make her court’s statistics look better. Click here to read the newsletter.
Here is one story from this newsletter:
Pratt’s “New Year’s Eve Massacre” Dismisses Hundreds of Cases
Here is one example of what Judge Pratt did to hundreds of cases on December 30. Cause number 2012-06882 is a post-divorce suit to address undivided property pending in the 311th since February 2, 2012. The case has been set for trial seven times and six times it was continued by Judge Pratt. On December 2, 2013, Judge Pratt continued the trial until January 27, 2014 and told the attorneys that the case had to go to trial in January or she would dismiss it. On December 30, 2013, along with hundreds of other cases, this lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Pratt without notice or hearing. The attorneys received notification that the case was dismissed for “want of prosecution.” The signed order dismissing the case is not imaged and no one has seen it. Is the order stuck in a backlog in imaging or is it in a folder under a Whataburger bag on the front seat of Pratt’s new car? Does the order even exist? Now, this petitioner must spend hundreds of dollars for her attorney to get the case reinstated back on Pratt’s overcrowded docket.
Apparently, Judge Pratt was concerned that her court has more cases pending for more than a year than any other district court, so she decided to make her statistics look better by dismissing 662 cases that were over a year old. All of the dismissals are dated December 30, 2013. December 31 is the date used for courts’ statistical reports.
Rule 165a states that the court must send notice of its intent to dismiss and the date and place of the dismissal hearing to the parties or attorneys. The rule describes a dismissal hearing. Pratt followed none of these procedures when she dismissed the hundreds of cases on December 30.
All attorneys have at some time received DWOP (Dismissal for Want of Prosecution) notices during our careers that told us to appear on a specific date and time and explain why our old cases should not be dismissed. We all know to file a motion to retain and appear at the hearing to keep our cases from being dismissed.
Pratt herself has presided over many DWOP dockets as a judge and she attended them when she was a Greensheet lawyer, so she should have known exactly how this all works.
On December 30, when Pratt sat alone in her chambers signing hundreds of dismissal orders, surely she wondered why her courtroom was not full of attorneys at a DWOP docket. Or, did she even sign orders? Did Pratt just put check marks on a printout of old cases and tell her coordinator to input in the system that the cases were dismissed and send out dismissal notices? Did Pratt not realize that some of the cases she was dismissing had been settled and the final orders were sitting on her desk waiting for her to simply sign them?
Did Pratt consider what she was doing to the hundreds of families and children effected by these dismissals? Many of these dismissed cases had temporary orders made by Pratt keeping a parent away from a child or limiting visitation or requiring very specific behaviors because Pratt thought it essential to protect the child. Did Pratt not understand that dismissing those cases meant that her temporary orders went away, leaving the children unprotected by court order?
Does Pratt care or understand what financial and emotional toll her dismissals would impose on hundreds of parents? Why should hundreds of litigants have to be charged by their lawyers to draft and file motions to reinstate and attend hearings to get their cases back on the docket? The worry and frustration and bewilderment Pratt has caused for so many Harris County citizens is staggering.
Even the attorneys who make a living off unnecessary amicus appointments and the high dollar big shots who are awarded such big fees by Pratt now wonder what the hell she was doing on December 30, because their cases got tossed as well.
Pratt’s fellow Republican judges who face opponents in November cannot believe she would deliver the Democrats yet another excuse to trash all Republican judges and accuse them all of being as ignorant and uncaring as Pratt.
Here is what is being done in response to this latest Pratt disaster:
- Vote in the HBA Judicial Preference Poll that is going on right now.
- Attorneys are filing individual complaints with the Commission on Judicial Conduct for each case dismissed on December 30. Let’s see if they can ignore a few hundred complaints!.
- A public demonstration is being planned for Pratt’s court to demand a truthful explanation for her New Year’s Eve Massacre and to request that all of the cases be reinstated without any motions from the innocent parties she tossed out of court. We will also demand to see copies of the orders Pratt supposedly signed on December 30 dismissing the cases.
- Attorneys are getting the word out to Republican activists and voters about this disgraceful judicial behavior.
- Family law attorneys need to get behind one of the Republican candidates so that Pratt loses in the March 2014 GOP primary. Even if you hope that Democrat Sherri Cothrun eventually wins in November, we need to actually donate money to Ms. Franklin, or Mr. Magdaleno or Ms. Detamore (Phil Placzek is not actively campaigning for the 311th, even though his name remains on the ballot),