Written by Rhymes With Right
Well, more details have emerged about the Harris County District Attorney’s deal with disgraced former judge Denise Pratt — and those details don’t do anything to inspire confidence in this supporter of justice for her thousands of victims
The Harris County district attorney still could investigate and charge former family court Judge Denise Pratt, despite striking a deal with the freshman jurist to resign to avoid prosecution on charges of tampering with government records.
Asked to elaborate on the terms of the agreement that led to Pratt’s March 28 resignation, a spokesman for District Attorney Devon Anderson said Thursday, “If new evidence is discovered, we can investigate and move forward with charges if warranted.”
Whether the deal Anderson struck with Pratt made the former judge immune from future charges was one of many questions raised by her critics on Thursday, the day after the county’s top prosecutor revealed the agreement in a statement that said pursuing a conviction would have been difficult.
The agreement, Anderson’s statement said, was the best and quickest way to get Pratt off the bench and bring the “ongoing damage to a stop.”
Of course, this raises a question in my mind — was this really the best and quickest way to get Pratt off the bench. Personally, I’m not sure that it was. Especially since stories seem to change over time.
Let’s consider Kuffner’s observations on the deal.
With all due respect, what enforcement mechanism is in place for this? What is to stop Denise Pratt from moving to, say, Polk County and running for judge there? Whats to stop her from becoming a visiting judge? Theres no official mark on her record, after all. As I understand it, the latter complaints were both misdemeanors, so the statute of limitations will run out on them before too long. What would stop her from running for judge, or maybe Justice of the Peace in a Republican-friendly precinct, at that time? And why is this a better outcome than presenting the evidence to another grand jury and letting them decide for themselves? Maybe with an actual indictment in hand you could have gotten an enforceable deal.
I have to think that at some level, Devon Anderson gets this. If this deal had truly been the best possible outcome, and if it had been something shed been proud of, or at least satisfied with, why wouldnt she have announced it at the time? Dont you tell people when youve done something good? Politicians running for office generally do. And when they do something theyre not all that keen about, they dont. Andersons actions here are speaking pretty loudly. She could have said her piece when Pratt resigned, but instead she kept her mouth shut while Pratt blathered on about how she was run out of town by her political opponents. Maybe Devon Anderson could make a case for the deal, but I dont see any merit to allowing the misinformation to stand. Am I the only one who thinks theres still more to this story?
Exactly. The deal cannot be enforced as it now stands, and the reality is that the statute of limitations might run out before the new DA could go after Pratt if Anderson loses to Kim Ogg in November. We speculated about what brought about the sudden resignation back in March, but there the DA said nothing at the time. It took Ogg’s making a campaign issue out of the apparent inaction of Anderson’s office to get the public the information about this great “triumph” — even though Pratt and her supporters were out in force spreading rumors about death threats, shots fired at her house and the killing of one of her pets — and the text message to her supporters.
Frankly, Anderson should have gone public at that point, not waited another five weeks, once that message became public. Indeed, Anderson should have moved forward with an indictment right then.
Of course, there is the minor matter that indicting Pratt in March would have gotten her off the bench quickly, as Kuffner reminds us with this excerpt of Kiah Collier’s coverage of the story in another Off The Kuff post on the deal.
Webster family lawyer Greg Enos, whose criminal complaints against Pratt prompted at least two district attorney investigations that resulted in no charges, took issue with Andersons contention that the resignation was the quickest way to get the judge off the bench.
He said the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the state agency charged with policing Texas judges, typically suspends judges who have been indicted, and that Any brand new attorney fresh out of law school could have gotten an indictment of Pratt.
Commission Executive Director Seana Willing confirmed that the commission typically votes to suspend indicted judges.
Get the indictment, let the Commission suspend Pratt, and let the process move forward — ALL IN THE LIGHT OF DAY. No secret deals that reek of favoritism and trading political favors.
No wonder Noah over at Texpatriate brings us word that the Pratt Scandal and string of complaints brought by family law attorney Greg Enos will expand to include Anderson.
Perhaps the biggest point of the night is that Enos has now decided to continue his crusade after Anderson. Speaking on Facebook earlier, Enos wrote Devon Anderson is my next target. For those skeptical of Enos power, just remember that we wouldnt be having this conversation if the DA hadnt started investigating the complaints lodged by none other than Enos himself.
Six weeks ago I thought that the entire matter was over but for the minor detail of our needing to ensure that GOP voters rejected Pratt at the polls in the May 27 runoff. Instead I fear that we have yet to see this matter go away due to the clumsy handling of the matter by District Attorney Devon Anderson. Time will tell if that is the case — and if the matter negatively impacts Republican candidates at the polls in November.
UPDATE: Kudos to Facebook friend Don Tequila for pointing me towards this case from right next door in Galveston County that led to the suspension of a judge from the bench after his indictment. Given that it happened last year, surely someone in the Harris County District Attorney’s office might be vaguely familiar with it — or at least should have been.