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More on the Pratt resignation deal

I’m still shaking my head about this.

Denise Pratt

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.”

The district attorney issued the statement in response to criticism from her opponent in the November general election, Democrat Kim Ogg, who said earlier this week that the evidence brought against Pratt was more than sufficient to bring charges. Ogg said the lack of charges was suspicious because Pratt and Anderson – both Republicans – used the same political consultant.

See here for the background. I keep coming back to the question that if this was such a good move by DA Devon Anderson, if this really was the only way to get Denise Pratt off the bench, then why didn’t Anderson say so at the time? Why are we just hearing about it now that Anderson’s political opponent Kim Ogg dug it up started making a fuss about it? The fact that Anderson didn’t say a word about it when Pratt resigned and claimed it was because her opponents were out to get her, the fact that we might not know any of this now if Anderson weren’t on the ballot in November, strongly suggests that maybe this deal wasn’t something to be proud of but rather something to be hushed up.

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 Anderson’s 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.

[…]

[South Texas College of Law associate professor Amanda Peters, a former Harris County prosecutor,] and other experts say Pratt’s alleged actions definitely would qualify as tampering with a government record under state law. Section 37 of the penal code says court records qualify as governmental records and that tampering includes “knowingly entering a false record.”

“My read of the statute is that, if it is true that she backdated court orders, knowing that she was making false entries, this should be a violation of the law,” said Sandra Guerra Thompson, director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center.

Anderson’s statements this week, however, suggested there was not sufficient evidence to prove Pratt guilty.

“The process of getting Judge Pratt before a jury for trial would take years,” her Wednesday statement said. “The likelihood of success would be uncertain at best.”

That’s talking about a conviction, not an indictment, which would have been enough to get Pratt suspended. That’s not a “permanent resignation”, but it is at least enforceable. Looking back through my archives, here’s a copy of the first complaint that the grand jury declined to indict on, and here’s a copy of the third complaint. Maybe getting an indictment wasn’t a slam dunk, but then neither does it take years to make that determination. There is an argument to be made here for prosecutorial discretion on Anderson’s part. I’d be more willing to accept it if she’d have been willing to make it in a timely and forthright manner, instead of employing it as defense after being called out for exercising that discretion on the sly.

UPDATE: Texpatriate has more.

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12 Comments

  1. DSP Specialist says:

    You should note here that The State Commission on Judicial Conduct Require complaints made strictly by affected individual by a presiding judge. They do not act on complaints made by a DA.

    DA Anderson was doing her job in within her jurisdiction, and made the most beneficial decision for the county based on all the details she and her staff have revealed. She still do not have to spill out any to convince you, me or Ms. Ogg as to why she did what she did. She will be in breach of her duties if she does that.

    I think Ms. Pratt got what she deserved.

  2. John says:

    What duties specifically will she breach? Also the statement about beneficial decision I assume is in reference to cost to prosecute. By that same rationale a lot of cases are not worth fighting. Anderson is clearly a weak person and is doing a CYA now that this leaked

  3. DSP Specialist says:

    Criminal investigation details can only be disseminated in Criminal trials.

    Removing a person willing to break the law from position of power is a great benefit to the community, especially if it comes at the least cost to the tax payers, regardless of their political affiliation.

    Honorable Anderson had overseen a very good case. She commanded her staff adequately to render a good verdict for the county, whether done in court room or behind closed doors.

    Anyone may still have stakes with Ms. Pratt, should take it on via the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

  4. DSP Specialist says:

    It is sad to see and hear Ms. Ogg referencing details she and other are not entitled to see, and judge the actions of Honorable Anderson and her staff, when Ms. Ogg is the full blind.

    This is not the way honorable folks earn the trust of public to get elected to duties that require a lot of integrity, not just vacant promises and hot empty air.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    Look at it this way, given the high profile of the case, there was no way in heck that the details would remain secret and Anderson, a seasoned politician knew that. Still, she did the right thing anyway knowing the usual poli-cheer partisans would dog her for it. Contrary to what some of those from the sidelines have claimed about being able to get an indictment, grand juries declined to buy into the idea that the judge “falsified” government records by entering earlier dates. I know there are many problems associated with specific dates on such documents but to a great many outsiders, and apparently grand jurors, taking the logical leap that one equates to the other amounts to trivial minutia.

    In an actual trial, not just grand jury shopping for an indictment, the burden of proof would have been too high to secure a conviction according to those who work in the real world, not just a handful of butt hurt lawyers who did not like Pratt and did not get their way in her court. So, to get Pratt out of office from causing further difficulties, Anderson cut her a deal that saves the taxpayers a ton on money, greatly expedites the removal of the judge, and ends this whole fiasco once and for all.

    Ogg, never having been in a position to make such a judgement call, sees this as her golden opportunity to Monday morning quarterback it all. Remember, for all her smiles and pleasantries, Ogg has lost every election she has been in, usually not even getting nominated. She was appointed in her two biggest career moves due to her dad’s political ties (Houston’s Gang Task force leader and Crimestoppers) where the biggest thing she did in either was to unsuccessfully run for elected offices, her stint in the DA’s office showing run of the mill skills as a low level prosecutor, and then working for the family business. Anderson, on the other hand, has had a successful political career as she won every election she was in after serving a far more distinguished career as a prosecutor, both sides of the political aisle complimenting her as one of the best judges, and even starting her own law firm from the ground up, not coat tailing like Ogg had.

  6. DSP Specialist says:

    For me Mr. Houston, Honorable Anderson appointment by Honorable Perry, speaks volume, along with her on the job performance.

    I am now dealing with this defunct Judge Johnson with history of Judicial Misconduct and a reprimand by the SCJC, and wonder if, Ms. Ogg will deal here a fair one, if given the opportunity.

    Folks need to get real here. This is not the way honorable folks earn the trust of public to get elected to duties that require a lot of integrity, not just vacant promises and hot empty air.

  7. DSP Specialist says:

    And Honorable Anderson has no daddy to do her what Ms Ogg had. She just has the integrity and the talents to earn it, so far, from many distinguished lawmakers.

  8. DSP Specialist says:

    Furthermore, an innocent person, whether a Jane doe or a Judge, will take a fight to the end. Ms. Pratt cowered behind her guilt, and settled with a deal. She certainly have the money to carry it on, but realized she is a cluster F… and got caught. She picked the easy way out of jail.

  9. DSP Specialist says:

    I hope Ms. Ogg do not have a problem with such, given her third world country retard background, like me.

  10. Steven Houston says:

    DSP, I think you misunderstood something I said. Ms. Ogg was the one who had continually relied on political connections to be appointed to positions of government largess while Anderson earned her spots time and again. Ogg used those appointments to run for other offices though she failed each time.

    As far as Anderson’s appointment by Perry, someone few in the know consider “honorable”, she was definitely more qualified than almost any other choice he could have made so it was a small miracle that the citizens of Harris County got lucky this time considering most of Perry’s other appointments over the years.

    And Pratt’s poor judgement aside, we are all better off with her off the bench for a myriad of reasons, she’s as bad as some of those lawyers who practiced in her court (which speaks volumes).

  11. DSP Specialist says:

    Mr. Houston, forgive my ETL. That is what I meant.

    Honorable Anderson is doing it the old fashioned way, earning it, while Ms. Ogg is just using her party to put on her a dress that do not fit.

  12. Jeff says:

    Justice isn’t blind, it’s judges like this that are. She needs to serve time.

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