Issue: No. 33      
January 12, 2014
  The Enos Law Firm
  17207 Feather Craft Lane, Webster, Texas 77598
  (281) 333-3030    Fax: (281) 488-7775
  E-mail: [email protected]              
  Please forward this e-mail newsletter to everyone who cares about our family courts!  
Click here for an archive of past issues of The Mongoose.  
Judge Denise Pratt is using her criminal defense attorney as her spokesman and is lying about how and why she illegally and unconstitutionally dismissed over 600 cases on December 30 simply to make her "statistics look better."  

The Houston Press called Pratt's latest move "bat shit crazy."  Click here to read that story.  The Houston Chronicle ran another front page story in its Sunday edition today about Pratt's "New Year's Eve Massacre."  Click here to read the Chronicle story.

Pratt, through her criminal defense lawyer, Terry Yates, is again blaming the clerk's office for Pratt's own misdeeds.  This time, Pratt claims it was the fault of either the District Clerk's office or the state-wide computer system used for electronic filing that hundreds of attorneys did not receive notices that their cases in the 311th were set to be dismissed on December 30.    The problem with that BIG FAT LIE is that those Dismissal for Want of Prosecution notices (which must go out before cases are dismissed) are not generated by the e-filing system or by the clerks.  The notices are supposed to be created by Pratt's Court Coordinator via input into the local JIMS computer system and then sent out by the Office of Court Administration.  Pratt's court and the District Clerk have confirmed that Pratt dismissed hundreds of cases on December 30 and no judge in her right mind would dismiss cases without making sure that the attorneys had been given notice.  It is clear that no one had advance notice and we know Pratt dismissed the cases, so that "mistake" cannot be blamed on clerks or a computer malfunction.  It was a judicial malfunction.  It is an irresponsible lie to blame anyone but Judge Pratt for this disaster.

If there was some big computer glitch, why would it just happen in Pratt's court?  If Pratt spent the entire day signing dismissal orders, how could she not realize that those cases were not set on any sort of dismissal docket and that no notice had been provided the attorneys and parties?  Can she really blame her clerks for that?

Pratt dismissed cases that were settled and simply waiting for her to sign the final orders Associate Judge Newey had approved.  She dismissed cases set for trial and she even dismissed cases where she had already been recused!

Pratt dismissed many cases that had temporary orders, including some where she had changed custody or restricted a parent's access to a child, presumably because Pratt thought she was protecting the child.  How is it possible that Pratt did not realize that by dismissing those cases, she was ending her own temporary orders and returning the child to the parent Pratt thought was so dangerous?

This impossible-to-explain action by Pratt is the "triple whammy of judicial stupidity" because:
  1. Pratt ignored the law and Rules of Civil Procedure and violated hundreds of families' constitutional Due Process rights when she dismissed the cases without notice or a hearing.  The right to fair notice before a lawsuit is dismissed is such a fundamental and simple legal concept, that it is almost impossible to conceive that Pratt did not understand it.    

  2. Pratt touts herself as a "protector of children," yet her dismissals actually endanger children because the dismissals end the temporary orders Pratt put in place to protect children in dozens of cases.  

  3. Pratt has received more bad publicity in the last few months than all other Harris County Judges combined in the last decade.  She faces four challengers in the Republican primary in March.  What was she possibly thinking when she sat in her office all day on December 30 and signed order after order dismissing these hundreds of cases?  Yes, her court is more backlogged than any other district court in Harris County.  But, did she really think that "making her statistics look better" by illegally and unconstitutionally and unwisely dismissing hundreds of cases was really going to help her? This amazing event proves just how out of touch with reality Pratt is. 
Here is the real mystery I want solved: where are the hundreds of orders Pratt signed on December 30 dismissing these cases?  As of today, they are not imaged and no lawyer has been able to get a copy.  Did she actually sign orders?  Were they backdated as well?  What the hell is going on and when is someone going to step in and protect the families of Harris County from this nut?

If you notice that my tone in this newsletter is not as restrained as usual, there is a reason.  I have tried to campaign for reform of our family courts based on facts and fairness and attempted to do so while remaining respectful of our hardworking judges.  However, the problem we all have with Judge Pratt has simply gone far way beyond bad policies or unwise decisions.  We are dealing with what I am sad to say appears to be a combination of laziness, mental illness and ignorance of the law cloaked in the awesome power of a family court.  We as the family bar must continue to stand up against her and do what we can to protect the families of Harris County by getting Pratt out of office.    Many attorneys have joined me in this effort.  One started a Facebook page called "Stop Denise Pratt NOW."  Click here to see that Facebook page (which you need to LIKE).


I do not expect to win every case.  I just want an efficient system in which my client gets a fair hearing before a judge who works hard, knows the law, and does not play favorites.  I also expect judges to appoint qualified amicus attorneys who zealously look after children (and actually visit the kids in their homes).   Is that asking too much?  Stay tuned.  

Greg Enos 
The Enos Law Firm                  

   New_RulesNew Rules Will Change How We File and Serve Documents and Calculate Deadlines

The Texas Supreme Court enacted amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure effective January 1 that will have a big impact on family law attorneys.  We all will need to calendar deadlines differently and our pleadings and orders are going to look different.  Service by e-mail is now allowed and service by delivery services is now recognized.  Click here to read these new rules.


These big changes in rules include:


1.  Mandatory Electronic Filing.   New Rule 21(f) requires attorneys in civil cases to electronically file court documents "in courts where electronic filing has been mandated." Click here for a list of counties which currently require electronic filing. 

E-filing is mandatory in Harris and Fort Bend Counties and permissive in Galveston, Brazoria, Montgomery and Chambers Counties.  Electronic filing will be mandatory in all Texas counties by 2016.  Click here for a chart that compares the prices and services of the various e-filing service providers.   



2.  E-filed documents must be in searchable PDF format.  Electronically filed documents are required to be in text-searchable PDF format (most documents scanned at the copier are not in this format) per Rule 21(f)(8)(A).  Electronic documents "must" be directly converted to PDF rather than scanned, if possible.  Rule 21(f)(8)(B).   Recent versions of Word and Word PErfect allow you to convert a document to searchable PDf from within the word processor.  Some efiling service providers, such as ProDoc, can convert scanned PDF documents to searchable PDF as can the full version of Adobe Acrobat.


3.  Electronic Signatures.  Rule 21(f)(7) states that electronic signatures can either be an electronic image of the signature or a "/S/" followed by the typed name on the same line.  Example:  /S/  Greg B. Enos.


4.  Service By E-mail.  Rule 21a(a) requires that documents filed electronically with the court must be served electronically through the electronic filing manager if the attorney or party has an e-mail address on file with the electronic file manager.  If the opposing attorney does not have an email address on file with the electronic file manager, documents filed electronically with the court can be served using any other approved method.  Documents that are not filed with the court (such as discovery) can now be served via e-mail, commercial delivery service, in person, by mail or fax or by "such other manner as the court in its discretion may direct."  


5.  Signature blocks on pleadings must include the email address of attorneys or pro se litigants.  Rule 57.


6.  Service by Delivery Service.  Rule 21a(a)(2) now recognizes service by "commercial delivery service" as an acceptable form of service.  This would include FedEx but probably also your local courier service which is "commercial" if they charge you.


7.  Service by Fax No Longer Extends Deadlines by 3 days.  The Texas Supreme Court revised Rules 4 and 21a to remove the the provision that added three days to any deadline when service of the document was made by fax. When receiving service via fax, the applicable response deadline is simply what the Rules prescribe without any three-day addition. The three-day extension of a deadline authorized in Rule 21a(c) now only applies when service is accomplished by old fashioned snail mail.


8.  When is service complete?  Rule 21a(b) says that service by mail is effective upon deposit of the postpaid, properly addressed document in the mail.  This "mailbox" rules has now been extended to the newly allowed service by commercial delivery services.  Service by fax is complete upon receipt.  As before, a fax received after 5:00 p.m. local time of the recipient is deemed served the next day.  Electronic service is complete upon transmission to the serving party's electronic service provider.  Rule 21(f)(5) says that a document filed with the court electronically is timely filed if it is electronically filed at any time before midnight (in the court's time zone) on the filing deadline.  If a document is filed electronically on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, it is deemed filed on the next day that is not a weekend or holiday.  


9.  Sensitive Data Must Redacted from Court Filings.   A new Rule 21c defines "sensitive data" and prohibits its inclusion in any document filed with the court unless specifically  required by statute, court rule, or administrative regulation. Sensitive data includes driver's license numbers, passport numbers, social security numbers, tax identification numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or a minor's name, address or birth date. Sensitive data must be redacted prior to filing, but the filing party must retain a copy of the unredacted version. If a document containing sensitive data is improperly filed, Rule 21c does not permit a clerk to refuse to file the document. But, the rule does allow a clerk to give the filing party a deadline to resubmit a redacted, substitute document. The prohibition of sensitive data in Court filings does not apply to wills and documents filed under seal.  This new rule will require family lawyers to stop using the names of minors in case captions and in pleadings.  Presumably, we should always be using a child's initials.  However, Texas Family Code Sec. 102.008(b) specifically states that a petition in a suit affecting the parent child relationship "must include: ...(2) the name and date of birth of the child..." New Rule 21c(d) requires notice to the clerk if a document must be filed that contains sensitive data.  Family Code Sec. 102.008(a) says that SAPCR pleadings shall be entitled "In the interest of ___, a child."  That section does not say the child's full name must be used so presumably the child's initials can always be used in the caption.  Rule 21c would apply to affidavits we often file along with pleadings as well as exhibits to pleadings.  Business records filed with affidavits with the clerk under Evidence Rule 803(6) or 902(10), such as school, medical or financial records would be filled with information that must be redacted.


be him
"Together, attorneys can improve our family courts!"

In this issue...


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: 
  1. Vote in the HBA Judicial Preference Poll that is going on right now.
  2. 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!  Click here to download a complaint form.  

  3. 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.

  4. Attorneys are getting the word out to Republican activists and voters about this disgraceful judicial behavior.

  5. 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),



Attorney Greg Enos has been through his own divorce and  child custody battle (he won) and understands  what his clients are going through.  Enos  graduated from the University of Texas Law  School and was a very successful personal injury  attorney in Texas City before he decided his true  calling was to help families in divorce and child  custody cases. Greg Enos is active in politics and in Clear Lake area charities.  He has served as President of the Bay Area Bar Association and President of the Board of  Interfaith Caring Ministries. 

Attorney Greg Enos