If there was ever a doubt that citizens can impact the selection of judges in Texas, it has been put to rest in the election of the 311th District Family Court in Houston. Judge Denise Pratt’s horrific actions—including issuing a blanket gag order for all cases in her court dealing with parent-child relationships; mandating visitation of a child with his grandparents, over the mother’s objections, without any evidence required by law; failing to rule in a parent’s visitation motion for 10 whole months; and allegedly making a final ruling in a child custody case without hearing any testimony or evidence—earned her a place on THSC’s Texas Judicial Wall of Shame. These actions gained more and more exposure during the recent Republican Primary when she drew four opponents.
While most Republican incumbents in her county won handily, Judge Pratt made it into a runoff in her campaign for reelection with only 30% of the vote. However, another round of criminal complaints was filed against her by attorneys regarding her recent wholesale dismissal of cases without notifying those involved. THSC endorsed Alicia Franklin in the runoff against Judge Pratt, convinced that Franklin understands and has a commitment to the fundamental, constitutional right of fit parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children.
Last week Judge Pratt announced her resignation and the suspension of her campaign. Some have speculated that she had been given a “choice” to resign or else be indicted by the district attorney’s office in regard to the latest criminal investigation. Others wonder if the polling clearly shows that she is headed for a sound defeat in the runoff. Regardless of what the reasons may be, Judge Pratt has resigned, and as one parent with a case in that court told us, “My family and thousands of families in Harris County are breathing a sigh of relief. Our nightmare is over.”
As Thomas Jefferson once noted, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” and that is certainly still true today as THSC continues to work hard to make sure that judges in Texas understand and are committed to the fundamental, constitutional rights of parents.