Judge Denise Pratt in Runoff -- But What of Her Peculiar "Gag Order"?
|The first rule of Judge Pratt's Courtroom: There is no Judge Pratt's Courtroom.|
In his February 2013 newsletter, Enos wrote that when he first got a copy of the gag order, he couldn't get any clarification from Pratt's court.
"The problem is that no one knows if the gag order is in effect or, if it is, why the First Amendment has been suspended," he wrote, adding later, "It seems that the 'gag' order has been applied to Judge Pratt's staff because no one in her court will talk to me about the order or explain which cases it applies to or whether it is in effect. I have e-mailed Judge Pratt directly, but I have not received any reply, so apparently she is also gagged by her own order."
But Pratt's attorney, Terry Yates, says it only pertained to one case -- one involving a "local football star" -- and that both parties agreed to the order. He just doesn't know which football star. (Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson was sued by his ex-girlfriend in August 2012, but Harris County District Clerk Spokesman Bill Murphy tells us that the Johnson case was sealed by an unrelated order).
Yates explained in an email that "It clearly wasn't drafted or intended to be [a] standing order or applied to every SAPCR case in her court. To indicate otherwise would be disingenuous."
The language about "all" custody cases is irrelevant, according to Yates, who explains that "regardless of what the top of [the order] says, the controlling writing in the body of the order specifically references 'this case' -- meaning the specific case it was written to control. If it was written to control all cases, it would say 'in any and all cases,' and it doesn't say that.'"
This order is especially troublesome given that Pratt's courtroom appears plagued with record-keeping problems. In 2013, Enos and other family law attorneys accused her of backdating records. The Harris County District Attorney's Office investigated and a grand jury no-billed. But a February 2014 Chron article suggests Pratt may again be under investigation. (The story states that the DA's Office could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation).