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BEV'S BURNER
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

by B.K. Carter
This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

As close as a cell phone call ..... Iíve spent the better part of the last two weeks in Mississippi and Nevada (see Star People), but I've kept up with the Fort Bend happenings via a complex web of spot reporters and deep cover informers who have kept my cell phone ringing like a bad handbell choir. In other words, Margot and the garden club ladies with a little help from the gin group have kept me up to the minute on local news. I knew before the last oath was taken that Judge Robert Kern had angered a certain group of elected officials who happened to be black and Democrat.

I also knew about the fuss between Judge Kern and newly elected Judge Ron Pope about the appointment of a court master (assistant judge) for the domestic courts in Fort Bend. The story goes like this: Lorraine Wilson was the master, appointed when there was only one family relations judge in Fort Bend County (now-retired Judge Tom Stansbury) to relieve his overcrowded docket. Since then, the county has been allotted another family relations court (Judge Kern). Now Wilson has resigned after her defeat for the judgeship by Judge Pope.

Nevertheless, the calls I got were about Judge Pope wanting to appoint a current Assistant District Attorney who had applied for the job and Judge Kern wanting to appoint local attorney Brenda Mullinex as master. Judge Pope said the master was originally scheduled for his court when Stansbury held the job so he should decide. Judge Kern said he was the administrative judge, so he should decide.

Since we now have two family relations courts, I donít even know why we need a master for the two family court judges. Maybe I should start dogging them like I have the Justices of the Peace and check on their work habits.

This story gets curiouser and curiouser when I heard that Judge Kern was asked to recuse himself in the divorce case of a local elected official (okay, he's only the hide inspector) who is the son of a sitting judge. Several months ago I asked Judge Kern why he didnít recuse himself in this case as Judge Stansbury had done several years ago involving the same couple. At that time, Judge Kern told me that somebody had to hear the case and he hadn't been asked to recuse himself (judges donít have to be asked; they can do it on their own). So when he was asked Monday, Judge Kern still didnít recuse himself and a visiting judge said he didnít have to. I called Judge Kern and reminded him of our earlier conversation. He told me that he hadn't said then he would recuse himself; he had only said nobody had asked him to.

That's called "splitting hairs" in legal parlance. No, wait, my gin group calls that "splitting hairs;" everybody else calls it "Oh, pleeeeeze."

In any event I was even more surprised to hear that the lawyer for the son of the sitting judge was.....Brenda Mullinex, Kern's favorite for appointment to the master's bench.

But wait, there's more ..... I also got cell phone calls about a Houston attorney who tried to enter the Fort Bend County courthouse with a gun in his briefcase. Since he didnít have the Fort Bend credentials (his was for Harris County) which allowed him to bypass the scanning equipment, he supposedly forgot about the gun, which was later said to be evidence in a case. He was hustled to the Fort Bend County Jail where court master Harold Kennedy sped over and magistrated him so he could be freed immediately. Cries of special treatment for attorneys falls on deaf ears as far as Judge Brady Elliott is concerned. Elliott is fond of reminding us that the last judge killed in a courthouse in Texas was gunned down by an attorney.

The claim of special treatment for some people prompted Star reporter LeaAnne Klentzman to ask a Human Resource department clerk under the FOI Act (Freedom of Information) to give her a list of all those with special credentials who can bypass the courthouse scanning equipment.

Scant minutes later, Klentzman was sitting in County Attorney Bud Childers office in relation to another question, when Director of Administra-tive Services J.C. Whitten whizzed by Bud's office and not recognizing/seeing Klentzman sitting on the couch, informed Childers that, according to Tom (Anderson-head of Human Resources), Klentzman was snooping/nosing around looking for a list of people with courthouse entry credentials.

I called Whitten later and asked him how he even knew Klentzman was looking for a list. Whitten informed me that he talks to Tom Anderson six to eight times a day because he supervises that department, along with seven others. He said he was at Childersí office in relation to some fairground invoices, and no, he does not supervise the fairground but he was helping them out. So if Whitten talks to all of those department heads six or eight times a day, how many calls does he have in any given day?

And let me get this straight. We have Country Attorney Bud Childers who makes near $101,000 a year, and Human Resource head Tom Anderson, who makes $86,000 per year, and Director of Administrative Services J.C. Whitten, who makes $78,000 per year, all concerned by a lowly-paid reporter's question about who had access to the courthouse.

It would seem to me that these highly paid county officials have better things to do, like dig up the information asked for, than to be running around in a dither because they were asked the question. Seems like a bunch a busybodies to me.

Many years ago, Whitten was accused of having an ex parte meeting with a judge (both lawyers are supposed to be present when that happens) when he (Whitten) was a jury foreman. He was a busy body then and he is a busy body now. Doesn't he know that is our job at the newspaper?

Now the above stories should illustrate to you what a "buddy" system we have in Fort Bend. And if these donít convince you, why next week Iíll tell you how retiring Judge Tom Stansbury had Fort Bend County pay for him to attend an Advanced Family Law Drafting Course in New Orleans on Dec. 12-13 in New Orleans, Louisiana 18 days before he retired. I guess I've already told you now, haven't I? Maybe if our judges and retiring judges didnít get the county to pay for their vacations, we wouldn't need a special master. And Stansburyís late little stunt has prompted me to keep an eye on how many paid mediation cases he gets from the current sitting judges now that he is retired. We could form a betting pool, except that might be illegal. And in Fort Bend County, doing illegal things is a no-no, but it's perfectly okay to fail the "smell test."


B. K. Carter is publisher of the Fort Bend Star. You can e-mail her at bkcstar@earthlink.net


 
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   Last Update:  September 17, 2003