Friday, December 30, 2016

The Ogg Administration [Minor Edit]

After many (mostly accurate) rumors, incoming Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the personnel for her upper administration today.  With some glaring exceptions, for the most part the choices are pretty good.   From the comments that are already coming in (before I had the opportunity to write this particular post), it is clear that there will be some criticisms, but the following are my personal opinions of the individual hires:

Vivian King -- Chief of Staff  To begin with, Chief of Staff is a relatively new position within the Harris County District Attorney's Office, but it makes sense to have one.  It wasn't there when I was there, but it has been brought to my attention that the position was created under the Anderson Administration.  Kathy Braddock has held the position since it was created, which also makes sense because Kathy is awesome.  The First Assistant position has traditionally been a de facto Chief of Staff position, but given the logistical duties typically handled by the First Assistant (i.e., dealing with the budget and Commissioners' Court), it makes sense to create a Chief of Staff who operates without having to deal with those particular duties.

With that in mind, I think Vivian King is an outstanding choice.  Vivian, who was last seen starring in Sisters-in-Lawis a respected trial lawyer who has an extensive trial resume.  She's defended death penalty cases with an impressive record, and has the street cred to function as the head of an Office where trial ability is vital.  I tried a case against Vivian during my prosecutorial days and she was a talented and pleasant adversary.  She will also be a reasonable mind when it comes to making decisions for the office.  I was surprised to see her leaving the Defense Bar, but she'll be a great addition.

David Mitcham --  Interim First Assistant and Trial Bureau Chief   I was completely surprised to see Dave going back to the District Attorney's Office after a multi-decade absence.  I'm a big fan of his and have respected him during my time as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.  Like Vivian, he also has no fear about going to trial, which will serve the Office well in his role as Trial Bureau Chief.

I am mildly confused at the blending of the roles of Trial Bureau Chief and First Assistant, and I'm speculating that the "Interim" part of this indicates that this blending is only temporary.  If it is temporary and a full time First Assistant is coming at a later date, it begs the question of who that First Assistant is going to be.  It could be a defense attorney who needed just a little more time to wrap up his or her cases before joining the Office.  That's just speculation on my part, though.

Hon. Barbara Hartle -- Administrative Bureau Chief  I don't know anything about Barbara Hartle other than what I've seen from briefly scanning the internet.  It appears that she is a Municipal Court Judge.  The title of Administrative Bureau Chief is also a new one to me, so I'm not entirely sure what that is all about.  It sounds like something resembling what Hannah Chow did under the Lykos Administration.

Yvonne Q. Taylor -- Training Coordinator  Again, this is not a name I'm familiar with, and it appears she was also pulled from the City of Houston Municipal Courts. It doesn't sound like we will be seeing her in court much.

JoAnne Musick --  Sex Crimes Unit Chief  Another surprising addition to the Ogg Staff was the return of former prosecutor and two-time President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers' Association, JoAnne Musick.  Since leaving the Office over ten years ago, JoAnne has been an extremely vocal champion of all things Criminal Defense.  Most people I know were very surprised to see her leaving the Defense Bar.

JoAnne and I aren't exactly friends, but I respect her ability and dedication to whatever project she tackles.  When she was with the Office, she was one of the ones who always tackled extra projects in an effort to make the Office better.  She tackled being a Defense Attorney with the same gusto.  She always kind of reminded me of the kid who turned in her school Science Project the day after it was first assigned.

Sex Crimes Unit Chief will also be a new position with the Office.  I am curious as to whether or not it will incorporate child sex crimes and adult sex crimes under the same Division.

Carvana Cloud -- Family Criminal Law Unit Chief  This is probably my favorite hire under the Ogg Administration, because I'm a Super Fan of Carvana.  She and I have been friends since she started at the Office and she earned my respect with the way she handled her poor treatment under the Lykos Administration.  Carvana is well liked and highly respected by her peers on both the prosecution and the defense.  My only complaint about this is that I wish she had an even higher position within the Office.

Nathan Beedle -- Misdemeanor Division Chief  This one was also a surprise and a blast from the past.  Beedle was a year or two behind me at the Office and he left as a Felony Two.  He disappeared out of the criminal law realm for several years, but reappeared a few years back.  Nathan is a cocky smart ass, but I like him.  We often found ourselves in cut down battles during our misdemeanor days, but he was regarded as a very talented trial lawyer.

Nathan left the Office after getting crossways with the Upper Administration for turning in his two week notice shortly after attending Career Prosecutor School.  You can expect there to be some grumbling about that by some of the older former prosecutors.  Contrary to those grumblings, I think he will actually be a good trainer to younger lawyers.  I'm glad to see him back.

Sean Teare -- Vehicular Crimes Unit Chief  Again, I (and most of Sean's friends) were surprised to see his name pop up on the list of returning prosecutors to the Office.  He's a good friend of mine, but since leaving the Office for the Civil World during the Lykos Administration, he's been rather missing in action.  I'm glad to see him back at the D.A.'s Office.

There has been some grumbling that Sean left the Office as a Felony Three and did not have experience trying cases that involved fatalities.  Given the fact that Vehicular Crimes handles mostly Intoxication Manslaughter cases, some have argued he doesn't have the experience to head the Division.  However, Sean has been a lawyer for over nine years, and he's a good one.  He may have some learning to do, but I imagine he will ultimately do just fine.  He's got guts and he's not afraid to speak his mind if a case doesn't rise to the level of being provable beyond a reasonable doubt.  That's an asset in a Division that will deal with extremely emotional cases, where ration can sometimes be in short supply.

Colleen Barnett -- Floating Felony Court Chief   Also from the Blast from the Past Files, we have the return of Colleen Barnett as Floating Felony Court Chief.  Again, I think this is a good call.  Colleen is also a friend of mine, and she is one hell of a trial lawyer.  I had heard rumors that she was returning to the Office, and I'm glad to see her coming back.  I would imagine that Colleen is going to be the Designated Hitter on a lot of very tough trials in the near future.

Some friends were surprised that Colleen was given a Floating Felony Court Chief position when there are currently so many District Court Chief positions that will need to be filled.  I would imagine that this has more to do with her taking on tougher cases and not being limited to just any court.  She has the experience to be the leader of the Trial Bureau, but apparently she has taken on the role of Ninja Assassin for the Office.  This is interesting, because it seems to be a small preview of the restructuring of the Office's hierarchy.

Alex Forrest -- Environmental Unit Chief This one has some people scratching their heads because not many people know Alex.  I've known him for several years now and he's a really nice guy.  I haven't seen him in the criminal arena all that often, but he is a pretty young attorney.  Environmental isn't exactly a hotbed of activity within the Office.  I don't really see this creating too much controversy in the near future.

Elizabeth Eakin -- Data Analysis Director  I don't believe that I know Elizabeth Eakin or what a Data Analysis Director does.  According to the State Bar, she's been licensed since 2012.

Sue Lovell- Governmental Affairs & Shekira Dennis -- Outreach Coordinator  I'm not familiar with these two staff members, but these positions appear to be more Administrative rather than legal.  I don't believe they are attorneys, unless I'm looking under the wrong names on the State Bar website.  Lovell has her own Wikipedia page and Dennis appears to be very involved in the Democratic Party.

And now we get to the trio of terrible decisions . . .

Jim Leitner -- Intake and Grand Jury Bureau Chief --  sigh.  Despite our brief and torrid Facebook friendship, I still am not a big fan of the idea of Leitner back at the D.A.'s Office.  My personal feelings aside, Jim was a giant disappointment to those of us who used to actually be fans of his prior to taking the role of 1st Assistant under Lykos.  Back in 2008, most who knew Jim thought he would be a voice of reason to the temperamental Lykos.  Unfortunately, he ended up becoming a wildly unpopular authoritarian who wielded his power at the office like a weapon.  While over time I've almost come to look at Leitner with amusement, there are many current and former Assistant District Attorneys who loathe him far worse than I ever did.

Although Ogg didn't place Jim at the head of the hierarchy, his position as Intake Chief has some big undertones on what is ultimately going to happen on the David Temple case, and it doesn't exactly bode well for the chances of a retrial.  Leitner has already gone on record as thinking that the capital murder warrant written by Dumb and Dumberer was a good one.

John Denholm -- Intake Shift Chief  Speaking of Dumb and Dumberer, the Ogg Administration made two additional poor decisions by bringing in the chief architect of that ridiculous warrant, John Denholm.  Denholm, who was last seen giving a less-than-enthralling lecture on body cameras at a CLE (which reminded me of this for some reason) will be taking the title of "Shift Chief."  I have no idea what that title means, but it would seem that he will be in charge of writing some warrants.  This also doesn't bode well for the retrial of David Temple, since Denholm, Leitner, and Steve Clappart all seem to think that a person claiming to have killed a dog is the exact same thing as an admission to Capital Murder.

This position is more than just a little concerning.  Denholm is an angry man who likes to retaliate when he is pissed off.  Yeah, let's put a slow-witted, angry man in charge of supervising all charges filed in Harris County.  What could possibly go wrong?

Steve Clappart -- Chief Investigator  Rounding out the Three Amigos of Bad Decision Making is our friend Steve Clappart, who makes his return to law enforcement as Chief Investigator for the Office.  Clappart continues to disappoint me on several levels, because I used to actually respect him and think of him as a friend.  Steve was the affiant on the notorious warrant that Denholm put him up to writing.  In the glowing article written about him and Denholm by Lisa Falkenberg, he bemoaned losing friends for his "courageous" stand on the case.

In reality Steve lost friends because he was playing both sides of the fence.  While signing off on a Capital Murder for a kid who allegedly (through double hearsay) claimed to have shot a dog, Clappart was also calling friends in law enforcement and telling them he was only pursuing the warrant because his boss, Jim Leitner, was making him do so.  At the end of the day, Steve appears to go where he's ordered and that is highly disappointing behavior from a cop I used to think so much better of.

The trio of Clappart, Denholm and Leitner coming in under the Ogg Administration is a pretty tell-tale sign about the likelihood of a Temple retrial, but I'll talk more about that in a later post.  As I've said before, and I'll say again, I do remain hopeful that the Ogg Administration wil be a good and successful one.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Soros-approved!

Anonymous said...

Leitner's already thinking of how he can fire you again.

Anonymous said...

Denholm is just a huge dick. No one likes that man. No one.

Anonymous said...

Denholm was good cover-up man. If you really want to light his fuse, ask him how the former Sheriff's Chief Deputy got out of so many alcohol related arrests by various agencies around the state.

Anonymous said...

I knew John Denholm when he was a deputy, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant with the HCSO. Denholm is Vendictive with a capital V. As for the Temple case, he tried throwing lead investigator Chuck Leitner, no relation to Jim, under the bus from day 1 of the investigation. Denholm will hold court over the phone just to get charges accepted in the DA's Office. Major step back for police in Harris County.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Eakin's parents are big democratic donors. This is nothing more than a favor to mommy and daddy. She's done nothing to deserve a spot at the DA's office, even as a misdemeanor 3.

Anonymous said...

Its been said before that if Kim Ogg won she would be more about prosecuting former prosecutors and police officers than criminals...just to settle some old scores. Her appointment of Jim Leitner and John Denholm as well as some others that have that same vindictive streak as Kim seems to be a precursor of earlier predictions. Hide and watch

MB said...

I worked with John during most of his career at the Sheriff's Office. I found him to be smart, hard working and fair.

Anonymous said...



This transition has been an absolute mess full of missteps, insults and outright lies. Memos that make no sense are distributed to staff and then have to be cleaned up; knee jerk press conferences are held to lash into prosecutors based on hearsay. The result is that Kim is likely going to be sued personally for slander and lacks the trust of the staff even before she walks into office. Say what you will about Lykos, but she at least had a fully formed staff when she started on January 1, 2009. Kim has no First Assistant, but Environmental Crimes is taken care of? So what exactly did this world class transition advisor do? How much have they charged the county for their services? Houston Chronicle/Houston Press/Commissioners Court take note -- Kim's employment attorney has already turned in an invoice for $30,000 to review personnel records. Please ask probing questions about this.

As to the staff hires I'll add this, Beedle rose to be a felony 2 in the 230th and (sorry Murray) was a disaster. Nevertheless, he was sent to career prosecutor school in Charleston. At that time, when you were sent you made a verbal commitment to stay with the office for several more years because of the expense involved. Beedle made the commitment, attended the school for two weeks, and then promptly resigned to go into the private sector. He was told to leave the office before his two weeks notice was up. And now he is in charge of Misdemeanor.

Anonymous said...

You missed the mark Murray. Kathy Braddock was the first Chief of Staff for the DAO and that was under the Anderson's administration.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 9:17 a.m.,

Thank you for the correction. I fixed it in the post.

Anonymous said...

I believe Barbara Hartle was in charge of the city court fiasco involving a move to go paperless, the end result one of the biggest clusters seen in city government in many years. The cost overruns were so high that even her best buddy Mayor Parker was said to have second thoughts about the appointment. A few of the others from the city were not exactly hard chargers when it came to showing any expertise with municipal governance but they compare modestly well to the former HCSO clowns that were never credibly considered "smart, hard working or fair" by anyone that spoke to them for more than a few minutes.

It's also disappointing to see someone as defective as Leitner back in the office but as you pointed out, some of the others are way better than expected from someone like Ogg, a few perhaps tainted by well known personality quirks and moral lapses but talented all the same. And whatever she said on the campaign trail, she will be friendly with newly appointed police chief Art Acevedo, Houston's top cop already pushing for marijuana legalization, and Sheriff elect Gonzalez. Some of the changes will suit many people but I don't think anyone believes there will be smooth sailing in these uncharted waters, at least for a few years.

Anonymous said...

Eakin was an intern in special crimes under Lykos, thanks to her mommy and daddy asking for a favor. She was a disaster.

Anonymous said...

This will be the perfect storm for law enforcement and criminal justice in Harris County, Houston, Texas. Total incompetence and lack of relevant experience all the way around. For those city and county employees, this will be the Hangover II. For those that have to deal with the system, it will be Dazed and Confused.
Buy land outside county, it's fixin' to go up.

Anonymous said...

Eakin was on the transition team. Ogg's website states: "Transition team members will not be considered for employment in the Harris County District Attorney's Office in 2017." It doesn't seem like it would have been hard to keep that promise.

Anonymous said...

JoAnne Musick is incredibly talented, perhaps even one of the best in town at plea negotiations. What concerns me though is that many of her past clients were police officers who were accused of crimes, and oddly enough, many were accused of sex crimes. But she seems to have integrity, so hopefully she will prosecute police officers with the same zeal as she would anyone else and not allow her past close relationships with child molesters, rapists etc. to influence her future.

Anonymous said...

I guess if your mommy and daddy pay enough money, Kim will ignore your incompetence and the rules and let you work at the office.

Anonymous said...

Denholm does seem to be an odd fit for this crew. Kind of a wolf amidst lambs in a psychological sense. Why are there so many retreads from the Lykos days?

Anonymous said...

It seems that anybody who gave Kim money was given a job. If you look at the finance reports, those who gave were either given a job or offered one and turned it down. It is going to be interesting to see what the salaries of these people are. I suspect Kim is going to cut employees to repay those who gave to her.

Anonymous said...

I observe from the newly announced staff this HCDAO will be decidedly more political than any previous administration I've known in the last 40 years. One new staff member has been a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, another a very active GLBT Caucus advocate, and on and on. One might expect this office to be the point of the spear to change the political face of Harris County, Exhibit One for reforming the DA and judicial selection process away from the current intolerable polarizing and disruptive sea-change partisan method.

Anonymous said...

Murray,
I have to disagree with you--being a nice guy or a good defense attorney is not a qualification for leadership in an organization as complex as the District Attorney's office. How does experience as a Felony 2 or Intern years ago make you ready to be a leader? More than 600 years of combined experience was kicked out the door. Kim Ogg has shown there is no such thing as a career as an ADA to those who remain--what incentive do they have to stay, what career path? Many of the people who were not renewed were the ones people came to with questions, came to bounce ideas off of, and to benefit from their experience. These new political appointees don't have that background, won't have get it quickly and many won't feel they need it. I see no reason for optimism with these new flunkies, I fear for the future of the HCDAO.

Anonymous said...

If a prosecutor is found to have committed a Brady violation, do they still have prosecutorial immunity? When Ogg dumps the Temple case (most likely having Denholm sign the nolle), can Temple then sue Kelly? If so, does the DA's office have to pay for her representation since it was during the course of her employment?

Vic W said...

If Denholm worked on the case while in private practice doesn't the office need to recuse itself and request a pro tem be appointed?

Murray Newman said...

That's a complicated question that I don't think I know the answer to. Remember that the Temple decision from the CCA was a split decision and it ultimately didn't say Kelly withheld Brady evidence but failed to turn it over in a timely manner. I believe prosecutorial immunity would cover in even the worst case scenario.
I'm also curious as to whether or not Temple would have to prove up his actual innocence. If so, that would result in a relay of his first trial at the civil level. I doubt he would fare too well.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:22 All will be well. "Eva" is back on the job. She will take care of everything. She is an amazing leader.

Murray Newman said...

I agree with you, Vic. But look to Stanley and Dick and Gotro to graciously waive this conflict.

Jason Truitt said...

1:52, the DA's office has always been political. The difference is that now that you've lost, you see the sky falling all around you.

And you weren't clamoring for non-political races when Holmes was winning, I bet.

Anonymous said...

Do funds to pay for outside counsel for ADAs come from the DA budget or does the county foot the bill?

Murray Newman said...

When there were a host of cases that the D.A.'s Office had to recuse themselves for under Lykos (due to Leitner's defense involvement), it is my understanding that the funding for the Pro Tem came from the D.A.'s Office.

Anonymous said...

Wow that will be a lot of money for attorney's pro tem with little Jimmy and Ms. Cloud being contract lawyers on a ton of cases.

Anonymous said...

7:24,sue Kelly for what? The appeals court didn't rule anything of substance wasn't turned over to the defense, just that it was given to them late. Temple deserves a new trial for that I suppose, but the evidence in the case is the same. The jurors heard about the neighbor kid and still convicted Temple. Seriously, is there anyone here who is familiar with this case who doesn't realize politics and money played a significant role in getting the conviction overturned? Anyone?

Eva said...

Ya know what, Anon 8:40? I don't work for the DAO. So I guess that makes two of us?

Let it go. Scrape up some dignity and move on. Or, if you simply can't let it go, at least keep my name out your mouth. I'm not the one who fired you (though with every one of your posts, it becomes increasingly clear why you lost your job).

In the event you *weren't* one of the names on that list, remember that I literally do not care why you're here whining. You don't matter. Keep my name out of your worthless mouth.

Kisses!!!

Anonymous said...

Eva Eva Eva

hahahahahahah

Anonymous said...

I hope Kim's past history of defending child molesters does not cloud her judgment and endanger our children.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it is up to two hires that also served on Transition team...both who had access to all personnel files.