Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An Open Letter to Kim Ogg About Her Prosecutors

Hi Kim,

Long time, no talk.

I heard that your upper admin recently started some new thingy called "Selfies and Plans for Success" or something like that.  If I understand it correctly, the "Selfies" component is for each prosecutor to keep a file on his or her computer of all the professional accolades accumulated over the years.

I'll be honest with you -- it seems a little silly to me.  Prosecutors are too busy working their butts off these days to take time for patting themselves on the back.  Self-aggrandizing is really more of a sport for the politicians.  Not to sound too much like a grumpy ex-prosecutor, but back in my day, the upper admin knew the difference between the great, good, average and bad prosecutors.  They watched them in trial.  They read their evaluations.  They didn't ask them to make a "sizzle reel" as if they were trying out for American Idol.

Real prosecutors ain't got time for that.  But if you are keeping tabs on the compliments that the prosecutors in your office receive, let me pass one along:

Harris County prosecutors are the best in the business.

Now, I know I'm biased since I'm a former Harris County prosecutor and all, but over the past nine years I've spent in private practice and the last five years I've spent consulting on other projects, I've had the chance to see quite a few more jurisdictions than I had before 2009.  I've dealt with prosecutors in numerous other counties and numerous other states.  I'm not saying anything negative about the ADAs in those other locales, but there are few that can compare to a seasoned Harris County prosecutor.

Harris County prosecutors have seen every type of case and prosecuted it.  They know the rules of evidence like the backs of their hands because they've gone to trial so many times that procedure is ingrained in them.  They know the value of the case.  They respect their adversaries.  They honor their word.  They know what in the hell they are doing in ways that too many other jurisdictions miss the boat on.

And since Hurricane Harvey, your prosecutors have been absolutely killing it.

I'm not just talking about keeping intake up and running through the storm.  I'm talking about the aftermath.  The past five or six months where they have had to drag buckets of cases to various and sundry makeshift courtrooms across the county.  They have had to keep up with their Discovery obligations and learn a little bit of eFiling in the middle of all this too.  They literally work around the clock on their jobs.

It has not been unusual during post-flood conditions for prosecutors to answer texts, emails and phone calls late into the evening.  I got a (timely) Discovery notice the other night from a prosecutor at 11:45 p.m.  I've seen prosecutors lug additional files to court so some defense attorneys who really really really hate driving in the Galleria area wouldn't have to come to your Office.  I've had two prosecutors drop Discovery off at my house.  I've had another let me come talk to her about a case at her house.

For a displaced group of prosecutors, they couldn't be more accommodating or professional.  They do their jobs and do them well because they love what they do.

You should be proud.  Actually, you should be honored to lead such a group.

But I kind of get the impression that you aren't honored.  I keep seeing and hearing more and more horror stories about folks in your upper admin who treat your rank and file prosecutors like untrustworthy idiots with bad judgment.  I keep seeing more and more outstanding prosecutors leaving Harris County to go to Fort Bend or Montgomery or Travis County.  I know of others praying to get on with the Feds.

They don't want to leave the prosecutorial profession.  They just want to leave you.  That's a shame, because I'm really a big fan of your outlook on the Criminal Justice System.  That's why I voted for you.  That's why I normally defend you when the media is looking for somebody to give a negative sound byte about you.  I know we had our differences on the whole David Temple thing, but on the whole, I still like your policies.

But dammit, Kim.  You have got to start treating your prosecutors better.  They've been through a lot and they've made you look good in the process.  It's time you started treating them like the highly skilled professionals that they are.

And the first thing you need to do to make that happen is have a little chat with JoAnne Musick, your trial bureau chief.

I've known JoAnne since I was a baby prosecutor back in 1999.  She was the misdemeanor chief of Court Six (I believe) back then and we were friends.  It's a good thing we were friends back then, because I saw the way she treated people she didn't like.  She was one of those chiefs who picked a favorite in her court, and God save you if you weren't it.  I watched her nitpick the living hell out of prosecutors she supervised and then share her scathing reviews with all who wanted to hear.

She was a career prosecutor back then.  She bragged about how she was "raised on the knee of Johnny Holmes" and she acted as though she was heir to the throne.  Don't get me wrong.  JoAnne was good at her job.  She was smart and she liked to teach.  But that mean streak, man.  You didn't want to run afoul of that.

When plans changed for JoAnne, she moved to the defense bar.  Now, as someone who initially believed himself to be a career prosecutor, I can tell you that the change to the defense attorney can sometimes be a little awkward at first.  It wan't for JoAnne.  Within the space of one job change, JoAnne's D.A. "family" became known as the vilest group of liars and unethical cheats known to mankind.  The razor sharp tongue and opinions that she once used only on confused Misdemeanor Threes suddenly were being applied to the entirety of the Office.  She was so angry towards the Harris County District Attorney's Office that her former co-workers honestly didn't know what to make of it.

I remember one very senior chief dryly remarking, "I don't know why y'all are so surprised that JoAnne is just as big of a [expletive deleted, but you can probably guess] for the defense bar as she was for us."

And of course, the Defense Bar just ate that up.  They loved JoAnne and her insightful hatred of where she used to work.  To date, she's the only person to serve as President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyer's Association twice.

In the spirit of full disclosure (and in case you haven't guessed already), JoAnne and I aren't exactly buddies.  We got crossways when I was still with the Office after she left.  That got magnified greatly during the whole David Temple case reversal.  She was blasting me on Twitter from the HCCLA account.  It probably had something to do with the fact that one of her law partners at the time was Temple Defense Team Member John Denholm.  Those were good times.

Many of us were stunned when JoAnne took a job with your Administration, Kim.  After all of the things she had said about prosecutors, cops and victims of crime, we all thought those bridges had been burned, nuked, and spat upon.

But all we really needed to do to understand why JoAnne went back to an Office she hated so much was remember what she truly loves:


JoAnne loves being the person in charge and belittling those beneath her.  It's like, her thing.

Her move to Felony Trial Bureau Chief (replacing the far more respected and liked John Jordan) was right up her alley.  She's been going to town ever since she took over her spot, too.  Calling out prosecutor after prosecutor over long-disposed cases and demanding explanations as if she were addressing a renegade pre-commit.  You can call Harris County prosecutors many things, but "soft on crime" has never been one of them.

JoAnne clearly still has the same enthusiasm for belittling those under her as she did when she was a misdemeanor chief.  I've heard the way she talks to prosecutors.  I've heard about her memos. It is so very very vintage JoAnne.

JoAnne isn't talking to renegade pre-commits, Kim.  She's talking to seasoned, trained, ethical, professional, stand up prosecutors.  Prosecutors who have somehow managed to remain upbeat and together despite all they've gone through after Hurricane Harvey.  I wouldn't talk to my dog the way JoAnne talks to prosecutors.

And I don't really like my dog that much.

In short, Hurricane JoAnne is having a far more detrimental effect on your prosecutors than Harvey ever did.  I hope that you'll do something about it.

Many moons ago, when you were working for the D.A.'s Office under Pat Lykos, I ran into you at the elevator bank of the CJC.  It was in the middle of all that crazy Grand Jury surveillance-era and you shook your head and said, "We really need to go grab a beer and catch up on what is happening around here."  Over the months and years that followed, when you and I saw each other around the building and always noted how we still needed to have that beer.

We never did have it, and I'm guessing you probably wouldn't want to have one with me now.  I understand. But all of this is what I would tell you if we were to have that beer today.

You have some of the best prosecutors in the world working for you right now. Treat them with the respect that they have earned and deserve, and they will help you accomplish all of those things that you want and need to do.


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Attorney said...

Thanks for saying this, Murray. The Ogglodytes get pretty defensive if one of us holdovers says anything. Hopefully this will carry weight because it comes from a defense lawyer.

And thanks for the compliments. I love the people I work with and think they're among the best in the country. But even if they were merely average I'm not sure they'd deserve what they get from JoAnne.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is on point. Now if only someone in the administration would recognize that Musick's tactics are not only demoralizing but also clearly contrary to the reform platform that Ogg ran on. She criticizes prosecutors for not hammering state jail felons accused of theft and drug cases. Hammers prosecutors for using their discretion to abandon enhancements and work things out. When the jail population soars and defense counsel starts encountering much less reasonable recs, maybe the administration and the public will wake up.

Anonymous said...

Murray, your letter to Kim is accurate. In just over a year, she has taken an office that was once known nationally for its excellent and innovative prosecutions and turned it into an office firmly ensconced in mediocrity. Yes, there is still a small core group of professionals who are dedicated to doing excellent work, but not many. Their voices are now drowned out by the loud bullying voice of Joann Musik, and backed up by the ultimate authoritarian Kim Ogg herself. Now the office is mostly staffed with scared, overworked, barely knowledgeable attorneys who need a job. The citizens of Harris County are the true victims, as well as law enforcement officers who have to deal with prosecutors who don’t know the law. If only the voters of Harris County could know the true extent that Kim has inserted politics into the decision making process, I am sure they would be horrified. Factors such as race, Facebook comments, and media spin are taken into consideration by this Administration when making critical decisions regarding the disposition of a case. All factors that should never be a part of how and why a case is resolved. The facts, the victims, and defendant culpability as applied to the law are the only factors that should matter.

Anonymous said...

So JoAnne is getting berating the seasoned felony prosecutors and Nathan Beedle is losing misdemeanor prosecutors left and right. Sounds like a wonderful combination.

Anonymous said...

As someone who worked with Musick during her first go around at the HCDAO, all I can say is Amen &Amen!

Anonymous said...

Hey I am the Ogg administration and I am schizophrenic. I agreed to a bail system ensuring most everyone makes bail. Once they are out, I have ensured the case will never work out fairly. I have done this by creating a culture of paranoia at the office. I once received negative publicity from HPD, so I told prosecutors never to abandon enhancements. And I set up JoAnne to create inquisition sessions. These terrify prosecutors such that they cannot use their discretion or they will be fired.

Jason Truitt said...

"Murray, your letter to Kim is accurate. In just over a year, she has taken an office that was once known nationally for its excellent and innovative prosecutions and turned it into an office firmly ensconced in mediocrity."

That's weird, because if Lykos did this, and then Devon Anderson did this...

What, exactly, was left to do this much damage to?

I could care less about Musick, but the constant bitching based on little more than politics is getting old. At least Murray cited some examples. The random and persistent complaining is, well, random and persistent.

Anonymous said...

Lets remember what a bully does. They intimidate and demoralize people because of their own insecurities. They talk louder than everyone else when someone disagrees with them. They try and increase their own stature and standing by demoralizing others and making them feel inferior. As far as Power, I can pick people out that are power hungry and just simply don't know how to handle power and authority. Anyone who is a bully and on a power trip can make for a very long day. If Kim spent more time in the office, she might take notice of this power hungry person. I doubt it, but it makes me look so forward to voting against all of this B.S. in 2020. Then and only then can we get back to rebuilding this office and making it much safer for the citizens. All of the defense attorneys can go back to work defending the criminals and then leave the prosecutions of the criminal element to the real adults!

Anonymous said...

9:20, you think the Dems are going to run a primary opponent against her? Or is she voluntarily stepping down in 2020? Because those are the only two chances you have of getting rid of her.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 9:20. Joanne is, was, and always will be a bully. Your analysis was spot on. Sadly the current DA has ignored both the anti-bullying campaign with Joanne and the #MeToo campaign with regard to Beedle. As I have said before, expect BOTH to be the new Jenny of the next campaign. Beedle is definitely going to be front and center of the anti-Ogg ads. As he should be. Because there can never be an excuse for his continued employment given his behavior. I just can’t wait for his lewd and wrongful comments to be plastered across an image of Ogg in an ad.

Anonymous said...

Jason, you're making false comparisons again. The same people that believe Lykos destroyed the office are not the same folks that claimed Anderson destroyed the office, and the latest group pointing to Ogg as the mighty destroyer are not the same as either of those. Under Lykos, the political purges and policy changes did cause problems but they weren't all bad, just mostly so. The office lost a great deal of valuable experience and no one with a shred of credibility denies it. Under the Anderson couple, efforts were made to restore some of the better elements yet also change with the times, Devon not as capable a leader as Belinda Hill but the governor appointing who he saw fit to the role. But even before taking office, Ogg started this campaign of bullying so it's no surprise that her subordinates have run with the theme.

Anon 4:12, it is quite possible that Ogg face a Democratic challenger in the primary when her term nears completion and it is a certainty that the GOP will field a superior candidate or two that aren't politically appointed and then attacked by the sour grapes crowd. How many scandals has Ogg endured to date? All of these will provide ammunition for her opponents no matter how much wishful thinking some of the defense lawyers of the area engage in to let the chaos continue. Ogg should cut her losses, dismiss Joanne, Denny, and Nathan at the very least, and start listening to her staffers working in the trenches or she'll be the latest one term wonder with no hopes of elected office again.

Anonymous said...

6:07: ...it is a certainty that the GOP will field a superior candidate or two...

I cannot imagine another county-wide Republican whose name isn't Emmett winning for years to come. And maybe not even then.

Anonymous said...

Back when Joanne was practicing defense she was known as the go-to lawyer for police officers who were brought up on child sex charges. She was a tough defender and was able to keep most, if not all, of her clients out of prison. So I was a little taken aback when she was hired by Ogg. Seemed to me that was like placing the fox inside the hen house..

Anonymous said...

Let's see ... Lykos destroyed the office, then Devon destroyed the office, and now Kim and Joanne destroyed the office. Can't be much left now.

Anonymous said...

Moves just came out. More people will be leaving. Say what you will about Lykos and Devon, but the office has never lost this much experience.

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget, this is what $500k of George Soros campaign money in action looks like. Soros bought DA elections all over the country and this was just one of them. Why is anyone surprised. ?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:59, your lack of imagination aside, we'll see a great many Republicans elected in November this year, not just Emmett. I'm not a party loyalist by any means but there is very little evidence to believe this will be a sweep year for either party. There are some very qualified people from both parties and some real clunkers too, but hopefully the public stops the radical swings and gets down to business.

Anonymous said...

In another interesting development, is it just a coincidence that a Democratic judicial candidate slate mailer sent out earlier in the week was paid for by a PAC associated with the chair of Ogg's campaign finance committee? The PAC's return mailing address and Ogg's campaign donation address are the same.

Attorney said...

Anon 7:53: Looking at the Democrat candidates, I'd hope that even Ogg could recognize a Democrat sweep would be a disaster for her office. But not once in the last two years has Ogg risen to the level I hoped she would.

At this point, the only benefit I can hope to get from the Oggster is catharsis when her decision to stand by serial harasser Nathan Beedle comes back to bite her in the 2020 primary. If Harris County knowingly stands by a DA who stands by such a "man," the show's over.

Anonymous said...

11:46, I'm just going to leave this here for you:


Twilight Zoned said...

The GOP is done in Harris County.

2018 will usher out the remaining Republican District Judges and the CJC won't be operational until 2020 (not 2019).

Kim Jong Ogg will seek higher office in 2020 and lose.

Wee man Jimmy "the weasel" Leitner will run yet again in 2020 and lose once again.

We will see a qualified Democrat take over in 2020 and start to rebuild the tattered HCDAO.........by 2030 things will be better.


Anonymous said...

I worked alongside Joanne when she was first at the DA's office. She was Chief of a court with a weak, mean-spirited #2, who everyone hated (except her and a few top administrators because of the #2's brown nosing behavior) and a #3 who was one of the hardest-working prosecutors I've ever met. Joanne and the #2 ganged up on the #3 and made life miserable. It wasn't the first time either - the person the #3 replaced was run off by Joanne and the #2. Up until that time, the second #3 loved working there. The #2 spread rumors that the #3 was a "trial dodger," which could not have been further from the truth. This #3 was a close friend of mine and I saw the bullying behavior up close. It was terrible and I felt so sorry for my friend, who loved being a prosecutor - a lifelong dream - but hated coming to work with those two every day. To see someone who is good at his or her job, who loves the job, but who is bullied every day all day long is difficult. Joanne is a smart woman. She is a talented woman. Say what you will, she is a good lawyer. But her personal skills and managerial skills have never ever been her strong suit. You have to be smart in deciding who will lead and who will manage. When you put someone in charge of management who is ill suited for the task, you lose talented people by the dozens. Instead of asking prosecutors for "selfies" perhaps you should ask them anonymously what their thoughts are about management and the policies of the office and whether those experiences are helping them do their jobs or hindering them. Many law firms have created a "no jerks" policy because they have found when jerks wreck the morale of the workplace, productivity is harmed. Given that prosecutors already have productivity issues with their massive caseloads and flooded workplace, perhaps you should look for ways to ease their stress not contribute to it. Based on the comments expressed earlier, easing stress should begin with removing Joanne and Nathan Beedle from their positions.

Anonymous said...

Soros bought the Harris County DA position and is now spending $1,000,000.00 to buy the San Antonio DA position. I am pretty sure Ogg feels cheated, he only gave her $500,000.00. Talk about The Swamp.... alive and well in Harris County.


Anonymous said...

Kim Jong Ogg has declared war on the Houston Police Department...