I voted for Kim Ogg.
It wasn't an easy decision. I had a few reservations about some of Kim's portrayals to the media on things she knew weren't exactly accurate when it came to the law. Kim is a former Chief Prosecutor under Johnny Holmes and she knew better. She did a lot of spinning on things that were contrary to law in order to get some votes.
I like Devon Anderson and I adored Mike. Not voting for her bothered me tremendously. It wasn't because I bought into the hype and spin of the Planned Parenthood or "Jailed Rape Victim" stories or that I thought she was a bad person.
But at the end of the day, things Devon said on the campaign trail led me to believe that there was too much of an "Us versus Them" mentality that she fostered at the D.A.'s Office. This culminated in her saying something to the effect of "We all know there is nothing a defense attorney won't say to get a case reversed" during the one D.A. debate. That implication that my side of the courtroom was a profession filled with nothing but wholesale liars didn't sit well with me, and ultimately, I realized that a vote for Devon was really starting to feel like a vote against myself -- and all of my clients.
I made my final decision to vote for Kim Ogg because I agreed with her overall outlook on the Criminal Justice System. I know this is going to lead to backlash from some of my law enforcement friends, but I agree with not filing crack pipe cases as felonies. I agreed with Lykos when she stopped filing them, and I agree with Kim for saying she won't file them. I feel the same way about her marijuana policies. When she said that our drug policies were labeling a large segment of our community as criminals who otherwise wouldn't be, I agreed with her.
I also had this underlying belief that Kim Ogg was no Pat Lykos. I thought Kim had a better understanding of the men and women that work at the Harris County District Attorney's Office and that she lacked Lykos' mean and vindictive streak. I thought that Kim would make good and practical decisions when it came to whom she kept and whom she didn't.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Yesterday, Kim Ogg stunned pretty much everyone in the CJC building by
And the way she went about it was pretty damn tasteless. It was certainly a cowardly way to end the careers of 38 people who had devoted years (and in many cases, decades) to the D.A.'s Office.
Kim had let it be known on Thursday that her Administration would send out an e-mail at noon on Friday and each prosecutor would get one. That e-mail would tell the prosecutor whether they would be welcome in the new Administration. No personal interaction. I mean, damn, even I got the honor of being personally fired by Jim Leitner and Roger Bridgwater. I even shook old Roger's hand!
Not only was the Death by Email plan a disturbing indication that the Ogg Administration is going to be doing some things that they can't quite look you in the eye about, they weren't even punctual about it. Prosecutors had to sit at their desks past noon, waiting. Waiting to see if they needed to pack up their home away from home and start a completely knew career path in life -- in the next two weeks.
And then there was the media.
Cameras were posted at the D.A.'s Office and in front of the building. Someone -- gee, I wonder who -- had managed to stage 38 people getting fired at Christmas time into a media event.
So, let's talk about the firings themselves.
As I mentioned above, a certain amount of firings are to be expected, and they usually begin at the Bureau Chief Level. For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy of the Office, there is the elected D.A., followed by the First Assistant, followed by the Bureau Chiefs. They are the equivalent of a President's Cabinet, and like in a Presidency, it is to be expected that the District Attorney would want her own handpicked Cabinet. This is not to say that any of the terminated Bureau Chiefs were bad prosecutors or deserved termination, but there is a certain risk involved when one rises so high in the Office.
If I'm not mistaken, all of the Bureau Chiefs were not invited to return.
The next step below Bureau Chiefs are the Division Chiefs. Division Chiefs are most definitely senior prosecutors and comprise the most talented trial attorneys in the Office. I believe that Kim elected not to renew all but three of the Division chiefs.
Unlike the Bureau Chiefs, the Division Chiefs aren't quite as easily described as being the normal part of any Administration Change. Although they were certainly senior, the job description of a Division Chief is much more of a leader in the field. For instance, all Death Penalty Capital cases require a Division Chief to be sitting on the case, along with a District Court chief. They embody the battle-tested prosecutor who knows how to try complex and difficult cases. Most of them all started their career under Johnny Holmes and continued through all of the successive administrations, including Lykos.
I'm not exactly sure who told Kim that firing her most talented and experienced prosecutors was in the best interest of the Office.
After the firings of the Division Chiefs, it becomes a bit scattershot. There are several District Court Chiefs (more experience) and a couple of Felony Twos. I may be mistaken, but I don't think I saw anyone below the Felony Two level on Kim's list.
Some of the people on the below Division Chief level were not surprising terminations. Rightfully or wrongfully, they were on the media radar, and thus the New Administration's radar. Most of these firings were disappointingly based more on hype than substance. My biggest concern about Kim becoming the District Attorney was that she would govern her Office with more attention to perception than reality. That was clearly the case on many of the fires.
The most troubling of the firings, however, fall under the category of "Who the hell did they piss off?" These were the fires that left almost everyone in the Criminal Justice community scratching their heads and wondering why these seemingly good, ethical, and well-liked prosecutors weren't continuing in their jobs. I'm not going to name any of the prosecutors who were terminated because I don't want this popping up when future employers or clients do an internet search of their names.
In the immediate aftermath of the D.A. election, I had written this post and told prosecutors not to worry about the jackasses who walked around bragging of their "wish lists" of firings. Apparently, those wish lists were a little more prevalent than I would have imagined.
After having a day to talk about these particular terminations, there seemed to be a developing pattern of these prosecutors having beefs with the dynamic duo of Roger Bridgwater and Jim Leitner -- with a little bit of Dick DeGuerin's influence tossed in for good measure. There are some early indications of another former prosecutor who wielded some influence, too, but I haven't confirmed that yet. However, let's just say that if he is returning under the Ogg Administration, her call for less aggressive "win-at-all-costs" prosecuting will be regarded as a complete and total joke.
It won't be surprising if Leitner and Bridgwater return to the D.A.'s Office, or, at a minimum, have Kim Ogg's ear. Those two die hard Republicans have made no secret about being on Team Ogg ever since Lykos got decimated in the 2012 primary by Mike Anderson. I hope that Kim Ogg remembers that as much as I disliked Bridgwater and Leitner on a personal level, I looked like a member of their fan club compared to the rank and file that worked under them. They were widely regarded as petty tyrants and bullies by the Assistant D.A.'s.
If Leitner and Bridgwater are, in fact, returning to the D.A.'s Office, I don't know what to say other than Welcome back! This blog and I have missed you.
All in all, the Ogg Administration got off to a bad start yesterday. If her first goal was to decimate morale, she certainly accomplished that. She seemed to take no notice of the idea that when you become the elected official over any government agency, you want people to be rooting for you -- and that begins with the people who work for you. Although some of her terminations were justified, there were many that were not. Her message seems to be taken out of the Pat Lykos Playbook, except it is making Lykos look tame by comparison.
I still have hope that Kim can become a good D.A. if she actually starts governing with less attention to perception and more to reality. Kim should remember that Lykos, Leitner and Bridgwater basically governed a running four year mutiny before getting blasted out of Office. It was a miserable situation for everyone involved. Miserable situations don't attract good personnel and without good personnel, you cannot have a good Office.
That's a lesson that the Ogg Administration is going to have to learn the hard way, apparently.