The move is surprising for a couple of reasons.
The first reason being that Tom Berg has a stellar reputation for being a man of integrity, dedication, and knowledge. He is a combat veteran who has dedicated his life to the Criminal Justice Center and he is very highly respected amongst both the Defense Bar and the Prosecution. Tom spent the vast majority of his legal career on the defense side of the aisle so I was somewhat surprised when he joined the D.A.'s Office. I thought it was a great hire by Ogg and I said so at the time.
Tom had a learning curve at the D.A.'s Office -- largely due to the fact that his primary focus of criminal law had been on the Federal side of things, as opposed to State. He made a few missteps at first and made a couple of statements that he would probably like to have taken back. None of those missteps or misstatements, however, undercut that he was a fair-minded man who left private practice to help make the Criminal Justice System better.
His firing today by Ogg says a hell of a lot more about the Ogg Administration than it does about Tom Berg.
Ogg's Office has been under scrutiny lately because of the mass exodus of Harris County prosecutors who are leaving their jobs for . . . any job but that one. Morale is in the toilet and a job that was once the most coveted in the prosecutorial profession is now one that nobody wants anymore. Tom Berg was not a contributing factor to that lack of morale. He did his best to rally the troops that the Office still had left.
But Kim Ogg has always seemed to embrace the idea that it is better to be feared than loved. There were multiple prosecutors and defense attorneys today who were comparing her method of ruling to Sunday night's episode of Game of Thrones (No spoilers here, but if you watched the show Sunday, you should understand what they are talking about).
While Ogg is running off good prosecutors in hordes and firing leaders like Tom Berg, she is busily making blatantly political hires like troubled former-HPD Chief Clarence Bradford. More troubling is the rumor that Berg's firing has paved the way for
To my brethren and sistren in the Defense Bar, if you think your trial court prosecutors are currently hamstrung by micromanagement and stupid policies, get ready for Ogg giving JoAnne a blank check to run the whole bureau however she wants.
The firing of Tom Berg probably won't really change the day-to-day operations of prosecutors in a way that is noticeable to the general public, or even the rank and file prosecutors. The message that is implied in his firing, however, is beyond troubling. While Ogg has been able to waive off previous departures from the Office as people who weren't committed to her "progressive" ideas, she can't do the same with a man that she handpicked to be her second in command. She can't do that with a man who has the integrity and reputation of Tom Berg.
Apparently, the First Assistant didn't learn the First Rule of dealing with Kim Ogg.
To disagree with the D.A. is to lose your job.