Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Mad Queen

The CJC Community was shocked today by the announcement that Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had fired her First Assistant Tom Berg.  There were rumors that a few other employees in administrative positions had also been fired.

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 wildly unpopular controversial Division Chief, JoAnne Musick to be promoted to the position of Trial Bureau Chief.

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.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes. More Joanne. Yay. Can’t wait. That sound you hear is 20 more people typing their resumes.

Phanco said...

Shit canned

Bummer

Thorhees21 said...

In my previous life as a federal prosecutor, I tried cases against both Berg and Ogg. I can confirm that Berg has more integrity in his little finger than Ogg has in her whole body.

Anonymous said...

So do you think that Tom was not going to go along with the coverup of Officer Goines' murdering that innocent couple? Just find it strange this occurred on the same day that Acevedo announced the end of his department's investigation into that botched raid. Certainly leaves you wondering if the two aren't somehow connected.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 8:24 a.m.,

I've heard a rumor that the argument was over the Alfred Dewayne Brown case.

I don't think Ogg has any intention of covering up anything on the Goines case. I think she is more than happy to go after the police officers involved on that one. There is no downside to her on it.

Anonymous said...

Berg was too good for the place. He's threatened to quit in the past and I was sorry he didn't follow through. He was treated poorly by Kim and Vivian. With him gone, we've finally got the leadership team Harris county deserves, and Tom can go do something worthwhile.

C.L. said...

Am not an atty or employed by the criminal justice system... but re: the combat veteran status of Berg - when did that personal history elevate folks to the status of 'can do no wrong' ? Aren't folks committed of war crimes (combat veterans) currently being considered for presidential pardons ?

Second, if you don't know why he was fired, why the glowing report of 'what a man of character he was !' ? What if I told you if was because of petty theft within his office, or grand larceny, or that he was running a whorehouse out of an apartment he was renting in the Galleria under an alias ? Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things.

Careful with the elevations...

Murray Newman said...

C.L.,

I think you are being obtuse. The reason that we elevate people who served in combat for the military is that we are recognizing someone who performed an altruistic act on behalf of a greater good. The fact that he served at all is a greater sacrifice than most (including myself) and the fact that he saw combat means that he risked his life in doing so.

Does it mean that he's infallible? Of course not. Does it mean that he's got some pretty impressive credentials that may lead one to believe that he takes Duty very seriously? Yes.

I don't know the specifics of why Tom was fired, but I am aware of the environment of which he was fired from. Given that knowledge, coupled with Tom's background and reputation, I'm comfortable in my assessment.


Anonymous said...

C.L.,

Your grammar is terrible.

Sincerely,

Grammar Police

Tom said...

CL: I just read your comment about Tom Berg's status as a veteran. Tom served honorably in Bosnia, Afghanistan (or maybe Iraq, I'm not sure) and Guantanamo Bay. At GTMO, he and a FBI agent too a stand opposing mistreatment of prisoners. He had the courage to tell truth to power. He holds the Bronze Star. He was a military judge.
In the military, there is the "good soldier" defense at courts martial. It is "He's a good soldier and good soldiers don't to that kind of thing."
You don't now why Kim Ogg removed him as first assistant and neither do I. It smells like a policy disagreement. If he had been guilty of a crime, she wouldn't have offered him another job in the office.
As for military service counting in favor of a person, I wore the uniform for 21 years active duty and reserve. I sacrificed a lot for my country, not blood but a lot personally. I sincerely hope that if I ever get into trouble, that service will be taken into account.
When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who spent World War II as a Houston Police Officer. He was vocal and jealous of the veterans benefits my father got because he served in the Army during the war. My Dad got drafted, got onto a ship, leaving my mother, not knowing if he would ever come back. Meanwhile, our neighbor made a lot more money and spent every night in his own bed.
Your rant reminds me of that retired cop.
And, I'm brave enough to sign my name.
Tom Moran

Anonymous said...

Any FC's who have quit HCDAO might want to file to run for Brazos county district attorney, in light of recent publicity it would seem their current DA would be easy to defeat. Lots of college kids in the county who would be eager to cast votes for an honest DA. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/No-charges-for-TABC-agent-whose-testimony-was-13985272.php

Anonymous said...

Since when do college kids vote? Usually it’s the locals that make the votes happen.