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Law

Tarrant Co. Probate Judges Protect Their Own

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If the circus in Collin County isn’t a big enough argument against one-party government, the scandal brewing in the Tarrant County probate courts should be. I’ve linked to stories here and here  about Judge Pat Ferchill. The judge, perhaps as a result of the growing press attention to his penchant for secret ex-parte hearings and favored advocates, recused himself from the Covington case, where a Down Syndrome girl’s parents were removed as guardians because they objected to a group home’s use of psychotropic drugs to sedate her.  The motion to re-hear the case then went to his colleague, Judge Steven M. King.

Yesterday, Judge King postponed the hearing scheduled for today. He said it was “because of the election” and that “D Magazine had endorsed Ferchill’s opponent.” Here are the relevant two paragraphs from my editorial in the current issue:

In Tarrant County, it is the GOP that dominates with straight-ticket voting. For County Probate Court No. 2, they elected Pat Ferchill. This judge appears to have turned his probate court into a racket, holding ex parte hearings with favored attorneys, terminating guardianship rights of parents over their disabled children, and taking advantage of the elderly. Fort Worth Weekly and the Texas Tribune have done an excellent job of tracking the judge’s suspect rulings.

When no Democrat ran against Ferchill, long-time Fort Worth attorney Bob Shelton took up the cause and put his name on the ballot as a Libertarian. Republicans, do Fort Worth a favor. Vote for the Libertarian.

Apparently Judge King did not want an open hearing attended by the media where the pecularities of Judge Ferchill’s rulings and the worthiness of the evidence he relied on would be examined. Judge King is running unopposed for re-election. But, as noted above, Judge Ferchill is not.

Can a judge just willy-nilly postpone a hearing? Rule 251 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure:

No application for a continuance shall be heard before the defendant files his defense, nor shall any continuance be granted except for sufficient cause supported by affidavit, or by consent of the parties, or by operation of law.

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