Monday, November 7, 2011

Judge punts show cause hearing

Today was the day and I was determined not to be denied. Assistant District Attorneys Carl Hobbs and Steve Morris were to appear in the 185th this morning for a show-cause hearing to determine whether they should be held in contempt of court for allegedly violating Judge Susan Brown's order that the Harris County District Attorney's Office be denied access to the grand jury investigating HPD's batmobile fiasco.

I dropped my youngest daughter at school in plenty of time to get downtown. But, when I walked into the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center, the lines at the elevators were beyond ridiculous. I knew what had to be done. It was off to the stairwell.

For those of y'all not familiar with the courthouse, the 185th District Court is on the 17th floor. Yes, the 17th floor. And I was hoofing it up the stairs.

With every step my body reminded me of the 14 mile run on Sunday morning and the soccer game that afternoon. My body was not very happy. But there I was - on the 17th floor. It was around the corner and down the hall and into the courtroom. The place was packed.

The judge called the docket and we sat in anticipation of what was to come. She called up the attorneys representing Mr. Hobbs, Mr. Morris and the two court reporters. With a gaggle of attorneys wearing dark suits crowded around the bench, I could have sworn I was in the civil courthouse.

The attorney for the court reporters filed a motion to recuse Judge Brown. That seemed to halt the proceedings (at least for the time being). However, Mr. Hobbs' attorney, Bill Hawkins, made it known that his client was ready to proceed. I left the courtroom to take care of some other business.

I returned about 30 minutes later and saw the same cast of characters in the courtroom. But there was one new addition -- my colleague, and fellow blogger, Murray Newman. After his perfunctory insult of my choice of neck wear, we began to discuss what was going on. It seems that there were quite a few conferences at the bench with the defense attorneys and the judge -- the attorneys appointed to represent the state never bothered to approach.

Word went out that the fireworks would begin at 11am. This did not sit well with me since I had only paid for parking til 11am. Oh well, if a parking ticket was the cost of this exercise, it was probably worth it (so long as I don't have too many unpaid parking tickets, I suppose).

Shortly before 11am the defense attorneys once again approached the judge and, the longer the conversation went on, the more animated the judge became. Something was a-brewing and Judge Brown wasn't a happy camper. Neither, it did appear, was Mr. Hawkins. There appeared to be some dissension in the ranks.

Shortly after 11am, Judge Brown went on the record. Mr. Morris' attorney asked that the proceedings be public and not at the bench. Judge Brown then announced that, based on the motion to recuse filed by Mr. Morris' attorney, that she was recusing herself. Mr. Hawkins was not pleased.

So, what was accomplished this morning? Not a whole lot. A small forest was destroyed to make enough paper for all of the motions that were filed. The judge recused herself (Murray was right on the money with his prediction). An interesting subtext was disclosed.

Why would Mr. Hobbs' attorney want to proceed on the show cause hearing? Why not delay it for a few more days and take it up in front of another judge? Could it be that someone is ready to roll? From my dealings with Mr. Hobbs and from the accounts I have heard from other defense attorneys, Mr. Hobbs is a by-the-book guy. I find it hard to believe that he would go to the court reporters and ask for a transcript of the testimony after a judge told the DA's Office that it was not entitled to access to the grand jury. Did someone order Mr. Hobbs to obtain that transcript? Was he following orders?

Someone is going to take a fall for this. The only question is whom.

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