Judge accused of breaking law ends re-election bid

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Associated Press

Posted on March 30, 2014 at 5:32 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — A family court judge in the Houston area heavily criticized for dismissing hundreds of cases without notifying the parties involved has decided not to seek re-election.

Judge Denise Pratt announced her intention to end her campaign Friday, saying "relentless attacks by my political opponents" have proven damaging to her family and court proceedings. She was elected in 2010.

"I cannot, in good conscience, allow it to continue," she wrote on her campaign website. "My goal has always been to serve the children and families of Harris County, but I won't sacrifice my family's well-being any longer to continue to serve as judge."

The Republican jurist is under investigation by Harris County prosecutors, the Houston Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/O7nyke ). A criminal complaint filed against her alleges she broke the law by dismissing more than 630 cases in the final two days of 2013 without notifying the parties involved.

The move nullified an array of child custody, child support and other arrangements brokered in the 311th state District Court, creating anxiety, confusion and additional legal costs for families.

Pratt has blamed her lead clerk for backdating court filings, resulting in much of the confusion. The clerk has since resigned.

But dozens of family court attorneys, Republicans and Democrats alike, have criticized Pratt and signed a letter calling for her resignation, according to the Chronicle.

Pratt earlier this month was removed from five cases in a day by a visiting senior judge who criticized her for making a final ruling in a child custody case without hearing any testimony or evidence. The opposing lawyers in the case told the judge they recently were interviewed about it by county prosecutors as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into Pratt.

Despite the controversy, Pratt secured the highest percentage of the vote in the five-way March 4 Republican primary, but not enough to avoid a runoff. She was to face family lawyer Alicia Franklin in a May 27 election.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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