As noted earlier, I was unable to meet with every candidate participating in the 2014 Harris County Republican Party primary. One of the candidates that I was unable to meet with, Alicia Franklin, is in the runoff for Judge of the 311th Family Court against embattled incumbent Judge Denise Pratt. Although it would have been tempting to vote for Franklin on the basis of “Anyone but Pratt”, that strategy isn’t the best way to pick a candidate. I am fortunate that Franklin took time out of her busy schedule to discuss the race and her candidacy with me yesterday.
Franklin grew up in Iowa, the granddaughter of immigrants from Croatia, who clearly had a large influence on her sense of justice and work ethic. She received a scholarship to play basketball at Mount Mercy College, a NAIA-Division II Women’s Basketball Team. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Mount Mercy with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and Criminal Justice, she attended St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, receiving her J.D. and entering the Texas Bar in 2003.
After becoming a member of the Texas Bar, Alicia briefly worked in San Antonio, then moved to Houston to work for Goldapp-Rodriguez L.L.P., a personal injury and civil law firm. During her tenure at Goldapp-Rodriguez L.L.P., she decided to branch out into family law, which was her true passion. After 6 1/2 years with Goldapp-Rodriguez L.L.P., she left to form her own law practice, focusing exclusively on family law. She is well respected in the family law community, as shown by her participation as a lecturer in the 4th Annual: Adjusting the Bar: The Definitive Ad Litem Seminar in DFPS Cases.
Why enter the political arena?
That’s one of the first questions I ask of all judicial candidates because there are far more lucrative opportunities in the private sector, especially for someone with Franklin’s stellar academic record and early success in the civil courts. It’s hard to capture her entire answer in a few sentences but basically, I think it goes back to her roots as a granddaughter of immigrants who instilled in her a sense of justice based upon the Catholic faith, that all people are created equally and deserve equal treatment under the law, regardless of their income level, and that children, being the most vulnerable in our society, deserve special protection in the judicial system. She decried the integrity of some of the amicus attorneys that had no interest in protecting children if it meant that the judge, in this case her opponent, would penalize them financially. With the current system of electing judges in Texas, the only way that she could rectify what she sees as injustice was to throw her name in the hat and let voters decide.
Why the 311th?
This question was especially interesting to me because if you look at the record, as attorney Greg Enos has, Franklin was by far the biggest “beneficiary” of Judge Pratt in the area of appointments. As you can see if you click the link to Enos’ analysis, over a ten month period, Franklin received over $51,000 in appointments from Judge Pratt. That doesn’t count any amicus appointments, which are not reported but even more lucrative. Franklin wasn’t fazed by the question and said that having a judge in the 311th that was competent and was willing to listen to the facts and circumstances of each case rather than applying preset policies to every case was more important than losing appointments in that court. She gave me numerous examples where it appeared that Judge Pratt refused to listen to the parties and issued rulings that were not based upon the evidence presented.
What sets Franklin apart from Pratt?
Goodness, when I asked this question, Franklin really opened up. This would have to be a magazine length article to capture everything but here are a few bullet points:
- Team mentality – Franklin said that Pratt refuses to listen to anyone, thinking that she has all of the answers. Franklin stressed that she is a team player and is always willing to turn to others for their knowledge and expertise.
- Not in over her head – Because of her early work in civil cases, Franklin has dealt with complex financial issues and can apply her experience on complex divorce cases. Pratt had a very narrow niche practice that didn’t prepare her for these types of cases.
- Willing to own up to mistakes – Franklin noted that even today, after all of the problems that have become public in the 311th, Judge Pratt refuses to acknowledge that any of them are her fault. How is it possible, Franklin asks, that Pratt has yet to receive a wake up call and that even last month, the 311th was the worst performing court statistically among all of the courts? And why is the court clerk turnover in the 311th far more than in any other court? Franklin told me that if she makes a mistake, she owns up to it, corrects it, and moves on.
What would Franklin do different than Pratt?
Again, I’ll resort to bullet points.
- Come to court – this seems basic but one of the complaints that I hear from dozens of attorneys about Pratt is that she just doesn’t work much. Franklin merely reiterated that point.
- Listen to cases – Franklin maintains that Pratt doesn’t bother to listen to the evidence as presented, that she makes up her mind on cases by listening to only one side. She told me a horror story about Pratt giving custody to a drug using grandmother rather than the father, even though the evidence was sitting in front of her.
- Hear the CPS docket – most judges assign this to their Associate Judge but Franklin maintains that if there is any one place that children really need a caring judge, it is on the CPS docket.
- Apply the law – again, this seems basic but a judge must apply the laws that are on the books to each case, not rule based upon personal opinion.
- Sign orders – another basic thing but one of the chief complaints against Pratt is that she delays signing orders for months, increasing costs to families, both emotionally and financially.
- Be ethical – Franklin maintains that backdating orders and dismissing cases without notice is unethical.
- Do your job – sounds simplistic but why shouldn’t a judge do the job they ran for and were hired by voters to do?
I’ll be voting for Franklin and hope you do too
As you know, I voted for and championed my friend Anthony Magdaleno for this bench in the primary. Unfortunately, he came up a bit short in the final tally. Fortunately, Alicia Franklin is a very well qualified candidate that I can, without reservation, enthusiastically support. I hope that I captured enough of our conversation to convince you to vote for her as well. One of the things that was really important to me was her response to a question about how, assuming she is elected, she wants to be viewed 20 years from now. Instead of offering up a platitude, she simply pointed to Judge Lisa Millard and said, like her, because she cares about children and everyone at the courthouse knows it.
I’ll take that any day of the week over the current judge in the 311th.
Dave Smith says
I’ve spoken to Ms. Franklin several times now at various events. She is a very impressive person. Like David Jennings, I was supporting Magdaleno originally, but I’ll be casting an enthusiastic vote FOR Alicia Franklin (and not just against the incumbent).
David Thomson says
I’m appalled that Anthony Magdaleno’s refuses to support Alicia Franklin. It reveals that the man minimally possesses poor judgment. There is also a new shocking development: “Asked on Wednesday to clarify the statement, Anderson issued a lengthier one saying that her office ‘made a hard decision – not to prosecute a difficult case against Judge Pratt in exchange for her voluntary and permanent resignation from the judiciary – and we believe that it was consistent with our primary responsibility to see that justice is done.'”
Robin Lennon says
Kingwood TEA Party enthusiastically seconds your findings, David. it is very important to me that children in CPS cases and contentious divorces need judges, as well as ad litems that really stand up for them, instead of using these appointments as salary enhancers. I believe Alicia has represented the best interests of the children appointed to her, and I am sure she will continue to see to them through her ad litem and amicus appointments.
No Vote For Franklin Here says
Sorry, I can’t in good conscience vote for someone with as little experience as she has. If her Democratic opponent has the right experience and values, that’s who will get my vote….