Does Texas Judge Suzanne Stovall Deserve Re-election?

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January 9th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
(Note: When this article was first published, the author was not aware the deadline for Judge Suzanne Stovall to file for re-election had just expired. Please see our article Montgomery County 221st Judicial Election Candidates for information on the four candidates who are running to fill the opening. We believe the article is still relevant because it shows the types of problems Stovall caused over the years for citizens whose cases were heard by her.)
Judge Suzanne Stovall

In response to my recent article Jason Fontaine Speaks Up About Child Custody Murders on the Fontaine murder/suicide case in California, a commenter identifying himself as “GOOD DAD” posted about his concerns regarding judicial misconduct involving Judge Suzanne Stovall of Montgomery County, Texas. In his divorce and child custody case, he believes that Stovall has acted in a biased manner which has seriously hurt his children and himself. This judge has a term that ends December 31, 2010, according to the Texas State Directory. So there may soon be an opportunity to eliminate her if she’s doing a bad job as GOOD DAD claims.

Fairly evaluating whether a judge is good or bad takes some data. Arrogant judges can and do make all parties to a case upset by delaying actions, making arbitrary rulings, and pretending that in their courtroom they are the law. Odds are that pretty much any judge is going to botch a case here or there, leaving at least one litigant in the case upset. So it seems you’ve got to go by overall track record, not just comments on a particular case. But how do you determine a track record when you likely know almost nobody who has experience with a judge? This is where the Internet can be truly handy. Web sites such as RateTheCourts.com and CourthouseForum.com help people share opinions about the conduct of judges with other people and the information can remain accessible long after they share it.

Checking Up on Judge Suzanne Stovall

With this in mind, I did a little checking and found that the GOOD DAD’s opinions of Judge Stovall are not unique. This judge may indeed have some problematic behaviors. There are multiple negative reviews on Judge Stovall at the website CourthouseForum.com, apparently from different parties with similar concerns. This web site could be an excellent tool for fighting judicial corruption by helping litigants know about the problems others have experienced with judges, however more people need to be using it to make it effective.

Survey results for Judge Suzanne Stovall are also remarkably negative. She rates an F from 4 survey participants. But it’s not likely that this could be considered a representative sample at all. It’s self-selected and the number of people involved is quite low. Surveys like this would be more useful if more people would review the judges. Although RateTheCourts.com, like its sister site CourthouseForum.com, has the names and locations of seemingly nearly all judges in the United States, sadly many judges have no reviews at all. This could mean they are not particularly bad enough to motivate parties to complain about them, or it may have some other explanation.

Stovall Doesn’t Listen To Voters Regarding Traffic Camera Petition Vote

Other feedback on Judge Stovall is that she doesn’t listen to the public and sides with the government and private companies over citizens. She threw out a publicly approved ordinance banning the use of traffic cameras.

The short version of this story is that the City Council of College Station, Texas, voted to approve ordinance 3017 to install red light cameras in a contract with American Traffic Systems. The public got wind of this. Citizen-turned-activist Jim Ash and other like-minded citizens worked to put together a petition and get signatures calling for a vote to revoke the law that approved installation of the red light cameras. This petition was presented to the the government on August 17, 2009, as shown in a video and minutes for the meeting.

The petition was accepted and the election was scheduled for November 3, 2009.

The citizens’ position is that red light cameras increase expenses and traffic accidents and therefore are bad policy:

(from Missing: Ordinance to ban red light cameras in College Station, TX)

City officials often state, “Red Light Cameras have reduced accidents by 50%”. The opposing side’s website states, “The bottom line is red-light violations and crashes due to red-light running have decreased by nearly 50 percent.”

According to a KBTX news story linked below, “Comparing the 2007 to 2008 numbers does not show a 54% decrease, but more than a 200% increase.” That number is actually higher at 233% The city’s money machine is causing accidents and potential physical harm to the citizens of College Station.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” -Mark Twain

Then the city council and American Traffic Systems (ATS) organized opposition via a Political Action Committee called “Keep College Station Safe” that was allegedly funded primarily by ATS.

The election was held and the voters approved the repeal of the traffic camera ordinance 3017.

The city council and ATS didn’t like it, so they organized a law suit to overturn the election.

On December 3, 2009, Judge Stovall issued a written judgment disqualifying the public vote because the public didn’t follow the law. She claims the publicly proposed ordinance should have been called a “referendum petition” which the public only had 20 days to submit it in order to call for a vote to repeal an ordinance calling for the use of traffic cameras that was passed by the City Council of College Station, Texas.

(from Texas: Judge Ignores November Vote On Anti-Camera Initiative)

A Brazos County, Texas District Court visiting judge on Thursday overturned the results of the anti-red light camera ballot measure in the city of College Station. Judge Suzanne Stovall ruled in favor of American Traffic Solutions (ATS) which had used a front group to challenge the results of the November 3 election in which a majority of voters chose the option listed on the ballot as, “For Ordinance bans cameras.” Despite the clear wording, Stovall interpreted the measure as something different.

“The court is of the opinion that the effect of the proposed ordinance would operate to repeal a previously enacted and enforced city ordinance, and thus should have been classified as a referendum petition,” Stovall wrote. “Inasmuch as Section 84 of the College Station City Charter imposed an obligation upon the citizens to submit a referendum petition within twenty days of enactment of City Ordinance 3017, the citizens of the city of College Station submitted the petition outside of the statutorily required time frame.”

City officials were technically defendants in the suit, but they had no interest in winning. The city attorney helped arrange this outcome by producing an “agreed statement of facts” with the ATS-funded law firm that presented the situation in such a way that Stovall saw little argument against overruling a public vote.

In this decision, Stovall seems to honor the letter of the law but not its spirit. She sided with the city government and contractor American Traffic Solutions by using a technicality in the law involving the classification of a petition and the time in which it must be filed after the City Council passes an ordinance. Getting the public organized enough to file a petition with sufficient signatures in only 20 days is problematic at best. Stovall’s decision basically means that the City Council can do whatever it wants so long as citizens aren’t ready to pounce on them on a moments notice to call a referendum election. It’s contrary to public interests to provide accountability of the government to the people.

Alarmingly, Stovall can’t even be judged by the citizens of College Station. She is a judge in Montgomery County, not Brazos County, so if she decides to run for re-election the people whose will she just subverted won’t even have a vote. Perhaps they will need to speak up against Stovall in other ways to ensure she isn’t re-elected.

The number of people who were interested in this overturned election was not small judging by the 2737 members of the Facebook group for opposing red light cameras in College Station. They also put up a website called CivilViolation.com

Ethics Violation by Judge Suzanne Stovall

While CourthouseForum.com and RateTheCourts.com comments and surveys can be highly subjective, there are other signs of problems with Judge Stovall beyond her subversion of public will. Many government web sites also contain information about disciplinary actions against judges and other court officials that are never reported in the news. For instance, I found an ethics violation record for her in 2005 regarding the late filing of a financial disclosure form:

(from TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES
July 15, 2005, 9:03 a.m.
)

Agenda Item 8: Briefing, discussion, and possible action to waive or reduce certain penalties assessed for late filing of campaign finance reports, lobby reports, or personal financial statements.

32. Suzanne Stovall, District Judge (00037515)

Report: personal financial statement due May 2, 2005
Penalty: $500

Report Your Judge, Check Before You Vote For A Judge

If you’ve got experience with a judge, fill out the surveys and comments at the web sites RateTheCourts.com and CourthouseForum.com. Your experiences can help others determine how to vote. An uninformed electorate is often incapable of eliminating problematic politicians which is exactly what these judges appear to be.

The next time you’re voting for a judge in elections in your area, do some investigation before casting your vote. Unless the public votes out of office judges like Texas Judge Suzanne Stovall and California Judge David Yaffe, the public should be expecting the corrupt courts of this nation to continue to subvert public intent and to harm public interests for their own benefits.

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Further Reading

Montgomery County 221st Judicial Election Candidates

Texas: Judge Ignores November Vote On Anti-Camera Initiative

Ethics Complaint Filed Against CS City Manager

Corrupt Judge David Yaffe Jails Political Prisoner Richard Fine

Eileen Lasher on San Diego CPS/Family Law Court Misconduct

Stephen Doyne and San Diego Family Law Courts Under Fire

California Legislature Orders Investigation of Family Law Courts

Holding Family Law Judges Accountable

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  1. GOOD DAD
    January 9th, 2010 at 08:59 | #1

    10 days for trafficking cocaine into jail

    ——————————————————————————–

    The Police News
    By Jamie Nash

    July 31, 2007

    CONROE- Judge Suzanne Stovall of the 221st State District Court sentenced a woman with a felony record to 10 days in jail and five years probation for following what police say were the Aryan Brotherhood’s instructions for smuggling methamphetamine into the Montgomery County Jail. Candis Morgan, 24, pleaded guilty at an all day sentencing hearing on Friday; two years after alert jail employees uncovered the real sentiment behind her greeting cards.

    The Montgomery County Special Investigation Unit became aware of Morgan a few years ago, according to Lt. Phillip Cash.

    “She was considered a major player in drug trafficking from Dallas to Montgomery County and northeast Harris County not only selling methamphetamine on the outside, but supplying Aryan Brotherhood members who were incarcerated,” Cash said.

    In the 2004 to 2005 time period, Federal officers he knew referred to Morgan as the “Methamphetamine Queen,” he said.

    Cash said his contacts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified the SIU they had intelligence indicating drugs would be smuggled to members of the Aryan Brotherhood in side the Montgomery County Jail by counterparts on the outside. The FBI outlined the process that would be used.

    “They intercepted a letter that gave exact details how to put drugs on a card and what names and address to use,” Cash said.

    “The FBI in Houston said it was going to start happening here and I talked to the jail staff immediately.”

    It happened the next day.

    “We intercepted four pictures and they were all linked to her,” Cash said. “She’d followed exact plot detailed by the Aryan Brotherhood for getting the meth into the jail, including the name on the return address, which was Tasha,” Cash said.

    One of the envelopes stood out, however, because it showed Morgan’s Huffman address on the return.

    Her northeast Harris County home, Cash said, was in a trailer park occupied almost exclusively by Aryan Brotherhood.

    When the Department of Public Safety Meth Group and the FBI converged on the location, Morgan was not at home.

    Instead, they found a known felon and member of the Aryan Brotherhood standing guard with a firearm, Cash said.

    “They confiscated ledgers showing thousands of dollars in sales, more of the photographs, letters to inmates, a gun, methamphetamine and scales,” Cash said.

    Photos of a dog taken from her home by officers matched the tainted ones mailed to inmates, he said.

    A short time later, on Feb. 26, 2005, SIU officers arrested Morgan in Willis as she was traveling into Montgomery County, south on Interstate 45 with another known drug dealer, David Salinas, Cash said.

    Both had methamphetamine in their possession, he said.

    A criminal history search revealed the arrest was not Morgan’s first.

    Cash said Morgan had been investigated by the FBI, the DEA, DPS, and Harris and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Offices, and her boyfriend was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who was in the Montgomery County Jail when the alleged smuggling attempt was made.

    The 5 foot 8 inch 110 pound defendant pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in the 184th district court in Houston in July of 2004 in Harris County and received two years deferred adjudication. That stemmed from a March 12, 2004 arrest. That sentence was served concurrently with a seven month sentence in Harris County for another possession charge in that county, starting shortly after her arrest in Willis and ending in late 2005.

    Asst. District Attorney Stella Stevens, who prosecuted the case, said Morgan was arraigned in Montgomery County in 2006 and eventually worked a plea agreement. However, for Morgan, the second time was the charm.

    At the first sentencing, Stovall sentenced her to five years in the Texas Department of Corrections. Morgan requested that she be allowed to withdraw her plea and seek different legal counsel and that request was granted, Stevens said.

    Morgan retained Conroe defense attorney Doug Atkinson, who stood by her on Friday.

    He raised issues such as the recent birth of her first child and pointed to clean drug tests, Stevens said.

    Stovall first handed down a sentence of 10 years in prison on Friday, then immediately changed it to the 10 days and probation.

    The crime is a third-degree felony, which carries a potential sentence of two to 10 year in prison.

    Stevens said she was disappointed, but respected the court’s decision.

    “She’s (Stovall’s) the judge and she has to make the tough calls,” she said.

    Stevens said the crime was especially disturbing to her because when she sees people go to jail, she hopes it will be an opportunity for them to get clean and away from the temptation of drugs. She also said it was concern because of the civilian employees in the jail who do not carry weapons and would be exposed to inmates under the influence of a drug that tends to induce violent and irrational behavior.

    The charge faced by Morgan, “taking drugs into a correctional facility” is a third-degree felony and the same faced by someone who was stopped for speeding or other offense and either hides drugs in a body cavity to avoid more charges, or is simply too impaired to remember where the drugs are.

    “This is much more insidious,” Stevens said “She was trying to poison our jail.”

    Judge Stovall was on vacation Monday and could not be reached for comment and Atkinson was unavailable.

  2. GOOD DAD
    January 9th, 2010 at 11:00 | #2

    I have found, on the internet, many reversed decisions of Judge Suzanne Stovall.

    Can anybody tell me how common it is for a custody case, for a 3 year old, to continue for over 3 years?

    Can anybody tell me how common it is for a judge to continue trials because the plaintiffs discovery is incomplete, even continuing a preferentially set trial?

    Can anybody tell me how common it is for a judge to never compel the plaintiff to produce discovery, despite several Hearings, Rule 11’s, etc.?

    Judge Stovall did all this and more.

    Does this happen in other courts or is this unique to Judge Stovall?

    Would/Could somebody please investigate this and post your results?

  3. January 9th, 2010 at 16:12 | #3

    According to Incumbents gain opponents with last-minute filings published just a few days ago, Suzanne Stovall didn’t file an application to run for re-election:

    “There’s always some last-minute surprises,” Wilkerson said. “We have some very competent and qualified candidates. I’m delighted with the caliber of the people in a couple of judge races (CCL No. 2 and state District Court 221st). County residents will have difficult decisions to make.”

    Scott Goleman, Lisa Benge Michalk, John Devine and David O’Neill are the candidates running for the 221st state District Court.

    Judge Suzanne Stovall did not file to run for re-election.

    But what about the candidates who are running? How to find out about them? Some of them haven’t held public office previously so there’s little public record of their conduct.

    Family law is a major function of these judges as the district doesn’t split civil and criminal cases into different courts. Yet it appears that none of the candidates have substantial family law experience. As many know, family law judges have the power to destroy families and ruin the lives of generations. Yet there has been little, maybe nothing, said by the candidates about family law and how they would approach it. Stovall looks like a poor judge, but there’s always the chance of getting somebody even worse.

    Michalk declares candidacy for 221st court seat

    Lisa Benge Michalk’s Facebook Page

    Scott Golemon For Judge 221st District Court

    Former Harris County district court judge seeks 221st bench

    Judge John Devine – Republican for Judge, 221st District Court

  4. Arthur
    June 19th, 2010 at 02:51 | #4

    We started out with Stovall and she passed the batton to Judge Tracy Gilbert. The story is the same. Refusal to compel discovery, and proceeding with the trial after MONTHS of attempts to compel discovery, not meeting for a scheduled hearing about compelling discovery. Altering the jury charge at the last minute so that there was no possible way the jury could have a choice in the outcome of the trial, ignoring drugs, and physical and sexual abuse in the home of the father, ignoring the production and trafficking of pornography from the dad’s home by the dad and an older sibling, and in the presence of the minor daughter (both crimes confessed to from the witness box in the trial by the dad and older daughter), ignoring years of neglect by the father, and ignoring “the best interest of the child”.

    Judge Gilbert, seems like a fine, fair man when you meet him, but, he smells rotten. Don’t assume that the man is an honest judge.

  5. Scared
    October 11th, 2010 at 03:03 | #5

    @Arthur

    Very interesting story. Makes a person wonder what has to be done to protect their rights and civil liberties, doesn’t it? http://www.as-po.org/

  6. Anonymous
    November 3rd, 2010 at 15:08 | #6

    Judge Tracy Gilbert is more than rotten. He has allowed numerous violations of legislation, ignored several coccasions of proven state fraud (yes even the fraudulent alterations to my children’s birth certificates by a third party), ignored my husband’s civil rights and declared him “not a party of interest”, set aside my civil rights, disregarded mental health records, made rulings completely contrary to the Texas Supreme Court’s rulings, permitted persons prohibited by state law to intervene in my divorce (involving children), instructed the Amicus attorney assigned to represent my children not to speak to my children or I (? really, how do you know what is in the best interest of the children if you only talk to the obsessed mental health patient?), this list goes on and on…. no attorney wants to buck the system because Judge Gilbert is doing favors for people in power so they don’t hang and they are protecting him. BEWARE…DO NOT let this man hear your case!!!!!

  7. GOOD DAD
    November 4th, 2010 at 21:27 | #7

    Judge Suzanne Stovall not only removed my daughter out of my safe and loving custody, but completely removed her from medical care.
    Due to her mother’s abuse, my daughter can not control her bowel movements.
    My daughter has suffered permenant physical injury, and is facing a lifetime of pain, embarrassment, and disability.
    Judge Suzanne Stovall and her non medical “experts” did not believe the diagnosis and treatment of 6 doctors, 3 X-rays, and reports of symptoms from nearly every person in my daughter’s life.
    Because of Judge Suzanne Stovall, my daughter remains out of the reach of the pediatric specialists who had been treating her.
    It is Montgomery County, Texas that is sick and in need of treatment.
    Dr Edward G Silverman was the leading expert in my case.
    Read about him below.
    Timothy Ryan Richert was convicted of Continual Aggravated Sexual Assault and was sentenced to life in prison.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7006266.html
    YEARS OF WARNINGS PRECEDED CHILD SEX ASSAULT ARREST
    By TERRI LANGFORD
    HOUSTON CHRONICLE
    May 15, 2010, 1:17PM
    A court-ordered psychologist in 2004 described Richert as exhibiting “poor boundaries” with his Brookline Elementary School students and having “clearly deviant” conversations with his wife and fantasizing about sex with minors — for which he likely needed therapy.
    The psychologist did not, however, deem Richert a danger to children.
    Richert now is in the Harris County Jail facing charges of continuous sexual assault and super-aggravated sexual assault involving two young girls, 7 and 8 years old, one of whom was just 5 when the first assaults allegedly took place. The charges include allegations that he forced the girls to watch pornographic movies and perform sexual acts.
    Dr. Edward Silverman, assigned to evaluate Richert and his wife during the divorce proceedings, referenced Richert’s “taboo fantasies” of sex with minor girls — as detailed by the wife.
    In his conclusions to the court, however, Silverman determined that there was “insufficient evidence to conclude he is a pedophile.
    “I do not have sufficient reason to consider Mr. Richert a risk for sexually abusing … children,” he told the judge, adding however, “I am not at all comfortable with the fact Mr. Richert has not undertaken a more meaningful exploration of these issues in therapy.” “

    DISTICT JUDGE’S DECISION TO RELEASE MAN CHARGED WITH CHILD P0RN IRRESPONSIBLE
    Judge Suzanne Stovall’s decision to release a man convicted on eight counts of possessing child pornography was irresponsible at best and potentially a threat to innocent children in the worst-case scenario.

  1. January 9th, 2010 at 01:08 | #1
  2. January 9th, 2010 at 19:16 | #2
  3. January 11th, 2010 at 15:16 | #3
  4. January 12th, 2010 at 18:10 | #4
  5. March 7th, 2010 at 02:02 | #5
  6. March 13th, 2010 at 15:07 | #6
  7. March 28th, 2010 at 15:39 | #7
  8. December 16th, 2011 at 18:17 | #8

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