Issues with Liberty County District Clerk's Office

LIBERTY, January 17, 2018 - Issues with Liberty County District Clerk's Office as identified by Jo Anne Horn Leger, CSR, RPR, CRR, obtained through Open Records Request.


1) Jury trial taking place in the 253rd District Court on October 12, 2016. Ms. Brown stayed
in the galley the entire day and did not work at all; just sat and listened to the entire trial


2) Misspellings in appellate information sent to the Court of Appeals: Indrogo was
supposed to be Idrogo. There are also numerous misspellings in information placed on case
information on NetData.


3) On October 5, 2016, Cause No. CV1509897, Judge Cain had to grant a new trial due to
notice not being issued from the Clerk's office to the pro se litigant. A transcript can be
provided, if necessary.


4) On State v. Idrogo, signed and thumbprinted unagreed plea papers were never filestamped
nor submitted to Judge Cain on sentencing date for Judge's signature.


5) Notice of interlocutory appeal was filed on September 20, 2016 in Berry v. SHECO.
Clerk never sent court reporter notice of appeal. Reporter received notice of appeal after reporter
called clerk on October 3, 2016. (See letter to Donna Brown from court reporter). Handdelivered
letter to Donna Brown in hallway because she was going around to all of the offices
passing out Halloween Party flyers.


6) Citations from Clerk's office are consistently wrong. (See August 31 , 2016 transcript, if
necessary)


7) Incorrect/illegal file stamping by the Clerk's office. (See reporter's appellate record of
testimony on August 12, 2016 - State v. Selby)


8) Statistics of court cases are consistently incorrect on the OCA website.


9) Clerk possibly does not hold sufficient bonds per Government Code 51.302(a) and (g).
10) On the jury lists, the Clerk never has the case number or style as required by Code of
Criminal Procedure 35.11 or TRCP 224.


11) Clerk possibly may never have sent notice of a default on a surety bond per HB 1562 -
g3rd Legislative Session.


12) Orders are consistently placed in Judge Cain's bucket of items to sign that are incorrect.
There recently were three (3) orders that had to be prepared withdrawing previously signed order
because of this Clerk error. Items are being placed in bucket for him to sign prior to hearings
and/or without the Clerk reading the cover letter and/or what is actually being filed. (The three
orders can be provided, if necessary, indicating the cases in which this occurred)

13) In the Shaw case in the 75th District Court, 9/26116, there were 17 jury summons for court
that did not have a date to appear on the summons.


14) On September 15, 2016, the District Attorney and Donna Brown and a deputy district
clerk approached the bench regarding Petition to Revoke copy vs. original and the file stamping
and signatures thereof since the Clerk had evidently been handling this procedure incorrectly.
(Transcript can be provided, if necessary)


15) A file was found in the Clerk's office on 9-16-2016 and was presented to Judge Cain to
sign an order to be filed. The order was from 2015 but the Clerk had just found the file.
16) Not sure if it's required, but there is no seal of the district clerk on anything received via
eFiling.


17) Donna Brown evidently filed her own divorce and did not mention this information to
any of the judges so that a district clerk pro tern could be appointed, if necessary, as required by
statute.


18) On State v. Corderral Smith, an order was received by the 253rd from the Court of
Criminal Appeals indicating that nothing was done by the judge or the clerk per the order from
January of 2016. The clerk could not find the file and then sent everything to the Court of
Criminal Appeals on 9-26-2016, the same day that the court received the order from the Court of
Criminal Appeals. Also, Stephen C. Taylor was listed as the attorney for the State, which was
incorrect since Mr. Taylor actually represented the defendant prior to working for the
prosecutor's office.


19) On September 19, 2016, Donna Brown asked the attorneys if they had an objection to
going ahead and shuffling the list and seating the jury panel in order since the State's attorney
indicated that he was going to request a shuffle from the Court anyway. The Judge was not on
the bench at the time. I told her that she couldn't do that because that is the Judge's duty and that
it had to be on the record, and that the qualifications and exemptions had not even been done at
that point.


20) WR-84,585 on February 4, 2016, Whitley, Oddist. The prose defendant filed a
complaint to the Court of Criminal Appeals regarding the Clerk not filing all requested writs.


21) None of the official court reporters will file exhibits with the Clerk because their office
loses them or have also been known to take them out of the envelopes as filed and place them
with ALL exhibits (i.e., those exhibits attached to motions, etc.) when they were microfilming.
(See Bebe case)


22) I have actually taught a couple of the deputy district clerks how to operate PDF and how
to "open" a disk that didn't open automatically for them on their computer. That is very basic
computer knowledge that a clerk should have to work in that office.


23) The clerk has specific duties in accordance with Government Code 51 .303 ( ... record acts
and proceedings of court; enter all judgments of court under direction of judge; record all executions issued and returns on executions). The Clerk should be questioned at all times as to
whether this is consistently occurring. The deputy clerks typically do not remain the courtroom
and do not know what has occurred in court to document those entries of the proceedings.


24) There are no procedures for attorneys to check in/check out reporter records and disks
that contain appellate records. Numerous volumes get lost from the clerk's office due to no
procedures in place.


25) I personally sent Dolores the links to the district clerk bench book to read up on the duties
of a clerk (this was done after she had to testify in one of the hearings listed above).
26) Donna Brown testified in a hearing on Cause No. CR3020; State v. Mathews. The
defendant fell off the docket for four and a half years.


27) January 18, 2017, clerk wanted Judge Cain to sign off on opening/closing minutes of
term but it had no attachment, as indicated in the document for signature; and then after the
Judge requested the attachment, then items were completely wrong (see Judge Cain's letter to
Donna Brown-January 2017)


28) January 30, 2017, deputy clerk stated in open court that the clerk's office does not
redact/excise personal information (i.e., social security numbers, driver's license numbers, etc.)
if that information is filed with the clerk's office. Said it is up to the attorney's office to redact
that information and that the clerk's office files it as it is and it is scanned as is. This means that
this information is public.


29) There's no grievance procedures in place over clerks like there is for judges and other
elected officials, and court reporters, guardianships, process servers, etc. The Constitution
should be changed to have a commission of sorts over the clerks for disciplinary matters,
complaints, etc., and make recommendations to the district judges in that county for further
action to be taken by them.


Submitted by Jo Anne Hom Leger, CSR, RPR, CRR
 

 
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