Rookie of the Year

A Houston lawyer's fight for Series tickets

Shannon Burns, 25 years old, is only a few months out of law school. Until October 21, she had never set foot in the Harris County Civil Courthouse.

But that day she handled her first case alone and won a major, major victory: She got World Series tickets.

(Yes, we realize that in hindsight it was sort of like winning the chance to have a root canal, but remember -- those tickets were going for thousands of dollars before Astros fans realized that attending the game would involve watching Morgan Ensberg's breakdown.)

It's near the courthouse, but it isn't at the 
Craig Malisow
It's near the courthouse, but it isn't at the courthouse.
A lonely Astros fan watches the White Sox celebrate.
Steven Devadanam
A lonely Astros fan watches the White Sox celebrate.

Burns got an injunction forcing another woman to hand over the Series ducats that Burns had agreed to buy. The seller had gotten a better offer before she delivered the tickets and tried to back out of the deal.

Burns was representing her father. "Walking in was fine, but the hearing [October 21], I was definitely nervous," she says. "The good thing was, if we lost, my dad just didn't get to go to the World Series -- I wouldn't get into too much trouble with my clients."

The dispute didn't involve a ticket scalper -- instead, it was someone trying to sell part of the Baltimore Orioles' allotment of Series tickets, at face value. A dozen tickets for each game in Houston were at stake. Burns's dad was contacted by a friend who knew the seller, who was trying to sell the tickets to a single buyer.

Burns herself is a huge Astros fan, so she was well aware how high the stakes were.

"I was just surprised by the fact I didn't faint," she says. "Honestly, speaking in front of people is one of my biggest fears."

Not at the ballpark, though. "I'm not laid-back at all -- I'm a very feisty kind of fan," she says. "If a pitcher walks one, I'm yelling at him. I won't name names."

Well, Brad Lidge didn't walk anybody in the Series, so we guess there was nothing to yell at him about.

Burns's victory doesn't necessarily presage a win for the other legal battle stemming from the Series, a suit filed against Major League Baseball for ordering the Minute Maid Park roof to be left open. Asthma-suffering fans say they weren't told the roof would be open.

Lawsuits claiming mental cruelty for continuing to send Adam Everett up to hit with men on base had not been filed by press time.

On What Grounds

Beverly Malazzo is an associate judge in Harris County's juvenile courts, but she has set her sights higher.

She wants to run for the judgeship of the 315th District Court, one of the county's three juvenile courts. To do that, she needs to get 500 signatures on a petition. The way she's going about it is causing some grumbling among local criminal attorneys.

Malazzo sent out an e-mail announcing that she'd be holding a petition drive outside the Family Law Building. The attorneys on the e-mail list, one lawyer noted, are the same attorneys who are eligible to be appointed to represent juveniles in the courts. If Malazzo wins, she'll be the one making those appointments; if she wins, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing for an attorney to have his name on her petition.

That's not all that unusual -- in the gray-ethics world of the courthouse, judges get almost all their campaign cash from people who practice in front of them. Campaign contributions make absolutely no difference in how an attorney gets treated by a judge, rest assured. (We know this because judges tell us this every time we write about campaign contributions.)

Alerting potential appointees to their need to sign a petition is one thing. It's where they were supposed to sign it that further raised eyebrows.

Malazzo supporters set up a table on the plaza outside the Family Law Building. The Texas Election Code states that potential candidates can't collect signatures "on the grounds of a county courthouse or courthouse annex."

Malazzo says she interprets "the grounds" to mean the Family Law Building itself. The supporters collecting signatures promised to provide a statute backing up that contention, but they never did.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office said he could not find any opinion by the agency defining what "the grounds" means. You'd think the grounds would be everything but the building, but then again we're no lawyers.

Out and About

Readers of the Houston Voice got a little news on the opinion pages this week: Hard-nosed Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith is -- well, if he's not gay, he's pretty damn gay-friendly.

Kevin Naff, managing editor of the Washington Blade, a sister paper of the Voice, wrote a column on celebrities who refuse to answer questions about whether they're gay. As part of the column he wrote that Smith once tried to pick him up at a Manhattan piano bar and invited him back to his place.

"We sat at the bar chatting and drinking martinis until 3 a.m., our conversation interrupted only when [Smith] paused to belt out the lyrics to whatever showtune was being performed," Naff wrote.

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