(Dis)order in the Court

The politics of the three Harris County juvenile district courts can only be described as... well, juvenile. Pat Shelton and next-door court neighbor Mary Craft are both Republicans but clearly cannot stand each other. In recent elections both faced primary challenges by candidates widely viewed as allies of the other.

John Phillips, Shelton's good friend and court appointment mainstay, ran against Craft and nearly took her out, losing by less than 100 votes. Another lawyer, Marilyn Turboff, challenged Shelton but lost badly. Craft's supporters freely admit the judge put Turboff up to running against Shelton.

"Mary Craft evidently developed some paranoia that Pat Shelton put me up to run against her, when that was always so silly," disclaims Phillips. "That is offensive to me because I've got better things to do than that."

Phillips goes on to say that he, Kent Ellis and Shelton worked well together when they were all in the Harris County District Attorney's Office, while Craft "is a very contentious person, a person with very few friends ... such a venomous person."

However, Craft's supporters would say the venom flows from Ellis and Shelton. While there was no animosity among them before they were judges, Craft reportedly felt that the two were banding together as former prosecutors and bad-mouthing her.

In the general election last year, Shelton faced Teresa Ramirez, the former county juvenile probation director who had been ousted at the behest of county commissioner Steve Radack a few years earlier. Craft refused to support the effort to dump the juvenile probation director. Ramirez was replaced by Elmer Bailey, whom Craft supporters see as allied with Shelton and Ellis.

Relations between Craft and Shelton have no place to go but up. Last week Craft told KTRH/740 AM NewsRadio that her colleague's court procedures were "disgusting." At this rate, the next assault incident in juvenile court might involve two judges, rather than bailiffs and respondents.

-- Tim Fleck


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