Coffee with the Judge
I was quite surprised to read the article on the dismissal of charges against Kenneth Schnitzer ["The Right Kind of People," by Mary Flood, August 29]. It certainly left one with the impression that all one must do to prevail in Judge David Hittner's court is hire a "friend" of the judge's.

After 15 years of trying cases in the federal courthouse, it is clear to me that the only way to prevail is to have the law and facts on your side. Being a "friend" of a judge may get you an occasional cup of coffee, but never a favorable ruling (interestingly, I have found that your "friends" do things to you that your "enemies" would only dream of).

It is an interesting sign of our times that when a judge makes a wrong but popular decision, he is glorified. But when a judge makes a proper but not so popular decision, his motivation is called into question. You should be happy we still have a few courageous judges left who are willing to make tough, although controversial, decisions.

Kent A. Schaffer

The Importance of Appearances
I have great respect for Judge David Hittner. However, if David Crump is to be taken literally, the Press ought to inform its readers as follows: Never retain a lawyer who cannot provide you with some insight as to how the judge thinks. As a matter of fact, where appropriate, hire his or her spouse as a consultant and remove all doubt. Judge Lee Duggan used to say, "It must not only be right, it must look right." In responding to the Press, Mr. Crump should have taken the same position as Judge Hittner: "Better left unsaid."

Volly C. Bastine Jr.

For a Few Dollars More
I am appalled by what has transpired recently at the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/ Harris County (CACHH) ["Political Art," by Michael Berryhill, September 5]. I am a former board member of CACHH and served for two years on the committee that wrote its long-range plan, the search committee that hired its current executive director and the search committee for its public art director. I am also the former executive director of DiverseWorks, a nonprofit arts organization funded by CACHH for 11 years. I care very deeply about CACHH's critical role in the quality of life in our community and the work it has accomplished over the last decade.

To do what the mayor and City Council have done, which is basically to eviscerate the organization by vehemently and unfairly attacking it and then by slashing its administrative budget, is not only unjust but, more important, a vote of no confidence, and ultimately it will negatively impact the majority of the people who live here. Just when it began to feel like Houston was really a world-class city and that its arts community was truly diverse, the major, basically white, elitist arts organizations have sacrificed years of work for a few dollars more.

This battle was led by two partners in crime who have made CACHH and its executive director Marion McCollam their target for the past three years. Houston Grand Opera's David Gockley and city official Jordy Tollet have said in meetings repeatedly since 1993 that they did not like the direction CACHH was going and they would do everything in their power to stop it. Divide and conquer was their method. The arts organizations here are more divided now than ever in their history. Houston has regressed to the good-old-white-boy network (except for sellout Councilman Jew Don Boney) in a big way. Bob Lanier and the Chronicle's Richard Johnson have played a big part in making this happen.

Michael Peranteau


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