The Insider

Sign Up for the Next Slaughter
For Democrats, the 1994 judicial elections turned out to be about as enjoyable as a mass Aztec human sacrifice, since all of the still-beating hearts torn out of the Harris County courts belonged to members of their party. With that painful memory not too distant, surviving Democrats seem reluctant to climb the party pyramid to run for judicial nominations in next spring's primary election. In fact, since filing for the primary ballot began on December 3, exactly one candidate has officially signed up for a judicial office. That brave soul is lawyer David Mosier, who wants the Democratic nod to oppose Republican incumbent Tad Halbach, an appointee of Governor George Bush, for the 333rd District Civil Court bench.

Of course, others are expected to come out of the woodwork before the January 2 filing deadline, including some familiar judge-nots. There's Carolyn Day Hobson, whose ouster from a county court-at-law bench in 1994 apparently won't deter her from pursuing the 61st District Civil Court bench being vacated by fellow Democrat Shearn Smith. And Cynthia Owens and Patrice Barron, both previous unsuccessful Democratic nominees, may square off in hopes of challenging GOP incumbent Paul Murphy for his post on the 14th Court of Appeals.

Still, to Democratic lawyer Bob Bennett's tastes, the candidate shelf looks threadbare, with some of the better judges sent packing two years ago, such as Eileen O'Neill and Susan Soussan, declining to make comeback bids. "It's very hard to get people to run, and it's very hard to get the same enthusiasm that was generated last time, when I think we had the best set of judicial candidates we've ever had in the history of the local party. To have all those people go down the tube is obviously very discouraging."

Lawyer Barbara Stanley, a member of the county Democrats' judicial advisory committee, says the party's prime focus this time around will be on re-electing that dwindling band of incumbent Democrats, including state District Judges Lupe Salinas, Carolyn Garcia and Katie Kennedy, and Judge Margaret Garner Mirabal of the 1st Court of Appeals. Already, Jim Gieseke, a former law partner of freshman state District Judge John Devine, is hoping to emulate Devine's upset of O'Neill by seeking the GOP nomination for Mirabal's bench. Likewise, Operation Rescue lawyer Cactus Jack Cagle is running for the GOP nomination for Kennedy's 164th District Civil Court seat.

Democrats who hoped for a strong black candidate to oppose Dwight Jefferson, a black Republican who presides over the 215th District Civil Court, have been disappointed. Jocelyn LaBove, an assistant in the city's Legal Department, decided not to run after consulting with her boss, City Attorney (and staunch Democrat) Gene Locke. Locke advised LaBove that she lacked the name I.D. and the campaign funds necessary to take on Jefferson, another Bush appointee. The governor has personally discouraged any Republicans from challenging Jefferson, the lone black district court judge in Harris County, and thus far, no Democrat has stepped forward, either.

Locke did deny a rumor floating in Democratic circles that he had told LaBove she would have to resign her city job if she ran against Jefferson. "Absolutely not," says Locke. "Look, if they'll do it for Kim Ogg, and one of my people wants to run, and they're good people, I say, 'Have at it.' " Locke is referring to Mayor Bob Lanier's decision to let Ogg keep her $80,000 job as head of the city's anti-gang office while she seeks the GOP nomination for Salinas' bench.

And Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Employees of outgoing City Controller George Greanias have the layoff jitters, as it seems controller-elect Lloyd Kelley is preparing to take the third floor of the City Hall Annex without guaranteeing any current employee's position. Greanias aide Maryann Young claims that Kelley has assigned his campaign consultant, Allen Blakemore, to be the de facto head of his transition team, and the presence of a political type in that position "is unsettling to an office that has no political appointees, other than those who are leaving of their own volition."

Kelley did not return our phone inquiries, but Blakemore acknowledges he's advising Kelley for free on the transition. "I would say that nobody should be guaranteed their job," says Blakemore. "To start believing there are jobs intact ... you have to assume that Lloyd likes everything about the way that office operates, and he doesn't." A review of the controller's operations by Kelley's transition team is under way, Blakemore says, "and until the review is complete, there are no guarantees."

It ain't necessarily so, according to a spokeswoman for the city's Civil Service Commission, who points out that only a fraction of the 110 jobs in Greanias' office are not covered by Civil Service protections. The exceptions are probationary or executive positions, including Greanias' 11 division directors and deputies. It is among that number that job worries are said to be the most intense.

A Rocket with Teeth Isn't Violent?
Sensitivity at the Rockets' organization to the plight of our furry friends isn't just limited to team owner Leslie Alexander's wife Nancy, a well-known supporter of the group All Animals Have Rights. It seems Les himself has taken an abiding interest in the issue by beseeching NASA Administrator Dan Goldin to call a halt to a proposed joint venture between NASA and the Russians known as "Bion II." In a December 7 letter to Goldin (on team stationery that included the Rockets' missile-with-teeth logo), Alexander expressed his displeasure with the experiment, which he claimed will cause "unimaginable suffering to young monkeys" through the implanting of wires in the animals' eyeballs, eyelids, brains and stomachs.

After citing a number of reasons why the project would be wasteful and unethical, Alexander shifted his dialect to basketballese: "That's six fouls, so Bion should be ejected from the game. Please tell us that NASA will drop the monkey torture. Like the Bullets, we don't want our name to be associated with meaningless violence."

Alexander was unavailable to elaborate on his letter, copies of which were being distributed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and a Rockets publicist drew a blank when asked about the missive, which Alexander apparently fired off without consulting anyone in the team's media relations platoon. As to whether the letter expressed the sentiments of the Rockets, the flack deferred all questions to the team owner. You wonder if all this organizational sensitivity to matters of the flesh will lead Clyde Drexler to reconsider wolfing those heaping plates of barbecue at his mama's restaurant ....

Moscow Nights
Vinson & Elkins' managing partner Harry Reasoner, reacting to the December 7 Press story on his firm ("Too Big for Its Riches?"), offered this comment on the Moran family's chances of collecting the $35 million malpractice judgment a jury leveled against V&E. "Remember," said Reasoner, who had bandied about a Russian nesting doll while being interviewed by the Press, "the Wehrmacht saw the lights of Moscow, too."

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