Instead of signing off on the memo of understanding that the District Attorney's Office needs to dole out the money, [Judge Jan] Krocker said, Hill plans to create a committee to revamp how the courts allocate funds for mental health and let incoming District Attorney Mike Anderson decide where the money goes after he takes office Jan. 1.For his part, Judges Anderson and Hill played dumb: A tactic of which they will only be able to avail themselves for three more weeks:
"This is not good news for the mental health court," Krocker said. "Although Mike Anderson has publicly supported the mental health court, he worked behind the scenes to keep it from opening."
Anderson and Hill denied they are trying to close the court, one of several specialty dockets in the criminal courthouse that includes drug courts, a veteran's court and a different mental health court.I wish reporter Brian Rogers has spoken to Judge Lykos or her representatives before publishing, then maybe we'd know what's going on. Strangely, Judge Anderson implied he may still become a white knight to preserve the program, but under his own terms:
"I did not kill this deal," Hill said about the money offered by Lykos.
She said the District Attorney's Office decided to not offer the money, but not because of her. "I know there was some interest in it, but my understanding was that, as of Friday, they decided to not do that and let the next administration address that issue," Hill said.
[Outgoing DA Pat] Lykos could not be reached late Tuesday to answer why the offer was apparently revoked.
Anderson also said he supports Krocker's court and is not trying to close it.Given that Judge Anderson just invited Judge Hill to be his first assistant and she allegedly turned around and began meddling in the outgoing DA's spending from the asset forfeiture fund, the idea that he knew nothing about her actions but is willing to "listen," etc., seems incredible. If he's that disengaged, it's almost worse than if he knew! OTOH, if it turns out outgoing DA Pat Lykos did this, not Judge Anderson's representatives, then Judge Krocker may find herself eating crow. Either way, assigning blame won't solve the problem of the eliminated funding.
"I have made it known that I am in favor of funding the specialty courts," he said. "Three weeks from now, I'll be in a position to look at things and help them out, not just mental health courts, but drug courts and veteran's courts."
He said he was aware that judges and court administrators are considering a move toward Hill's vision of an oversight committee, but did not know details.
"I want to listen to whatever anybody's got to say about funding drug courts and mental health courts and veteran's courts," Anderson said. "They're good things. I think they make a difference."
For now all we know for sure is that money for the court suddenly peters out at the end of the year. This is a good argument for not funding such courts through the DA's asset forfeiture fund: The DA can always try to apply strings to the funding or eliminate it for judges or programs they disfavor, interfering with judicial discretion. And if the DA you're dealing with "wouldn't" do that, their replacement might. Whether that's what happening in Harris County, time will tell. Anderson could restore funds in January and this will have been a tempest in a teapot, or it could turn out to be an opening salvo as the new DA and his top staff set their own agenda and try to differentiate themselves from their supposedly soft predecessors.