Med Mal Madness

The SE Texas Record Jan. 10, 2009, 6:51am

Practicing law in Texas courts is a privilege, not a right.

That truth seems unfounded for those watching Stacy Thompson vs. Dr. James Woodruff, the medical malpractice trial that at times is a caricaturing comedy sketch rather than a serious legal proceeding.

Reporter David Yates has been chronicling the courtroom dramatics where controversial Houston plaintiff's attorney Valorie Davenport often performs in a lead role.

First there were accusations of jury tampering by the defense, after Davenport, unannounced, tried to give jurors binders said to contain case law information. Later, Davenport was accused of chronic tardiness and criticized for repeatedly yelling in the courtroom.

It was often enough that Judge Donald Floyd threatened to have a bailiff take her away. But he didn't.

Later more yelling and screaming by both sides triggered more threats by Floyd to hold Davenport and defense counsel in contempt. But he didn't.

Jurors began to laugh when Floyd repeatedly interrupted the trial for another attorney lecture. At least twice the judge has had jurors leave the courtroom so he could admonish the lawyers outside their presence.

This week it got worse when Davenport was tardy for the 9 a.m. court call. She was across the hall, representing another client in another matter. Baliffs escorted her back to where she was supposed to be. Judge Floyd, again, threatened sanctions.

If Valorie Davenport doesn't deserve punishment for her behavior in this case, what might she have to do to be sanctioned? Take a swing at Judge Floyd?

It's a question worth asking since we mere mortals wouldn't expect to be beneficiaries of such deference if we acted out in a court of law in similar fashion. We believe a judge should expect more of someone with a law degree rather than appear to be granting some kind of courtroom insolence immunity.

Judge Floyd might take note that empty threats don't work with 3 year-olds. And empty threats aren't working with Valorie Davenport. Perhaps it's time to show some teeth.

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