After receiving internal emails, photographs, and allegations from multiple sources that a nonprofit has an ongoing political bias against a Tarrant County family district court judge and is using its influence to overturn the will of the voters, Texas Scorecard sent inquiries to the CEO of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tarrant County. He replied only with a generic statement that did not address the allegations leveled at him or his organization.
Last Thursday, Texas Scorecard broke the story about an emergency meeting called for February 20 where judges will vote on whether or not to remove all Child Protective Services cases from the 323rd District Court. Judge Alex Kim was elected to oversee this court in 2018, which specializes in child welfare and juvenile delinquency cases.
Multiple sources in Tarrant County allege CASA of Tarrant—along with CPS and Cook Children’s Medical Center—is influencing Judge David Evans, a Rick Perry appointee who oversees all district judges of Tarrant and 17 other counties in the region, to make this move. These sources say this is retribution for Kim following the law as well as his intervention to save the life of baby Tinslee Lewis.
According to their website, CASA was birthed in 1983 around “the idea of appointing community volunteers to speak up for the best interests of [abused and neglected] children in court.”
“The ultimate goal is to provide every child in foster care who needs one with a highly trained CASA volunteer.”
Multiple sources allege CASA has a strong political bias against Kim and favored his opponent, who he defeated in November 2018—Democrat James Teel, who served as the associate judge under Kim’s predecessor. Texas Scorecard has obtained screenshots of social media posts of Teel campaigning for the 323rd District Court seat at a CASA event in August of 2018.
There are also photos of Teel with CASA Tarrant CEO Don Binnicker.
Sources claim CASA invited Teel to speak to them during the 2018 election, but they did not extend the same invitation to then-candidate Kim. The sources also claim Binnicker terminated several CASA volunteers because of their public support for Kim in the 2018 campaign.
Texas Scorecard has received an internal CASA email sent from Binnicker that seemingly referenced Kim’s predecessor, saying, “We have historically enjoyed a positive partnership with the family court system.”
In this same email, he bemoaned the decline of CASA volunteers being appointed by the 323rd District Court since Kim’s election. He goes on to say the news media had received “tips” regarding this situation and that “it is very likely that in the next coming days, you will see or hear news stories related to this situation and CASA’s general relationship with the 323rd Court.”
On February 11 of this year, Binnicker was featured in a WFAA piece attacking Judge Kim for the decline in appointments. Kim informed CASA he had concerns about the accessibility to private records their volunteers had. He also stated to WFAA the district court is a “gatekeeper to protect constitutional rights.”
A month earlier, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram featured an editorial that took CASA’s side against Kim.
Texas Scorecard reached out to Binnicker regarding the allegations leveled against him and whether his organization has been influencing the move to remove CPS cases from Kim’s court.
“CASA of Tarrant County values the working relationship it has with all Tarrant County courts and judges. CASA’s sole mission and obligation is to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the county. CASA works diligently and cooperatively with all of its community partners and stakeholders, including the Tarrant County courts and judges, to further that mission.”
A follow-up question asking Binnicker if he was employed by CPS before working for CASA has gone unanswered.
Concerned Tarrant County voters may attend the public meeting on February 20 at 12:15 pm, in the assembly room on the second floor of the Family Law Center at 200 E. Weatherford Street.
Voters may also contact the district judges who will be voting on this matter.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley: 817-884-1441; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge David Evans: 817-884-2690
Judge John Chupp: 817-884-1992
Judge Don Cosby: 817-884-1452
Judge Wayne Salvant: 817-884-1347
Judge David Hagerman: 817-884-1908; email@example.com
Judge Jesse Nevarez Jr.: 817-884-3796; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Kenneth E. Newell: 817-884-1794; email@example.com
Judge James B. Munford: 817-884-1427
Judge Judith Wells: 817-884-1537; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Patricia Bennett: 817-884-2708
Judge Melody Wilkinson: 817-884-1460
Judge R.H. Wallace: 817-884-1452
Judge Jerry Hennigan: 817-884-1432
Judge Kimberly Fitzpatrick: 817-884-2710; Kfitzpatrick@tarrantcounty.com
Judge Josh Burgess: 817-884-2730; email@example.com
Judge Elizabeth Beach: 817-884-1351; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Robb Catalano: 817-884-1356; email@example.com
Judge Ruben Gonzalez: 817-884-2935
Judge Susan Heygood-McCoy: 817-884-2691; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Tom Lowe: 817-884-1709; email@example.com
Judge Mike Thomas 817-884-1362
Judge Chris Wolfe: 817-884-1529
Judge Mollee Westfall: 817-884-2985
Judge Scott Wisch: 817-884-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge George Gallagher: 817-884-2765