Judge David Lopez has a well-known reputation of being a procrastinator—that is, having a hearing and then not issuing any orders for months, letting the parties stew in uncertainty.
In this case, the father had appealed a prior order which gave his minor children the authority to make their own possession decisions regarding time spent with him. This illegitimate order was reversed by the Dallas Fifth Court of Appeals (CoA) and remanded back to the trial court to issue a new order.
The judge who issued the illegitimate order and several other Dallas judges recused themselves from the case for various reasons. The matter then landed with Judge Lopez on Feb. 21, 2018.
On Feb. 28, 2018, Judge Lopez conducted a hearing to familiarize himself with the case. He held another hearing on March 6, 2018, at which he scheduled yet another hearing to review the case. He then held a hearing on March 19, 2018, to decide whether he had the authority to modify the order based on the CoA’s opinion. The father filed a brief confirming that Judge Lopez had the authority to do so.
On April 4, 2018, Judge Lopez issued a ruling in which he asked that he be provided with the appellate record (transcript, exhibits, etc. from the trial) before he could revise the possession order per the CoA’s opinion. At the subsequent hearing on April 9, the father provided the appellate records to Judge Lopez in open court on both a CD and flash drive, as instructed.
Nothing happened for several weeks, despite the father periodically reminding the court coordinator. Eventually he was told that both the CD and flash drive had been “lost,” so the father rushed over and provided new copies of each to the court coordinator.
Still, Judge Lopez would not make a ruling, and finally the father filed a mandamus with the CoA to compel Judge Lopez to do so. Immediately, Judge Lopez ruled on June 5, 2018, that the father only be allowed two supervised, hour-long visits a month. The father then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that there was no reason for him to be given such limited access to his daughter or that it be supervised.
After several delays, Judge Lopez finally held a hearing on Sep. 10, 2018, regarding the motion for reconsideration, where the father presented evidence to argue that the supervised visitation order was unwarranted. Soon after, Judge Lopez issued a new ruling eliminating the supervision requirement but still allowing only two visits a month. Each visit lasted for just one-and-a-half hours and had to happen in a public place.
Meanwhile, the father had the court appoint a child custody evaluator from Dallas Family Court Services. The evaluator performed a thorough investigation lasting several months. After the investigation, he provided a report which recommended that the child return home to the father in incremental steps and eventually stay with him for around 50 percent of the time (including overnight). The evaluator then testified at a trial on Nov. 15, 2018, reiterating the recommendation he had made in his report.
After the trial, Judge Lopez failed to make a ruling and months went by. With the child due to turn 18 in less than 10 months, the father sent multiple reminders to Judge Lopez via his court coordinator asking for a ruling. He finally approached Judge Lopez while he was on the bench and requested a ruling. Judge Lopez became visibly irritated and said he would rule within a week. Judge Lopez then ruled on Jan. 15, 2019, completely ignoring the recommendation made by the child custody evaluator and leaving the father’s possession period the same as before (just one-and-a-half hours twice a month in a public place).
The father once again filed a motion for reconsideration, which did not receive a hearing for several months.
Finally, at a hearing on May 6, 2019, the child custody evaluator came back to testify that the highly limited possession time given to the father was not in the best interest of the child and reaffirmed that he stood by his written recommendation and trial testimony. Judge Lopez was unmoved and signed a final order that day, confirming that the father’s possession time would continue to be limited.
Since the child would be turning 18 on Sep. 23, 2019, by his repeated procrastination Judge Lopez ensured that the father had no more appellate remedies left to challenge the decision.
Due to the actions of various judges in the system, starting with Judge Garcia (another illustrious member of this Wall of Shame) to Judge Lopez (and several in between), the children have been completely alienated from their father. He has completely lost contact with one daughter and has very little contact with another— the case has effectively destroyed his family forever.
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