Hockley County DA disqualified by judge in several cases

Hockley County DA disqualified by judge in several cases

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LEVELLAND, Texas -

Hockley County Judge Pat Phelan has disqualified the county's District Attorney after Lubbock based attorneys Christina Woods and Laurie Key both filed motions to disqualify Christopher Dennis for prosecutorial vindictiveness.

Woods filed the motion after she received several texts saying all pending plea offers were revoked which she said stems from a disagreement on an unrelated case.

"My argument was that by withdrawing these offers he was standing between my clients and their attorney, which is a constitutionally protected right, along with some of his behavior then and later which I argue he's violated some very serious ethical issues and I guess the judge agreed with me," Woods said.

Dennis said he disagrees. He said his withdrawal of plea deals is nothing more than negotiation tactics. 

"When I'm negotiating with a defense attorney I ought to be able to pick up my money and walk away." he said. "That doesn't mean I can't come back, that doesn't mean they can't call me and say 'hey can we reopen negotiations,' it doesn't mean a lot of things. It means right this minute there's not an offer on the table and for a court to insert itself into that process is ridiculous."

He filed for a writ of mandamus in the 7th Court of Appeals. He asked the panel to order Judge Phelan to withdraw his order. The motion was denied on the basis of lack of evidence. Dennis said he plans to appeal.

Woods said Dennis is the one that needs to reevaluate his behavior though.

"This is not about two attorneys having some sort of a pissing contest," Woods said. "I mean this is about, these are peoples lives and he's a public official and he should not have the right to throw a tantrum or be upset and take it out on 12 people who are innocent until proven guilty."

We reached out to Judge Phelan for comment on the case, he refused.

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