"The women of CourtWatch did what they were told couldn't be done.
They drove a group of powerful and entrenched family court judges
off the bench--someone called them 'the babes who slew the
Goliath.' It was quite a victory."--Carole Bell Ford, from the
Houston was a terrible place to divorce or seek child custody in
the 1980s and early 1990s. Family court judges routinely rendered
verdicts that damaged the interests of women and children. In some
especially shocking cases, they even granted custody to fathers who
had been accused of molesting their own children. Yet despite
persistent allegations of cronyism, incompetence, sexism, racism,
bribery, and fraud, the judges wielded such political power and
influence that removing them seemed all but impossible. The family
court system was clearly broken, but there appeared to be no way to
This book recounts the inspiring and courageous story of women
activists who came together to oppose Houston's family court judges
and whose political action committee, CourtWatch, played a crucial
role in defeating five of the judges in the 1994 judicial election.
Carole Bell Ford draws on extensive interviews with Florence
Kusnetz, the attorney who led the reform effort, and other
CourtWatch veterans, as well as news accounts, to provide a full
history of the formation, struggles, and successes of a women's
grassroots organization that overcame powerful political interests
to improve Houston's family courts. More than just a local story,
however, this history of CourtWatch provides a model that can be
used by activists in other communities in which legal and social
institutions have gone astray. It also honors the heroism
ofFlorence Kusnetz, whose commitment to the Jewish concept of
tikkun olam ("repairing and improving the world") brought her out
of a comfortable retirement to fight for justice for women and
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