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Neither Polio nor the FLDS could rattle Judge Barbara Walther, who has officially retired | San Angelo Standard-Times.

[Published 6:22 AM EST Nov 18, 2018]

51st District Judge Barbara Walther
Contributed photo

[Links to articles referenced below were unavailable in the European version of this article - ppn editor]

John Tufts writes:

SAN ANGELO — On the afternoon of her retirement, Judge Barbara L. Walther was running nearly an hour late, and for good reason. Walther took her seat at the bench in late October  with a broad smile after courtroom officials surprised the longtime 51st District Judge with a party in her honor.

"She would have slipped out the door otherwise," said one attorney in the Tom Green County Courthouse. Walther's "not one for fanfare." 

Walther called court into session Oct. 30, 2018, then finished one final plea hearing to put a cap on her 26-year judicial career serving the 51st District Court of Texas, whose jurisdiction includes Tom Green, Coke, Irion, Schleicher and Sterling counties.

Walther has been lauded by friends and colleagues as a jurist who was fair and good humored, but who "didn't suffer fools." 

After graduating law school, Walther practiced law in Dallas until 1983, when she and her family relocated to San Angelo. Walther was elected to the 51st District Court judgeship in 1992.

"She was the first woman to win election to the office," said Gus Clemens, who managed Walther's campaign.

A friend of more than 60 years, Clemens remembers what stood out most about Walther while the two were growing up on the same street.

"She was dogged," Clemens said. "As a child, she had polio. What struck me was the grip she had after it. She rode a trike after polio because she wasn't going to let it get her down."

Judge Barbara Walther arrives at the Tom Green County Courthouse on Aug. 9, 2011, to preside over the sexual assault trial of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
San Angelo Standard-Times file

Now 65, Walther decided to retire because it "is the right time," said her court administrator, Ann Bailey, in an earlier interview.

"She wants to travel internationally and spend time with her grandchildren and children," Bailey said. "She is a wonderful person and judge, and I'll miss her."

Walther garnered much praise and admiration from San Angelo's legal community throughout the years.

"I want to publicly congratulate her," 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer said just after Walther announced her retirement. "She has served our community for more than 30 years through difficult times and cases."

Walther "handled difficult issues that gained her national attention — and in association with those things, threats to her security — but she managed it. I want to commend her for all her years of service to the community."

Walther and the FLDS.

Walther's most high-profile cases involved the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A long series of hearings and trials overseen by Walther kicked off after an April 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado in Schleicher County.

Timeline: Before and after the 2008 raid on the FLDS' Yearning for Zion Ranch

It was Walther who signed the original search warrant that allowed law enforcement to raid the compound and temporarily remove more than 400 children feared to be at risk for abuse.

"It became a monstrous thing to manage," said Clemens, "and she was able to do it."

In the days following the raid, Walther presided over the state's largest child custody case and was assigned additional security in court and at home as rumors began to circulate that church supporters would violently retaliate against her.

"She received death threats," Clemens said.

A courtroom drawing shows Warren Jeffs standing before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther for his child sexual assault trial at the Tom Green County Courthouse in 2011.
Mejo Okon, San Angelo Standard-Times

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs filed motions trying to remove Walther from presiding over his 2011 child sexual abuse case on at least two occasions. Jeffs would eventually be convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison.

READ RELATED STORY: Children of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs speak of experiences 10 years after the YFZ Ranch raid

Throughout the tumultuous weeks following the raid, Walther was under a microscope as numerous news outlets reported on her handling of the controversial hearings and trials that grabbed national attention.

"Walther is a seasoned, authoritative jurist with a sense of humor who handled the challenging hearing as well as anyone could have," according to the Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press in 2008.

“She will rule, and that is something in a judge’s personality that lawyers really appreciate,” said Guy Choate, a longtime attorney in San Angelo. ... Her attitude is, “I may be right or may be wrong, but I’m not uncertain.”

Walther's straightforward candor on the bench left an impression on many who knew her.

"She expected lawyers to be prepared," Clemens said. "She didn't suffer fools."

"You always know where you stand with (Walther)," Bailey said. "She told you like it was, yet she was always fair, and always humble."

Walther now a senior judge.

Following her retirement, Walther became a senior judge, meaning she will act as a fill-in judge if another judge is out. 

Walther's term in the 51st District Court was originally designated to end Dec. 31, 2020, which prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint Carmen Symes Dusek, a San Angelo attorney who worked as lead counsel during the biggest child custody case in U.S. history, to fill the position.

RELATED STORY: San Angelo lawyer Carmen Dusek appointed 51st District Court judge, replaces Barbara Walther

Dusek, along with 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer and San Angelo attorney Gonzalo Rios had applied for Walther's vacancy.

Judge Barbara Walther arrives at the Tom Green County Courthouse Aug. 6, 2011, for the trial of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs was found guilty of child sex assault and sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison.
San Angelo Standard-Times file

Walther fell short in a bid for Place 3 on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014 and ran unopposed for re-election to the 51st District post in 2016. She has spent 31 years in law, 26 of them as a judge in District 51.

She has won multiple awards over her career, including:

  • 2008: Outstanding Jurist Award, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Texas Chapter
  • 2007: Presidential Citation from State Bar President Martha Dickie
  • 2004: San Angelo Angel, San Angelo Schools Foundation
  • 1997: Named one of 85 Texas Women of Distinction, Girl Scout Councils of Texas

Walther is also part of the Texas Bar Foundation, State Bar of Texas, Texas Center for the Judiciary, a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals Education Committee, a faculty member at the Texas Center and Judicial Section education programs and part of the Community Advisory Board at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health.

Walther was married to board-certified radiologist Dr. Steven Walther for about 40 years before her husband passed away in 2014. 

She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas in 1974 and her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in 1977.

Carmen Symes Dusek, a San Angelo attorney who worked as lead counsel during the FLDS trials, was appointed to the 51st Judicial District Court on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, by Gov. Greg Abbott.


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For how long do denervated muscles in children retain the ability to regenerate?: Restoration of elbow flexion and shoulder function by partial nerve transfer in a child with long-standing poliomyelitis-like paralysis | Journal of Orthopaedic Science.

[Open Access] [Received 16 September 2018, Revised 17 October 2018, Accepted 17 October 2018, Available online 10 November 2018] [In Press, Corrected Proof]

Abstract.

Background.

In infant poliomyelitis or poliomyelitis-like paresis, there has been no means of treating residual paralysis and the policy has been to wait until an affected infant has grown sufficiently to enable tendon transfer or arthrodesis. However, recent reports have described relatively good results for early surgical intervention in the form of nerve transfer.

Methods.

In a 4-year and 6-month-old child we transferred a partial ulnar nerve for elbow flexor reconstruction even 3 years and 10 months after the onset of poliomyelitis-like palsy and also transferred partial accessory and radial nerves for shoulder function restoration 6 months after the first operation.

Results.

Elbow flexor restored M4 on the British Medical Research Council scale. The shoulder subluxation resolved, however, the strengths of the deltoid and infraspinatus remained almost M1. At the most recent clinical examination, the patient was 18 years old and the active range of motion of patient’s left elbow was 0°–125°, and those of the whole shoulder girdle were abduction 35°, flexion 60°, extension 30° and external rotation 0°.

Conclusions.

The outcomes we achieved may support partial nerve transfer techniques as viable treatment options for persistent long-standing motor deficits following poliomyelitis-like palsy in children. However, we recommend performing partial nerve transfer as early as possible after recovery from flaccid paralysis and also use of nerves that derive from narrow spinal cord segments. After denervation, children’s neuromuscular systems seem to have the ability to regenerate after a much longer period than has generally been believed. This speculation is based on only a single case report; thus, more experience is needed before this generalization can confidently be made.


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