by John MacCormack, San Antonio Express-News
An impassioned attempt to remove Bexar Probate Judge Oscar Kazen from a controversial guardianship case involving millionaire Charlie Thrash came up short Tuesday.
In his motion for recusal, attorney Phil Ross had accused Kazen of various improprieties including “extra-judicial acts,” political association with other parties in the case and “retaliatory and discriminatory conduct and rulings.”
Taken together, Ross said, they tended to show an appearance of bias and impropriety.
Lawyers for Thrash’s two guardians argued that Ross’s recusal motion was no more than a delaying tactic.
After hearing five hours of testimony and argument, regional Presiding Judge Sid Harle summarily rejected the recusal motion, saying the evidence for it was unconvincing.
Harle also denied a request by the five lawyers in the courtroom, representing the two guardians in the case, that he punish Ross by ordering him to pay their $17,265 legal bill.
“Now we can get back to the merits of the case. We respect the court’s ruling,” said Barrett Shipp, who represents Mary Werner, Thrash’s personal guardian.
Despite falling to oust Kazen, Ross did not complain about the not unexpected outcome.
“I thought the judge gave a fair and impartial ruling. I think it’s unfortunate for Charlie Thrash that we did not prevail,” he said.
Thrash, 81, the longtime owner of CT Thrash Differentials & Axle on West Avenue, was found in 2017 to be mentally incapacitated.
He became a ward of a guardianship after Adult Protective Services investigated a complaint about him being exploited and manipulated by Laura Martinez, 54, his longtime girlfriend.
Her March 4 marriage to Thrash was quickly annulled by Kazen, on the grounds that he did not have the mental capacity for such an important decision.
Separately, a state district judge ruled that Thrash’s March 5 adoption of her two adult children had also been improper for the same reason.
On March 6, Thrash was removed from the home in Shavano Park he shared with Martinez and various of her family members. Werner said she took the dramatic action, backed by police, because she was fearful of his safety. Thrash is now staying with a relative in Bexar County.
A nephew, Michael Thrash, 56, recently visited with him for several days and said he is doing very well.
“He seems to be very happy. He is getting his health back and his diabetes under control,” said Michael Thrash.
“His world is upside down now. He just wants it back the way it was before all this started, before Laura Martinez,” he added.
Martinez insists she loves Thrash and has always acted in his best interests. Ross, who claims that Thrash has regained his mental capacity, is seeking to end the guardianships of his person and estate.
And very soon, the half-dozen lawyers involved will again be arguing in court in front of Kazen.
A critical hearing on the case, originally set for March 26, was canceled when Ross filed an 11th-hour motion to recuse Kazen.
It has been reset for April 9, and as Kazen recently described it in court, it will be “for all the marbles.”
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Attempt to recuse probate judge fails in Thrash case