Florence working with other women to remove dishonest judges.

Florence M. Kusnetz fought 'city hall' and won!

KW:    What? You didn’t go to college until you were 37?

FMK:   That’s right.  After high school I felt an obligation to go to work since my family had meager resources and I wanted to help them.  After a few years I got married, then had two children and like many young girls in the 50s I thought that was all there was.  It was when my two sons were in elementary school that I felt something was missing. I started college at the University of Maryland in 1966 and discovered my brain was still alive and ready to go.  I graduated in 1970 with a degree in Political Science and a membership in Phi Beta Kappa. I later graduated from the University of Houston Law School in 1973 and I was as surprised as anybody at my accomplishment.

KW:     Did you actually practice law?

FMK:   Yes.  I practiced law in Houston for twenty years.  Primarily, I did family law and found out how destructive divorce was on families.  Custody trials (Texas is the only state with jury trials for divorce) were particularly traumatic since children’s lives were at stake.  What made my work even more difficult was that most of the family court judges were totally incompetent.  Some were dishonest and took bribes.  The FBI investigated the allegations but could not prove them.  I vowed that after I retired I would bring them down.  Sounds dramatic but that is what I did.

KW:       How did you do that?

FMK:     After I retired in 1993 I started a political action committee called CourtWatch, a Committee For Family Court Reform.  I enlisted the help of people who were also outraged at the court situation.  They helped me develop a program for political change.  We gave talks to every organization interested in local affairs.  We sent letters to everyone we knew asking for support.  We raised $80,000.00 and bought two billboards on major highways.  We attracted over 200 volunteers who distributed information to different neighborhoods.  We held press conferences.  We were on radio and television.  We also screened family court candidates and supported the ones we thought were best and could win.  By election day in 1984 we were well known.  On election day we defeated the five judges we had targeted.  Two others decided to retire!   The family courthouse was turned upside down.

KW:      What is the end of the story?

FMK:      A writer from New York contacted me and wanted to tell my story in her next book.  She came to Houston and interviewed me for days and wrote her book.  It is “The Women of CourtWatch” by Carole Bell Ford.  It tells you how you can fight city hall and win!

Florence & Howard Kusnetz


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