A very small, select number of attorneys make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because they are appointed by family and juvenile court judges to be amicus attorneys representing children in private custody cases where the parties can afford to pay very large fees. The law that requires random appointment of lawyers for most positions (infamously called the "wheel") specifically does not apply to amicus attorneys or discovery masters. Each judge has the unfettered, and largely secret, ability to reward certain lawyers with these very lucrative appointments. There is no way to really track who gets these appointments, which judges make the appointments or how much the appointees are paid. Public transparency and accountability has been sorely lacking for years. Now the Harris County Family District Judges are requiring a new reporting form to bring transparency to this issue. I applaud the judges, but more is needed. In a case where wealthy parents are fighting over ... Read More >
My Letter to the District Attorney About Gary Polland
Reprinted from the November 14, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. Now that the election is over, I have written District Attorney Devon Anderson's Public Integrity Unit about Gary Polland. Similar letters send by me in the past led to the indictment of Judge Dupuy and the forced resignation of Judge Pratt. The actions of Mr. Polland are particularly important because of his influence with judges as the former Republican Party Chair, one of the "Big Three Endorsers" who dominate local GOP primaries and as a Houston television personality (on Channel 8 at least). This is what I wrote to the D.A.: I attach documents relating to attorney Gary Polland and what I contend are false pay vouchers he submitted to the county for work he did as a lawyer appointed on CPS cases. I believe that the crime of tampering with a government record may have been committed. I am providing you: 1. A legal article that establishes that a court appointed ad litem in a CPS case cannot bill the ... Read More >
Family Judges Resist Reform
Reprinted from the October 23, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. The Board of Family Judges met and decided not to follow the example of Judges Farr and Hellums regarding CPS ad litem appointments and fees. The most the judges could agree to do was require ad litems to clearly state on their fee applications if any of the work was done by someone else. Click here to see the administrative order that will apply to all CPS cases in the nine family courts in Harris County. So, the politically connected favorites will still get a lot of appointments in some courts and they will be allowed to bill the county for work done by associates and social workers despite the fact it does not appear to be legal for them to do so. Reform and change will not always happen as fast as it should, but the fight goes on! ... Read More >
Polland Reads the Mongoose!
Reprinted from the October 23, 2014 Mongoose. Gary Polland at least reads The Mongoose. Polland once almost always billed 5.0 hours for every single home visit that someone in his office did. Now, after I reported that odd fact, Polland has started billing in less round, less easy to question amounts. In Cause No. 2014-41117, Polland submitted an invoice to Judge Lombardino claiming that Polland spent 4.2 hours on August 29, 2014 for a home visit with the mother and to prepare a report. The attorney for the mother e-mailed me to say: Pollard did visit with my client on August 29, 2014 (Friday) from about 4:45 to about 5:15 p.m. [30 minutes total] .... I have a tape recording of the home visit.... The drive according to MapQuest (59 to 45 south. Freeway miles) from Polland's office to my client's home is 8.12 miles -- about 11 minutes. Pollard billed 4.2 hours for 8/29/2014 --that is impossible. ..... Gary's report [on the home visit] was about two pages long and he had ... Read More >
Tampering with a Government Record
A Texas Parole Commissioner was just indicted for tampering with a government record because she allegedly made false entries in five parole reports. Click here to read a news story about this indictment. If it can happen in Hunstville when prison inmates are the victims, it should happen in Harris County when all tax payers and the integrity of our justice system are the victims. ... Read More >
CPS Appointment Reform is Starting!
My efforts to reform the crooked system of CPS appointments in Harris County is paying off. Two family law courts and one juvenile court have adopted new policies that require random selection of ad litems and forbid billing for other attorneys except in unusual circumstances. Click here to see the policies of the 315th Juvenile Court (Judge Schneider) and click here for the policies of the 312th Family District Court (Judge Farr). Judge Hellums adopted basically the same policies as Judge Farr. Now, attorneys are required to sign this verification of their hours when they ask for fees in CPS cases in the courts of Judge Farr and Judge Hellums: Cause No. :____ Attorney Name: ________ In submitting this voucher I swear that I have billed only for time incurred by me personally, unless I have received prior court authorization to have an associate or support staff perform the task for which the billing is submitted. In addition, I swear that this ... Read More >
Franklin Resorts to the “Everyone Is Doing It” Defense
Reprinted from the October 7, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. I filed a criminal complaint against Judge Alicia Franklin and she is not saying "I didn't do it." Instead, she defends herself by saying,"Everybody does it." A Houston Chronicle article of September 21 started this way:A prominent line of defense has emerged for a newly appointed family court judge accused this month of false billing when she was working as a court-appointed lawyer representing abused children: Everybody does it. District Court Judge Alicia Franklin, the subject of a criminal complaint alleging she broke the law by billing for more than 24 hours of work in a single day as a court-appointed lawyer in Child Protective Services cases, has explained the high hours by saying she was billing for work done by associates and support staff. Click here to read the entire article, which also includes these quotes: "It [the statute on payment of CPS ad litem fees] sure does imply that it has to be ... Read More >
How Gary Polland Earns Million$ on CPS Appointments
Gary Polland was able to earn over $1.9 million in court appointments since 2010 using this simple strategy: get appointed a LOT and bill a LOT of hours every day. Polland's political clout in Republican primaries prompted Judges Devlin, Phillips, Schneider, Pratt, Millard and Lombardino to appoint Polland hundreds of times. Over 90% of Polland's apointments came from those judges. Once Polland got the appointments, he often billed more hours than a mere mortal could possibly work in a day. The following chart summarizes Polland's work on October 1, 2013. The hours Polland billed for CPS home visits are shown in one column and all other "out of court" hours he billed for that day are in the next column. Appointed attorneys are paid flat rates for court appearances and, on this day, Polland only had one court appearance. On this one day, Gary Polland billed for 30 hours of lawyer work and for one juvenile court appearance. Click here to see the actual invoices ... Read More >
Who Gets to Use the Courthouse for Paid Mediations?
Reprinted from the October 7, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. It would not seem proper for a for-profit flea market to operate in the rotunda of the court of appeals building or a used car lot to be run at the top level of the county parking garage. How then could it possibly be right for an attorney to be allowed to use a courtroom for private, paid mediations? How much influence and stroke would a lawyer have to be able to openly schedule mediations in a courtroom? Cause No. 2001-48545 was a child custody modification suit. The parties mediated temporary orders with Mary Ellen Hicks. Judge Lisa Millard appointed Gary Polland to be mediator without a request from either party or the amicus once the case was set for a jury trial. Polland eventually wrote the parties to schedule the mediation in a courtroom of the Juvenile Courthouse. Polland charged $650 per party for the half day mediation. One party and attorney were put in the in the main ... Read More >
Polland CPS Vouchers Reveal Amazing Billing
Reprinted from the September 16, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. I finally received the pay vouchers for just three months of billing by Gary Polland I am paying to have these vouchers analyzed (as I did with Alicia Franklin), but here is one startling finding I quickly made by looking through these vouchers: Gary Polland billed Harris County for four home visits totaling 19 hours on one single day and the gullible or complicit judges approved his vouchers and the county apparently paid him. In CPS cases, the law requires the attorney ad litem appointed to represent the child to personally visit the child at home before each court appearance. Polland, who almost always bills exactly 5.0 hours for "travel to and conduct home visit; draft report with pictures" billed the following for one day, August 10, 2013: Case No. 2013-04442J, 313th Juvenile District Court - 5.0 hours for a home visit (invoice submitted 8/15/13)(note the duplicate, "corrected" invoice also submitted). Case ... Read More >