Reprinted from the August 13, 2014 Mongoose. There can be no doubt: Gary Polland is a smart, successful lawyer who knows how to make a lot of money from the practice of law. Polland is politically powerful and able to influence and profit from every Republican primary election. Polland should be your hero and role model if high income and political influence are your goals in life.
I asked a bunch of attorneys with experience in CPS cases how much they guessed Gary Polland had been paid in four and a half years for court appointments. Their guesses ranged from $300,000 – $700,000. They were totally floored to hear that Polland had been paid $1.9 million by Harris County since January 1, 2010 for court appointments. Just to be very clear, that is taxpayer dollars being paid to this one man for government court appointments only. It does not count the many cases where Polland was appointed by judges but paid by private parties.
My investigation into this incredible situation has just begun, but here is what I know:
Polland has enormous political influence in Harris County Republican primaries, especially with judges, because he is one of the “Big Three” endorsers. It is virtually impossible to win a Harris County GOP judicial primary, even for an incumbent, without at least two of three endorsements from Hotze, Lowry or Polland. Unlike Hotze or Lowry, Polland is an attorney. Click here to see who Polland endorsed in the 2014 GOP primaries.
In CPS cases, where the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is a party, the courts are required to appoint attorneys for the children and for indigent or absent parents. The child’s attorney in CPS cases is called an “attorney ad litem.” Each judge has near total freedom to choose the attorneys who are appointed in CPS cases. Attorneys appointed in CPS cases are paid by Harris County after a voucher signed by the lawyer “upon penalty of perjury” is approved by the Judge. Click here to see a very small sample of CPS vouchers submitted by Mr. Polland. Note the charges for “travel for and conduct home visit and prepare report with photo’s” on each invoice.
Texas Family Code Sec. 107.004(d)(1) states:
(d) Except as provided by Subsection (e),an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 [CPS cases] shall: (1) meet before each court hearing with: (A) the child, if the child is at least four years of age; or (B) the individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, including the child’s parent, conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian, if the child is younger than four years of age; and (2) if the child or individual is not present at the court hearing, file a written statement with the court indicating that the attorney ad litem complied with Subdivision (1).
Most importantly, representation of abused children in CPS cases is not supposed to be an “assembly line” business to enrich the politically connected. CPS work takes time, dedication and focus on a few children at a time.
The $1.9 million paid to Polland by Harris County does not include what Polland has been paid in private cases by the parties where he was appointed a mediator or amicus attorney by a judge. In non-CPS child custody cases, the attorney appointed to represent a child is usually called an “amicus attorney.”
The vast majority of amicus attorney appointments in family cases in Harris County are not reported as required. Texas Supreme Court Order No. 07-9188 and Section 71.035(b) of the Texas Government Code require each district clerk and county clerk to prepare a monthly report listing each fee paid in the amount of $500 or more for each appointment made by a judge of any district, county, or probate court, a court master, or court referee of a person to a position for which any type of fee may be paid in a civil case, probate case, or proceeding governed by Titles 1, 2, or 4 of the Texas Family Code.
The reports from Harris County does not include most private case appointment fees in civil cases. However, the current report from the Texas Judicial Council shows, for example, that Polland was paid $5,143.00 in May 2014 in cause no. 2013-19426 where Civil District Judge Jeff Shadwick appointed Polland to be an attorney ad litem in an injury case. Polland in 2010 in Mr. Shadwick’s first race for judge endorsed Shadwick.
Judge Lombardino just appointed Polland as amicus attorney, for example, in July 2014 in Cause No. 2014-35039 (a private custody case) and ordered an initial fee of $1,750. Judge Denise Pratt in October 2013 (when she was seeking Polland’s endorsement) appointed Polland in Cause No. 201340272 and ordered that Polland be paid an initial fee of $5,000. The fees in those cases were not reported by the District Clerk. These are just a few examples of many appointment fees Polland has been paid in private civil cases. An amicus attorney in some custody cases is paid $30,000 or more by the parents. Polland could easily be making tens of thousands of dollars per month from appointments in private cases and there is no way of knowing because judges, attorneys and the District Clerk are not complying with the Texas Supreme Court order and Government Code requirement to report such fees.
Mr. Polland is also often appointed to represent indigent defendants by criminal judges in Harris County. Appointed criminal defense lawyers are also paid by the county. For example, in June 2014, Polland was ironically appointed in the 351st Criminal District Court to represent a woman charged with prostitution (3 or more priors) in Case No. 143094001010-3. A search of the District Clerk’s website for Polland’s bar number (16095800) shows dozens of criminal cases where Polland was appointed to represent defendants.
The $1.9 million Polland has been paid by Harris County since January 1, 2010 works out to $8,119.66 per week. Divided by $125 per hour (the minimum and usual non-trial hourly rate for CPS cases), that is 65 hours of billed legal work per week, every week, 52 weeks per year with no vacations or holidays. That would leave Mr. Polland very little time for his private appointments, mediations and civil cases where a client actually hires him. In contrast, for my clients, I work 7 – 10 hours per day but I usually bill a total of 4 – 6 hours per day. I clearly could learn a lot from Mr. Polland on how to efficiently bill for my time.
Every two years, Polland makes a lot of money from his business, Conservative Media Properties, LLC, doing business as the Texas Conservative Review, which endorses candidates in Republican primaries. Candidates give Polland money to pay for his mailers and local judicial candidates almost have to pay Polland because voters simply cannot know which of the dozens of judicial candidates are qualified. In election season, judges come to the attorneys asking for contributions, except for Polland. Unlike the rest of us, Polland is able to go to the judges and ask them for money. He is in a truly unique and powerful position.
My next issue will attempt to analyze which judges are appointing Polland and which paid his for-profit business for “advertisements” in his endorsement newspaper. For the next few months, a special feature in this newsletter will list each new appointment in family courts Polland gets and which judge appointed him. The judges who are appointing Polland are going to feel the spotlight even if they are unwilling to publicly explain why they choose him out of the hundreds of lawyers who seek appointments.
- How do you explain to fiscally conservative Republicans how one man could be paid $1.9 million by the county in four and a half years? Did you know that is roughly how much the United States pays the President?
- When you bill the county for 5.0 hours almost every time for home visits with the children you represent, are you personally going to see the kids?
- Do you agree that the Texas Family Code, Sec. 107.004(d)(1), requires the attorney appointed to represent children in CPS cases to personally visit the child at home before every court hearing? Does this law allow a non-lawyer or an attorney who is not the amicus appointed by the judge to conduct these mandatory home visits?
- Do your bills to the county include any charges for other attorneys or even non-lawyers to perform these home visits? If so, do the judges know you are doing this?
- Does every single voucher you sign when you request fees for court appointments state that you certify “under penalty of perjury” that the County Auditor can rely on the information you provide? Are these payment vouchers a “government record?”
- Do almost all of your appointments in CPS cases come from just a few judges? If so, why?
Greg Enos – The Anti-Polland
All fans of Star Trek have heard of “matter” and “anti-matter.” I am the “anti-Polland,” not because I am against him or harbor any ill-will toward him. I do not know him personally and he is probably a smart, fun guy. I am proudly the “anti-Polland” because we are so different.
I rely on private enterprise and paying clients for my business. Polland makes the vast majority of his large income from taxpayers and judicial appointments.
I am very involved in politics, like Polland, but it costs me a lot of money every election. In contrast, Polland makes money off elections.
I do not handle CPS cases and, except for Judge Roy Moore once per year, I do not accept appointments from judges.
Polland makes his money off the system. I spend my money and a ridiculous amount of my time criticizing the system and trying to reform it (which explains why I have been up by 4:30 a.m. three days in a row working on this newsletter).
Polland is a Republican and calls himself, “conservative.” I am a Democrat who is very liberal on social issues, even though I work with and support Republican officeholders all the time. The Republican candidates I supported this election cycle got my help, not a bill for payment. I held fundraisers for Republicans, contributed money, used my office for phone banking and spent Election Day at a voting place. In short, I actually tried to help candidates instead of just counting the cash I received from them.
I worry about abused children, honest government and how taxpayers’ money is being spent, so maybe that makes me the true conservative. The integrity and reputation of our judicial system is truly important to me. If Ronald Reagan in his prime came back to life and visited the Harris County family and juvenile courts and read this newsletter, I bet the “Gipper” would agree with me that this entire situation is just not right.