Texas Penal Code Sec. 37.10 states in part:
37.10. TAMPERING WITH GOVERNMENTAL RECORD. (a) A person commits an offense if he: (1) knowingly makes a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record; (2) makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record;….
Sec. 37.01(2) defines a “government record” to mean:
(A) anything belonging to, received by, or kept by government for information, including a court record;
This is the law former Judge Denise Pratt is alleged to have violated when she apparently back-dated court orders.
One example of how attorneys can run afoul of this law arose in San Antonio recently:
Former defense attorney Hilda Valadez, who pleaded guilty to charges of forging judges’ signatures and double billing the county for indigent defense work, was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.
Valadez, 52, was once regarded as the county’s busiest court-appointed defense attorney. She was paid nearly $600,000 from 2008 to 2011, according to the district attorney’s office.
“Lawyer Sent to Prison for Billing Scheme,” MySA.com, April 21, 2014.
The statute has been applied to a deputy constable who submitted false time sheets for pay to the county in State v. Collier, 285 S.W.3d 133, 136-37 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist] 2009, no pet.).
Tampering with a government record is a Class A misdemeanor,”unless the actor’s intent is to defraud or harm another, in which event the offense is a state jail felony.” Sec. 37.10(c).
For example and for educational purposes only, an ad litem attorney in a CPS case who files a pleading called “Attorney Ad Litem’s Statement of Compliance” which consists of just 38 words, arguably commits the crime of tampering with a government record if the ad litem submits a false pay voucher that bills 0.50 hours or 30 minutes for “Draft Attorney Ad Litem’s Statement of Compliance.” I can type the body of this pleading with one finger in three minutes and the only blank that changes from case to case is the date of the home visit. A trained paralegal would call up the form on the word processor, insert the case caption, type in the date of the home visit and the pleading would be ready for the attorney to sign in 90 seconds. To be very clear, I am not suggesting Mr. Polland has done this because he does not file these written statements that are required by Family Code Sec. 107.004 (he instead files home visit reports which I think satisfy that law’s requirement of certifying that a home visit was performed before each court hearing).
An attorney appointed in a CPS case who knowingly submits a false pay voucher that over bills or which bills for something the attorney did not do is,” knowingly mak[ing] a false entry in … a governmental record” and “mak[ing], present[ing], or use[ing] any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record…” The attorney is also committing theft from the county. Each fraudulent pay voucher would be a separate felony.
At some point, the District Attorney needs to look at ad litem billing as closely as I am.