The Enos Law Firm
17207 Feather Craft Lane, Webster, Texas 77598
(281) 333-3030 Fax: (281) 488-7775
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Click here for an archive of past issues of The Mongoose.
NOTE: I have repeatedly asked Judge Franklin to explain the facts I describe below. I even delayed sending out this newsletter for a day because I sent the complete rough draft to Franklin first. My e-mail to Franklin read in part:
Doug and Alicia:
I am just about sick to my stomach contemplating the newsletter I plan to send out on Wednesday. I have never done this before, but I care about the truth and about the two of you enough to send you an advance draft of the newsletter.
I naturally expect you to be upset and unhappy. I am asking you to carefully read the newsletter and the linked articles and then tell me PLEASE how I have the facts wrong. If nothing else, please write and send me your side of the story so I can print it along with what I have written.
Franklin has not responded. I really wish I could share her defense with you in this newsletter.
We understand our parents more and more as we age ourselves. "Enthusiam" was something my father had for everything in his life: his work as a school principal, organizing his garage, caring for the yard, serving his church, taking apart and reassembling a washing machine just for the challenge, and raising four boys. My Dad loved his work, and for good reason was one year named "National Principal of the Year." When the school district would move him to yet another troubled school that needed help, the parents and teachers at his old school would protest and demand that he stay.
The only time I can recall my father ever being really upset about his work that he loved so much involved a student who was a cheerleader, student body officer and apparently a pretty, likeable, smart young lady who the school staff just adored. This young woman had been caught in a really complex cheating scandal that involved payments, theft of teachers' passwords and even breaking into a teacher's car, as I remember. My Dad was devastated that this young woman had been involved with such a wicked enterprise and that he was going to have to break the news to her proud parents and suspend her from school. He was deeply disappointed and so hurt that he had to do his duty and embarrass the girl and dramatically change her young life. It was one time when he did not want to go to his school the next day.
At the time, I had little sympathy for the girl. I had just had my heart broken by a cheerleader and I felt little pity for her kind.
Now, I know how my father felt.
I truly like Alicia Franklin personally and I do not want to embarrass her or cause her problems. I have even come to actually like her fiance, Doug York (outside of the courtroom). But, the facts are the facts. I would be a stinking hypocrite to go after "poor," defenseless, little Gary Polland regarding his pay for CPS court appointments and then stay silent when I became aware of what Judge Franklin has apparently done. Luckily for Polland, I got my hands on Franklin's pay vouchers first.
I could easily just keep quiet and let the Democrats and the Houston Chronicle work Franklin over and see what happened. In fact, I had it made in the 311th finally, since the new Judge Franklin held her position because I had been a prime mover in driving her crazy predecessor out of office. Toni and I almost never socialize without the kids and we had gone to dinner with York and Franklin and really enjoyed ourselves. Franklin is young, bright and enthusiastic and seemed so committed to doing a good job as a judge. I was truly fired up about her until the stinking facts got dumped in my lap.
I am writing this newsletter despite the fact that I know Franklin will be a judge through December and she may well win in November and then preside over the 311th for four more years (unless something bad happens that cuts her judicial career short as occurred with Judge Pratt). However, let me note that a recent survey from July shows Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott tied in Harris County and the Democrats have a ground game this year that the Republicans cannot possibly match. Do not assume that you know for sure who will win here locally in November.I am writing this even though I contributed financially to Franklin's campaign and I did a lot of work behind the scenes to get Franklin to switch from running for the 247th to the 311th District Court.
Franklin's Democratic opponent, Sherri Cothrun, on a Saturday let me know that she had obtained all of the pay vouchers Franklin had submitted to Harris County for payment. Cothrun only had time to look at random at two days in May 2014, the first and sixth, and the total hours Franklin had billed were 18.5 and 21.0 hours in a day. I looked at the Franklin invoices for May that supported those totals and realized that Franklin had billed 23.5 hours on May 5. Knowing that Franklin and Cothrun were meeting with the Chronicle editorial board on Monday, Cothrun graciously agreed to send me the documents she had and let me share them with Franklin, so that Alicia would not be blind-sided on Monday by these allegations (facts, actually). Cothrun, to her credit, felt that it was only fair for Franklin to know in advance what she would have to explain when they met with the Chronicle's editors.
I was so very surprised and upset by what Cothrun had found. I told Cothrun,"I was really hoping that you would look and not find anything serious." Cothrun actually replied,"It sounds weird, but so was I."
Now, Cothrun has sent me the hundreds of pages of invoices Franklin submitted to the county during her legal career so that I could have them analyzed. Given that I helped put Franklin into office and I have strongly supported her campaign, anything I find will have more credibility, hopefully, than what her political opponent would try to publicize.
I have investigated and confirmed the facts set forth in this newsletter about Judge Franklin. With sadness and regret, I have concluded that these facts suggest possible criminal acts which should be investigated by a prosecutor. I am calling for an independent prosecutor and not the District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit to investigate the bills submitted by Alicia Franklin and other attorneys for work they claim to have done on CPS cases.
I am not flatly accusing Judge Franklin of committing a crime. I am sadly and reluctantly pointing out 100% provable facts that create a reasonable suspicion that something very wrong has been done. I really wish Judge Franklin would provide her side of the story to convince us otherwise.The facts described in this newsletter also show extremely poor ethical judgment by Judge Franklin and violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which apply to judicial candidates as well as judges.
I am today writing the District Attorney, the State Bar of Texas and the worthless Commission on Judicial Conduct about these matters and asking for an investigation by people with resources and power far beyond me.
I am truly saddened to the core of my being to be writing this particular newsletter and I really wish you were not reading these words.
I do not expect to win every case. I just want an efficient system in which my client gets a fair hearing before a judge who works hard, knows the law, and does not play favorites. I also expect judges to appoint qualified amicus attorneys who zealously look after children (and actually visit the kids in their homes). Is that asking too much? Stay tuned.
I think Alicia Franklin, a few years ago, fell in with the "wrong crowd" of attorneys and judges who are part of the pay-to-play, corrupt court appointment system in Harris County. Franklin is too smart not to know what she was doing was wrong. However, she could see a lot of other attorneys were doing it and making a lot of money with almost no chance of being caught. So, I theorize that Franklin simply started doing what other attorneys were doing at the expense of Harris County tax payers.
The behavior described in this newsletter, however it first began, was committed in the last few months while Franklin was running for judge and at a time when she should have known she would be under close scrutiny. Some of the bad behavior you will read about occurred after Franklin became a judge.
Franklin has not provided me with a written response to the questions posed in my last newsletter, so I must guess what her defense would be. "I made a mistake" is simply not a believable defense to the facts I reveal in this newsletter. Franklin is way too smart to make such "mistakes" over and over.
The actions of Alicia Franklin in her billing as a court appointed CPS attorney are important because Franklin is now a judge. What standard will Judge Franklin herself apply in court to a parent who says they did not intend to violate the court order over and over because "I did not understand" or "I made a mistake." I assume Judge Franklin herself would not accept the argument "I never expected to get caught" or "everyone else is doing it."
These are ugly, tough words I am writing about this young woman, but the stories in this newsletter are based on 100% provable facts.
I wrote harsh words about Franklin's predecessor, Denise Pratt, but no one ever said Pratt profited from the crazy things she did. The stories in this newsletter go to the fundamental character of Alicia Franklin and her ability to tell right from wrong.I hope that my words have some credibility because I have twice stuck my scrawny lawyer neck out to publicly expose what judges have done wrong and both times I was vindicated. I took on Judge Dupuy in Galveston and he was eventually removed from office and convicted of the criminal charge I first lodged against him. Denise Pratt resigned to avoid indictment based on information I uncovered and provided the District Attorney. I really hope to someday get myself out of this particular line of business, so let's hope this is the final time I feel compelled for whatever reason to call out a judge for his or her very bad behavior.
Count One: Submitting CPS Pay Vouchers That Simply Cannot Be True
This is a long article and my proof consists of many pages of pay vouchers that Alicia Franklin submitted the month before she became a judge.
Click here to read my complete, 19 page article: "Alicia Franklin Submitted CPS Pay Vouchers That Simply Cannot Be True." This article includes my legal explanation of why knowingly submitting a false CPS pay voucher to the county for payment is a crime.
Here is the executive summary of my article:
Attorneys, like Alicia Franklin, appointed by judges to represent abused children or their parents in CPS cases, must sign the pay vouchers they submit to the county. In the family courts, the vouchers say that they are submitted "under penalty of perjury."
I looked at four consecutive work days in May 2014 and pulled her charges for those days from dozens of pay vouchers submitted by Franklin. I then added up the hours she billed for each day. Here is what I found Franklin had billed:
Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 21.0 hours
Friday, May 2, 2014 - 11.25 hours
Monday, May 5, 2014 - 23.50 hours
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 18.75 hours
Any lawyer would immediately know it is not possible to bill those kind of hours and her pay vouchers for May 1, 5 and 6 simply cannot be true.
Franklin's billing on these days is only for the work on CPS cases that the county pays for and does not take into account any work she did on her private cases. All of this billing supposedly happened while she was campaigning like crazy for a runoff election three weeks away. Early voting for the runoff started May 18 and the election was May 27.
Out of curiosity, I checked to see how many hours I billed on those days in my private practice for clients and here is what I found
May 1 - 9.45 hours
May 2 - 8.5 hours
May 5 - 6.65 hours
May 6 - 10.0 hours.
I work really hard as a lawyer and those hours billed by me are at the very high end of what I usually bill in total for one day. There are plenty of days when I bill three hours or less. The most hours I have billed in one day that I can recall in my 27 year legal career is 14 hours and that involved a jury trial.
A March 8, 2013 Op-ed article in the New York Times entitled "The Tyranny of the Billable Hour" discussed billing expectations for young lawyers at large, slave-driving Manhattan law firms and said, "Most big firms require associates to bill at least 1,900 hours a year, according to a survey last year by NALP, the National Association for Legal Career Professionals.... Billing 2,000 hours a year isn't easy. It typically takes at least 50 hours a week to bill an honest 40 hours to a client." A lawyer expected to bill 1,900 hours in a year would have to bill clients a total of 36.5 hours every seven days. In these four days in May, Ms. Franklin billed the county 74.50 hours on CPS cases and that did not include any work she did on her private cases. There were only a total of 96 hours in those four days. At the rate Franklin was billing during those four days, her total hours billed in a year would be over double what big New York City law firms expect of their overworked associate attorneys and those attorneys would not also be running for judge.
Given my firm belief that knowingly submitting a false pay voucher to the county is a crime, I desperately tried to think of a way to explain Franklin's billing that does not result in the conclusion she committed a crime. It does not help that Judge Franklin is not providing me any explanation for this billing. I e-mailed about a dozen really smart, experienced family lawyers with these facts and asked them to imagine what possible explanation for these billing totals could be. Other than the obvious excuse that Franklin made a mistake on her dates, sadly no one could think of any explanation. A "typographical" error on billing dates is an unlikely explanation because these vouchers are handwritten in Franklin's own neat, precise printing.
Rounding up from five minutes on a phone call to a quarter of an hour, as many lawyers in private practice do, is not an excuse for Franklin either because: (1) she has no contract with the county that allows her to round up and bill for work she did not actually do, and (2) I have checked and mathematically, that does not reduce the number of hours she billed on three of these days to a believable number.
The attorneys I e-mailed about this issue collectively represent a few centuries of combined legal experience, and all those who replied agreed with me that Ms. Franklin simply could not have worked the hours she billed the county for on these days.
I hear through others that Franklin is going to claim that her invoices on these days included work done by her associate attorney. The problem with that defense is that it proves her invoices were false because they clearly purport to show legal work done only by Alicia Franklin. The Texas Family Code speaks of an attorney ad litem as singular person, not a law firm. There is no statutory authority that allows a judge to appoint a specific person to represent a child and then allow another lawyer to work and bill in that appointed position. If Governor Perry were, through some miracle, to appoint me to the Board of Regents for the University of Texas, I could not send my brother to appear for me at board meetings and then bill the State as if I had done that work.
I truly hope that Franklin has not engaged in what CPS insiders call "repeat billing." This is one strategy developed by some of the attorneys who live off of CPS appointments to increase what they are paid by the judges. "Repeat billing" is a euphemism for illegal double billing and it involves submitting time for work on a case in one month and then perhaps two months, later submitting the same time on the same case. The judge on the second appearance cannot possibly recall what he approved on a voucher weeks before and he does not have all vouchers submitted in the case before him. If caught, the attorney can always claim it was an innocent clerical error. This allows the attorney to get paid twice for the same work.
My full paper on this topic includes examples of anomalies found in Franklin's billing, which at least make it appear that Franklin could be sometimes billing the county twice for the same work.
Franklin's CPS pay vouchers are all handwritten (presumably in her own hand) and she bills in quarter hour increments. In contrast, other CPS ad litem attorneys submit typed pay vouchers that appear to be created by billing software programs. Other CPS attorneys, such as Ronnie Harrison, bill in time increments as short as 0.05 hours or 3 minutes, which is a much better bargain for the county. My full article includes samples of the time sheets submitted by Franklin and three other ad litem attorneys for "out of court" work. The contrast between these samples of billing by ad litems is striking and makes Franklin's bills look very haphazardly slapped together and unprofessional. George Clevenger's bills for his CPS work are particularly professional looking and I suspect I may have to prospectively take back everything I have not yet written about him. I concede it is possible to be politically well connected and do a good job on cases and accurately bill the county. It is not fair for me to pre-judge anyone.
I am paying someone now to analyze every invoice for CPS work Ms. Franklin submitted to the county for the entire year of 2013. I had him start with March 2013 and we have already found a day, March 20, 2013, with 20.25 total hours billed by Franklin.
I do not think Franklin is the only attorney submitting false bills to the county for court appointments in CPS work. Unfortunately for her, Franklin's vouchers (ordered from the County Auditor) arrived before other vouchers I have ordered. Unlike the other attorneys who I believe are involved in this practice, however, Franklin is now a judge. That makes this a really big deal.
A prominent female criminal defense attorney in San Antonio was just sentenced to ten years in prison for double billing the county on criminal appointments (and forging judges' signatures).
This matter should be investigated by someone other than District Attorney Devon Anderson, who first bungled the Judge Pratt investigation then let Pratt off the hook criminally once I found proof even the judge could not deny. Anderson is running on the same Republican ticket this year as Franklin and she is tied into the same political power brokers who are themselves involved with this CPS billing scandal. We need a "prosecutor pro tem" appointed who will actually look into this mess vigorously and objectively. This prosecutor should be from a city far from Houston and not have any ties to the political establishment that currently runs this county. If Franklin did nothing wrong, then a truly independent prosecutor should determine that (which is what I sincerely hope happens).
I would really like to think that Franklin did not knowingly submit these false bills to the county. However, any defendant accused of such a crime would claim "it was a clerical error!" How will such a smart lady ever convince us she could make such mistakes?
The first thing law enforcement should look for are the actual time records kept by Alicia Franklin on her CPS cases. It is clear that these CPS pay vouchers I have seen were filled out by hand by Franklin all on the same day, so they are not contemporaneous records a lawyer would make at the time to record his or her billable time. I sincerely hope that there are such time records to be found!
Count Two: Billing for CPS Work After She Became Judge
Here is a shocker: judges cannot practice law!
There is a specific provision in the Texas Canons of Judicial Ethics, Canon 4(G) that says a judge cannot practice law. It would also apparently shock and surprise some that it is illegal to bill the county for work you did not do.
So, taking those two basic principles in mind, consider this: Judge Franklin, after she was sworn into office as a judge, submitted a pay voucher to the county for lawyer work on a CPS case done after she became a judge.
Moreover, Franklin tried to mislead the Houston Chronicle
editorial board last week in replying to this allegation by telling them that she started work on the bench on June 18, 2014. Franklin knew she had to tell the editors that she started work on June 18 because she had submitted a handwritten invoice for CPS work signed by her on June 17 for legal work she had done on June 13, 16 and 17, including one hour of "in court appearance."
I am guessing that Franklin forgot the e-mail she sent me that confirmed she was sworn in as judge by Lisa Millard on June 13, 2014. I obtained from the Texas Secretary of State a copy of the oath of office signed by Alicia Franklin and dated June 13.Click here
to see the oath of office, invoices and e-mails involved and my article that seems to show beyond doubt that Franklin billed the county for lawyer work she claimed to have performed after she was sworn in as judge.
I checked with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct and they confirmed that a district judge simply cannot practice law. They said that "winding down" a law practice cannot include a court appearance or billing the county for work done by the judge as a lawyer.
So, choose Ms. Franklin: either you falsely billed the county for legal work or you accurately billed for legal work performed after you had been sworn in as a judge. Either way, you have a big problem.
I hear that the County Auditor, after my last newsletter mentioned this issue, is refusing to pay the invoices submitted under Franklin's name for CPS legal work after she became a judge. Most of those invoices were signed by Franklin's associate attorney but submitted under Franklin's name (which itself does not seem proper). However, the June 17 CPS invoice is signed by Franklin herself and clearly purports to bill for legal work Franklin herself did. The court's docket sheet and the other attorneys in that case should be able to confirm if it was Franklin herself who appeared in juvenile court as lawyer on June 17.
Count Three: Accepting A Campaign Contribution from a Party to a Case She Was The Amicus Attorney On
My first published book might not be set in London in the Spring of 1881 after all. It could well be about Judge Franklin and her predecessor, Judge Pratt. I have more than enough information to fill a book. Click here
to read about this truly too-sleazy-to-believe scenario: an amicus attorney appointed to represent a child in a nasty custody case decides to run for judge and accepts a large campaign contribution from a party to the case. Sadly, Alicia Franklin, is the protagonist in this wretched story as well.
Ms. Franklin was appointed an amicus attorney for a young boy in a hotly contested custody case by Judge Lisa Millard in case no. 2012-04106 on April 20, 2012. This case involved parents and grandparents.
On October 15, 2013, Ms. Franklin and the grandparents' attorney filed a joint motion for enforcement against the mother for not obeying a court order on visitation. It is extremely unusual for an amicus attorney to file a joint motion with another party. I have never actually seen it happen in my 27 years of practice. It certainly shows that on October 15, Franklin was very actively involved in the Maxim case and would have known who the grandfather, Joe Maxim, was.
On the very next day, on October 16, 2013, Ms. Franklin, who then was running for judge, accepted a $1,000 contribution from the grandfather in that case. That contribution was not disclosed by Ms. Franklin to the other parties or their attorneys or to the judge.
Franklin admitted that she accepted the grandfather's contribution when she met with the Houston Chronicle
editorial board. Franklin insisted she had done nothing improper, in part because she had accepted a $4,000 contribution from a lawyer who briefly represented one of the other parties to that case.
A grandfather who so badly wants custody of a grandchild because of the parents' bad behavior really needs the "neutral" amicus attorney on his side to have chance for custody. How could any lawyer in their right mind ever think it was ethical to solicit or to accept a campaign contribution from such a grandfather while the candidate was the amicus in the grandpa's hotly contested custody case?
This is just another example of very bad ethical decisions Ms. Franklin has made recently. Ironically, the grandfather was represented by Rita Lucido, the law partner of Sherri Cothrun, who is the Democrat running against Franklin. Cothrun made Lucido aware of the grandfather's contribution in May 2014 after Cothrun looked at Franklin's campaign finance reports. I wonder what other ethical lapses of Judge Franklin are out there waiting to be discovered? My next newsletter will provide a few more examples unfortunately.
Our system of justice works only if we have fair, ethical judges who command the respect of attorneys and the public. Franklin's defective moral compass is something to really worry about as long as she is a judge.
"Together, attorneys can improve our family courts!"
|Ella Wheeler Wilcox (from Poems of Purpose, 1916)|
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The Inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many.....
In this Issue
Judicial Candidate Forum and Seminar
The bi-partisan group, Family Lawyers for Good Judges, is sponsoring a debate between all of the candidates for family courts in contested elections in Harris County on September 12, 2014. Here is the information on this event:
2014 HARRIS COUNTY FAMILY LAW JUDICIAL DEBATE AND JUDICIAL PANEL: "WHAT MAKES A GOOD FAMILY LAW JUDGE"Date and Time: Friday, September 12, 2014 - 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Location: South Texas College of Law, Joe Green Auditorium, 4th Floor, 1303 San Jacinto St., Houston TX 77002
Cost: $150.00; 25% discount for Associate Members; Full Members are free of charge, Box lunch included
CLE: 4.0 hours, 1.0 hour ethics included
Click here to download the registration form for this event.
Click here to download the membership form to join this group. Click here for the group's by-laws.
The folks putting on this event want to make it clear - Greg Enos has absolutely nothing to do with their organization or this candidate forum.
Count Four: Billing for Non-Lawyer Tasks Such as "Post Office Runs"
Alicia Franklin billed the county for one hour of work on May 6, 2014 in Cause No. 2014-02035J for "prepare letter to client, prepare to mail and post office run." In Cause No. 2008-02442J, Franklin billed a quarter of an hour twice for "post office run" on April 10 and May 19, 2014. Attorneys simply do not bill their clients for running to the post office and Harris County tax payers should not be charged for such work either.
On May 1, 2014, Franklin billed the county in Cause No. 2013-41503 a quarter of an hour to e-file a document. She did the same thing on May 7, 2014 in Cause No. 2013-39931 when she charged a quarter of an hour for "e-filed affidavit." Again, this is something clerical staff do in most law offices and I have never heard of lawyers billing clients for that sort of work.
Franklin also billed the county frequently for merely printing documents, something attorneys or their clerical staff do simply by pushing a button. I have never heard of attorneys charging clients to print documents. In Cause No. 2011-04867-J, on May 5, 2014, for example, Franklin billed the county for 15 minutes (0.25 hours) to print a CPS report on what must be a really slow printer and then Franklin, on the same day, billed the county one hour to review the same report. It would be a very rare CPS report that was more than 6 - 8 pages long and an average reader can read such reports in ten minutes or less. Attorneys should not bill the county to just print documents.
Click here to see these examples of Franklin billing for non-lawyer work.
Tax payers should not pay attorneys to print documents, e-file pleadings, lick envelopes or drive to the post office to put envelopes in the mail box. These amazing time entries are proof that the CPS lawyers submitting invoices have no shame and no fear of their bills being reviewed. It is definite proof that the judges do not even read the time entries being submitted before they approve them for payment.
Count Five: Falsely Asking to be "Re-Elected"
Someone actually reads this little newsletter. Sherri Cothrun complained that Alicia Franklin was improperly using the phrase,"Re-Elect Alicia Franklin" on her website, but the naive Chronicle
editor thought Cothrun was just being picky and "hyper technical." Franklin apparently saw no need to change her web site after their Monday meeting with the Houston Chronicle
However, after my newsletter that pointed this "re-elect versus keep" problem out was published last Thursday, Franklin quickly changed her website.
Franklin's problem is that it was simply not true and it was unethical for her to ask to be "re-elected" if she has never been elected in the first place. I checked with the Commission on Judicial Conduct and confirmed that an appointed judge cannot use the phrase "re-elect" (they also cannot falsely claim to be a Rhodes Scholar or to have flown on the space shuttle either). The Code of Judicial Conduct applies to JUDGE Franklin just as it does to all judicial candidates. Canon 5,(1)(ii), says,"a judge or judicial candidate shall not knowingly or recklessly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact concerning the candidate..."
Anyone with political experience would have known that an appointed judge cannot ask voters to "re-elect" her, so this was not a mistake. Franklin's team has plenty of political experience. However, the common thread you should see running through all of the articles in this newsletter is this: a smart person is making the sleazy choice and expecting to not get caught or called out on it.
A judge telling the truth to voters and knowing the rules and following them does not just involve a "hyper-technical" application of some rule. A judge in family court has to apply "hyper-technical" rules of law to parents and parties and sometimes punish people who do not follow the rules.
The arrogance of the attitude that "the Republicans are going to sweep this election so no one is going to care what we do" is wrong and disgusting. That was almost verbatim what I was told when I first broke the news to the Franklin camp of the distressing stories in this newsletter.
I have yet to hear anything like "Oh my gosh, if we screwed up we will get to the bottom of it, and apologize and make it right." When I called out Judge Meca Walker for accepting $20,000 in improper campaign contributions last Fall, she immediately recognized the error, apologized and returned the money. That is what a person who cares about right and wrong does.
Enos Schools County Auditor and Harangues County Judge Emmett
Lawyers are stealing tax payer dollars and the system in place at Harris County allows it. Here are the problems:
1. A paper based system from the 1950's is still in use. Lawyers fill out the pay vouchers by hand, the judges sign the vouchers and then they go to the County Auditor, who pays the amounts approved by the judges, no questions asked.
2. A judge, who may approve dozens of pay vouchers a week, cannot see what an attorney is billing in other cases in that same court or in other courts.
3. No one until me ever took a mass of vouchers from one single attorney and extracted the fees charged on all cases for a particular day to see what the attorney is billing the county for on that day. This is how Alicia Franklin got busted billing 23.5 hours in one day. If I can "audit" vouchers, why can't the County Auditor?
4. The real problem is that no one has any incentive to closely monitor the CPS pay system. The judges are picking their pals for the appointments and therefore obviously want them to make money. The attorneys do not want their vouchers audited either. They have figured out that they can make a lot of money by submitting almost any hours they can make up and no one is ever going to care or catch them.
The simple solution is to go to an all electronic reporting system, like the State makes candidates use for reporting campaign contributions. Candidates must enter their information into a database program that automatically uploads the data to the State database that we can all search. Click here
to see just how searchable the Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance database is.
The county should make ALL billing and pay information for appointed attorneys viewable on line by everyone, including judges and reporters. Our family and juvenile judges should demand that all court appointments and all fees for appointed attorneys be reported. Simple transparency will eliminate a lot of the abuses.
It would also help if our County Auditor actually audited some attorney vouchers on a random basis to keep everyone honest. However, the County Auditor is hired, fired and managed by the district judges of Harris County. How gung ho will the auditor be to audit the CPS invoices her bosses have already approved?
Lastly, we need to replace every single judge involved in this dirty CPS court appointment business, which is about three judges in the family courts and at least two of the three juvenile courts.
The children and tax payers of Harris County deserve better!
Alicia Franklin Became a Judge on June 13, 2014, the Date of Her Secret Swearing In
Alicia Franklin was appointed Judge of the 311th District Court by Governor Perry on June 13, 2014. That same day, Franklin had her friend and mentor, Judge Lisa Millard, swear her in as judge in a private ceremony. I soon heard that Franklin had been sworn in but no one would tell me the details. I asked Franklin's fiance, Doug York, and he would not tell me, so I really became interested. I e-mailed Judge David Farr and District Clerk Chris Daniel and even Doug York and Alicia Franklin, but Farr and Daniel did not know and it took a while for me to learn the truth from Franklin and her fiance. At the time, I could not fathom why the exact date Franklin took office was a secret. Now that I see Franklin was billing the county for CPS lawyer work she did from June 13 - June 17, I think I understand.
Doug York e-mailed me on June 18 and said, in part:
However, since not knowing is driving you crazy the Doug York in me now wants to keep you guessing and apparently very frustrated.....
But alas, here's a clue.....on the day she got the call from the Gov it would make sense to get sworn in by another family court judge she's friends with now wouldn't it.....but of course I'm not divulging anything as I am merely the small minion, a cog in the proverbial wheel....
On June 24, Franklin herself e-mailed me:
From: Alicia K. Franklin
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 5:29 PM
To: Greg Enos
Subject: Responding to your email of June 17
It has been amazing sitting as Judge of the 311th. Things are moving along and we are moving in the right direction. I look forward to seeing you in the 311th.
I wanted to follow up with you regarding the swearing in and upcoming investiture however I was waiting for confirmation that the ceremonial court was available at the date and time certain.
I was sworn in the day of my appointment by the Governor, June 13th, by Judge Lisa Millard. There will be a public ceremony that will take place in the ceremonial courtroom on the 17th floor of the civil courthouse on Friday, August 15, 2014 at noon with a catered reception to follow in the courtroom adjacent the ceremonial courtroom on the 17th floor.
. . . .
I obtained a copy of the oath of office Franklin signed on June 13, 2014 from the Secretary of State:
There can be no doubt, Franklin became a judge on June 13.
Attorney Greg Enos has been through his own divorce and child custody battle (he won) and understands what his clients are going through. Enos graduated from the University of Texas Law School and was a very successful personal injury attorney in Texas City before he decided his true calling was to help families in divorce and child custody cases. Greg Enos is active in politics and in Clear Lake area charities. He has served as President of the Bay Area Bar Association and President of the Board of Interfaith Caring Ministries.
Attorney Greg Enos