Lawyer Greg Enos filed a criminal complaint this month with the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division alleging 311th District Court Judge Alicia Franklin submitted false and questionable pay vouchers to the county for court-appointed work in Child Protective Services cases, including one in which she billed for nearly 24 hours of work in a single day and others for work apparently done after she had been sworn in as a judge, a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. She also is accused of billing for trips to the post office and other administrative tasks.
“Taxpayers 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,” Enos wrote in the complaint. “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 not even read the time entries being submitted before they approve them for payment.”
Enos’ 20-page complaint is based on CPS pay vouchers he obtained from Franklin’s Democratic opponent in the November general election, Sherri Cothrun. The complaint details vouchers filed on four separate days in May when Franklin billed anywhere from 19 hours to 23.5 hours, and show that she billed only in 15-minute increments.
Since filing the complaint, Enos said he has discovered additional vouchers that show Franklin billed for more than 32 hours in a single day, something legal experts say could be either unethical or illegal, if true.
Consultant Jim McGrath, whose public relations firm Franklin hired, was dismissive of Enos’ complaint, calling it a “political smear job” by a “self-described ‘liberal Democrat.'”
“It stinks to high heaven as far as we’re concerned, but it’s the season for politics,” McGrath said.
Outside experts said the evidence in Enos’ complaint is sufficient to warrant an investigation.
“It’s problematic on its face, there’s no doubt about that,” said Robert Schuwerk, professor emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center. “I think it’s got to be looked into.”
Jim McCormack, former general counsel and chief disciplinary counsel of the State Bar of Texas, said the complaint “raises serious questions of fraud, theft and dishonest conduct.”
“Those allegations should be fully investigated by the appropriate prosecutor and the State Bar of Texas,” he said. “Allegations of fraudulent payment requests by a lawyer to a government entity, as well as the alleged charging of unconscionable fees implicate both the criminal laws applicable to everyone and the disciplinary rules governing lawyers.”
See here for the background, see here for the complaint, and see here for invoices submitted by Franklin for work done after June 13, the day she was sworn in as a judge. A sample of the vouchers Franklin submitted with the problems that Enos highlights with them is here. I’ll be very interested to hear what the attorneys out there think of this. As was the case with the complaints filed against now-former Judge Denise Pratt, Enos is requesting that an independent prosecutor be appointed to investigate this. We’ll see what DA Devon Anderson does with this complaint. The latest issue of Enos’ “The Mongoose” newsletter that sums up what he’s got so far on all this is here.