The Houston Chronicle reports that Greg Enos, the prominent attorney who was behind a series of criminal complaints that ultimately brought down Family District Judge Denise Pratt, has now filed yet another complaint against her successor. Judge Alicia Franklin, who defeated Pratt in a Republican primary after she abruptly resigned, was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in June to fill out the remainder of Pratt’s term. She is also the Republican candidate for a full four-year term in the post this November, where she faces Sherri Cothrun, an attorney who is her Democratic opponent.
Enos alleges that Franklin abused her power as a court-appointed attorney on CPS related cases, as she did extensively prior to her assuming judicial office. Enos’ detailed each and every one of his allegations in somewhat meticulous detail in his intermittent newsletter, The Mongoose. I cannot state strongly enough have vehemently I urge you to read the full newsletter and the explanation for the allegations made in painstaking detail.
First, Enos accuses Franklin of billing exorbitant hours for individual days, often much more than 10 hours and –on one occasion– 23.5 hours. Typically, billings for ad litem appointments such as this one exclude what is called an “administrative task,” such as driving, postal work, etc. Only legal work should ostensibly be included.
Second, Franklin allegedly charged for work after she became a Judge, which –if true– would be a huge violation of State law and ethical codes. Third, when she received one of these neutral appointments, she allegedly received a campaign contribution from one of the interested parties.
Fourth, as I explained above, she allegedly billed for many –as Enos put it– “non-lawyer” tasks, such as going to the post office, electronically filing documents or merely printing the documents. Lastly, Enos found an issue with Franklin adorning her campaign placards with pleas to be “re-elected,” even though she is merely the appointed incumbent. After checking with the relevant authorities at the Commission on Judicial Conflict, Enos confirmed that it would be an ethical violation to do so.
Franklin has reportedly retained a PR firm, Begala/McGarth, and has been somewhat silent on this issue to all involved. Last month, Franklin defended her billing practices as a collaborative total number of hours which included work accrued by her associates. Of course, according to the law, allowing others’ work to be included within your ad litem billing is prohibited as well. Franklin also defended the pay vouchers submitted while she was a Judge as work that had occurred before her appointment. Of course, the Chronicle notes that some of the pay vouchers show work apparently done after she was sworn-in.
My friend Greg at Rhymes with Right defended Franklin somewhat vigorously, employing the same strategy of work done by associates. He also goes further in stating that she received a phone call to be appointed rather hastily, and her associates needed time to close down shop, explaining the post-Judge hours billed. I suppose that is logical, but Franklin explicitly chose not to invoke it when confronted on the billings made while she was on the bench. Additionally, given that the incumbent had resigned and Franklin had won the Republican primary, was anyone actually surprised by her appointment? It was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
All in all, I think there is enough evidence for the District Attorney’s office to begin an investigation. Beyond that, I don’t think I know enough about the situation one way or another. Enos did reveal that much of the dirt he obtained occurred as a result of Sherri Cothrun, the Democrat in the race. Cothrun, for what its worth, recent brought Burt Levine onto her campaign. Levine, of course, formerly had extensive ties to Denise Pratt.
Additionally, it should be noted that Cothrun’s law partner, Rita Lucido, who you may recognize as the Democratic candidate for the 17th Senate District, was the attorney that represented the man who allegedly donated to Franklin in the aforementioned case. The one where the donator was an interested party and Franklin was a neutral court-appointee.
If you thought The Mongoose‘s involvement at the courthouse was done, think again!