Issue No. 84
May 30, 2018
In this issue....

  • Millard and the Mongoose Effect
  • Changes to Harris County Security Passes
  • New Attorney Portal for Galveston County District Clerk Website
  • Democrat Judicial Candidate Profiles: Clinton "Chip" Wells

Please Support This Fundraiser this Saturday for Santa Fe

I am asking all my fellow attorneys and their families and employees to support this fundraiser this Saturday, June 2, in Santa Fe for the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund. It will be a fun time for a really good cause. Remember... this could have been the school any of our children attend.

Click here for information on how you can donate to the fund even if you cannot attend the event.

Some Thoughts on School Security

The Santa Fe High School shooting really hit home with me. I knew one of the adults killed and I know a teacher who was trapped in a closet with nine children right next to the art rooms where the killings occurred. Like every parent who sends children off to school each morning, I felt the dreadful terror of “that could be us!” 

After this shooting, politicians flocked to Galveston County to be seen on television lamenting the tragedy. I was particularly bothered by Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez (a Democrat), who appeared uninvited, snooped around long enough to get a little information and then went to address the assembled media frantic for any information before the actual officials in charge of things were prepared to address the media.  Click here to see Sheriff Gonzalez (who had absolutely no business being in a different county well after the situation was under control) talk to the media. The Galveston County officials actually in charge at the scene were waiting to gather more information and for the Governor to arrive. They were furious that this interloper from another county jumped the gun and spoke to the media first. Eventually, Gonzales was pointedly asked to leave.

Another politician who high-tailed it to Santa Fe was Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick. He was widely made fun of for suggesting that the problem is not too many guns but rather too many doors on schools. As much as I disagree with Mr. Patrick on almost every policy issue, I do have to say he has a point on the architectural design of schools and security. I am old enough to remember going into courthouses that did not have metal detectors, x-ray machines or even deputies at the entrance. In the late 1980's, a series of courthouse shootings across the country prompted Texas courts to implement the now familiar security procedures. Before those security changes, most courthouses had several entrances everyone used. Now, lawyers and the public are funneled through just a few entrances with security screening and armed deputies.

When a new elementary school was built in Sandy Hook, Connecticut after the school massacre there, one of the features was restricted access and a main entrance with security features. The problem is that it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to remodel every school in Texas to limit access and provide adequate security. Imagine a high school with three thousand students and calculate how many security guards it would take to get students and staff searched and through metal detectors every morning. Of course, if a school really was secure and safe, a crazy person could shoot dozens in the parking lot and if the parking lot was secure then it would be the shopping mall or grocery store. So, it turns out that while we do need to make our schools safer, the State of Texas, which does not spend near enough on public education as it is, is simply not going to be able to make every school a secure fortress. So, it does go back to guns, access to guns, mental health, bullying and a culture of violence that teenage boys absorb through their video games, and, of course, good old fashioned parenting. At least Lieutenant Governor Patrick had the decency to not blame this school shooting on transpeople or the sanctity of women’s restrooms.
Book Review - "The Restless Wave"

Every American who cares about our democratic values and leadership in the world should read Senator John McCain’s “The Restless Wave.” Some of McCain’s self-mythologizing needs to be taken with a slight grain of salt (he did oppose the first President Bush’s tax cuts and then vote to extend them, and he did promise to repeal Obamacare but then cast the deciding vote not to), but McCain shares a perspective and wisdom that is all too lacking in today’s political discussions.
McCain accomplishes his goals in this book - to tell the truth without worrying about the consequences and to help shape his final legacy. Free of worries of reelection and battling brain cancer, McCain writes about Trump, Palin, Obama, torture and what has become of his Republican party.  McCain writes that he is a proud Reagan Republican. He writes that he is,“Not a Tea Party Republican. Not a Breitbart Republican. Not a talk radio or Fox News Republican. Not an isolationist, protectionist, immigrant-bashing, scapegoating, get-nothing-useful-done Republican. Not, as I am often dismissed by self-declared ‘real’ conservatives, a RINO, Republican in Name Only.”

This is what The New Yorker wrote about this book and a related HBO documentary “For Whom the Bell Tolls”:

“Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this,” McCain says in the audio version of “The Restless Wave.” His voice is clear, wry, determined. “My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency or, at least, I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first––some work that needs finishing and some people I need to see. And I’d like to talk to my fellow Americans a little more, if I may.”

Similarly, the documentary, which airs this weekend on HBO, begins with characteristic pride and self-recrimination: “I have lived an honorable life, and I am proud of my life,” he says. “I have been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing.” Imagine any of these sentiments coming out of the mouth of Donald Trump. A sense of honor. Self-reflection. Apology. It is impossible to conceive.

McCain proudly admits to passing the Steele dossier on Trump and Russia to James Comey, then FBI director. McCain writes: “I did what duty demanded I do … I discharged that obligation, and I would do it again. Anyone who doesn’t like it can go to hell.” Words spoken like a true Maverick. McCain observes that Russia and Putin are engaged in an “information war” that targets “the foundation of our democracy – free and fair elections.” McCain calls Putin an “evil man,” and admits hating him.  McCain also observes,“Trump seems to vary from refusing to believe what Putin is doing to just not caring about it.”  McCain also says,“And some House Republicans investigating Russian interference seem more preoccupied with their own conspiracy theories than with a real conspiracy by a foreign enemy to defraud the United States.”

McCain remembers working with Democrats like Ted Kennedy (who died of the same brain cancer McCain is now fighting) and he discusses several big mistakes he made, like Sarah Palin.

Most fundamentally, McCain reminds us that,“We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one.”

While I voted against Senator McCain the one chance I had as a Texan, I will always respect him for, among other things, his bravery as a POW and his willingness to correct a woman who called Obama “an Arab” at a Republican town hall in Minnesota. McCain corrected the woman and was actually booed by the audience. McCain told her,"No, ma'am. He's a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not an Arab."   McCain was a Republican of the sort we now miss, a politician willing to work with Democrats when the agreed and who would not pander to ignorance and prejudice and who would even stick up for his opponent. This is a must read for all those who care about the future of our nation and politics.
I may not win every case (even if in my heart I expect to). 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 who actually personally visit their minor clients in their homes). Is that asking too much? Stay tuned.
Greg Enos
The Enos Law Firm
The Enos Law Firm
  17207 Feather Craft Lane, Webster, Texas 77598
 (281) 333-3030
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Millard and the Mongoose Effect
In physics, the observer effect is the theory that simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon. I am very aware that this little newsletter can affect the behavior of the judges and lawyers I write about. Sometimes I can affect things by simply investigating and thinking about writing about a situation. For example, a judge in a suburban county decided to not run for reelection after he learned I was staking out his house to prove he never showed up to work in his court. 

This week, I saw a very powerful and concerning example of the “Mongoose Effect.” It bugs the hell out of me that Judge Millard so seldom shows up to do her job as a family district judge. I have been looking into one particularly egregious example where Millard’s absences have prevented a mother owed child support from getting a hearing on her enforcement action she filed in January 2016 . To check my facts, I sent a DRAFT of my article to the lawyers representing the mother and the father and asked them to inform me of any errors or needed corrections before I published the story. Within hours of me sending my emails to the lawyers and letting them know I was going to write about their case, Judge Millard’s Court Coordinator called the lawyers and suddenly told them they are now set for a jury trial in their modification case on June 12, in just two weeks (when lawyers on both sides have vacation letters on file).  Millard just allowed the prior amicus to withdraw last week and she appointed a new amicus attorney. That means that Millard is suddenly expecting a brand new amicus in a heated custody case to go to a jury trial in two weeks with no advance notice.

Trial of the modification case has been set in January 2016, May 2016, August 2016, November 2016, February 2017, September 2017, May 2018 and (until this week) on September 25, 2018. Now, Millard has moved up their trial by three months to June 12.

Final hearings on the mother’s child support enforcement action were set on February 22, 2016,  April 4, 2016, August 8, 2016, July 24, 2017, August 21, 2017,  November 6, 2017, February 12, 2018, March 19, 2018 and May 7, 2018. Many of these hearing dates had to be rescheduled because Judge Millard was not at work and the father objected to the associate judge hearing the final enforcement hearing. 

When the District Clerk's website says "JM Out" it means "Judge Millard is out." When the screen refers to an objection to AJ it means Judge Millard was also not at work that day and the respondent objected to the associate judge presiding over the final enforcement action, which required a new court date. Each time a court date is reset, lawyers must charge even more to prepare for court and travel to and attend court. It also means the parents and witnesses must again take off from work, battle traffic, park, wait for elevators, wait in court and then be told their time has been wasted again and they must return on a future date and do it all over again.
Now, suddenly on the same day the lawyers learn I am going to write about this case and how Judge Millard is not bothering to show up for work, Judge Millard suddenly moves up the trial date by three months and schedules a jury trial in just two weeks when two of the lawyers have vacation letters on file. That is an extraordinary coincidence and it seems very reasonable to assume that someone tipped off Millard about my investigation and she rushed to set a trial date because of me (not because of justice or fairness or what these parents or children need and deserve or what the lawyers agreed to). I do not think for a second that any of the fine lawyers currently in this case did anything improper, but someone got my email and apparently got word to Millard.

Reportedly, Judge Millard was informed of the vacation letters on file and she still decided to go with a June 12 trial date. Now, she is forcing the lawyers in this case to file a motion for continuance and possibly ruin their vacations just to be in court to argue for the continuance that clearly must be granted on a trial date that never should have been set. What judge in their right mind does this to people?

Also, suddenly today, I am no longer able to see this case's docket sheet or the section for judgments/events on the District Clerk's website. That is very odd since I have been looking at both of those records on-line to research this case as recently as yesterday. It is almost as if someone has restricted the public's ability to look up information on this case now that I am writing about it.

If someone did tip off Millard about my impending story about how this case has been affected by her continued absences and she suddenly decided to move up their trial date in response, then such a foolish move only makes Millard look worse, not better. It certainly does not make Millard look smart, fair, judicious or wise to do this. It simply reveals her for what she is.

The best thing for Millard to do is just resign and stop taking tax payer money for not working. The next best alternative is for Millard to suddenly start coming to work every day like our other honest, hardworking judges do. Millard should worry about how she is harming families and children and the reputation of our justice system and not what I might write about her.
Changes to Harris County Security Passes
Harris County has made big changes to its Frequent Courthouse Visitors (FCV) program. All 2017 FCV ID Cards will expire on September 15, 2018 and you will not be able to bypass the metal detectors and X-Ray machines with a 2017 FCV ID card after September 15, 2018.

The FCV online application process is now very different.  Lawyers are required to complete the entire FCV process within 60 days from the day you submit your Online Application, including the Online Payment, scheduling appointment, and picking up your FCV ID Card. All FCV participants, including active 2017 badge holders, are required to complete the entire registration and application process. If you delay in making your online payment, or scheduling and completing any portion of the ID Card process, it could result in the process exceeding the 60 day period. If the process is not completed within the 60 day time frame, you will be required to start a new Online Application and submit a second Online Payment. Your Online Application will be reviewed by Customer Service and Harris County Law Enforcement; the longer you wait to submit your Online Application, the longer it could be delayed by the review process.

Changes to the FCV Program include:
•         National background check performed by Harris County Law Enforcement
•         One visit to Customer Service via scheduled appointment
•         FCV ID Cards will expire 12 months from the date of issuance
•         Non-refundable $75 fee Online Payment
•         60 day deadline to complete the process
•         Turn in 2017 FCV ID Card if applicable during scheduled appointment for a new card

Click here if you would like to apply for the FCV program.
New Attorney Portal for Galveston County District Clerk Website
Harris County lawyers are spoiled by our District Clerk’s website, which allows attorneys of record to view even documents marked “contains sensitive data.” That is not possible in many other counties, which means we cannot see most court documents.

Brazoria County is the worst as its District Clerk does not allow ANY court documents to be viewed on line. The only way to see court filings is to drive to Angleton, go to the 5th floor, and sit at one of two computers in the corner of the District Clerk’s office.

I have been bugging Galveston County District Clerk John Kinard about this issue for years and now he has come through big time. Galveston County has a new portal for attorneys that allows us to see “sensitive” documents if we are the attorney of record. Attorneys first need to register, a process that can take 24 hours.  Click here to go to the registration page.

Click on the REGISTER link to begin the registration process.
Once the registration is accepted (usually within 24 hours), the attorney can access ALL documents on a case, although the visual screen format is a big space waster. 
This is what part of a sample page in the new system looks like:
This is what the same case looked like in the old system:
The old system took up a lot less screen space and for complex cases, it was a lot easier to scroll through the case. I also think the items should be listed in reverse chronological order. If it is a 2018 modification of a 2015 order changing a 2011 divorce decree, all of which was heavily litigated, I should not have to scroll through page after page to find the notice of hearing that was just filed last week.

Still, this is a big improvement and I thank John Kinard and his excellent staff for finally getting this done. Now, I need to get Brazoria County to join the modern Internet era.
Democrat Judicial Candidate Profiles:
Clinton "Chip" Wells
I am profiling each Democrat running for a family district court in Harris County. This profile is more like a movie review than a biography. I urge you to meet these candidates yourself and form your own opinions.

Clinton “Chip” Wells is the Democrat nominee running against Judge David Farr for the 312th Family District Court. He was raised in Houston before graduating from the University of Texas in 1973, and then he went on to graduate from South Texas College of Law in 1976 and was licensed in June, 1977 (the year before I graduated high school and I am 58).  Wells has raised two step-children and has a child with his wife of 23 years, Lilly. Wells became a grandfather late last year. He has dealt with children of divorce and knows how difficult the job being a step-parent is. Wells has the number one qualification for being a family court judge - he knows children and the challenges of raising them. He spent almost two decades at the ball field with kids playing baseball. Wells now spends most weekends at his little ranch in the country.
Wells says that although he has not been in the family courts every day, he has engaged in the practice of family law for more than 40 years, a fact I have confirmed. I checked the Harris County District Clerk’s web site using Well’s bar number and I found 33 family law cases where Wells was the attorney of record in the last 20 years (since 1998). That is an average of one and a half family cases per year over the last two decades. The only protective order case I found Wells had handled was in 1991. In contrast, Wells’ opponent, Judge Farr, presides over more than 33 family cases in a single day. Wells, it is fair to say, has occasionally handled a few family law cases but instead has primarily worked in personal injury and civil litigation.

Wells is currently a partner in his law firm with John McDowell with whom he has practiced law for almost 28 years. The web site for their law firm focuses mostly on eminent domain and personal injury cases, although it does mention that Wells handles family law cases.  
Wells ran in 2010 as the Democratic candidate against Bonnie Hellums and then against John Schmude in 2014, losing with 46.7% of the vote. I got to know Wells back in 2014 and I have stayed in touch with him. He mediated a difficult tort case arising from a family law case for me and he did a darn good job. I have concluded that Wells is a very intelligent man, who is thoughtful and deliberate, as well as an entertaining story teller and a real Democrat concerned about racial, economic and sexual orientation equality.  I have absolutely no doubt that Wells’ heart is in the right place and he is not going to play favorites if he is elected. All that is exactly what I want in a judge. As a fellow liberal Democrat, I should be thrilled with his candidacy. The only problem is that Wells is running against the person I consider the best family judge on the planet – David Farr. Wells may turn out to be a darn good judge if he wins, but he will not be a judge like Farr, who knows the Family Code inside and out, and who we have seen works his docket with fairness and efficiency. 

Wells, like all the Democrats should they win, will face a huge initial learning curve. That learning curve for a new "Judge Wells" might be steeper than for others because of his limited family law experience. On his first morning on the bench, Wells may face legal and procedural issues ranging from giving the proper warning to a respondent facing contempt, a UCCJEA jurisdiction dispute over which state’s court should hear a custody case, calculating over-guideline support, valuation of a family business with a buy-sell agreement, and what to do with a four-year-old who has made a vague statement that could be interpreted as improper sexual behavior by a step-father.  A Democratic sweep would give us all the chance to see if Mr. Wells can master all these subjects and more, but it would rob us all of an excellent judge in David Farr, whom all acknowledge already knows how to handle all of the above situations. 

Judge Farr will look a lawyer in the face without cracking a law book and ask in that direct, clipped manner of his,“Counsel, are you telling me this affidavit meets the requirements of Section 156.102(b)?”  Any new judge would have to be told by the opposing counsel where to look in the Family Code for the specific requirements for an affidavit supporting a modification of primary custody within one year, whereas Farr is already very familiar with that law. I am not saying that a possible "Judge Wells" would not reach the correct conclusion if lawyers guide him on the applicable law or in time know most of the quirks of the Family Code. I just know that Judge Farr already is there. I also know that Judge Farr provided incredible leadership after the disasters of Denise Pratt and Hurricane Harvey. In an ideal world, judges would be selected on merit alone. However, we still insanely elect judges in Texas based on party affiliation, and a Blue Tidal Wave in Harris County could give everyone strong incentive to get to know Chip Wells. 

If we do end up with a Judge Wells, I am very sure that he will do his best to be fair and treat all lawyers with respect and courtesy and cut us some slack if we miss a deadline or are running late for court. Wells promises he will remember the practicalities of being a solo lawyer or in a small firm because that is what he has done for 41 years. 

Click here for Chip Wells’ campaign website. In fairness, click here for Judge Farr's campaign web site. In the last campaign finance reports filed, Wells showed total contributions of $2,000, $7,050 in expenditures, cash on hand of $1,000 and outstanding loans of $7,200. In contrast, Judge Farr had $104,959.56 cash on hand and no outstanding loans.

Wells told me this to share with lawyers worried that he might replace Judge Farr:

I am not going to be David Farr and I am going to be different. But, I will match my experience of service in the private sector against David Farr’s experience any time. I offer a clear and distinct opportunity for change. I am not going to say anything negative about David Farr but his whole life experience is different than mine. I have never worked for a government institution in my life but I have spent 41 years in the legal trenches serving regular families.  I expect to be as equally effective and as well thought of as David Farr is, just different.

Thinking of Wells conceivably beating Farr reminds me of how I felt when all my Democratic friends were defeated as judges in Galveston County a few years back. I was heart sick at first but eventually I realized the new judges were good too, just different. Not all change is bad, it is just change. One thing democracy gives us on a regular basis is change in government.

I just wish Wells was running against Judge Millard. I am very confident Wells will actually show up for work.
Thank you for your support! Together We Can Make Our Profession Better and Our Courts More Fair
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 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. The Enos Law Firm serves clients in Galveston County, Brazoria County and Harris County, Texas.
Greg Enos
Board Certified in Family Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization
The Enos Law Firm
www. divorce
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