Issue No. 85
June 31, 2018
In this issue....

  • Galveston County AJ Baker Should Have a Court Reporter
  • Mysteries of Motions
  • Move the Date for Advanced Family!
  • Democratic Judicial Candidate Profile: Germaine Tanner
  • School District Calendars

Index and all 72 Past Mongoose Issues Are Now Available

Attorneys and judges who find themselves nostalgic for my past campaigns to reform Judge Bonnie Hellums, remove Judges Pratt and Dupuy or bring sanity to how CPS appointments are paid for, can now download ALL 72 past issues of The Mongoose (through May 2018) and an hyper-linked index of those past issues. Click here to review the last six years of family law news and scandal, plus all of my articles on various legal topics (it is a large 555 page PDF).

Looking back now, I am startled by how much writing I did and how many hours I spent on my curious hobby. I am hiring a writer to help me get this newsletter out more often.
This was the very first issue of The Mongoose from April 2012 (note that I started with Issue No. 10 instead of No. 1).
The Galveston County District Clerk I mentioned did resign a few days later and he cited my newsletter as one of his reasons for quitting. My newsletter did not call itself "The Mongoose" until August 2012.
My Next Big Project: The 2020 Presidential Election

In September, I will launch a web site dedicated to the 2020 Presidential campaign. It will be called "2020 Frontrunner." I plan to have paid writers and add content every single day. I will have correspondents in Iowa, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. Let me know if you know folks interested in contributing to stories and analysis on the crowded 2020 Democratic field.
Book Review - The Burning by Tim Madigan

All of us who love our country must admit that there are many shameful chapters in American history that are largely unknown and not taught in school. Perhaps the worst incident in the last one hundred years was the Greenwood Race Riot (the Greenwood Massacre) that occurred between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This horrible event is described in The Burning by Tim Madigan.  Click here to order the book from Amazon.   
Incredibly, open warfare broke out in an American city that matched black World War I veterans defending their community against a white mob of over 10,000 that used tripod-mounted machine guns and even airplanes to destroy more than 35 blocks of what, at the time, was the wealthiest black community in the U.S. More than 10,000 African American were left homeless and over 800 people were admitted to hospitals. Most of those treated in hospitals were white since the two black hospitals were burned to the ground. More than 6,000 African American residents were arrested and detained, many for several days. The official death toll was 39 but estimates went as high as 200.  There was no insurance and no governmental compensation for the loss of life or property and this prosperous black community simply disappeared.

The riot began over a Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoe shiner, came under suspicion of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. Young Mr. Rowland had to use the elevator to get to the only restroom in downtown Tulsa available to blacks. The white girl did not want to press charges and apparently told police she was not assaulted. However, after word spread, the police took Rowland into custody, supposedly to protect him. After Rowland was taken into custody, rumors raced through the black community that he was at risk of being lynched. A group of armed African-American men rushed to the police station where the young suspect was held in hopes they could prevent a lynching. Meanwhile, a white crowd had gathered. A confrontation developed and shots were fired. Twelve people were killed, ten white and two black. As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded.

Thousands of white people attacked the black community that night and the next day, killing men and women, burning and looting stores and homes. Black men, many who were veterans of World War I, defended their community with hunting rifles but were overwhelmed by the huge number of well armed whites, including local mobsters who controlled large parts of white Tulsa.

Numerous eyewitnesses described airplanes carrying whites, who fired rifles and dropped firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. The planes, including biplane two-seater trainers left over from World War I as well as other privately-owned aircraft took off from an airfield outside of Tulsa. Tripod mounted, belt fed machine guns were also used by the white attackers.
Above is a panoramic photograph showing the total destruction of what was the day before the most wealthy black community in the U.S.

Here is a brief excerpt from this disturbing tale:

  The wealthy Negro woman stayed with her home until the walls and ceilings were ablaze, then stumbled up the side of Standpipe Hill. She saw that scores of white people had gathered at the top of the hill, hiding behind trees and cars to observe Greenwood’s destruction - men, women, and children, even infants - many snapping away with their cameras.

  The awful panorama below was forever burned into the Negro woman’s memory. Black people scurried around like ants... Bodies lay in dark heaps in the streets. Flames and smoke were everywhere. The constant noise of gunshots. Fire trucks arrived and hosed down the white homes on the east side of Detroit Avenue, protecting them from the shooting cinders. Her home just a few yards away on the west side of the street, ten glorious rooms plus a basement, disintegrated before her eyes.

I had never heard of this terrible event and I am a history buff. This book is disturbing, but very well researched and written. 
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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Judge Baker Should Have a Court Reporter
Test your legal imagination to visualize these two improbable events:

  • I walked into the courtroom in an outlying county for my hearing but was startled to see there were no counsel tables or chairs. My opposing counsel had brought his own folding table and collapsible camping chairs. "What the hell is going on?"I asked. A local lawyer spoke up and told me,"This county doesn't supply furniture for the lawyers, you have to make your own arrangements and bring your own stuff." She saw my look of amazement and added,"Yeah, I know it is weird, especially since the county budgeted for courtroom furniture, but this judge said he didn't need it and he figures the attorneys and pro se parties can take care of it on their own. She also told me that sometimes they are able to borrow furniture from another court if they are not busy.

  • A Houston lawyer representing a mother who is owed $12,000 in past due child support walks into the courtroom of Galveston County Associate Judge Steve Baker for an enforcement hearing. The attorney is dumbfounded to learn the the county does not provide a court reporter for the associate judge. Then, she is told her client cannot even have a hearing unless there is a court reporter and it is her responsibility to hire her own court reporter. To make matters even crazier, it turns out Galveston County Commissioners budgeted for a court reporter for Judge Baker, but he did not hire one. This means that the woman who is owed child support and probably did not pay her lawyer much, now has to pay out even more money she does not have to have a private court reporter show up for her hearing, like you would for a deposition. Sometimes, a court reporter for one of the elected judges is available to cover a hearing for Judge Baker, but on some days they are simply not able to do so.

The first scenario actually is fiction. Sadly, the second scenario happens in Galveston County, but it is just as unbelievable. The one family law associate judge in Galveston County, Steve Baker, hears ALL temporary orders and discovery hearings and most enforcements and protective order applications. The one AJ serves all four courts with family law jurisdiction. Baker's very busy court is, I think, the only court in Texas that does not provide a court reporter or at least an electronic record. Lawyers from other counties are astounded to learn that Judge Baker does not have his own court reporter. Sometimes, a court reporter from another court can come help out, but often they are not available. Out-of-town lawyers do not even know to ask for this help.
Judge Baker hears almost all enforcement motions and he is quick to inform lawyers that a court reporter is required by Sec. 157.161 unless incarceration is not sought or the parties stipulate to no record. Enforcement respondents get a free chance to delay their hearing by objecting to the lack of a reporter. A record is also essential also for defaults and is almost always needed for contested custody and temporary orders hearings. I would argue that Due Process rights are violated if a record is not made of final protective order hearings unless the parties waive a record. Divorce attorneys looking forward to final trial badly need a record of the opposing party's testimony in almost every case.

Attorneys need a court reporter before Judge Baker, in part, because his handwriting on his AJ reports is usually indecipherable and the transcript of his renditions is often essential.
This lack of a court reporter for Galveston County's busiest family court flabbergasts out of town lawyers and sometimes creates very real injustice. Last year, I urged County Judge Henry to budget for a court reporter for Judge Baker and the County Commissioner's Court budgeted $84,817 for a full-time court reporter for Judge Baker for this fiscal year. Family District Judge Anne Darring says that she never discussed this position with commissioners and she did not know it had been funded until she saw the line item in the approved budget.

It is not clear why Judge Baker does not have a court reporter this fiscal year. But, we do know for sure that the budgeted money was not spent and no reporter was hired for Baker. Here is what Judge Baker e-mailed me after I sent him a draft of this story:

Please note your statements are incorrect. I have not declined to accept a court reporter for use in proceedings held before me as Galveston County Associate Family Judge, nor have I told Commissioner’s Court I do not “want to spend their money”. I appreciate your belief that I wish to be frugal with tax payer’s dollars, however I would prefer someone ask me about something I supposedly said or did, or failed to do, instead of assuming it is correct.

On the other hand, I have an email from the Chief Financial Officer/Budget Officer of Galveston County to County Judge Mark Henry which says

He [Judge Baker] and I had a conversation about him not needing a Court Reporter so I don’t have anything in writing from him.

I appear in front of Judge Baker more often than any other judge and his rulings have huge impact on my clients, so I will believe him when he says he did not refuse the budgeted court reporter position.

I also received this e-mail from Judge Baker:

Several months ago I was told there may be funds in the county’s budget for a court reporter for hearings in my court. I do not recall having a conversation with David Delac [the Budge Officer] on the subject, but I have told several individuals over the past year that I have not requested a court reporter and, as individuals have a right to a de novo appeal from my rulings, I do not know that I need one. Judge Darring’s recent email to you correctly sets forth my understanding on this issue. I do not believe I have turned down or refused to accept a court reporter as I do not believe I have the authority to do so.

In July 2017, I e-mailed Judge Darring and Judge Baker about getting Baker a court reporter budgeted to start October 1, 2017. Darring replied to say she doubted the commissioners would pass it. But, they did so after I made a strong pitch to County Judge Mark Henry that Baker must have a court reporter. It is hard to believe that Judge Baker went months without knowing he had available funds to hire a court reporter. From a lawyer's perspective, it is even harder to imagine that Judge Baker would not realize he should have his own court reporter. The family court associate judges in Harris and Montgomery counties have their own court reporters. The associate judges in Brazoria and Fort Bend counties use electronic recording systems.

It is true that sometimes a court reporter for one of the elected judges can come to Baker’s court to cover a hearing. However, odds are that a court reporter will not be available on, for example, a Monday morning of a jury trial week in Galveston County. Not every judge in Galveston County is willing to send his or her court reporter and not every court reporter wants to do family law hearings. I have personally seen other lawyers not able to get another court's reporter to help them out in Baker's court.

The fact that litigants with enough money can request a de novo hearing and appeal Judge Baker is not a reason for him to lack a court reporter. In Galveston County, parties are required to mediate and in one court attend a pre-trial conference before the de novo appeal hearing is held (usually much later than 30 days after the hearing before Baker). Many people simply cannot afford a few more thousand dollars for such an appeal. Those who do appeal badly need the transcript of the hearing before Judge Baker to prepare for the de novo hearing and to impeach witnesses.

It should also be noted that the presence of a court reporter taking down what is said often influences how a judge behaves and treats lawyers and witnesses.
Usually, attorneys whose clients can afford it have to hire their own court reporters for every hearing before Baker. We are charged $125 or more, even if no transcript is requested. I am even charged a cancellation fee by the reporters I use if the hearing is passed or reset on short notice, which happens frequently. I pay the court reporter whether I represent a wealthy client or someone with no money, but my clients and I simply should not have to pay for a vital service the county should provide.

It has become increasingly difficult to schedule private court reporters to come to Baker's hearings. On some days, we simply cannot find a reporter. On other days, I have seen two private reporters show up for the same hearing because each lawyer on the case hired them.
The California Supreme Court just a few weeks ago ruled that it is unconstitutional for poor litigants to be denied a court reporter when the county does not provide one but allows parties with enough resources to hire their own court reporter. Click here to read this decision.

I call on the wise and fair elected judges of Galveston County with family law jurisdiction to require their associate judge to have a full time court reporter. Any court reporter would love this job because he or she would sell so many transcripts ordered by lawyers.

There are many possible solutions to this problem, including:
  • Judge Baker could just accept the budgeted position and have himself a full-time court reporter who could substitute for other reporters in the courthouse when they are out.
  • Judge Baker could at least have a part-time reporter in the mornings when the reporters for the elected judges are the most likely to be busy and unable to cover his hearings.
  • The county could provide an electronic recording system like the one used in Brazoria County by the associate judge. Baker could use this system when a fill-in reporter from another court is not available. There are several vendors who provide the computerized, digital recording systems for courtrooms. Here is one example of a system used in thousands of courts across the U.S.:
The Mysteries of Motions
Drafting and filing motions is the bread and butter of family law attorneys. As routine as creating motions is for most of us, there are a lot of unusual wrinkles in the rules which too many lawyers, legal assistants and judges do not understand. For example, what really is the rule about when we can use a child's complete name in a motion? If a hearing is on Monday, what is the deadline to give notice of the hearing? Can you e-file the motion and exhibits as one document or must they be filed separately? What really is the correct way to serve notice of a hearing and should the notice be e-filed? What sort of certificate of conference is required?

Click here to download an updated article entitled,"Filing a Motion, Setting a Hearing and Giving Notice." This article, for example, explains the curious method of calculating three days before a hearing required of notice by counting forwards from the date the notice is served, rather than backwards from the hearing date. It also includes a useful "Hearing Preparation Checklist." Your suggestions for corrections and editions to this article would be appreciated.
Move the Date for Advanced Family!
The State Bar's wonderful Advanced Family Law Seminar really needs to be moved to September for these reasons:

  • This year, the seminar occurs during the first week of school for many Texas public schools. My kids' first day of school in Friendswood I.S.D. is on the Wednesday in the middle of this seminar. This makes it really hard for lawyers and judges with school age children to attend the seminar. When I first started practicing family law, the seminar always seemed to be during the first week of school and I had custody of very young children then. Later, the school calendars shifted and school typically started a week or so after this seminar. Now, we are back to a situation that makes this family law seminar very anti-family.

  • There is a huge scheduling crush for family courts at the end of summer as litigants rush to get their cases heard before school starts. It is tough enough with summer vacations to schedule custody hearings in July or early August, but this seminar takes a way a vital week from all courts and most lawyers.

I realize that this huge and informative seminar is booked at the San Antonio Marriott years in advance. But, the seminar planners really need to move this seminar to September a few weeks after all public schools start when it would be cooler on the River Walk and lawyers with young families could attend without guilt.

This year, politics creeps even more boldly into the Advanced Family Law Seminar. I received this flyer for a meeting with Democrats running for judge and I plan to attend, even though I will have a yard sign for Republican David Farr in front of my office. I let Chip Wells (Farr's Democratic opponent) know in advance that I am supporting Farr because Farr is such a good judge, even though I expect the Democrats to sweep Harris County (and win the U.S. House and make the U.S. Senate 50-50).

I would have advised the Democratic candidates not to be so overtly political at the Advanced Family Law Seminar. A few years ago, a Harris County judge was harshly criticized for scheduling a fund raiser in San Antonio during the seminar. Lawyers go to San Antonio to learn, socialize and relax. The Democratic candidates could certainly mingle and meet people. But, this reception is going to put a lot of attorneys in an awkward position, since they realize that the incumbent, Republican judges will quickly find out who attends this event for their opponents. My next newsletter will NOT list those who attend this reception.
Democratic Judicial Candidate Profiles: Germaine Tanner
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.
Germaine Tanner is the nominee of the Democratic Party running for the 311th Family District Court against Judge Alicia Franklin-York.   Behind the most dazzling smile on the 2018 ballot is an experienced family law attorney who is bright, articulate, and a pleasure to meet. Germaine Tanner is 42 years old and a single mother of a ten year old daughter. She received a degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois not far from where she grew up in Oak Park (a suburb of Chicago). Ms. Tanner returned to Texas (she was born here) to attend Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Tanner now practices law in Northwest Houston in the Cypresswood area.
Tanner was licensed in 2003 and she clerked for IV-D Judge Pierce. She has handled hundreds of family law cases and has frequently served as an amicus attorney. I found 507 family law cases in Harris County in which she was listed as an attorney. In addition to representing clients in divorce and custody cases, Tanner is a Certified Hearing Examiner for the Texas Education Agency. She presides over hearings involving teachers who were terminated or whose contracts were not renewed. The hearings usually involve lawyers and are recorded by court reporters.

If you are worried about what our family courts will be like if the Democrats sweep Harris County in November, Ms. Tanner should make you feel much better about that prospect. She has broad, practical experience in family law and she clearly has the sort of quick intelligence we all want judges on the bench to have. She is a parent and she knows what it is like to deal with and cooperate with her child’s other parent.

Ms. Tanner provided me this statement:

“I’ve worked in the Harris County Family Courts for almost 15 years. I’ve assisted moms, dads, husbands, wives, grandparents and children with various family law related legal issues. I’ve initiated cases as the Petitioner’s attorney and defended cases as the Respondent’s attorney. I’ve had the perspective of being an Amicus Attorney and a mediator. I’ve had quite a few roles as a family law practitioner, and through it all, one thing is clear: It’s time for change in leadership in our courts and it’s time for a shift in thinking, as to how our family law cases are decided. It is my firmly held belief that my combined professional experiences make me uniquely qualified to run to be the next Judge of the 311th District Court.

I’m running as a Democrat, which is important to the extent that I believe in equality, equity and fairness. These three tenets that I believe in, motivated me to run for office; because when applied, everyone benefits, irrespective of political affiliation.

I ask that the family bar strongly consider supporting me and my candidacy for the 311th District Court. I look forward to the opportunity to earn your vote.”

Click here to view Tanner’s campaign website.

Tanner has raised $21,460 in total contributions for her campaign through June 2018. Click here to see Ms. Tanner's most recent campaign finance report. In contrast, Judge Franklin-York has cash on hand of $134,721.29 on June 30, 2018. Click here to download Judge Franklin-York's most recent campaign finance report, which shows, among other things:

  • $2,000 paid to a relative, Nada Franklin, for "salaries/wages/contract labor."
  • $5,000 paid to lawyer Andy Taylor, whose web site prominently features this quote attributed to Texas Monthly: “He’s the troubleshooting lawyer for Republicans whose political problems become legal problems.”
  • $6,514.65 paid to Alicia York (more on this below)
  • $93 paid to the Harris County Democratic Party (presumably to check on the voter petitions turned in by her opponent, Ms. Tanner)
Judge Franklin-York's most recent report, which covers the period 1/1/18 - 6/30/18 lists these payments to herself:

1/7/18 - $1,135.32 paid to Alicia York for "reimbursement for political expenses paid from personal funds in the previous reporting period." Oddly, her prior report, which covered the period 7/1/17 - 12/31/17 listed only $1,088.82 in political expenditures from personal funds. Click here to see her prior campaign finance report.

6/25/18 - $2,508.94 paid to Alicia York for "reimbursement for political expenses paid with personal credit card."

4/17/18 - $2,870.39 paid to Alicia York for ""reimbursement for political expenses paid with personal credit card."

The last two payments to Judge Franklin-York to reimburse her for credit card expenses totaled $5,379.33. That same campaign finance report says she spent only $4,127.76 on "expenditures made by credit card." Her prior report listed no expenditures by credit card. I cannot tell where she says the other $1,251.57 in credit card expenditures was made. I can tell that her recent campaign credit card charges were for things like:
  • Backstreet Cafe $47.16 on 1/31/18
  • Backstreet Cafe $46.25 on 3/13/18
  • Central Parking $7.50 on 3/7/18
  • China Garden $51.41 on 6/20/18
  • HEB $31.46 on 3/11/18
  • Kim Son $21.65 on 4/17/18
  • Smoothie King $47.75 on 2/15/18

Click here to see all of Judge Franklin-York's campaign finance reports during her tenure as judge (except for the most recent report filed this month).
School District Calendars
School is about to start in about two weeks. Everyone in the family law system will need to know when specific school districts start and have their holidays because that determines most possession schedules.

I have updated my website with a page that has links to the 2018-2019 school calendars for 54 Houston area public school districts.
Click here to go to my index of Houston area public school calendars. This is a good page for you and your assistant to book mark on your web browser.
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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