Issue: No. 65                                                                                                                   November 19, 2015
In this issue ....
Where Has The Mongoose Been Hiding?
My three month sabbatical from publishing this newsletter is over and I am back with really big plans for 2016.  I appreciate the many inquiries from my loyal readers asking where The Mongoose was.  One Republican precinct chair e-mailed me to express her concern and said,"I sure hope the powers-that-be have not gotten to you and silenced a true voice for reform."  I frankly have not been myself for a few months, but I have recovered my joy for life and I have not lost the thrill of raising hell over unfairness and unethical behavior.  Exercise, the love and support of family and good friends and playing with kids and animals seems to have cured my funk.

In recent weeks I spent a lot of effort investigating a district judge in an outlying county (at the request of other judges in that county).  I suspect that word of my nosing around and my surveillance of when the judge went to and from work was not kept secret.  The judge who was the target of my investigation suddenly announced he will not seek re-election.  The fact that he is only working a few hours a week will still be a big problem for litigants in that county for another year unfortunately.  I plan to write in detail on this problem in future issues.

I am asking for a Parrot Bebop Drone 2 for Christmas (or Festivus).  This drone will give up to 28 minutes of flight time as it hovers above a judge's house recording in HD when the judge leaves her house to finally head for court.

We are blessed with many hard working, dedicated judges who arrive early and leave late to hear the most difficult sort of cases.  However, the few bad apples who constantly come in to court late or go days without wearing their robes, give our entire judicial system a black eye.

Farewell to a Legal Legend

Galveston County lost one of its greatest attorneys ever, Ervin Apffel, Jr., who passed away on November 11 (Armistice Day).  A husband of 60 years, Mr. Apffel was the father of six children, including two great lawyers in their own rights, our past State Bar President, "Trey" Apffel and Darrell Apffel (candidate for county commissioner).  Erv founded McLeod, Alexander, Powel & Apffel (MAPA) in 1964.  I met Mr. Apffel as a young personal injury attorney, since MAPA was the premier insurance defense firm in the county.  Back in the glory days of PI law, when I would handle 10 - 15 jury trials a year, I learned so much as a trial lawyer from him, as Mr. Apffel kicked my ass in case after case.  Apffel prepared meticulously for trial and before a jury he was calm, affable and reasonable.   Behind that impish grin was a mind of steel (and a lot of very sharp #3 pencils).  Each of us busy attorneys would do well to note that Mr. Apffel's greatest achievement and love was his family and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  In the end, his family is what meant the most to him, not his illustrious legal career or successful law firm. 

It is Time We Protect Domestic Violence Victims from the 280th District Court

I plan to start a campaign to make the 280th District Court a general family law court and to do away with a court hearing only family violence protective orders.  I have heard many complaints about Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull before, but I seldom handle protective order cases in Harris County.  But, recently my firm won a protective order for a client in the 280th and the ordeal made me seriously question Judge Hull's priorities and even her grip on reality.    I do not expect to ever hear a woman who has recordings of the most horrific threats ever to be told by a judge, "the good thing about Houston is that there are lot of good shelters you and your child can go to."  If a woman and her children are really threatened with imminent harm, do not reject her filing because there is a gray streak on the still legible affidavit or because an attached e-mail that promises to blow the girlfriend's head off is printed in landscape mode.  Please judge, do not say in open court that if a woman appears with a private attorney that means the District Attorney must have refused to take the case and therefore a protective order is almost certainly not going to be issued.  A kick-out order can be effective even if it does not use the exact language a finicky judge requires verbatim down to the punctuation.  A judge hearing domestic violence cases should not put form over substance and endanger people's lives.
I ask any attorneys with horror stories about the 280th to contact me (as well as those who think she is the best judge ever). 

Click here to read a 2014 Houston Chronicle story that summarized complaints about Judge Bradshaw-Hull.  Judge Bradshaw-Hull received some of the worst ratings in the recent 2015 HBA judicial Evaluation.  About 45% of attorneys gave her a negative overall rating of "Poor" (34%) or "Below Average" (11%).  Almost half of the attorneys surveyed rated Bradshaw-Hull "Poor" on "Is courteous and attentive to attorneys and witnesses."  

I am still going to publish a print version of this newsletter to mail to Republican voters in Galveston County.  But, I have waited to publish while the judges and county commissioners court tried once more to reach a settlement.  I did not want a newsletter I sent out to the world to effect the outcome of those talks.  But of course, they were unable to reach a deal, because a few just want to fight.  We are still waiting for a ruling from the Court of Appeals on the county's application for writ of mandamus.  It looks like my mailed newsletter will now go out in January.

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.
Greg Enos
The Enos Law Firm     
 The Enos Law Firm
  17207 Feather Craft Lane, Webster, Texas 77598
  (281) 333-3030    Fax: (281) 488-7775
Web site:

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Click here for an archive of past issues of
The Mongoose

   courtAttorneys Seek Appointment to New 507th Family District Court
The Governor's office is interviewing attorneys seeking to be appointed judge of the new 507th Family District Court that will begin operation on January 1, 2016.  The Republicans who are seeking the appointment are:
  • Melanie Flowers
  • Angelina Gooden
  • Aneeta Jamal
  • Alyssa Lemkuil
  • Lan Nguyen
  • Chelsie Ramos
  • Meca Walker
Julia Maldonado, a staunch Democrat, also applied and has been interviewed, although the odds that Governor Abbott would appoint her seem very slim.  Maldonado, Chip Wells and Jim Evans apparently plan to seek the Democratic nomination. 

I think it would be best if an experienced Associate Judge (Lemkuil, Walker or Ramos) is appointed, as they already know the job.  On the other hand, Judge John Schmude shows that a lawyer with no judicial experience can turn out to be a really good judge, so a Melanie Flowers might well turn out to be a wonderful pick.

You can contact the Governor's office to urge him to appoint the candidate you feel is the most qualified by faxing or writing to:

Governor's Appointments Office
Mail: P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711
Overnight Delivery: 1100 San Jacinto, Austin, Texas 78701
Fax: (512) 475-2576

The appointment is expected by early December so that the person selected can attend the "New Judge's School" that is held during the week of December 7 (I was not invited to speak to the new judges again this year!).

The new court will be on the 15th floor of the Civil Courthouse (where the 280th was).   The family board of judges has decided on the methodology for "stocking the pond" in the 507th with cases.   According to Judge David Farr:

We are currently moving 240 total cases out of the 311th District Court (30 cases randomly assigned to each of the other 8 courts) in order to assist with the continuing "Pratt backlog" in that court.  These are all original suits that are within 0 months - 3 months old with no current settings in place in the 311th.  Along those same lines we will move 1/9 of the total caseload in each court to the 507th in December for a total of approximately 2100 cases.  These will be both original suits and post-judgment suits (CEJ is able to be released based on the new court being stood up) within 0 months - 6 months old and randomly pulled from each of the nine courts. 

The new 507th court is created as of January 1, 2016, so the position will not be on the primary election ballot in March.   The nominees will be selected by the Executive Committee of each county party.  The executive committee is made up of the precinct chairs who will be elected in March.  The meeting of the executive committees to select the parties' nominees for the 507th are expected to be held in June 2016.  On the Republican side, the person appointed by Governor Abbott would be expected to have the advantage, but there is a surprising track record of gubernatorial appointees being defeated in such elections.  It all means that the persons who will appear on the November ballot for the 507th will not be selected in an open primary but rather in a much smaller election decided by a few hundred precinct chairs.  This is much more like the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope.

The 507th will be elected in a different election cycle than the other family district judges and this position will be decided in a presidential election year.   Even if Ted Cruz is the GOP nominee (and I still am giving him the best shot), Harris County is likely to go Democratic and so we may soon be kowtowing to a judge Evans or Maldonado or Wells in that court.

For the best analysis of the 2016 Presidential Election race (and Congressional races as well), you should daily read

2015 HBA Judicial Evaluation Poll Results  HBA
The results of the Houston Bar Association Judicial Evaluation survey are in.  Click here to see the results for Harris County Family District Judges.  Click here to see the results for the Harris County Family Associate Judges.  Judges Farr, Moore, Warne and Schmude received the best marks and Judges Lombardino, Franklin-York and Brandshaw-Hull received the lowest ratings among the family district judges.  All of the Associate Judges actually received high ratings.  Judges Gaffney, Cooper and Patterson were the highest rated Associate Judges.

There are a lot of results and they are hard to summarize in a small space, but on the overall rating given the district judges, here is how they were rated "Outstanding" or "Poor" overall.  Other choices were Above Average, Average and Below Average.

 Judge Slaughter Wins the Right For All Judges to Post Comments on Social Media About On-Going Trials  
I was wrong and Judge Michelle Slaughter was right.  It is apparently just fine for a judge to do what she tells jurors not to do and no punishment will be levied on a judge who writes about an on-going trial on social media.  Galveston County District Judge Michelle Slaughter caused a mistrial when she posted comments on Facebook about a criminal case she was presiding over.  Slaughter appealed the April 2015 public reprimand she received from the usually worthless Texas Commission on [Ignoring] Judicial Conduct and Slaughter won her appeal to a three judge Special Court of Review!

During the criminal trial, Judge Slaughter told the jurors:

During the trial of the case, as I mentioned before, you cannot talk to anyone. So make sure that you don't talk to anyone. Again, this is forbidden by any means of communication. So no texting, e-mailing, talking person to person or on the phone or Facebook. Any of that is absolutely forbidden. 

Slaughter then ignored her own admonition and posted comments about the criminal case on Facebook while the trial was going on.  One giddy post (that showed just how excited this young judge was to be hearing a high profile case) said:

Opening statements this morning at 9:30 am in the trial called by the press "the boy in a box" case.  After we finished Day 1 of the case called the "Boy in the Box" case, trustees from the jail came in and assembled the actual 6'x8' "box" inside the courtroom! This is the case currently in the 405th! 

Click here to read the opinion which exonerated Slaughter but still criticized her and held:
  • The Texas Constitution provides that a judge may be disciplined for a willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or for willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his or her duties or that casts public discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice.  "Willful conduct requires a showing of intentional or grossly indifferent misuse of judicial office, involving more than an error of judgment or lack of diligence."
  • Canon 3(B)(10) does not constitute a complete prohibition against a judge ever commenting about a pending proceeding.  Instead, the Canon only prohibits a comment "which suggests to a reasonable person the judge's probable decision on any particular case."
  • This Special Court of Review finds that the credible evidence overwhelmingly preponderates in favor of a finding that Respondent did not violate Canons 3(B)(10) and 4(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct or Article V, Section 1- a(6)(A) of the Texas Constitution. The Commission did not present evidence that the Respondent's extrajudicial statements would suggest to a reasonable person the judge's probable decision on any particular case or that would cause reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge. Further, there was no evidence or legally insufficient evidence that the Respondent's comments rose to the level of willful or persistent conduct clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of the Respondent's duties as a judge. The Commission presented no evidence that the Respondent's actions amounted to an intentional or grossly indifferent misuse of her office.
  • While we have held that such communications did not rise to the level of communicating to others how the judge might have ruled in the case, the timing of the posts is troublesome for the judiciary. A judge should never reveal his or her thought processes in making any judgment. Even calling attention to certain facts or evidence found significant enough for the judge to comment on in a pending matter before any decision has been rendered may tend to give the public the impression that they are seeing into the deliberation process of the judge. Additionally, extrajudicial comments made by a judge about a pending proceeding will likely invite scrutiny, as it did in this case. While the Respondent's comments were ultimately proven to not be suggestive of her probable decision on any particular case, the process for reaching this conclusion required the expenditure of a great deal of time, energy, and expense. And as this case illustrates, comments made by judges about pending proceedings create the very real possibility of a recusal (or even a mistrial) and may detract from the public trust and confidence in the administration of justice.
Any wise judge would never post on Facebook or Twitter about an on-going trial anyway.  Any judge who reads this opinion on Judge Slaughter will surely realize it is still not a good idea even if Slaughter managed to avoid any punishment for what she did.

Judge Slaughter is one of the most effective campaigners Galveston County has ever seen and this victory on the reprimand pretty much insures that she will sail to a win in the March 1 Republican primary over her little known challenger, Ben Roeder (click here to see his website).

Judge Slaughter made a mistake that I bet she will not repeat.  As I know all too well myself, beauty does not equate to wisdom.  Experience and a willingness to learn from our mistakes is what makes us wise (old age helps as well).

linksUseful Links for Lawyers
Harris County Vacation Request Form
HBA Family Section Summary of Harris County Family Court Procedures

be him
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 be fore 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 and Harris County, Texas.  

Greg Enos

Board Certified in Family Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization

The Enos Law Firm