For more than two years now, I have urged Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to intervene in a lawsuit against a district attorney (now former district attorney) who allegedly stole a small fortune from an elderly lady and her estate. John Paschall was the colorful (i.e., racist, alcoholic, obnoxious, and derelict) district attorney of Robertson County until he was defeated in 2012, and he still serves as executor of the estate of Marium Oscar, who was the last survivor of the Jewish community in Calvert when she died in 2004. You may recall that Paschall asked a judge for a restraining order to keep me blogging about the Oscar estate during his reelection campaign (the judge refused the request).
A lot has happened since then, including a recent decision by the Texas Rangers to open a criminal investigation of Paschall’s handling of the Oscar estate. But none of that is any thanks to Abbott. According to the Texas Supreme Court, “it is the certain duty of the Attorney General to invoke the powers inherent in our courts to prevent an abuse of a charitable trust…” Lokey v. Texas Methodist Foundation, 479 S.W.2d 260, 265 (Tex. 1972), but for two years Abbott has done nothing.
Ms. Oscar’s will bequeathed her entire estate to a trust, and in a July 5, 2011 letter to Abbott, I warned of my suspicion that Ms. Oscar’s trust was a charitable trust. I could not confirm that at the time, however, because Paschall refused to release a copy of the trust agreement.
My clients and I fought Paschall all the way to the Court of Appeals, and a February 7, 2013 opinion from that court finally forced him to release a copy of the trust agreement. Sure enough, Ms. Oscar’s trust was a charitable trust. According to the trust agreement, Ms. Oscar’s money and property were to be used to create a museum in a building that Ms. Oscar owned in downtown Calvert. One problem was immediately obvious: Paschall had already sold the building, and he did not (and does not) want to explain what he did with the money.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but Paschall has fought us ever step of the way to keep from answering questions or producing records, particularly financial records. He filed a second petition with the Court of Appeals, and that was dismissed on October 17, 2013 in a one-sentence opinion. Even after the latest Court of Appeals decision, Paschall openly defied an order compelling him to produce records for another month.
On November 20, 2013, Paschall partially answered interrogatories and produced some documents. In a November 26, 2013 letter to his attorney, I pointed out a few of the most glaring problems with his answers, including the fact that his “accounting” of the estate leaves more than $100,000 unaccounted for. On the one hand, Paschall claims the estate has $86,518.07 in cash, but on the other he claims that the estate does not have any bank accounts. Oops. Does that mean that he buried the money in his back yard? Or did he put it in his own checking account? It’s impossible to tell, because Paschall still refuses to provide any records relating to the location of the money, but I suspect more than half a million dollars has been looted from the estate.
The Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) is a huge agency, so you might be wondering if Greg Abbott himself even knows that the Paschall case exists. I would venture that he does, because State Senator Charles Schwertner has been inquiring about the case, and Coty Siegert, Paschall’s successor as Robertson County DA, has twice asked Abbott’s office to take over the criminal investigation. Each time, OAG has essentially told them “we’ll get back to you.”
Things got so bad that, at one point, I asked Judge H.D. Black, Jr. to compel the OAG to show up and explain why it was sitting on the sidelines, and Judge Black told me to draft the order for his signature. Word must have gotten back to OAG, because an assistant attorney general quickly entered an appearance in the case, but she added that OAG was not planning to intervene. I later withdrew my request for the order, as explained in an October 30, 2013 letter to Judge Black, because I concluded that only the Texas Supreme Court had jurisdiction to compel Abbott to perform his duties.
Frankly, I could use some help. I am representing the plaintiff pro bono (that means I ain’t getting paid, for those of you in Rio Linda), as I have for the last two years. This case has been time-consuming and expensive, but I suspect my job would be a lot easier if Abbot spent a little less time running for governor and a little more time doing his job, i.e., managing the Office of the Attorney General.
If you can spare a few minutes, please send an e-mail to Greg Abbott (firstname.lastname@example.org), and cc that e-mail to the Houston Chronicle (email@example.com), the Bryan-College Station Eagle (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Dallas Morning News (email@example.com), and the Austin-American Statesman (firstname.lastname@example.org). Include the link to this blog post, and ask Abbott to start defending the interests of Texas charities. I suspect plenty of other charitable trusts have been looted, and I have to wonder whether anyone is paying attention. One more thing: if you are an ambitious / fearless / crazy lawyer who would like to haul Abbott before the Texas Supreme Court and give him a good public spanking for dereliction of duty, then send me an e-mail (tyclevenger at yahoo.com). I’m perfectly willing to share space on the blacklist. Besides, I need more time to work on my literary project, Liars and Horse Thieves: A book about lawyers and judges.
Did Judge Robert Stem cover up Paschall’s mishandling of the Oscar estate? And is he now trying to interfere with the criminal investigation?
On February 26, 2013, I wrote a letter to the Robertson County Grand Jury requesting that it investigate what happened to the Oscar estate, and I asked District Judge Robert M. Stem to recuse himself from grand jury proceedings since he would be a witness – and perhaps a target – in any investigation. Instead, he appointed the sister-in-law of one the attorneys representing Paschall as forewoman of the grand jury.*
The probate case for Ms. Oscar’s estate originally was filed in the county court, which is where all probate cases are filed in Robertson County. In 2006, the county judge removed Paschall as executor of the Oscar estate because Paschall ignored repeated warnings that he needed to file an inventory of the estate’s property. Paschall’s attorney at the time was T. Wayne Brimhall (husband of Robertson County Clerk Kathryn Brimhall, and one of Paschall’s drinking buddies), and Brimhall quickly asked the county judge to transfer the case to district court, i.e., to Judge Stem.
The premise for the transfer was that the estate needed to request a declaratory judgment (which would give the district court jurisdiction), but that obviously was a ruse, because Brimhall never filed any request for a declaratory judgment. I suspect Judge Stem knew all along that it was a ruse, because Paschall is one of his cronies, and they’re both as crooked as a dog’s hind leg (you may recall that I represented Judge Stem’s own mother against him, as you can see on pp. 23-25 of this motion for Judge Stem’s recusal). Regardless, Judge Stem had to have known about the ruse not later than 2009, when I filed a federal lawsuit that described the scam, because Stem was very much aware of that federal lawsuit. (As I will explain in great detail in Liars and Horse Thieves, Stem and Paschall tried to frame me for barratry on the grounds that I illegally solicited clients for the federal case, but the grand jury unanimously cleared me).
Despite all the evidence that Paschall was violating his duties as executor – and perhaps stealing money from the estate – Stem did absolutely nothing to protect the estate. When I filed the case against Paschall in 2011, however, Stem recused himself from that case, apparently because he cut a deal with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct whereby he would recuse himself from all of my cases.
But his recusal only applies to the civil case, not the criminal investigation. On September 16, 2013, I cc’d Judge Stem on my letter asking the Texas Rangers to investigate Paschall, and I reiterated Judge Stem’s conflict of interest (as I did in my May 14, 2013 letter to Gregg Abbot, which was also cc’d to Judge Stem and the grand jury). As I mentioned above, the Rangers have since opened an investigation, and that investigation ultimately will go to the grand jury. Yet Judge Stem is still overseeing the grand jury and picking the grand jurors who would be asked to investigate him.
If Judge Stem thinks he can save himself by stacking the grand jury, he’s wrong. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, as explained in the letter to Major Malinak. Meanwhile, Judge Stem has filed for re-election in the 2014 Democratic primary, which seems to refute a rumor that Judge Stem would wait until the last minute and let his son (also named “Robert Stem”) file in his place. Nobody has run against Judge Stem in more than 30 years, and I doubt anyone will run against him now. Only a handful of lawyers live in the 82nd District (Falls and Robertson Counties), and none of them can afford to lose and face the inevitable retaliation. (Fortunately, State Reps. Kyle Kacal and John Raney of Bryan are considering a plan to split the 82nd District in the next legislative session, which would likely take Robertson County out of Stem’s grasp and force him to run in a district that included Republican-leaning McLennan County).
On a related note, I served three subpoenas on Judge Stem on November 25, 2013, and two more the same day on his buddy, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. of Waco (here is a link to one of them). I already knew that Judge Stem was represented by Bryan F. “Rusty” Russ, Jr. (Paschall’s lawyer) in a real estate dispute, a fact they kept secret from all the other parties appearing against Mr. Russ in Judge Stem’s courtroom. Is that why Judge Stem always ruled in favor of Mr. Russ? And was Judge Stem paying Mr. Russ, or was Judge Stem represented at no charge? Hopefully we’ll know soon, but if I get shot before then, tell the cops to interview Paschall, Stem, and Smith.
* Another grand jury was convened during the summer, and the latest forewoman is also a political ally of Paschall and Judge Stem. After her appointment, Coty Siegert (the new district attorney) filed a felony drug charge against her son. Judge Stem dismissed the case.