Fifth Circuit investigates allegation that three bankruptcy judges covered up clerk’s sexual misconduct

It looks like the federal judiciary is having another #MeToo moment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is investigating three San Antonio bankruptcy judges in response to allegations that they covered up sexual misconduct by the former court clerk and permitted retaliation against a whistleblower, according to records provided by a former employee.

In a May 14, 2018 letter to former court employee Alan Vest, a deputy clerk wrote that Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart of the Fifth Circuit appointed himself and two other judges, Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie H. Southwick and Northern District of Texas Judge Jane H. Boyle, to investigate the complaint that Mr. Vest filed against Chief Bankruptcy Judge Ronald B. King and Bankruptcy Judges Craig A. Gargotta and H. Christopher Mott of the Western District of Texas.

The investigation has not been reported publicly, and the three judges declined my requests for comment. The former clerk, George D. Prentice, now serves as the clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Arizona in Phoenix.

According to Mr. Vest, his troubles began almost eight years ago when he questioned the appointment of an inexperienced female candidate as head of his department. The woman originally was hired as a summer intern, then suddenly left her position without giving notice, he said.

Notwithstanding the bizarre circumstances of her departure, she was allowed to return to work a few months later, he said, then she was suddenly promoted to department head over far more experienced candidates. When he shared his concerns with Mr. Prentice that “something unseemly” had happened, Mr. Prentice became irate. … Read more

Is Judge Kyle Hawthorne trying to cover up real estate fraud by his former law firm?

In my July 9, 2018 blog post, I tried to give 85th District Court Judge Kyle Hawthorne the benefit of the doubt. It turns out he didn’t deserve it.

I learned last week that Judge Hawthorne’s favoritism toward his former law firm and law partner was far worse than I knew. In fact, I believe it merits a criminal investigation.

In a motion that I filed this afternoon, I set forth evidence suggesting that Judge Hawthorne is aiding and abetting an alleged real estate fraud that involves his former partner, Jay Goss, and his former law firm, now known as Bruchez, Goss, Thornton, Meronoff & Briers, P.C.

According to the motion, it appears that Mr. Goss, his firm and his clients have tried to defraud some of the rightful owners of approximately 100 acres south of College Station. According to the pleadings and evidence in Gregg Falcone v. The Known and Unknown Heirs of Joshua Washington, Sr., Cause No. 16-000649-CV-85, the firm prepared deeds that omit the names of many of the owners, yet those same deeds purport to transfer 100 percent interest in the property to the firm’s clients. … Read more

A case study in good-old-boy judicial corruption

Buckle up, kids. It’s time to air some dirty laundry.

First, a little background: As a practicing lawyer, I’ve had to keep my mouth shut about a lot of things. Some of it is pretty straightforward, e.g., privileged communications from my client. Other things are much murkier, e.g., deciding when to speak up about the petty corruption and political favoritism that I routinely witness in the courtroom.

If you follow this blog, you might assume that I automatically blow the whistle every time I see judicial chicanery, but I don’t. I learned years ago (and the hard way) that judges are often quick to retaliate. When I speak up, there is a strong chance that one of my clients will suffer for it. I once criticized U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore in Houston for some grossly inappropriate comments that she made in the courtroom, and 361st District Judge Steve Smith decided to avenge her by retaliating against one of my clients in a totally unrelated case in Bryan. The judiciary is a fraternity, after all, and they protect their own.

On the other hand, there comes a point when playing nice is no longer good enough, because the frat boys just keep hurting your clients in order to help their friends. I reached my boiling point last week, so today I’m going to air some dirty laundry that I’ve been sitting on for years. … Read more