During the 2017 President-elect campaign, details surfaced concerning the largest financial scandal in the history of the State Bar—the nine-year embezzlement of over $555,000 by the State Bar’s Membership Director. Below is the email, with linked evidence, sent out by Joe Crews.
Like most Texas lawyers, I want to have a strong, transparent, independent State Bar. That’s why I support Joe Longley for State Bar President-Elect. Joe has fought to keep our Bar independent, by working to protect our rights to vote on disciplinary rules and dues. Without those rights, the Bar loses independence and we Texas lawyers lose control of our future.
In my view, Joe’s opponents want to weaken the Bar by abolishing our voting rights and turn over financial control to the Texas Supreme Court. I think Joe’s positive vision is the way to go: Keep us independent, learn from our past mistakes, reform and protect the State Bar.
Joe’s current opponent says he’s tired of “unsupported claims” about the Bar’s need for improvements. I’m sorry, but I think that reflects his willful ignorance. The evidence is there, if only he will follow the ancient teaching: Seek and Ye Shall Find.
In that vein, I’ve been interested in the State Bar embezzlement scandal that Joe Longley and others have exposed and that State Bar leaders and staff had tried so desperately to keep quiet. So I’ve tried to collect relevant documents that I could find from available sources—Austin Police Department, Travis County DA’s office, and even the State Bar.
The documents I reviewed tell a sordid tale. More importantly, and more positively, I think that what happened in this scandal offers us some important lessons for the future if we are to improve the Bar’s management and operations.
What follows is my interpretation of what happened in the embezzlement scandal and my take on what we still don’t yet know, from reading the documents. But don’t take my word—read the documents yourself. I’ve linked the documents HERE, and I’ve Bates-stamped the pages I’ll refer to.
Because the Austin Police Department (APD) file has allegations involving some persons who are still high-level Bar employees, and because it names some innocent, victimized lawyers, I’ve redacted a few names (in addition to the redactions that were on the documents as I received them).
Also, because the Bar still refuses to disclose some of the relevant documents, some of what follows amounts to inference and some of you may disagree or see something that I don’t. I wish that the State Bar would make full disclosure of the facts, but in my view, it has not done so. Decide for yourself.
The Basics. State Bar in-house “Legal Counsel” John Sirman wrote a 10/4/12 proof-of-loss letter to the Bar’s insurance carrier (Federal-Chubb) with this summary statement of what the Bar’s “investigation” showed: “The State Bar’s investigation shows that Ms. [Kathleen] Holder stole more than $507,000 from the Chase account in question over seven years by writing checks to herself and forging the signatures of Supreme Court clerks.” (SB 0035-0037)
Mr. Sirman’s statement was wrong on the amount and incomplete in describing the misconduct, but that’s the basic scheme of Ms. Holder’s principal method of theft: a multi-year, massive embezzlement scheme, involving hundreds of forged checks and theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars, orchestrated by a top-level Bar staffer.
The thief, Ms. Holder, was Department Director of the Bar’s Membership Department and also served as “Deputy Clerk of Membership for the Supreme Court of Texas.” (SB 0035-0036)
In effect, Holder had complete control over the Chase Bank account that “primarily was used for reimbursements to lawyers who overpaid annual fees.” (SB 0037) Although Ms. Holder wasn’t a signatory on the account, she prepared the checks on the account. The sole authorized signatory on the account was the Texas Supreme Court’s Clerk (who was Andrew Weber from 7/02 to 8/06; then Blake Hawthorne).
Holder “forged the signatures of the Clerk of the Supreme Court on the checks that she wrote to herself. The forged checks were deposited into the same United Heritage Credit Union account where [she] deposited her State Bar of Texas paychecks.” (SB 0036)
Think about that: For seven to nine years (or longer) one Department Director at the Bar had sole control over a bank account with millions of dollars in Bar dues, wrote the checks, forged the Supreme Court Clerk’s signatures on checks made out to herself, and then received and controlled the bank statements—with no oversight and no detection. She just forged the Clerk’s signatures and deposited the money into her own account.
Her basic scheme wasn’t subtle, complex, or difficult to discover (if anyone had tried). It was simple forgery—easy to spot if any other Bar supervisor or employee had looked at the checks or the bank statements.
In fact, on the very first day of the Austin Police investigation (4/12/12), the police showed the Supreme Court Clerk Blake Hawthorne two checks on the account, one payable to Holder and the other payable to another person. Hawthorne immediately identified the signature on the check that Holder had made out to herself as a forgery—“He said that the check payable to Holder had a forged signature purporting to be his.” (SB 0010) No one at the Bar had ever bothered to review the checks or show them to Hawthorne.
Here are a few dates as points of reference as you consider the scandal, how it happened, and how the Bar handled (and mishandled) it.
2003—2004 (??) To this day, the Bar apparently still doesn’t know when Holder began embezzling and stealing Bar monies or how much money was stolen or misapplied.
6/2/04 Date of a Bank of America money order from a Texas lawyer that showed up as “made payable to Kathy Holder.” (SB 0014)
5/4/05 The date that the Bar’s Chief Financial Officer identified (to APD on 4/12/12) as the first Chase Bank check forged by Holder. (SB 0010)
12/18/09 Date of another money order (Western Union) from another Texas lawyer made out as: “Pay to the order of Kathy Holder.” (SB 0014)
3/6/12 The date that the Bar’s Chief Financial Officer identified (to APD on 4/12/12) as the last date of a forged check by Holder. (SB 0010)
4/5/12 When the Bar claims it first discovered the embezzlement, because “the bank statements for the dues were mistakenly delivered to the Chief Financial Officer of the State Bar who noticed that a number of checks had been issued to the employee in question through apparent forgery of the Supreme Court Clerk’s signature.” (SB 0026) [Normally the account statements were delivered directly to Holder, the embezzler.]
4/6/12 Holder suspended without pay. (SB 0024)
4/9/12 Holder terminated. (SB 0025)
4/12/12 APD (Detective Billy Petty) and Assistant DA Gail Van Winkle met with Michelle Hunter (the Bar’s Executive Director), John Sirman (identified in APD notes as “web manager and strategic planning director of the Bar [identified in the 10/4/12 Bar’s proof-of-loss letter to Federal-Chubb as Bar’s “legal counsel], Cheryl Howell (the Bar’s CFO), Blake Hawthorne (Texas Supreme Court’s Clerk); Jennifer Cafferty (Texas Supreme Court’s General Counsel). The Bar presented a list of 153 forged checks, totaling $496,209.04. (SB 0010)
4/18/12 Sirman (at the Bar) emailed APD an “updated list of the alleged theft, which is now over $500,000.” (SB 0012)
4/25/12 APD reports a brief meeting with Holder at her lawyer’s office to obtain a “consent to search” form: “As I explained, that I would be seizing anything that appeared to be evidence, Holder spontaneously said, ‘I think you really have everything. I don’t think you’re going to find anything.’ She continued, ‘I mean – as far as the copies of the checks that they got from the bank, that …’ before she completed her sentence, she was interrupted by [her lawyer] who directed her to just sign the document.” (SB 0011)
4/25/12 Bar’s Notice of Loss Letter to its insurance carrier, Federal-Chubb, stating that the Bar had discovered “forged checks payable to the employee over the past seven years totaling more than $500,000.” (SB 0026)
4/26/12 APD searched Holder’s office (21 days after the Bar says it discovered the embezzlement). (SB 0012)
9/13/12 The Bar (through Kelley Jones King, Deputy Executive Director) signed a Final Release and Settlement Agreement, which stated a loss of $507,029.04 and a settlement payment of $482,029.04 (—that is, the claimed-loss amount, less the Bar’s $25,000 deductible). The Bar settled even though the criminal case against Holder was still underway. The settlement assigned “all remedies” of the Bar to the insurer and stated that the amount paid was “all that is ever to be paid” by the insurer. (SB 0039-0040)
11/16/12 Federal-Chubb’s $482,029.04 check to the Bar. (SB 0042)
5/20/13 Holder’s guilty plea; sentence of 10-years of probation with 180 days of shock-probation (she served only about 150 days); restitution of $73,949.45; the State Bar announces that the State Bar was reimbursed “the entire amount” misappropriated. (SB 0086-0087)
5/9/14 Federal-Chubb writes the Bar and demands payment to Federal-Chubb from the restitution payment that the Bar received, to reimburse Federal-Chubb for the $25,000 deductible. (SB 0077)
5/14/14 John Sirman, Bar legal counsel, agrees for the Bar to pay $25,000 back to Federal-Chubb. (SB 0076)
Lessons and Questions.
Based on my review of the available documents, I see the following issues, lessons, and unanswered questions.
Lack of Fiscal Responsibility and Oversight.
The documents make clear that the State Bar was irresponsible in its lack of basic accounting-system controls. Apparently for 8 or 9 years, the Bar empowered Ms. Holder to maintain the checkbook on the Chase account, prepare the checks, and then receive and control the bank statements—with no oversight and no review.
As a former Texas State Auditor has commented, “Segregation or separating of accounting tasks is a fundamental requirement of a sound internal control environment to protect against or reduce fraud. Accounting-task processes should have supervisory or second-person review whenever possible. Accountants refer to these types of reviews as ‘compensating controls.’ When the person responsible for an account with access to the checks also performs the bank reconciliations, that lack of separation violates the principle of segregation of duties. Proper controls generally require that when one individual is responsible for maintaining and preparing the checks, then a different individual should be responsible for reconciling the bank account statements, and a third individual should receive and open the mail.”
The State Bar flagrantly violated those principles—for almost a decade. For all those years, neither the Executive Director, the CFO, nor any other officer, employee, or Board member of the Bar paid any attention to those basic principles of fiscal control. Instead, they effectively gave Holder a license to steal—which she certainly did.
In fact, apparently other Bar accounting managers and directors didn’t have a clue about how Holder’s account even functioned. The office manager of the Membership Department told the police that “she was questioned about this when they discovered the theft because the SBOT accounting managers and directors needed to know how the process worked, because they did not know how the process worked on this account.” (SB 0015)
Further, the Bar discovered Holder’s forgery scheme not by oversight or review or clever detective work, but by mistake. According to the Bar’s 4/25/12 notice-of-loss letter to the insurance carrier, Federal-Chubb, the Bar discovered the embezzlement, because “the bank statements for the dues were mistakenly delivered to the Chief Financial Officer of the State Bar who noticed that a number of checks had been issued to the employee in question through apparent forgery of the Supreme Court Clerk’s signature.” (SB 0026)
In other words, the Bar discovered the embezzlement by dumb luck, not skill or competent accounting oversight. Normally the account statements were delivered directly to Holder, the embezzler, who wrote the checks—with no oversight or supervision or check-and-balance on her handling of millions of dollars in the account.
Neither Holder’s supervisory director, nor the CFO, nor the Executive Director, nor anyone else in Bar management apparently thought it would be a good idea to check a multimillion dollar account or at least review the banks statements over a nine-year period.
Lesson #1: The Bar should separate accounting tasks for all accounts, and have regular, independent review of bank statements. The Bar also should have an experienced, independent outside financial-management firm analyze the structure of all Bar accounts and funds. The Bar already has an outside audit each year—and that audit failed to spot these obvious structural deficiencies. The Bar needs new, specialized, outside expertise.
How and When Did The Thefts Occur and How Much Was Stolen?
As far as I can tell, the Bar can’t answer those questions, at least not fully. We know that Holder forged the names of Texas Supreme Court Clerks on the Chase checks, apparently in an amount of over $555,978.49. But for several reasons, we can’t tell the total amount of thefts and misappropriation.
First, we know about the forged checks on the Chase account. But we also see the references in the APD report to the money orders that showed up as being made out to “Kathy Holder” by lawyers who were, in fact, trying to pay dues or fees with money orders.
For example, the Austin police found a Bank of America money order from a Texas lawyer dated June 2, 2004 “made payable to Kathy Holder.” (SB 0014) The lawyer said he thought the money order was to pay his “employment” tax. (SB 0015)
The police also found another Western Union money order from another Texas lawyer, made out “Pay to the order of Kathy Holder.” (SB 0014) That lawyer told the police that “although it is possible that she sent the money order without the payee field having been completed, it is unlikely.” (SB 0014)
How did Holder pull off those money-order embezzlements? The documents don’t say. We just know that the police describe them, and that that’s a different method of theft from forging the Clerk’s name on the Chase account checks to herself.
It also turns out that while most lawyers pay their dues and other fees with firm checks, some use money orders, cashier’s check, personal checks, or even cash. The office manager of the Membership Department told the police that “some cash comes in over the counter” and that approximately “5 people per week will pay by cash during the dues season and each transaction is about $300 to $500 depending on what they owe.” (SB 0016)
So, we know that over the 8 or 9 years (at least) of Holder’s ongoing course of theft, thousands of dollars of cash payments came through her office. Did she steal any of that cash? Nothing in the records shows. But really, why wouldn’t she have, given that she was engaged in other forms of theft? And if she just pocketed the cash, we’ll never know.
But apparently Holder’s thefts involved two methods for sure and perhaps a third: (1) forging the name of the Texas Supreme Court Clerk on checks made out to herself; (2) forging or altering money orders (and cashier’s checks?); (3) perhaps stealing cash. The police could trace some of those checks and money orders, but what about the ones she just cashed?
Second, the Bar gave several different numbers for how much Holder had stolen:
(a) On 4/12/12, the Bar’s CFO gave the police a list of 153 checks, totaling $496,209.04. (SB 0010)
(b) Then on 4/18/12, the Bar told the police that the theft is “now over $500,000.” (SB 0012)
(c) And then in the Proof of Loss letter of 10/4/12, the Bar said the forged checks on the Chase account totaled $507,000. (SB 0036)
(d) The 11/13/12 Final Release and Settlement Agreement that the Bar entered into stated the loss at $507,029.04. (SB 0039)
(e) But then the Bar settled with Federal-Chubb on 11/13/12—even before the criminal case against Holder concluded on 5/20/13. After that, on 5/9/14 the Bar told Federal-Chubb indicated that when Holder made the restitution payment of $73,949.45 in connection with her 5/20/13 guilty plea, that “the restitution award included an additional theft of $48,949.45.” (The documents I’ve seen don’t explain the evidence or calculations of the alleged “additional theft.”) That would make the total $555,978.45. Evidently those amounts do not address the thefts-by-money-orders, or at least not all of them, or any thefts of cash.
When Holder pleaded guilty, her own lawyer said “Holder had ‘no idea’ how much money she had taken over the years.” (SB 0086-0087) If the thief didn’t know—or wouldn’t say—does the Bar really know? That seems unlikely. At least the documents I reviewed don’t give the answer.
Third, the time period spanned by Holder’s embezzlement and theft schemes is unclear. On 4/12/12, the Bar’s CFO Howell gave the police a list of forged checks, the earliest of which was dated 5/4/05.(SB 0010) But Detective Petty located the 6/2/04 money order that Holder had filled in as payable to herself. (SB 0014) Other published reports indicated that the thefts went back to 5/03. See https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2013/05/21/former-state-bar-of-texas-employee-pleads-guilty-to-theft-after-500k-loss. And who knows when (or if) Holder stole cash payments? Holder began working for the Bar 9/80, and held a Director position since the 1990s. When did her thievery start? We can’t tell from the documents.
Did the Bar get “fully reimbursed” by Holder’s restitution? What about the later Federal-Chubb demand on the Bar?
On 2/17/17, our Bar President said that “The State Bar was fully reimbursed through insurance and court-ordered restitution” for Holder’s thefts and embezzlement. The documents seem to show otherwise. The Bar’s Executive Director said the same thing yesterday (incidentally, contradicting her own statement in the April Bar Journal, as described below): “Our insurance and that restitution fully covered the entire loss, and our rates did not materially increase because of it.”
Remember that the Bar settled with Federal-Chubb on 11/13/12, through a Final Release and Settlement Agreement. That Agreement stated the loss at $507,029.04. The agreement also released Federal-Chubb; sold, assigned, and transferred to Federal-Chubb “all the right, title and interest, including the remedies . . . arising from the Claim . . .”; and had the Bar agree that the $482,029.04 payment was “all that is ever to be paid” by the carrier. (SB 0039-0040)
It’s odd that the Bar did that, given that Holder’s criminal case was still underway. Sure enough, when Holder pleaded guilty on 5/20/13, she agreed to a restitution payment of $73,949.45.
At the time, the State Bar’s Executive Director told Texas Lawyer that the Bar had filed an insurance claim, paid the $25,000 deductible, received $482,092, and “That amount, plus Holder’s $73,949.45 restitution, reimburses the State Bar for the entire amount that Holder misappropriated . . . .”(SB 0086-0087)
But wait, why was the State Bar taking any of the restitution monies, given that it had assigned the claims and “all remedies” to Federal-Chubb?
Federal-Chubb apparently had the same question. On 4/4/14, Federal-Chubb wrote the Bar, and pointed out that under the insurance policy, Federal-Chubb “has the first right of recovery up to the total amount we paid. As such, any payments remitted by or on behalf of Kathleen Holder up to $482,029.04 will need to be endorsed over to Federal Insurance Company.” (SB 0088)
Then, apparently the Bar and Federal-Chubb talked about why the Bar had taken restitution funds, because on 5/9/14, Federal-Chubb wrote to John Sirman, the Bar’s legal counsel, that “You indicated that the breakdown of the restitution award included an additional theft of $48,949.45 which was discovered by the Prosecutor’s Office and the $25,000 deductible applied to the employee theft claim. . . . Based on the foregoing, Federal . . . is entitled to recover its claim payment before State Bar of Texas recovers its deductible. Accordingly, please issue a check in the amount of $25,000 payable to Federal . . . .” (SB 0081)
On 5/14/14, Sirman sent an internal email stating that “insurance company seeks return of $25,000 deductible which is fine with us.” (SB 0079)
So, were the Bar President’s 2/17/17 statement and the Executive Director’s statement yesterday that the Bar was “fully reimbursed” through “insurance and court-ordered reimbursement” just wrong? Given that the Bar apparently had to pay back the $25,000 deductible that would appear to be the case.
In fact, apparently the Bar violated both the settlement agreement and the insurance policy. Is that sound management? It would seem not.
The State Bar’s Executive Director has flip-flopped in her version. Her version yesterday contradicted what she said in the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal, the Executive Director tried to “put her fingers on the election scales” by adding her personal, misleading comments to Joe Longley’s responses. (She did that only on Joe’s responses.). In commenting on the theft, here’s what the Executive Director admitted: “The former employee was sentenced to “shock probation”—including 180 days in state prison and 10 years’ probation—and ordered to pay $73,949 in restitution to the State Bar. Of the restitution amount, $48,949 covered additional theft documented by the district attorney’s office and $25,000 represented the bar’s deductible applied to the employee theft insurance claim. The insurance company recovered the $25,000 according to policy terms. . . . The State Bar was fully reimbursed minus its deductible . . . .” So, the State Bar had to pay back the deductible that it had wrongfully kept with Holder’s restitution payment.
Thus the Executive Director has said both things: The State Bar was “fully reimbursed,” and the State Bar was “fully reimbursed minus its deductible.” Which is it?
And by the way, given the broad language of the settlement agreement, why did the Bar not pay to Federal-Chubb the entire amount of the restitution? Is the Bar still subject to a potential breach-of-contract claim for keeping any of the restitution? The documents don’t explain.
Note that the Bar told Federal-Chubb that the $48,949.45 amount was an “additional theft.” Holder pleaded guilty 5/20/13. Does time still remain on the four-year statute-of-limitations period for a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim against Holder, at least on that “additional theft” amount? Did the Bar make an offer to Federal-Chubb to sue Holder and take a judgment on that “additional theft”? Given the President’s statement, almost certainly not.
Lesson #2: The Bar should read its insurance policies and settlement agreements, seek to recover stolen monies, and not take money it is not entitled to.
And what about the substantial “soft costs” at the Bar and at the Texas Supreme Court? Various employees investigated Holder’s scheme and the losses, and they interviewed witnesses, reviewed documents, gave interviews to the police, dealt with the insurance carrier, dealt with the DA’s office, reviewed and supposedly revised at least some Bar’s internal procedures, issued one press release, etc. That must have amounted to considerable staff time and other expenses. Was that reimbursed or recouped? Of course not.
Executive Director Michelle Hunter’s email from yesterday identified another expense. She said that after the embezzlement, the Bar’s insurance rates did not “materially increase.” So we know that the rates increased—just not by an amount that Ms. Hunter considers “material.” Anyone who has ever deposed an accountant over the issue of “materiality” in a securities case knows how fuzzy that concept can be. How much did our rates increase? The Bar hasn’t told us. We just know that the rates went up and the Bar didn’t require Ms. Holder to pay that loss.
Holder apparently spent about 5 months in jail on shock probation, and got to keep 86.7% of the more than $555,978.45 that she stole. In other words, our Bar leaders let Holder keep $482,029.95 in exchange for her spending about 150 days in jail—that works out to about $3,200 a day.
Why didn’t the Bar sue Holder and obtain a judgment against her?
Holder stole some $555,978.45 (or more), and she paid only $73,949.45 in restitution. That meansshe paid back only 13.3% of what she stole—and she kept 86.7% of what she stole. That’s a great payday, isn’t it?
As others have said, that also was a terrible message for the Bar to send would-be thieves: “Steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from us and we’ll make you pay back only 13.3%! Keep the rest! Don’t Mess with Lawyers!”
So why in the world didn’t the Bar sue Holder and take a judgment? The Bar had several obvious, lay-down causes of action: breach-of-fiduciary duty; conversion; theft under the Texas Theft Liability Act; etc.
And taking a judgment would have sent a much better message to would-be future embezzlers and thieves. Furthermore, the Bar could have conducted periodic post-judgment discovery to recover any non-exempt assets that Holder acquired.
Here’s what the State Bar President said on 4/24/17: “the insurer required the State Bar of Texas to sign a release and an assignment of ‘all right, title, and interest, including remedies’ in the claim,before the insurer would issue payment. Because the State Bar of Texas had been paid and no longer owned the claim, it could not sue the employee for conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, theft under the Texas Theft Liability Act, or any other cause of action. The insurer, as the assignee of the claim, retained the sole option to pursue any subrogation action against the employee. As far as the State Bar of Texas knows, its insurer has taken no further action on this claim.”
The documents I’ve seen don’t support the President’s story.
The documents don’t show that the insurer “required” anything. The Bar voluntarily entered the 11/13/12 Final Release and Settlement Agreement before Holder’s criminal case was over and before the Bar knew the full amount that she had stolen. That seems foolish, and nothing in the file explains the undue haste.
More importantly, no documents show any effort by the Bar to negotiate the ability to sue Holder or take a judgment against Holder. The insurer had at least three reasons to allow the Bar to obtain a judgment against Holder if the Bar had wanted to do so: (1) The insurer could have gotten the Bar to pursue the subrogation claim at no cost to the insurer. (2) The insurer, like the Bar, had an incentive to send a better message to would-be thieves than to tell them “it’s okay to keep 86.7% of what you steal!” The insurer certainly wouldn’t want to encourage future employee thefts that it was insuring against. (3) The insurer would have recovered any funds that the Bar collected from Holder in the future up to the amount of the insurer’s subrogation interest.
I have decades of experience handling plaintiffs’ cases. I’ve seen many subrogation carriers in a variety of settings allow plaintiffs’ counsel to pursue recoveries that would benefit the subrogation interest. Here, the Bar apparently made no effort to do so.
Note also that the President’s message failed to describe the full nature of the interest assigned to the insurer. The settlement agreement also assigned the right to pursue all “remedies” against Holder.
Yet the Bar pursued and obtained a restitution remedy in the criminal case—and apparently then took the money without telling the carrier—and consequently the Bar later had to pay back to the carrier at least the amount of the deductible ($25,000) because the Bar violated both the settlement agreement and the terms of the insurance policy. The Bar wasn’t quite so concerned about the “requirements” of the insurer at that point, was it? And the Bar apparently took and tried to keep money it wasn’t entitled to. Who does that remind us of?
In my opinion, the Bar made no effort to try to be able to sue Holder and take a judgment against Holder, and the Bar now is trying to hide behind a settlement agreement that the Bar ill-advisedly entered prematurely before it knew the full amount of the Bar’s losses. And if the Bar had made the effort, the odds are that the Bar would have been able to get the carrier to agree for the Bar to sue Holder: “It’s a free suit, and you potentially get back the money you paid.” That’s a pretty attractive offer.
The Bar’s refusal to produce documents.
The discussion above is my best effort to describe and interpret the facts concerning the Bar’s embezzlement scandal. However, as I said at the outset, I’m limited by the documents available. And that’s frustrating—and that points to another problem.
The State Bar’s standard response to document requests is to stonewall. I’ve reviewed and even litigated document requests submitted by Texas lawyers under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). In fact, I’ve even had the privilege of representing Joe Longley in a TPIA suit to try to obtain documents about these issues and other issues. And whatever the outcome of this election, we’re going to keep trying to get those documents. But again and again, the Bar has tried to withhold documents—in other words, conceal the truth. Why?
The Bar is our professional organization. Under the Bar Act, it’s a “public corporation and an administrative agency of the judicial department of government.” Shouldn’t the Bar be open, forthright, and transparent with Bar members? Even when the Bar has a theoretical right under TPIA to assert a legal exemption to producing documents to a Bar member, shouldn’t the Bar do that as a last resort, only when necessary to protect some important interest, as opposed to just protecting against disclosure of the truth? Shouldn’t the Bar err on the side of openness and honesty?
Lesson #3: The Bar should adopt a public-information policy that seeks to provide responsive documents and information to Bar members whenever reasonably possible.
Lesson #4: I submit that the Bar embezzlement scandal and the remaining unanswered questions associated with that scandal require an independent, outside investigation. The point that I’d underscore is “independent.” Far too often in the past, the Bar has retained outside counsel who are no more than traditional Bar insiders—often firms in which former Bar officers or Board members are members. The results are usually foreordained and unduly protectionist of the Bar. To me, an independent investigation would require a firm with no ties to the Bar establishment, and perhaps led by a former federal or state white-collar prosecutor. Texas lawyers deserve an honest investigation that they can have confidence in. We deserve the truth.
For me, the last Lesson is this: We need to elect Joe Longley as President-Elect! That’s the only way we can truly hope to learn the full facts about this multi-year embezzlement scandal and remedy the problems that led to the scandal. Joe Longley is an honest, bright, independent voice. He’s a lawyer’s lawyer and a legend in our profession. Please vote for Joe Longley for President-Elect.
Crews Law Firm, P.C.
701 Brazos, Suite 900
Austin, TX 78701