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Pinch-Hitting Matt Powell, Lubbock County’s first assistant criminal district attorney, is pinch-hitting for his boss. CDA Bill Sowder had to report for active duty with the U.S. Army at Fort Hood near Killeen on Feb. 9, leaving Powell in charge of the office. “I’d prefer for Bill to be here,” Powell says. “But we don’t mind doing whatever needs to be done so he can serve his country.” Powell says the only tasks that he can’t handle for Sowder are authorizing wire taps and filing the state’s appeals. “With overnight mail, we’re not too concerned about those issues,” he says, noting that Sowder plans to contact the CDA’s office daily. The arrangement could go on for a while. Powell says Sowder’s orders were for a year with an option to keep him for another year. Sowder is a judge advocate general recently promoted to lieutenant colonel. His assignment, at least initially, is to provide legal assistance to other soldiers called to service. What’s to Come? New federal indictments in the investigation into the downfall of Houston’s Enron Corp. may come down soon. At a hearing on Feb. 10 to delay a pretrial conference in the criminal case against Andrew Fastow, Enron Task Force prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Houston that the Department of Justice may soon release a superceding indictment in Fastow’s case that could include new charges against other individuals. “The matter could turn out to be more complicated,” Weissmann said at the hearing. Fastow, the former chief financial officer for Enron, faces a 78-count indictment, including charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty and is out on a $5 million bond. Hoyt granted a defense request to reschedule Fastow’s pretrial conference for May because discovery is so complicated. Weissmann told Hoyt the government has set up a discovery room where prosecutors are turning over hundreds of thousands of documents to the defense. Defense lawyer John Keker, a partner in Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco, says that while the defense team and the prosecutors are “quite antagonistic” on the merits of the charges against Fastow, the sides are cooperating on discovery. Hoyt also turned down a request from prosecutors to transfer the case to U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, also of Houston, who is presiding over civil litigation filed by disgruntled Enron shareholders and member of its pension plans. Like Going Home It was a little like going home for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Feb. 12, when he argued his first case before the state Supreme Court, where he formerly served. Abbott argued in San Antonio State Hospital v. Cowan that the hospital’s sovereign immunity was not waived in the wrongful-death claim brought by the widow of James Roy Cowan Jr., who used his suspenders and a piece of his walker to strangle himself after he was involuntarily committed to the mental hospital in 1997. The waiver of immunity provision in �101.021(2) of the Texas Tort Claims Act is triggered only if an employee of a governmental entity used tangible personal property to cause the harm, Abbott argued. Alex Miller, a partner in the Watts Law Firm in San Antonio, argued that a hospital employee took control of the suspenders and walker and then returned the property to Cowan, who was committed to the facility under a suicide watch. The Office of the Attorney General had petitioned the court to hear the case to clarify the use-of-property provision in �101.021(2). One of Abbott’s former colleagues took an opportunity to rib him as the arguments were winding down. “Does the attorney general share the view that this use or condition of personal property is so opaque that after 30 years, judicial efforts to construe it are, at best, meta-physical and at worst nonsense?” Justice Nathan Hecht asked. Chuckling, Abbott replied, “Yes, your honor, I do.” Hecht then asked Abbott whether he thought that clarifying the statute would be a good thing for the Legislature to do during this session. “I think that it’s their [legislators] belief that the reduction in the budget will reduce tangible personal property to such an extent that it won’t be a problem,” Abbott replied. The court didn’t indicate when it might rule on the plea of jurisdiction issue raised in Cowan. Reviewing Public Censure A three-judge panel will review the public censure of Bob Jenevein, former judge of the Dallas County Court at Law No. 3. Responding to a request by Randal Mathis, Jenevein’s attorney, the Texas Supreme Court on Feb. 6 appointed 1st Court of Appeals Justice Tim Taft, 14th Court Justice Leslie Brock Yates and 11th Court Justice Jim R. Wright to review the decision by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to publicly censure Jenevein. “We’re pleased to have received the notification from the Supreme Court and will proceed accordingly,” Mathis, a partner in Dallas’ Mathis & Doneheiser, says. In its Jan. 17 order, the commission said Jenevein willfully violated Article 5, �1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution and Canon 2B of the Code of Judicial Conduct when he held a July 2000 news conference in his courtroom to criticize Dallas attorney Lawrence Friedman, a partner in Friedman & Feiger, in connection with a pending case and further discussed the case in e-mails sent on a Dallas County computer. Jenevein’s criticism focused on a reference to his wife, Dallas solo Terrie Jenevein, in a petition filed in Universal Image Inc. d/b/a Chalboardtalk.com v. Yahoo! Inc. et al., a breach-of-contract case that Friedman filed in 1999 on behalf of the plaintiff. Mark Greenwald, who served as the commission’s special counsel in the Jenevein inquiry, urged the Supreme Court in a Jan. 28 letter to reject the request for a review. Greenwald, an associate with San Antonio’s Tinsman, Scott & Sciano, said in the letter that Chapter 33 of the Texas Government Code doesn’t provide for such a review. But Margaret Reaves, the commission’s executive director, says the high court’s decision to appoint a review panel is a just result. “I’m pleased that the court has provided an appellate remedy for the judge,” Reaves says.

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