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A review of the financial disclosure reports that Texas’ federal judges and magistrate judges file each year shows some judges have better luck than others. Texas Lawyerobtained copies of the 2002 disclosure reports for 89 U.S. district judges and magistrate judges. Among the more interesting revelations gleaned from a review of those reports are that U.S. District Judge David Folsom of the Eastern District in Texarkana won $10,000 at a fund-raising event for Christus St. Michael Health System in October 2002. “It’s the first time, I think, that I’ve ever won anything,” Folsom says. Folsom says he won the money in the “Adopt-a-Duck” fund-raiser for the Texarkana hospital. To raise funds, Folsom says, the hospital sells tickets for $5 each. The number on each ticket corresponds with the number on each plastic duck put up for adoption, he explains. On the day of the contest, the plastic ducks are dropped in a river, and the first duck to cross the finish line wins the $10,000, Folsom says. “I’ve been buying these ducks . . . for years,” he says. Folsom wasn’t the only judge who reported income as the result of luck. Senior Judge William M. Steger of the Eastern District in Tyler listed casino winnings on his disclosure report. “My wife hit a jackpot,” Steger says. “She doesn’t do it very often, I might add.” Steger says his wife won $1,200 on a slot machine at a casino in Shreveport, La., in December 2002. Folsom and Steger listed their windfalls under the non-investment income category on the report. No Info The financial disclosure reports typically don’t reveal a lot of information. But the initial reports one judge filed in 2003 on his sources of income in 2002 revealed absolutely nothing. An attempt by a federal prison inmate to place an invalid lien on the judge’s property prompted Eastern District Chief Judge Thad Heartfield of Beaumont to redact all the information about his investments and trusts on two reports that Heartfield filed in May and June 2003. Heartfield, who became the chief judge following the death of Judge John Hannah in December 2003, says the inmate was making invalid claims against Heartfield’s property. “People say don’t worry about that. [But] if I died, it would be a lien my estate would have to take care of,” Heartfield says. An inmate also attempted to file an invalid lien against the property of another judge in the Eastern District, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell, who moved from Beaumont to Sherman in August 2003. But Schell didn’t request the redaction of the investments and trusts information on his 2002 report. “It’s just something that didn’t occur to me,” he says. David Sellers, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which oversees the reports, says a judge has to make a request that specific information be redacted in a report. The Committee on Financial Disclosure, in conjunction with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, decides whether the redactions requested should be made, Sellers says. Schell says Heartfield apparently thought that redacting the information would help discourage the filing of invalid liens against his property. “That’s a good idea,” Schell says, adding that the invalid liens are “just an extra hassle that judges have to go through.” What happened to Heartfield and Schell isn’t unusual, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockhart, a civil division attorney for the Eastern District in Beaumont. Lockhart says inmates file documents � known as the Uniform Commercial Code 1 Form with the Texas Office of the Secretary of the State to place invalid liens on the personal property of judges and prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Giblin of the Eastern District in Beaumont was the target of a UCC1 filing at the same time as Heartfield, Lockhart says. “It freaks the judges out,” Lockhart says of the filings. The UCC1 forms are supposed to be used to put liens on property that otherwise no lien could be placed on, Lockhart says. For example, he says, an individual who is buying a grocery store could file such a lien to prevent the seller from selling canned goods in inventory. Lockhart says the inmates learn about the forms because they have access to law libraries. But the inmates typically don’t have the account numbers needed to place liens on a judge’s investments and can’t use the UCC1 forms to place liens on real estate, he says. The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes the inmates’ filings seriously. Lockhart says he filed suits in state district courts in Austin seeking judicial review of the inmates’ claims against the property of Heartfield, Schell and Giblin. In April 2003, the 250th District Court found in In Re: a Purported Lien or Claim Against Thad Heartfield and Keith Giblin that the inmate’s claims were invalid. The 345th District Court issued a similar finding in In Re: a Purported Lien or Claim Against Richard A. Schell in August 2003. Randy Moes, director of the Uniform Commercial Code Section in the Texas Office of the Secretary of State, says judicial findings of fact are filed with the inmates’ UCC1 forms so that anyone checking will know that the liens are not valid. “All it is, it’s harassing the judges,” Lockhart says of the inmates’ filings. Heartfield says his report was supposed to remain redacted only for a short period. George Reynolds, staff counsel for the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Committee on Financial Disclosure, says the redactions on Heartfield’s report were lifted “just recently.” Sports The reports also list the judges’ stock investments. Of note in that category are two investments reported by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas of the Southern District in Houston and U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Nowak of the Western District in San Antonio. Although Atlas shares a hometown with the Houston Rockets and Nowak lives in the hometown of the San Antonio Spurs, the reports filed by the two jurists list stock in the Boston Celtics Limited Partnership. Nowak says the stock belongs to her husband. “He’s just always enjoyed the Boston Celtics, from the Larry Byrd days,” she says. Atlas did not return two telephone calls before presstime on Jan. 29.
Gifts, Trips and Real Estate Members of the federal judiciary who work 60 or more days during a year must file with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts annual financial disclosure reports listing gifts, reimbursement for trips they’ve made and any income earned in addition to their judicial salaries. The judges report income within ranges, such as “$1,000 or less,” “$1,001 to $2,500″ to “more than $5 million.” No judge in Texas reported outside income in the $5 million range. The following are some of the highlights that appeared on the judges’ 2002 reports, which were filed last year. Gifts *U.S. District Judge David Godbey of Dallas reported a gift worth $4,282 for his investiture reception in 2002. According to Godbey’s report, the Dallas Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association paid for the reception. * Northern District Chief Judge Joe A. Fish of Dallas reported receiving a leather attach� case and portfolio valued at $950 from his staff and former law clerks. Fish’s report said he received the gift when he became the chief judge in 2002. * U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin of Austin reported receiving three nights’ free lodging in two condos from J.T. Neal. Austin estimated that the gift was worth $690. * U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. of Houston reported receiving a framed print of George Washington along with a framed certificate commemorating the distinguished service award presented to him in 2002 by the Paul Carrington Chapter, Texas Sons of the American Revolution. In the report, Werlein estimated the worth of that gift at $427. * U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston reported receiving a crystal appetizer bowl valued at $300 from Randy Ungar. Two judges reported gifts stemming from sporting events. * U.S. District Judge Filemon B. Vela of Brownsville reported that the First National Bank of Edinburg sponsored a four-man team in the Vamos Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament. According to Vela’s report, the contribution was worth $625. * U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater of Dallas reported receiving four tickets, plus a parking pass, for a Dallas Cowboys football game, valued at $302. Fitzwater did not identify who gave the gift. “This gift is from a friend who does not practice law and is not likely to appear in my court. I would recuse myself if he or his company was a party to a case before me,” Fitzwater wrote in his report. Five judges also reported receiving honorary club memberships. Trips Members of the judiciary have to disclose any trips they take for which they are reimbursed for travel expenses. The reports showed that 17 federal judges and magistrate judges reported taking trips in 2002. * U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal of Houston reported the most trips, with 17 listed on her report. Rosenthal did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime on Jan. 29. Her report shows that most of the trips were for education seminars at Texas Tech University School of Law, the University of Texas School of Law and Columbia University School of Law. Rosenthal also reported trips for American Bar Association events and the National Center for State Courts. * U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez reported eight trips, seven to State Bar of Texas conferences or meetings and one sponsored by the El Paso Criminal Law Group. * U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. of San Antonio and U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn of Dallas reported seven trips each. According to Furgeson’s report, most of his trips were for State Bar of Texas events, although he also received reimbursement for a trip to La Jolla, Calif., to perform a wedding. Lynn reported that most of her trips were for State Bar and ABA events, including an ABA Section of Litigation leadership meeting held in Banff, Canada, her report shows. Landlords According to the financial disclosure reports, 18 judges earned income from rental properties or royalties on mineral rights. * U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcel C. Notzon of Laredo reported he owns seven parcels, including a tract in Zapata County that generated between $100,001 and $1 million in royalty income in 2002. Notzon also owns three parcels in Laredo that earned between $15,001 and $50,000 in rent, another parcel in Laredo that earned between $5,001 and $15,000 in rent and a parcel on South Padre Island that also earned between $5,001 and $15,000 in rent, according to his report. * U.S. District Judge Simeon T. Lake III of Houston reported owning three rental properties in Houston and one in Washington County. One property earned between $5,000 and $15,000 and another earned between $2,501 and $5,000, while the other two each earned $1,000 or less, Lake’s 2002 report shows. * An office building owned by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Houston generated $1,000 or less in income in 2002, according to his report. * U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston reported earning between $15,001 and $50,000 on rice grown on land he owns in Colorado and Wharton counties. Hughes also reported between $2,501 and $5,000 in income on grazing land he owns in Colorado County.

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