Monday, October 25, 2010

Harris County Probate Judges Award More Fees Than Anywhere in TX

Judges here award more than anywhere else in Texas — $302,081 in one case, so far — to attorneys they pick

Harris County probate judges handed out $8.5 million in fees in one year — far more than any other county in Texas — to private, hand-picked lawyers and others tasked with managing the estates of the dead and the lives of the disabled.

County court-at-law judges kicked in another $800,000.

One probate judge has approved payments of $302,081 so far to attorneys involved in a single case: a legal dispute that dates back decades and involves the guardianship of Ugo di Portanova, a disabled globe-trotter and heir to a series of multimillion-dollar oil-funded trusts in Texas.

Those fees, approved by Judge Mike Wood, were the highest awarded in any Texas case in the last year, public records show.

Collectively, 200 county and probate judges statewide signed off on nearly $21 million related to death, guardianship and other disputes in the year ending August 2010, according to a Chronicle analysis of more than 9,500 fees approved by all county and probate judges in Texas.

The Office of Court Administration began collecting electronic reports on fees for the first time last year. The reports stem from an earlier state Supreme Court initiative to boost accountability and counter long-term concerns about judges' alleged favoritism toward fee recipients, who are often attorneys and campaign contributors.

Each year, thousands of people's lives and deaths end up in the hands of probate judges, who wield sweeping power over the liberty and assets of others. Probate fees can be controversial, as they often come from private pocketbooks and can quickly deplete estates or drain resources needed to care for disabled and elderly Texans.

Full Article and Source:
Harris County Probate Fees a Bonanza for Some


Thelma said...

What's in it for them?

Luis said...

It's called a kickback!

StandUp said...

Hmmmmm, how are they gonna spin this?!!!

Anonymous said...

It's time for a change, Vote for Bob Shelton, We have had enough of Pat Ferchill.

Terry said...

The good old boy system hard at work!

Finny said...

It pays to know the judge!

Norma said...

I am glad to see so much exposure for Texas. Let the public outrcy continue!

Anonymous said...

Of course, Harris County is the biggest county, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Judge Mike Wood is the most corrupt, self-serving, unethical, parasite that I have ever have encountered. He serves to line the pockets of his "appointed" third party administrators and appointed guardians. IN return they generously contribute to his campaign war chest. He serves to enrich himself and his croannies at the expense of the residents of Harris County. The only reason he is in offic is because the Republicans swept the November race. The people of Harris County and especially the Republican Party better get wise and throw the bum out. Too man people have lost so much. AUSTIN - ARE YOU LISTENING?