If I served on the Federal Grand Jury investigating former Attorney General Dan Morales, his former law partner Marc Murr, and the tobacco litigation fees, my questions could last for days.
Of course, these questions wouldn’t be necessary had there been a review process in place that required the Attorney General to get approval before agreeing to hire outside lawyers and pay them billions of dollars in fees. For the past two years, Metroplex Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (MCALA) has been a vocal proponent of this type of oversight. Thankfully, the Legislature agreed, passing a bill that clarifies when the state can hire contingency fee lawyers, who approves the contract, and who has the authority to appropriate any funds that result from the lawsuit.
Since we didn’t have the benefit of that review process, I’d ask Morales his understanding of his own
1995 Texas Open Records Handbook
where he says, “Government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of the state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees... The people insist on remaining informed so they can maintain control over the instruments they have created.”
I would next question why, only a year later in 1996, he started doing all he could to keep the public, and his own employees, from many of his lawyers’ records in the Texas tobacco litigation.
Questions could go on for hours on why Morales spent most of 1997 and 1998 helping his lawyers avoid disclosure in their quest to be paid billions in fees. This despite an Outside Counsel Agreement that required monthly reports “setting forth in detail the activities and charges with respect to the appointment.”
I would ask Morales why he approved the payment of over $40 million in “expenses” to his lawyers without even asking for or seeing an invoice despite provisions requiring disclosure.
I would want to hear a detailed explanation of Morales’ relationship with Murr.
And, I’d want to know Morales’ reaction to
Dallas Morning News’
experts’ conclusions that the Murr/Morales contracts had clearly been altered.
I would ask Morales if he agrees with Attorney General Cornyn that the Morales/ Murr contract is a “fraud” and “backdated,” and that Murr’s contract was fabricated to create the illusion that a contract existed when it did not.
I’d question Morales about his own
which states that it is a criminal violation if a “person willfully destroys, mutilates, removes without permission as provided in this chapter or alters a public information record,” and that a “ violation under this section constitutes official misconduct.”
I would ask Morales to state his understanding of the Texas Penal Code statute that reads, “A person committed an offense if knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in process he: 1.alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence... or 2. makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of it’s falsity with the intent to affect the outcome of the investigation or official proceeding.”
In fact, I would also ask Morales to state his understanding of the code’s Abuse of Office statute stating that a person, “commits an offense if he, knowingly makes a false entry in or false alteration of a government record” or, “makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of it’s falsity and with the intent that it be taken as a genuine government record, or “makes, presents, or uses a government records with knowledge of its falsity”.
A similar question might be asked regarding the Texas Penal Code statute on “Tampering or Fabricating Evidence” which says tampering occurs when a person “alters, destroys or conceals any record or document with the intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence... makes, presents, or uses any record document or thing with knowledge of it’s falsity and with the intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation or criminal proceeding.”
Most of all, I would want to know what exactly Murr did to earn the $260 million he demanded and Morales championed? Why would Murr return fees he had already been paid by tobacco companies if he deserved them? When was the Murr contract written—was it backdated? Why would anyone backdate a contract if the date was not important? Why wasn’t the Murr contract produced under my Open Records Requests?”
As a final subject, I would ask Morales about his statement on the record that Murr’s role was as important to the successful tobacco lawsuit as any of the other five trial lawyers he hired. If the other lawyers contribution was equivalent to Murr’s, are they really deserving of $3.3 billion in fees?
That’s the question.
Jim Brickman is a real estate investor and developer. He is also chairman of Metroplex Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (MCALA).