By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I do not recall an exact number," he said. "But there were numerous times where Ms. Proctor would come down to the court and she would get an order signed, and then I would begin to do the order."
Under cross-examination, Upshaw conceded to Bickel & Brewer attorney Luke Ashley that he was not present in the meetings and did not actually hear the discussions. But Upshaw testified that he "personally felt it was ex parte." (Upshaw declined to comment when contacted by the Dallas Observer.)
One of Upshaw's co-workers, Carine Evers, also testified about the private meetings between Proctor and Marshall. As court administrator, Evers keeps the court calendar as well as Marshall's private social calendar. And unlike Upshaw, Evers testified that she was physically present in a meeting between the judge and the paralegal. The discussion centered on an order in the Berins case, though Evers offered no details of its content in her testimony. No representatives of defendants TRT Holdings were present for the meeting, she said.
The $250 watch
Carine Evers is 25 and has worked as Judge Marshall's court administrator for six years. She's also been going to school part-time to learn paralegal skills. When she finished the program in May, Evers invited friends and co-workers to her graduation ceremony. Among those on the guest list was Suzanna Proctor, the same Bickel & Brewer paralegal who had been meeting with the judge.
Evers testified at the hearing before Akins that she had never socialized with Proctor, that she knew Proctor only because the two dealt with each other in the 14th District court. It was a professional relationship.
Still, on May 8, a courier showed up at the court with a box for Evers. Inside was a gold Seiko wristwatch, with a receipt for approximately $250. There was also a card from Bickel & Brewer, signed by Proctor.
After opening the package, Evers testified, she wasn't sure what to do. She called Al Rochelle, a lawyer for whom she sometimes baby-sits.
Rochelle says he told Evers to give the watch back. After talking to Rochelle, Evers told Marshall about the watch. Evers said she asked the judge to take the watch and give it back to Bickel & Brewer. The watch, Evers testified, was returned six days before Marshall's May 15 summary judgment ruling.
Shortly after Marshall returned the watch, Proctor came to see Marshall. The two met behind closed doors. When Proctor left Marshall's office, Evers testified, Proctor tried to get Evers to take the watch back. Evers refused it. Later, Evers testified, Marshall told her that she could take the watch back when the case was over.
None of the opposing attorneys in Berins was notified about the watch incident or the subsequent meetings between Proctor and the judge, Evers testified.
Evers was vacationing in Belgium and could not be reached by the Observer for comment. Proctor, interviewed with her lawyer, Michael Pezzulli, by her side, said the gift had nothing to do with trying to influence Marshall in her bosses' case.
"I'm so upset over all this," Proctor said, tears misting her eyes. "We spoke a lot about school. She sent me an invitation. She was passing out lists of things she wanted and needed for graduation. She had said she really would like to have this Seiko watch."
Proctor, who has worked for Bickel & Brewer since 1989, says she bought the watch with her own money, though in later testimony, attorney Rochelle said that Proctor told him the firm had authorized her to spend up to $500 on a gift for Evers.
"I signed my name and Mr. Bickel's. I wanted her to know it was from me," Proctor said.
Judge John Marshall tried for more than a year to sell his 1981 Hobie Cat sailboat before Suzanna Proctor offered to buy it. That the judge ended up selling his boat to Brewer & Bickel's paralegal while the Berins case was pending was not revealed until two months after Marshall's summary judgment ruling.
Although it is unclear from public records when the title to the boat changed hands, Proctor said in an interview that she has possession of the boat and that her family used it this summer.
On July 17, Marshall met with Proctor, John Bickel, Christopher Weil, and John Barr to discuss TRT's efforts to win a new trial. Marshall apparently decided to use the meeting to disclose the boat deal, according to a transcript of the conference.
"I sold my sailboat to Ms. Proctor at $50 less than the advertised price. This was not what I would call the most profitable transaction I ever engaged in," Marshall told the parties to the lawsuit gathered before him.
"But a good deal for me," Proctor replied.
"Actually," Weil said, "Ms. Proctor may not have gotten the better end."
Marshall added: "Well, I don't know. Is it floating?"
"I'm getting sunburned," Proctor said.
"Well, that's a good sign," Marshall replied. "I did want to bring that part up because that, again, is a relatively recent event and might cause some eyebrows to go up, and I'm not interested in raising any eyebrows."
The meeting went on to include more disclosures.
It turned out that Barr had played a small role in Marshall's 1996 divorce. "He prepared a piece of paper in the file on the matter for me, and that's all there was," Marshall said at the hearing. "He never actually filed anything, never made an appearance on my behalf. I never paid him for his services. I just mention that in passing, but I feel like everybody needs to know that."