Bad Judgement

State District Judge John Marshall is snared in allegations of misconduct

Next, Marshall described a brief professional relationship with Weil, who "represented our family, what is it now, six years ago?" Neither Marshall nor Weil elaborated on the case, and neither would discuss it for this story.

And there was the disclosure that Bickel represented Marshall on a matter with the late Dallas Times Herald, which Bickel says was only a letter related to a story the paper had written about Marshall.

And finally, there was plenty of idle chatter about Marshall's and Bickel's days studying together at Southern Methodist University law school.

To the other lawyers present, Bickel said, "We certainly know each other from law school, and we have kept up in that regard. That's basically all that I think is appropriate for us to disclose."

But even at that meeting--coming two months after the summary judgment motion--Marshall did not fully reveal his contacts with his old law school chum from Bickel & Brewer.

The luxury suite
Before Carine Evers finished her testimony on August 4, she also told of the dates for Dallas Cowboys football games she kept on Marshall's social calendar. The trips to Texas Stadium, she testified, were on Bickel & Brewer, and Marshall sat in the firm's box. In addition, she said, "I've heard Judge Marshall say there's been a limo to deliver him to the stadium."

Dallas lawyer Albert Rochelle--whom Evers called after receiving the watch--buttressed Evers' testimony by relating conversations he had with Bickel about football tickets provided to Marshall. Rochelle graduated from Southern Methodist University law school with Bickel and Marshall in 1976.

But since they graduated together, Rochelle and Bickel have found themselves at odds. In April 1995, Rochelle hired Bickel to represent him in a personal case he filed against Ford Motor Company, which was later expanded to a class action suit. The description of the two men's relationship in the case depends on which one is doing the talking.

In his testimony, Rochelle said Bickel withdrew from the case in late July under "mutual agreement," after Rochelle voiced concerns that the case was languishing and needed more attention. In an interview with the Observer, Bickel said he took himself off the case "after we decided we didn't want to represent him. I'll say nothing further than that...He has told people he's going to get us."

Rochelle also testified that Bickel & Brewer owes him more than $300,000 stemming from a contract the firm signed with him. "I'm still pursuing my claim," Rochelle said. "I have not filed a lawsuit."

Tension between the two men may explain some of Rochelle's willingness to testify about Marshall's trips to Cowboys games on Bickel & Brewer's dime. Bickel himself says he simply can't remember if Marshall visited the firm's luxury box. "If he did attend a game or not I can't remember. I don't go to all the games. He may have gone when I wasn't there. I can't recall."

The showdown
When Judge John Marshall learned that Chris Weil and John Barr were gathering information about his relationship with Bickel & Brewer, he was furious. TRT's lawyers pulled much of their evidence together for the hearing for a new trial in the weekend before the August 4 hearing. They even flew Carine Evers back to Dallas from Brussels, Belgium, where she was taking a three-week vacation.

Marshall had recused himself from the Berins case on July 31 and signed a formal order doing so on August 1. It turns out that Weil and Barr had filed their supplemental motion for a new trial--the one with the series of alleged ex parte dealings--on July 31 as well. Their motion clearly blindsided Marshall. On the morning of August 4, the judge held his own hearing. He wanted to make a statement about what he called the defendants' "untimely" supplemental motion.

It was a blistering lecture.
Marshall pointed out that he had withdrawn from the case days earlier.
"Well, you know," said Marshall to Corpus Christi attorney Christopher Bandas, "I don't know how you guys practice law down in Nueces County, and, frankly, I don't care, but I'd just sure like to think that my colleagues on the bench down there are not subjected to this kind of accusation and this kind of innuendo on a random, daily basis with untimely filed motions spread out in the public record.

"You ornaments of the republic are going to have a fun plane ride back to Corpus Christi, where you can explain as best you can--and I'm sure you'll have a good explanation by the time you get back there--just why the court recused itself."

The hearing
Just getting a judge to hear the motion for a new trial in Berins was a herculean task. Once Marshall recused himself, the case went to the office of Judge Pat McDowell, presiding judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region. McDowell has issued a standing order that allows Dallas County judges in the cases of recusal to reassign cases at their local level. According to a letter in the court files, Marshall sent the case to 162nd state District Judge Bill Rhea (also the local administrative judge), who then assigned the motion to be heard by 44th state District Judge Candace Tyson.

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