The Insider

Can You Spell Alzheimer's?
The soured romance of lawyers Ron Wardell Jr. and Melanie McKenzie had already given state District Judge Mark Davidson plenty of headaches, but Davidson managed to compound them with an ill-advised e-mail last week that has an appeals court judge steaming.

After Wardell and McKenzie broke up last year, Wardell began stalking his former girlfriend. McKenzie, who's with the firm of Crain Caton & James, sought and secured an injunction from Davidson to stop Wardell. The harassment continued, however, and Davidson, after being assured by Wardell's attorney that the Fullenweider & Wardell partner would cease and desist from pursuing McKenzie, gave Wardell a suspended 60-day jail sentence, plus six months probation. The sentence provoked a Chronicle editorial chiding Davidson for not getting tough in protecting a stalking victim from her harasser.

When Wardell violated the court order by continuing to phone McKenzie, Davidson tried to hold a contempt proceeding to jail the lawyer. But a three-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals, in a two to one majority decision by Justices Leslie Brock Yates and Maurice Amidei, issued a writ of prohibition blocking Davidson from acting.

Having been bashed by the media, Davidson decided to do a little bashing of his own, e-mailing a handful of fellow judges a "Look What They Did" memo that referred to Amidei as "Maurice 'Alzeimers' Amidei." As the 44-year-old Davidson later explained to several colleagues, the misspelled nickname that he bestowed on the 64-year-old appellate judge grew out of Amidei's representation of a client in Davidson's court several years ago. According to Davidson, Amidei's client approached the bench and asked for a new lawyer. When Davidson asked why, the client responded, "Because my lawyer has Alzheimer's."

Unfortunately for Davidson, one of the recipients of his e-mail then photocopied it and faxed it to Amidei, who was awake at his bench and not amused.

"He even misspelled Alzheimer's," observes Amidei.
Although Amidei believes Davidson's comment is slanderous, he says he's not sure what to do about it.

"I feel it was improper," says Amidei, "and really, he ought to respond to me first."

Davidson was noncommittal when we asked him whether an apology will be forthcoming.

"I didn't know it had gotten back to him, I haven't talked to Justice Amidei and I don't discuss private e-mail that I may have sent to colleagues with anybody," he said.

Putting the Bite on Taxpayers
Lloyd Kelley has made a big deal about cutting costs since he took over the controller's office, but that didn't stop him from using $5,000 in city funds to pay Galveston attorney Anthony Griffin for representing Kelley in a fruitless bid to delay the January election to fill a vacant City Council seat.

In a transparent attempt to curry favor with Kingwood residents, Kelley had asked a federal judge to postpone the balloting because the newly annexed voters in the Livable Forest were not eligible to participate. The legal action went nowhere, but Kelley, who is said to be contemplating a run for a statewide office as a Republican -- perhaps for land commissioner -- managed to suck up to lots of GOP-oriented voters at taxpayers' expense.

City Attorney Gene Locke, who makes no effort to disguise his low opinion of Kelley's courthouse maneuver, says $5,000 is the maximum the controller could have paid his lawyer without getting City Council approval, something that a discussion among councilmembers a few months back made clear would not be forthcoming.

We Need a Vacation!
Speaking of dubious public expenditures, we noticed this week's agenda for Commissioners Court included a request for $2,800 to fund attendance at a seven-day "criminal law seminar" in Saint Kitts, British West Indies for the judges of the 182nd and 337th state district courts.

Those two judges (who, unlike other jurists requesting authorization to attend conferences, were not listed by name on the commissioners' agenda) happen to be the husband-and-wife team of Jim Barr and Jeannine Barr, last seen together at a hearing called by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to consider allegations of improper conduct by Gentleman Jim, including his off-color comments to female prosecutors assigned to his court.

Although we went to press before the commissioners met to consider the Barrs' request, check back next week to find out if those old softies granted our stressed-out public servants their much-needed island getaway.

Let Them Eat Cake
The first mass campaign feed of the 1997 mayoral season left plenty of downtown workers hungry after Rob Mosbacher's cache of Luther's smoked best faded in the face of hundreds of would-be diners who showed up at the Mosbacher tent in Sam Houston Park brandishing blue "VIP" passes. In fact, so many people turned out last week for the free barbecue that accompanied Mosbacher's formal declaration of his candidacy that The Insider was left wondering whether "VIP" didn't actually stand for "Very Inconsequential Peons."

To ensure a substantial crowd was on hand for the evening news and the camera crew filming the event for future Mosbacher commercials, the Mosbacher campaign spent three days chumming downtown office towers with more lunch tickets than there was chow. That tactic rekindled not-so-fond memories of Elyse Lanier's over-invited Museum of Fine Arts luncheon to celebrate Bob's inauguration back in 1992.

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