Most troubling are court documents that reveal an extensive record of phone conversations between Blue and Watkins, including at least two in early 2011 that – according to a deposition Blue was forced to provide – dealt explicitly with the possible indictment of Albert Hill III and his wife, Erin, by a Dallas County grand jury.
In fact, just days before the scheduled start of the fee dispute trial between Blue and Hill, he and his wife were indicted on what seem at best to be thin charges of mortgage fraud; charges that appear to stem from an earlier complaint to Watkins by none other than Albert Hill, Jr. While the charges against Erin were subsequently dropped, those against Hill III are still pending.
Predictably, the fact that Hill III suddenly found himself under indictment during his civil fee dispute trial and his reputation and credibility thus besmirched, led to his not testifying. Hill understandably feared testifying in his own behalf might provide fodder for the just-announced criminal charges. Not surprisingly, without benefit of the Hills’ testimony, the federal court found in favor of Blue and her colleagues -- awarding them some $21 million in legal fees. Not long after this financial victory, Blue and one of her colleagues from the Hill case were retained by Watkins in an unrelated civil suit seeking damages against a mortgage business.
Whether the relationship between Blue and Watkins has crossed any legal boundaries remains to be seen, but a motion by Hill’s lawyers to dismiss the charges based on prosecutorial misconduct has been filed.
Communications between an outside lawyer actively engaged in a fee dispute with a former client and a prosecuting attorney with a close donor-recipient relationship with that same lawyer, discussing a potential indictment of the former client, presents – if nothing else – an unethical appearance of impropriety. That such communications took place at the precise moment at which an indictment of that individual would most benefit his former lawyer, raises even more serious questions.
Robert Jackson, a former U.S. Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, who also served as the chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg war crimes tribunal, admonished federal prosecutors in a 1940 speech at the Department of Justice, that the “immense power” of the prosecutor must be wielded always with fairness and integrity. Jackson correctly noted that the true prosecutor, “seeks truth and not victims . . . serves the law and not factional purposes, and . . . approaches his task with humility.”
Unfortunately, in Dallas County, Texas in 2012 the echoes of that timeless and eloquent definition of proper prosecutorial behavior appear not to reverberate.