The King Of Campaign CashShare this story:
Our investigations into Harris County family court injustice have led some lawyers to cut back on their donations to judges, but not all of them!
Houston Divorce Attorney Dennis Slate is now THE KING OF CAMPAIGN CASH – helping bankroll a lot of judges in the Houston area right in the middle of contentious divorce and custody cases. The complaints are growing, but is a three-year-old boy now paying the price?
“I’ve heard so many stories where kids – things happen to kids because the judge didn’t take the right decisions to make the right decision. That’s what I’m afraid for him. I’m so afraid,” stated Nancy Roman.
Nancy Roman is worried about the safety of her three-year-old grandson, Alex. Worried that he’s in danger now because of the actions of a judge. Judge Julia Maldonado in the 507th district court.
Roman was in Maldonado’s court for an on-going custody battle over Alex this Spring, she’s had primary custody.
“When Alex was born, there was domestic violence between him and my daughter. He would beat her up,” said Roman.
Now Alex’s dad Richard Garcia wants more visitation time. He’s a convicted felon, busted in Arizona with more than 40 pounds of pot and convicted of attempting to transport a large amount of marijuana.
And the judge made it clear at the beginning of the case and in court orders that he had to stop using drugs if he wanted to see his son more.
“She spoke to the father, said you’re going to have to decide between your drugs or your son,” recalled Roman.
But look closely at the court order from this Democratic Judge, no drugs are allowed except marijuana.
Judge Maldonado ordered Garcia to take a drug tests, not just once, but four times.
And Roman says every time he took a test, he tested positive for marijuana. And she wasn’t surprised because her little grandson told her it was happening.
“Daddy does drugs. He does it in the bathroom. He does it outside in a park,” stated Roman.
But court records show daddy wasn’t the only one who tested positive for pot.
The court had also ordered little Alex also ordered little Alex to be tested, and that’s when Roman got the shock of her life.
“ I was fighting because my grandson tested positive three times for THC at an age of three, three years old,” expressed Roman.
That’s right, urinalysis show Alex had marijuana in his system too. A three-year-old testing positive three times.
“The person from the National Screening Center explained to me that most likely it could have been either gummies or he found his stash,” said Roman.
Roman was also ordered to be tested and says she was negative every time.
But with these positive drug tests, Roman figured there was no way Judge Maldonado would allow Richard Garcia to have more time with Alex.
In fact, she thought the judge would put a stop to his weekend visits.
Her lawyer was one of our old friends, Dennis Slate.
Dolcefino Consulting’s Andrea Palacio asked Nancy Roman, “Did he argue? Did he argue the way you would want him to argue?” Roman responded, “No, he was basically not forcing the information out there. We had all the proof, we had documents, we had pictures, we had test results. They never presented our evidence; it was never presented.” Palacios asked, “Them meaning Slate?” Roman answered, “yes.”
But Roman says she did not know that Slate had a relationship with the judge. According to campaign finance records we investigated, Slate was Maldonado’s campaign treasurer since January 1, 2017. And in that time, Slate and his firm had given Maldonado $14,700 in campaign contributions.
You’d think that that would be helpful for Nancy Roman, but she says she noticed tensions in the courtroom between Slate and Maldonado.
“The dad’s attorney, she was all over the place there in the court. She didn’t know what page she was looking at and Judge Maldonado was very calm with her was very calm with her. But when Slate would do something, oh, well, you know, are you not ready and things like that,” recalled Roman.
Judges usually present their campaign activity two times a year, In January and July. But in
But in March we saw that Judge Maldonado notified the Texas Ethics Commission that Dennis Slate was no longer her campaign treasurer, after five years of doing it. Remember our investigation last year.
In fact, Slate told us back then he had frequently asked to stop being campaign treasurer, but the judge had refused. Like it was forced labor.
“I actually have asked her several times if she could take that job back so she can just treat me like she does everyone else,” said Dennis Slate.
The change in Maldonado’s campaign hierarchy happened been right in the middle of Nancy Roman’s fight.
“Before the hearing began. Dennis was preparing his area and Judge Maldonado asked him, are you afraid of the outcome? And he said, Well, no, not really. And that shocked me because why would a judge be asking my attorney if he was afraid of the outcome? I was concerned when she said that,” recalled Roman.
Judge Maldonado didn’t stop the dad’s visitation, she increased it.
“She did nothing to protect my grandson,” cried Roman.
New campaign records show that Slate had upped his financial support of Judge Maldonado, holding a campaign fundraiser for the judge this spring. In recent months, Slate and his firm gave Judge Maldonado nearly $10,000 between January and July. Most of the money coming after Slate was replaced as campaign treasurer. On March 8th he gave Maldonado $3,000. The next day he was bounced.
“There’s no way that anyone could construed that I’m getting favoritism in that court,” claimed Slate.
Slate and his law firm may become the biggest financiers of Harris County judges. $31,237 in just six months,
“Because I like the judges. I give donations to judges that I think are good. I think that they should stay in place,” said Slate.
We’ve long argued that the acceptance of campaign contributions from lawyers to judges, while the judge is hearing a case involving them should be prohibited. It raises all kinds of questions of bias and fairness.
“I would think that’s a conflict of interest especially during a case like this,” expressed Shannon Orsak.
Shannon Orsak wasn’t talking about Nancy Roman’s fight, but his own brother’s ridiculously expensive divorce case going on in Galveston County. Brian Orsak won’t talk to us, but Dennis Slate represented his wife in Judge Anne Darring’s court. Slate and co-council at the Tillinger Law Firm helped Judge Darring pay off her long-standing campaign debt. At the same time, the judge ordered Brian Orsak to pay her lawyers, including Slate, in advance for their legal fees. A ton of money, more than half a million dollars. Orsak didn’t even get to see the invoices he was paying for, for more than a year.
There should be a requirement in family courts for monthly invoices. His family cries foul and they should.
“It raises a perception that what she did when she gave him all that money was a payback,” said Wayne Dolcefino. “Payback, it’s whatever he wants when he asked her for it,” replied Shannon Orsak.
Since our first story last year, Darring has recused herself for another reason in the Orsak case. Visiting Judge Bonnie Hellums is now the judge. And Slate is expected to want even more money in the coming weeks. We’ll be watching.
Judge Hellums has a chance to send a message. Just how much money do you have to spend to get a divorce in this state? Only what’s necessary we say.
“Nobody wants to go into a court room and feel like it’s already unfair for them. That isn’t right, that’s not what we want. And we should fight to make sure that it’s not that way,” said Attorney Angela Welton.
Unfortunately, too many Texas family courts don’t seem to play that way.
“You know the thing is this, as long as this state elects judges and they’re elected politicians, they’re always going to have to raise money,” stated Slate.