On January 1, 2014, District Judge G. Timothy Boswell and County Judge Bryan Jeanes entered an Amended Standing Order Regarding Fee Schedule for Court-Appointed Attorneys in Wood County, Texas (“Fee Schedule”). _See Exhibit A. In relevant part, the Fee Schedule calls for court-appointed attorneys in non-capital felony cases, disposed of by trial, to be paid $75.00 per hour. Id. The Order allows payment of all hours actually spent in trial, plus an equal number of additional hours for trial preparation. Id. The Fee Schedule contains a note on the bottom that reads, “The Court may adjust fees upward for extraordinary circumstances!”
Wood County commissioners obtain an answer from the Texas Attorney General regarding bills submitted by Dallas attorney Joe Shearin, who was appointed special prosecutor in criminal cases involving former deputy Miles Tucker and former Wood County Sheriff James A. Brown.
After an executive session on Friday, March 22, Wood County Judge Lucy Hebron said the commissioners had agreed to hire the law firm of Flowers & Davis to seek the opinion.
When asked about the nature of the opinion being sought, Hebron said she could not disclose that since discussions on the matter took place in executive session.
Shearin, who secured grand jury indictments against Tucker and Brown, was hired to prosecute criminal cases against the two men. Brown is accused of abuse of official capacity, a state jail felony, as well as misdemeanor charges of official oppression.
Tucker faces felony charges of abuse of official capacity, aggravated perjury and tampering with evidence. He also faces several misdemeanor charges. Both men have pleaded not guilty, and Brown has filed a motion to quash his indictment.
Between May 2017 and August 2018, Shearin submitted bills to the county amounting to $265,769, according to statements obtained by the Wood County Monitor through an open records request. Shearin billed at $275 per hour, records show.
The $265,769 in payments included $131,681 paid to Specialized Investigations Inc. of Dallas, which billed at $150 an hour, records indicate.
Like other counties throughout Texas, Wood County has a fee schedule for court-appointed attorneys, who primarily represent indigent defendants.
In juvenile cases, the fee is set at $70 per hour or $75 per hour when the state is seeking commitment to the Texas Youth Commission. Adult misdemeanor cases are set at $70 per hour. Non-adult capital felony cases are set at $75 per hour.
The court may, however, “adjust fees upward for extraordinary circumstances,” the fee schedule states.