The judge in Jeff's case, William Royal Furgeson and the Receiver, Peter S. Vogel blog together on Karl Bayer's Blog*(each has a designated commentator's page). A feature topic of this blog is Jeff Baron's case. In addition, Karl Bayer and Judge Furgeson recently published an article regarding "special masters" and presented the article to the Texas Bar. Although Peter Vogel apparently did not attend this presentation, he is cited repeatedly in the article. Is this all a coincidence?
As early as July 1, 2009 the district court considered putting Peter Vogel as a receiver over Jeff Baron’s company, with the original justification that Jeff stated he did not have personal knowledge of facts regarding some of the 200,000+ assets of the company. (Ex. B). No motion for receivership was filed at that time, so on July 9, 2009 the district court employed Peter Vogel as a “special master judge" in the case. (Ex. C). Then, on September 10, 2009, the district court, once again, sought to appoint Peter Vogel over Jeff Baron’s company’s assets. This time, the judge offered a new justification. The judge’s new justification was that non-parties “might” have a beneficial interest in the assets which the court, “out of caution”, wanted to protect. (Ex. D).
Later, the district court offered yet another justification to appoint Peter Vogel as a receiver over Jeff Baron’s assets. The new justification was to allow Peter Vogel to investigate. (Ex. E.). At that time, in a slip of the tongue , the district judge slipped at a hearing and stated “I already have a receiver. I have a special master, I mean.”
A motion for receivership was not filed at that time, but the district judge had private conversations and meetings with the bankruptcy judge and on October 13, 2010, the bankruptcy judge filed a report recommending that Peter Vogel be appointed mediator to resolve disputed attorneys' fees claims with regard to some of Jeff’s former attorneys. (Ex. G).
Meanwhile, the case settled in July, 2010 and no active claims were thereafter pending before the district court. Still, on October 19, 2010, the district court, instead of dismissing the settled lawsuit, ordered that Peter Vogel would be paid as a mediator between Jeff Baron attorneys who were not parties to the suit. (Ex. H).
There is no explanation why Peter Vogel would be an appropriate mediator with respect to the disputed attorneys fees claims—they have no connection with the discovery issues Peter Vogel presided over as special master. While that mediation was proceeding, Peter Vogel was still employed by the district judge as a special master.
Then, on November 24, 2010 (the day that attorneys' statements regarding their fee disputes were ordered to be provided to Peter Vogel, the mediator) (Ex. H2), the district judge seized Jeff’s assets and placed them in the hands of Peter Vogel.
However pure the intention of the actors, where an injunction and receivership are issued to seize a citizen’s property– without hearing, without notice, without supporting oath, and without setting any hearing date, even the appearance of impropriety must be avoided to protect the integrity of the court system. Here a district judge repeatedly sought to place Jeff Baron’s assets in the hands of a colleague, Peter Vogel. It is clear from the record that the district judge had it in his mind since 2009 to put Mr. Baron’s property into the hands of Peter Vogel. Literally, over and over, the judge floated different justifications for doing that. Then the case settled in July 2010, presumably making it impossible for the judge to give Vogel Jeff’s assets.
But where there is a will, there is a way. After the settlement, the district judge then acted in another private meeting with Vogel and rushed to do what he had repeatedly sought to do for the past year-- place Jeff Baron’s property in the hands of Peter Vogel. The question raised here is why has the district judge tried so hard to find reason to employ Peter Vogel in this case? Have these employments been in violation of the law and ethical standards?
According to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (and local rules), when a party makes a request to the court for relief against the other party, a 21 day response deadline is imposed. This is afforded so that the party who might be adversely effected has time to respond and so that the judge can consider the arguments of all sides ("due process"). In this case, due process is ignored. When Mr. Vogel makes requests to the court against Jeff, the Court disallows Jeff the time to respond virtually every time.
Since the Receivership Order on November 23, 2010, the judge has entered approximately 75 orders adverse to Jeff (ranging from approval of using hundreds of thousands of dollars of Jeff's money to Vogel and his firm to ordering Jeff's former lawyers to disclose confidential information to Mr. Vogel). Of these, Jeff has not been afforded the response time in virtually every case; the judge has simply signed Vogel's orders without considering Jeff's objection.