Hon. Melinda Harmon See Rating Details
District Judge See Comments
S.D.Tex.  
Average Rating:5.2 - 23 rating(s)
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Ratings

*Temperament:   (1=Awful,10=Excellent)
*Scholarship:   (1=Awful,10=Excellent)
*Industriousness:   (1=Not at all industrious,10=Highly industrious)
*Ability to Handle Complex Litigation:    (1=Awful,10=Excellent)
*Punctuality:    (1=Chronic`y Late,10=Always on Time)
*Evenhandedness in Civil Litigation:    (1=Demonstrates Bias,10=Entirely Evenhanded)
*Evenhandedness in Criminal Litigation:   (1=Demonstrates Bias,10=Entirely Evenhanded)
Flexibility In Scheduling   (1=Completely Inflexible,10=Very Flexible)
General Inclination Regarding Bail (1=Pro-Defense,10=Pro-Government)
General Inclination in Criminal Cases, Pre-Trial:   (1=Pro-Defense,10=Pro-Government)
Involvement in Civil Settlement Discussions:   (1=Least Involved,10=Most Involved)
General Inclination in Criminal Cases, Trial:    (1=Pro-Defense,10=Pro-Government)
General Inclination in Criminal Cases, Sentencing:    (1=Most Lenient,10=Most Harsh)
Typical Discount Off Guidelines for Cooperators:    (1=10%,10=100%)
  Items marked with (*) are averaged into the displayed overall rating
Comments



What others have said about Hon. Melinda Harmon


Comments


Other

Comment #: 24786
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Hon. Melinda Harmon is an unfair judge. Something she said at the sentencing of my son was very degrading and improper to the packed courtroom. He got the maximum sentence allowed by law and said she wished she could have given him more time. Not only that she said that those who supported my son were fools and were being duped by him.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Comment #: 24785
Rating:Not Rated
Comments:
the below is from law.com. I'd like some explanation from practitioners in the district or from litigants in this case to grasp what happened here. I'd bet the 5th circuit reverses if there is an expedited appeal.

Judge Melinda Harmon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston

A federal judge in Texas sentenced a terminally ill woman to 75 years in prison last month for bilking Medicare — an apparent record sentence for the U.S. Department of Justice for health care fraud.

Marie Neba, 53, of Sugar Land, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon of the Southern District of Texas on eight counts stemming from her role in a $13 million Medicare fraud scheme. Neba, the owner and director of nursing at a Houston home health agency, was convicted after a two-week jury trial last November. At the sentencing on Aug. 11, the government recommended a 35-year imprisonment, said Michael Khouri, who started representing Neba as her private attorney shortly after the trial. (A different attorney represented her during the trial. That attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment for this article.)

The unusually lengthy sentence for what health care fraud legal experts call a relatively routine case has them scratching their heads, even in this recent era of the federal government’s crackdown on health care fraud.

Neba, the mother of 7-year-old twin sons, was diagnosed in May with stage IV metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her lungs and bones, according to Khouri, who has filed an appeal of the conviction and the sentence. She currently is receiving chemotherapy treatments and is in custody in a federal detention center. “Marie Neba is a mother, a wife and a human being who is dying. If there is any defendant that stands before the court that deserves a below-guideline sentence … it’s this woman that stands before you,” Khouri argued before Harmon at the sentencing hearing, according to a transcript recently obtained by ALM. “The court can impose any sentence the court believes is appropriate,” he said.

‘Not a Heartless Person’
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who heads the government interaction and white-collar practice group at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale in Chicago, said given the circumstances, he would have expected Neba to receive a sentence of several years in prison.

“Nothing is surprising in that she went to jail and not for six months,” he said. “But how you get anything close to 75 years is beyond me and makes no sense at all. In 35 years, I have never heard of the government’s [prison term] recommendation being doubled by the judge, particularly when the government is asking for a tough sentence anyway.”

Gejaa Gobena, a litigation partner at Hogan Lovells and former chief of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Health Care Fraud Unit, concurred. “We prosecuted hundreds of cases and never had a sentence approaching anywhere near this,” Gobena said.

Legally, the answer to how the long sentence came about is not that difficult: Harmon, applying several enhancements under the federal sentencing guidelines, imposed the statutory maximum prison term on each charge, and then ran them consecutively.

“I am not a heartless person. I think I am not. I hope I am not,” Harmon told Neba before announcing the sentence. “It must be a terrible experience that you are going through, Ms. Neba, and I don’t want you to think that by sentencing you to what I am going to sentence you to that I’m trying to heap more difficulties on you because I am not. … It’s just the way the system works, the way the law works. You have been found guilty of a number of counts by a jury, and this is what happens.”

Even so, historically, the case is highly unusual, breaking the previous record by 25 years. Since a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in December 2007 that reaffirmed that the federal sentencing guidelines are merely advisory, federal trial judges have much greater latitude to impose what they think are appropriate sentences, even if the guidelines call for higher or lower sentences. The longest health care fraud sentence prior to Neba’s came in 2011, when Lawrence Duran, the owner of a Miami-area mental health care company, was sentenced to 50 years for orchestrating a $205 million Medicare scheme that defrauded vulnerable patients with dementia and substance abuse. The next longest? Forty-five years in 2015 for a Detroit doctor who gave chemotherapy to healthy patients, whom federal prosecutors then called the “most egregious fraudster in the history of this country.”

‘Run-of-the-Mill’ Health Care Fraud Case
According to court documents, Neba, from 2006 to 2015, conspired with others to defraud Medicare by submitting more than $10 million in false claims for home health services provided through Fiango Home Healthcare Inc., owned by Neba and her husband and co-defendant, Ebong Tilong. Using that money, Neba paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters for referrals and to Medicare beneficiaries who allowed Fiango to use their Medicare information to bill for home health services that were not medically necessary nor provided, and, all told, received $13 million in ill-gotten Medicare payments, the documents said.

Neba was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, three counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, one count of payment and receipt of health care kickbacks, one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and one count of making health care false statements.

Four co-defendants, including Tilong, have pleaded guilty in the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 13.

“This would be considered a run-of-the-mill health care fraud case,” Hogan Lovells’ Gobena said.

Harmon, through her case manager, declined to comment on the case. The transcript, however, reveals several factors that influenced her decision to impose the lengthy prison term, including:

• “Most importantly,” Neba’s sentencing guideline range of life imprisonment (though Harmon was proscribed by statutory maximums from imposing a life sentence).

• Neba’s use of “sophisticated means” — going to great lengths to conceal her fraudulent activity, money laundering and kickback schemes, and falsifying medical records, sometimes while Medicare-trained auditors were in the office, to make patients appear sicker on paper than they actually were.

• Neba’s role as “an organizer, leader of a criminal activity” that involved five or more participants: “Ms. Neba intentionally engaged in or caused the conduct that constitutes sophisticated means,” the judge said.• Neba’s attempt to obstruct justice by telling a co-defendant, before arraignment in the federal courthouse, “to keep to her story,” specifically “not to tell anybody that she, [the co-defendant], was paying the patients.”

“With all of the enhancements [under the federal sentencing guidelines], it quickly accelerates,” Gobena said.

Neba’s decision to go to trial on the charges, rather than plead guilty and provide some sort of government assistance, also played a role in her sentence. Had she pleaded guilty to one or more of the charges “at the very beginning without obstruction of justice,” and received the highest credit for cooperation for doing so, Neba’s sentencing guideline range would have been 14.5 years, federal prosecutor William Chang told Harmon during the hearing.

“Had the same thing happened and she received no [credit] whatsoever, it would be 21.8 years,” he added. “If she had gone to trial and been convicted, but no obstruction of justice, the sentence would have been 30 years on the calculation of the guidelines. So, we want the court to understand the United States’ principal position for what it seeks.”

Looking Forward, ‘More and More’?
Khouri, Neba’s attorney, said he plans to challenge on appeal the manner in which the sentencing guideline range was calculated and argue, among other matters, that the sentence is excessive.

“She believed the law required it, and she thought that was an appropriate sentence,” Khouri said of his perception of the judge’s rationale.

Patrick Souter, of counsel at Gray Reed & McGraw in Dallas and a professor who teaches health care fraud and abuse at Baylor Law School, said the prison term is unusually high even for Texas and its reputation for handing out tough sentences. But such an anomaly may not be one for long, at least in his state, he added.

“We’re seeing more health care fraud enforcement out there now than we’ve seen in the past,” Souter said. “With these types of prosecutions and verdicts, we may start seeing more and more sentences closer to the [statutory] maximum, or at least significant sentences, because of the serious nature of the crime.”

Other

Comment #: 22979
Rating:2.0
Comments:
Her courtroom is unfair and unjust. God forbid any defendant stand in front of her. She is a prosecutor with a gown.

Other

Comment #: 19923
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Doesn't understand the Constitution when she says that parents give up their rights when they drop their children off at public schools. Constitutional rights extend into schools. This is a judge who shouldn't be deciding cases based upon laws she doesn't understand.

Litigant

Comment #: 18082
Rating:1.0
Comments:
She is one of the worst judge. I agree with lot of comments here. She completely falsified and distort evidence to suit her onlawfoll and horrendous judgment. She has no clue of law. Political Affirmative action! How do you look in mirror, So called Judge!

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 13839
Rating:8.0
Comments:
An excellent and brilliant judge. While she can be slow to rule on motions, when she does rule, her decision is well-supported and "right."

Civil Litigation - Govt.

Comment #: 13510
Rating:9.8
Comments:
I have read the commentary below and feel forced to add some balance. The people below are litigants who have lost and feel badly about it. That is not Judge Harmon's fault. She knows the law, and evenhandly applies it. A great Judge.

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 13466
Rating:Not Rated
Comments:
Its a farce that this judge is allowed to handle cases of a civil rights nature. She did a poor job of interpreting the facts surrounding my case subsequently dismissing my case because she is obviously a republican and is pro employer.

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 12192
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Absolute disgrace to the federal bench. I would criticize her knowledge of the law but it is simply nonsensical to critique something that does not exist. Even the generally right-wing 5th circuit is forced to reverse her with regularity. In short, her courtroom is the breeding ground for travesties and an intellectual vacuum. The only reason she got on the bench was her family's political connections and the only reason she remains on it is the shortsightedness of the founding fathers in not writing an incompetency exception to lifetime tenure into the Constitution.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Comment #: 11596
Rating:10.0
Comments:
have practiced before Judge Harmon for the better part of two decades in white collar and civil cases. She has always treated the parties with courtesy. She rules promptly and her opinions are thoughtful. I couldn't ask to be before a more fair judge.

Other

Comment #: 10300
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Judge Melinda Harmon denied our right to a civil rights trial when Houston Police repeatedly refused to protect our son who was receiving death threats and who was ultimately murdered due to their inaction. Judge Harmon ruled that "Gays" are not a protected class under the U.S. Constitution and when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her ruling she openly challenged Attorney Robert Rosenberg to bring the appeal back to her court so she could 'throw it out again" in her words. She is a biggot and has no place on the bench of the United States judicial system.

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 9882
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Very biased judge in favor of employers and business. EXACTLY the same experience as comment #8452 with regard to a MSJ!!!!!!! An employee with a smoking gun may not survive a MSJ in her court.

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 8452
Rating:Not Rated
Comments:
Judge Harmon is horrible. In the case at issue, the judge waited 18 months to respond to a MSJ, completely misread the evidence, and in order to justify her order and final judgment, re-interpreted the evidence. This judge has no understanding of insurance coverage litigation and disputes. Her ruling is a disgrace and was incredibly and unreasonably punitive to my client. Judge Harmon is anything but impartial and fair.

Obviously knew someone to get appointed to the federal bench.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Comment #: 7971
Rating:3.0
Comments:
Rather poor. Too political. Unwilling to roll up her sleeves and delve into the issues in a case in an impartial, fair way.

Civil Litigation - Private

Comment #: 7505
Rating:1.3
Comments:
She is not on the bench because of her merit. If she weren't connected via marriage to the Texas Republican Party, she would not be on the bench. She has the highest reversal rate of all the district judges in the SDTX.

Other

Comment #: 4864
Rating:1.0
Comments:
She is so biased for the government in criminal cases that she makes Nancy Grace look like a defense attorney.

Prosecutor

Comment #: 4816
Rating:1.0
Comments:
Extremely strong government bias in criminal cases. She's often reversed because of it. We instruct newer prosecutors to make sure she has a foundation for her rulings because she'll rule in our favor just because we're the government. In one case, a prosecutor at sentencing stated that he did not find the informant credible and explained his reasons. She still credited the informant's statements regarding the defendant's role in the offense and increased the defendant's sentence. Needless to say, she was reversed on appeal.

Other

Comment #: 3738
Rating:1.0
Comments:
In the Andersen case, the DOJ accused Andersen of witness tampering, of "knowingly corruptly persuading" others to withhold documents from an "official proceeding".

Judge Harmon instructed the jury that "knowingly corrupt persuasion" did not require any conscious wrongdoing. She instructed the jury that the term "official proceeding" included the performance of "any investigative activity, formal or informal, of any agency, that might be commenced at any future time for any reason, whether or not the actor had any reason to believe that specific agency activity was contemplated".

Judge Harmon ruled that even if muptiple copies of a document were saved, if one copy was destroyed, justice had been obstructed. Indeed the court excluded, as an irrelevant defense, evidence that Andersen's Enron engagement team preserved multiple copies of the very documents whose deletion the prosecution emphasized.

Not surprisingly, the jury also never learned that the Enron frauds were all committed within Enron's off balance-sheet partnerships (SPEs), none of which were ever Andersen clients. All of the SPEs but one were audited by KPMG. Chewco/JEDI was unaudited.

Prosecutor

Comment #: 3559
Rating:3.5
Comments:
She has a very strong bias for the government in criminal cases. So much so that it presents a problem for prosecutors on appeal. It's way too much . . . and I'm a prosecutor. A criminal defendant will not get a fair shake in her courtroom.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Comment #: 1517
Rating:5.3
Comments:
Very biased; prosecutor in a robe.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Comment #: 1472
Rating:7.0
Comments:
I appeared before Judge Harmon in a death penalty habeas case. She was very strict and generally conservative in her approach to the case. While she was somewhat flexible on a number of issues, I was disappointed in her final order relating to the issues raised.