Thursday, February 13, 2014

Attorney faces disciplinary action over barratry; use of non-lawyer associate to bring in new clients and cases

The State Bar of Texas, through its Commission for Lawyer Discipline, yesterday (Feb 12, 2014) filed a petition with the Harris County District Clerk seeking imposition of disciplinary sanctions against Attorney Ronald Eugene Reynolds by a state district court judge.

The Commission, in a pleading signed by Alison K. Elam, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar, with office address in Houston, recites multiple instances of Attorney Reynolds relying on a named non-lawyer assistant or associate to recruit clients following car accidents for legal representation. The Commission alleges that this was an ongoing pattern of solicitation on Reynold's behalf, and that the attorney, referred to as "Respondent" in the pleading, paid or offered to pay the nonlawyer for his efforts, which were successful in a number of instances.  

The disciplinary petition mentions barratry, but only as one basis for disciplinary action among others. This is presumably because the Commission's role and jurisdiction involves the enforcement of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct that governs attorney behavior and practice of law, and not the enforcement of civil or criminal law on the offense of illegal solicitation of employment by attorneys for financial gain. The disciplinary petition does not employ the commonly used nonlegal terms for prohibited barratry: case running or ambulance chasing. Nor does it expressly cite the barratry statutes. 

In the concluding paragraph of the 7-page petition, which is captioned "PRAYER" as is typical for pleadings in Texas state courts, the Commission asks that the Court discipline Reynolds by reprimand, suspension or disbarment "as the facts shall warrant", and to order restitution.

Disbarment is the ultimate penalty. Suspensions vary in time, and may ordered to be actively served (meaning that the sanctioned attorney may not practice law for that time period) and/or probated or probated in part.  

According to his State Bar profile, Ronald Reynolds' law firm affiliation is with BROWN, BROWN & REYNOLDS, P.C.. He practices primarily in the field of personal injury and labor and employment litigation. The commission's pleading do not state that Reynolds used the nonlawyer associate to solicit individuals involved in automobile accidents to represent them as plaintiffs in lawsuit seeking personal injury and/or other damages (rather than to assist them as civil or criminal defendants), but that seems likely. 

The case against Reynolds has been assigned to the 270th District Court, which is presided over by Judge Brent Gamble, a long-serving Republican jurist. Harris County District Court benches are populated by a mix of Democrats and Republicans. But case assignments to those courts are random, to avoid forum/judge-shopping. The same is true of cases filed in county civil courts at law. 

Reynolds is a state Legislator. He represent House District 27 (Missouri City / part of Fort Bend County)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Harris County Family Law Center (photo of building and plaza)

Harris County Family Law Center - Landscpaped Plaza facing North side of
1910 Courthouse (not shown) with Historical Marker