Legal Action

Letter to The Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas

Regarding the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

Dear Chief Justice Jefferson,

I write on behalf of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability (TCLA) to express serious concerns about the State Bar’s recommendations to the Texas Supreme Court regarding the proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

We agree with the Bar’s conclusion that unresolved issues in the proposed conflict of interest rules (Rules 1.06-1.09) require further attention.  We also agree with the Bar’s recommendation to extend time for comments.  However, we adamantly disagree with the Bar’s conclusion that the remaining proposed rules are ready for presentation to the membership in a referendum.

Additionally, we appreciate your statement in the October 6 letter to the State Bar that the purpose of this process “…was to give the public greater protection and lawyers greater clarity than the current rules afford.”

However, we must respectfully take issue with your concern that further delay could bring great harm to the public.  In fact, without a number of changes, adoption of the proposed amendments, with or without delay, will cause great harm to the public, to clients, and to the Texas legal profession for many years.

Therefore, we urge the Court to extend the comment period for all the proposed amendments.  The State Bar Board had requested a limited extension until its January 28 meeting.  Frankly, given that the Texas Supreme Court initiated this rule revision process in 2003, it is difficult to understand why the Court has permitted the process to proceed for this long, but now refuses to permit an additional 60 days for comment.

Alternatively, we ask that the Court consider input from TCLA and other public-interest representatives before the Court finalizes the language of the proposed rules.

I have enclosed a document detailing TCLA’s proposed changes in the draft rules, and our rationale for the changes.  I hope that this document is helpful, and of course TCLA is prepared to offer any additional information or assistance that the Court might desire.

As I and other witnesses expressed at the public hearings held by the State Bar, the public perspective has been sorely neglected in the almost eight-year process that has resulted in the current draft.  The public has played no meaningful role in the drafting process.  With one exception, the Bar’s recommendation to restore Rule 3.05 to its current language, there is little evidence that the expressed concerns of clients and the public were given any serious consideration.

The 2010 Voters Guide of the League of Women Voters of Texas quotes Justice Guzman as follows:

However, it is also important to consider and give voice to the perspectives of those who are served by the legal profession. Public input not only provides this valuable insight but also builds public confidence in the legal profession.

As detailed in the enclosed document, several proposed rule changes would injure the public and clients.  Other proposed amendments could be revised to better protect and serve clients.  Many of these issues can be easily resolved with no or minimal adverse effect on Texas lawyers.  These steps can give the public perspective its due consideration and enhance public respect for the Texas legal profession.

TCLA appreciates the Court’s consideration of this additional input.

Sincerely,

Julie Oliver

Executive Director
Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability
512-791-3397
joliver@texascla.org

cc:    The Honorable Nathan L. Hecht
The Honorable Dale Wainwright
The Honorable David Medina
The Honorable Paul W. Green
The Honorable Phil Johnson
The Honorable Don R. Willett
The Honorable Eva Guzman
The Honorable Debra Lehrmann

Kennon Peterson
Terry Tottenham
Roland K. Johnson
Pablo J. Almaguer
Bob Black
Michelle Hunter
Ray Cantu