Editors Choice

25 Texas Lawyers Gone Rogue, the December 2019 List of Judges and Texas Lawyer Sanctions & The 20 Bad Attorneys Who are Privately Disciplined

25 Texas Lawyers Gone Rogue, the December 2019 List of Disciplined Lawyers and Judges & The 20 Bad Attorneys Who are Privately Disciplined which is in excess of Double the amount of recent months statistics, showing more protection for lawyers by the State of Texas and less for Citizens.

LIT Editor Comments:

A bumper issue in December, not only do we have the disciplined Texas lawyers and judges, we’ve got the years statistics to review. We have to note in a disappointed tone, that the elitist section, the private reprimands section of the State Bar of Texas “punishment” section, has more than doubled this month, shedding more transparency issues for citizens. It states that 20 nameless attorneys were privately punished. These lawless lawyers apparently have the State Bar of Texas monopoly board and “get out of jail free card”, e.g. No public admonishment. Transparency in the Courts and Legal Community?  Not in Texas.

Disciplinary Actions — December 2019 State Bar lists (the State Bar of Texas)

General questions regarding attorney discipline should be directed to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office, toll-free (877) 953-5535 or (512) 453-5535. The Board of Disciplinary Appeals may be reached at (512) 475-1578. Information and copies of actual orders are available at txboda.org. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct may be contacted toll-free, (877) 228-5750 or (512) 463-5533. Please note that persons disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct are not necessarily licensed attorneys.

Houston area

SUSPENSIONS

On October 7, 2019, lawyer Kelley Lavone Austin [#24042529], 47, of Sugar Land, accepted a six-month fully probated suspension.

An evidentiary panel of the District 5 Grievance Committee found that Austin failed to promptly deliver to a third person funds that the third person was entitled to receive. Austin violated Rule 1.14(b).

She was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees. Austin’s Website.

On October 24, 2019, attorney and former prosecutor Elizabeth A. Exley [#24008031], 48, of Houston, received a 90-day fully probated suspension effective November 1, 2019.

The 190th Civil Court of Harris County found that in 2010, Exley failed to disclose to the defense her willingness to give favorable sentencing recommendations on behalf of two testifying witnesses with pending criminal charges based on their cooperation during a murder trial.

Exley violated Rule 3.09(d). She was ordered to pay $1,265.15 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

The Disciplinary matter in Texas lawyer Exley’s case was given to a Criminal Judge on the 397th District Court in the matter of Exley.  Mr “Bill” Exley and Mrs “Beth” Exley work together and are both former Asst District Attorneys and Prosecutors.

On October 14, 2019, attorney Elijah Gooden III [#08146400], 58, of Houston, accepted a three-year fully probated suspension effective November 1, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Gooden failed to hold funds belonging in whole or in part to his client in a separate trust account, failed to promptly deliver entitled funds to his client and third persons, and failed to keep funds that both he and third persons claimed an interest in separate until there was an accounting and severance of their interest.

During his representation of his client, Gooden engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Gooden violated Rules 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 1.14(c), and 8.04(a)(3). He was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On October 3, 2019, attorney Michael Lake Mattson [#24030007], 49, of Houston, accepted a one-year fully probated suspension effective October 1, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Texas lawyer Mattson failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of his legal matter and to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information and failed to withdraw from representing his client when Mattson’s psychological condition materially impaired his fitness to represent his client.

Mattson violated Rules 1.03(a) and 1.15(a)(2).

Licensed for appx 20 years, Michael Lake Mattson is a Criminal Defense and Immigration Law lawyer in Houston Texas who attended Stetson University College of Law.

Disciplined by Ruben R Perez

Special Crimes Bureau Chief (recenty retired from DOJ)

On September 30, 2019, lawyer Francis I. Spagnoletti [#18869600], 65, of Houston, accepted a four-year partially probated suspension effective October 1, 2019, with the first 12 months actively served and the remainder probated.

An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that in representing certain clients, Spagnoletti failed to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of a non-lawyer at his firm was compatible with his professional obligations, and Spagnoletti permitted the non-lawyer’s conduct, that if engaged in by a lawyer, would have been a violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

Spagnoletti violated Rules 5.03(a) and 5.03(b)(1). He was ordered to pay $8,722.50 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

Disciplined by Cora Marie Garcia, Attorney for City of Houston.

Oh Look, A Family Affair – Another Prior – A Spagnoletti Made the June Disciplinary Lawlessness List as Well

For the same case(s) as Francis Spagnoletti; The 2 BP Horizon Oil Spill Clients but Marcus suspension was fully probated…maybe he didn’t know about the non-lawyers working on the case…

Kyle primarily represents individuals who have suffered serious injuries to their person or their property. He has represented a broad range of corporate and individual clients in insurance coverage disputes, commercial tort, breach of contract cases, and personal injury claims, in both state and federal courts.

His practice focuses on assisting individuals who have been injured on the job or in other types of accidents. Kyle represents individuals across a broad range of industries including, oil and gas, maritime and trucking. He also works for individuals who have been injured in car accidents, trucking accidents, tire tread accidents, industrial accidents, toxic exposure, and construction site and trenching accidents.

Kyle serves as a member of the State Bar of Texas – District 4 Grievance Committee.

PUBLIC REPRIMANDS

On September 23, 2019, attorney-at-law Tyesha Yvette Elam [#24026819], 47, of Houston, accepted a judgment of public reprimand.

An investigatory panel of the District 5 Grievance Committee found that Elam failed to keep her client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and failed to abide by her client’s decisions concerning the objectives and general methods of representation, as well as whether to accept an offer of settlement.

Elam violated Rules 1.02(a)(1), 1.02(a)(2), and 1.03(a). She was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Oh Dear, Elam Again – Another Prior – She Made the July Disciplinary Lawlessness List as Well

LIT COMMENT:
THIS LAWYER (CARLOS MEJIAS JR.) SHOULD BE DISBARRED FOR CRIMINAL FRAUD AND FOR THEFT OF CLIENT FUNDS

On October 7, 2019, attorney Carlos Dantes Mejias Jr. [#24094841], 31, of Houston, accepted an agreed judgment of public reprimand.

An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Mejias assisted or counseled his client to engage in conduct that Mejias knew was criminal or fraudulent.

Furthermore, Mejias failed to hold funds belonging in whole or in part to his client in a separate trust or escrow account and failed to promptly deliver funds to his client that the client was entitled to receive.

Mejias violated Rules 1.02(c), 1.14(a), and 1.14(b). He was ordered to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On October 16, 2019, lawyer Kenneth Aghadi Nnaka [#24032796], 50, of Houston, accepted an agreed judgment of public reprimand.

An evidentiary panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that Nnaka entered into an arrangement for, charged, or collected an unconscionable fee from his client.

Nnaka violated Rule 1.04(a). He was ordered to pay $750 in attorneys’ fees.

Disciplined by Cora Marie Garcia, Attorney for City of Houston.

Update by LIT; 29th January, 2020; After reading the First’s opinion, the client in this case literally dodged a bullet for the second time when she hired a new attorney by the name of Jeffrey Stern – who is the infamous lawyer previously indicted on murder for hire (of his wife) plots. Now he’s incarcerated again and his arraignment was on 28th January, 2020 and LIT will update y’all when more information is available on that criminal case. In the interim lyin’ Nnaka is slapped and fined but still allowed to retain his license as a Texas attorney.

On September 24, 2019, lawyer Byron R. O’Neal [#24046546], 42, of Houston, accepted an agreed judgment of public reprimand.

An investigatory panel of the District 4 Grievance Committee found that O’Neal failed to abide by his client’s decision and he accepted an offer of settlement without his client’s approval.

O’Neal failed to keep his client informed about the status of his case and did not comply with reasonable requests for information. O’Neal violated Rules 1.02(a) and 1.03. He was ordered to pay $1,140 in restitution.

Rest of the state

JUDICIAL ACTIONS

On October 11, 2019, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public reprimand to lawyer Gena Slaughter, judge of the 191st Civil District Court in Dallas, Dallas County.

Subsequent to the commission’s issuance of the sanction, the judge requested the appointment of a special court of review, in review of the commission’s decision, pursuant to Tex. Gov’t Code §33.034.

On October 25, 2019, the Special Court of Review issued a public admonition to non-laywer James Oakley*, county judge, Burnet County, on matters appealed from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct proceedings in Special Court of Review Opinion, Docket No. SCR 19-0002, In Re Inquiry Concerning Honorable James Oakley.

*This judge is not a lawyer and as such is not part of the State Bar of Texas. You can learn more about his credentials, background and family on Wikipedia, where he is categorized as a “politician”.

Rest of the state

DISBARMENTS

On September 19, 2019, Staci Jennifer Strong [#24037564], 46, of McKinney, was disbarred, effective September 13, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 1 Grievance Committee found that beginning in 2011, Strong represented her husband in a collection suit filed by the Highlands Bank of Dallas, which resulted in a judgment being entered against Strong’s husband.

During the course of post-judgment collection efforts by the bank, Strong engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Strong violated Rule 8.04(a)(3). She was ordered to pay $1,262.50 in attorneys’ fees and $399.50 in direct expenses.

Rest of the state

RESIGNATIONS

On October 1, 2019, the Supreme Court of Texas accepted the resignation, in lieu of discipline, of Christopher James Norman [#24060342], 37, of Killeen.

At the time of Norman’s resignation, nine disciplinary cases were pending against him, allegations that Norman neglected his clients’ legal matters, failed to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of a matter, failed to promptly reply to reasonable requests for information, and further failed to return client files and unearned fees.

Norman violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 1.14(c), 8.01(a), 8.04(a)(2), and 8.04(a)(3).

On October 1, 2019, the Supreme Court of Texas accepted the resignation, in lieu of discipline, of Melynda G. Pearson [#00787534], 51, of Texarkana.

At the time of Pearson’s resignation, there were 14 pending matters against her alleging Pearson neglected cases, failed to communicate, failed to return client’s files, failed to return unearned fees, and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Pearson also failed to file responses to the complainants’ grievances with the State Bar of Texas.

Pearson violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.03(b), 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 1.15(d), 3.03(a)(5), 8.04(a)(3), 8.04(a)(7), 8.04(a)(8), and 8.04(a)(11).

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Rest of the state

SUSPENSIONS

LIT Comment

The sanctions below for Attorney Richard Alamia comprise of 3 individual cases and complaints by real people. They are Dunkum, Morales and Mendoza. Here’s how the summary of the sanctions looks;

1 August 2020 – July 31, 2021 (1 year) for Dunkum case;
1 August 2019 – July 31, 2021 (2 years) for Mendoza case;
1 August 2019 – July 31, 2021 (2 years) for Morales case.

30 day active suspensions, which we call a vacation month, neatly applied over 2 years;
In the Mendoza case, active 30 day vacation period 1 Aug. 2019 – 31 Aug. 2019
In the Morales case, active 30 day vacation 1 Aug. 2020 – 31 Aug. 2020 (exactly a year later)

You’ll also note that the 5 years of pretty much fully probated suspensions is actually only 2 years in total for the 3 individual client complaints, from August 2019 till July 2021.

We haven’t even discussed the crimes committed, which include theft of client funds, forgery, fraud and more…you can read the judgments. Is this acceptable discipline. Heck no, but this is Texas Law by the Texas incumbents we have right now.

On September 26, 2019, Richard R. Alamia [#00964200], 73, of Edinburg, accepted a 12-month fully probated suspension effective August 1, 2020.

An evidentiary panel of the District 12 Grievance Committee found that Alamia failed to keep a client reasonably informed, failed to safeguard client funds in a trust or escrow account, and failed to render a full accounting of client funds.

Alamia violated Rules 1.03(b), 1.14(a), and 1.14(b).

He was ordered to pay $1,800 in restitution.

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On October 7, 2019, Douglas Matthew McMaster [#13786020], 56, of Brownsville, agreed to an eight-year partially probated suspension effective August 15, 2019, with the first four years actively served and the remainder probated.

An evidentiary panel of the District 6 Grievance Committee found that McMaster neglected a client’s matter, failed to keep a client reasonably informed, failed to return unearned portions of fees, and engaged in the practice of law while his law license was suspended.

McMaster violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.15(d), and 8.04(a)(11).

He was ordered to pay $1,050 in restitution and $800 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

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On October 17, 2019, Derek Alfonso Quinata [#24072292], 39, of El Paso, agreed to a three-year fully probated suspension effective September 20, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 17 Grievance Committee found that Quinata failed to respond to the grievance.

Quinata violated Rule 8.04(a)(8). He was ordered to pay $400 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

So Derek Quinata has 5 CLIENT COMPLAINTS and he’s still allowed to operate as a Texas lawyer after being sanctioned in all 5 cases. Seriously, we cannot keep up with the lawyers with several infractions and the expenses incurred to bring these complaints and then let the attorney off with a slap.

Complainants; Menson Holloway, Christopher Rowan, Karina Gomez, David Orozco* and Selma Tombosky.

*Orozco complaint also mentions Norma Rascon, who is to receive a refund of $1k. It is unclear if there are two complainants or if this is a couple or Orozco obtained help to pay the legal fees from Rascon. We’ve treated it as one complainant, Orozco for simplicity.

Disciplinary Lawyer(s); For Holloway, it was Lawyer Paul Bracken who suspended Quinata for 3 years (FULLY PROBATED) in October 2019.

For Rowan, Gomez, Orozco and Tombosky it was Attorney Samuel E. Sprowles for all 4 complaints. He suspended Quinata for 3 years also in the cases of Rowan, Gomez and Orozco and 3 months for Tombosky. These sanctions were in January 2019.

Of course, as usual, none of the suspensions are consecutive, so substantially reducing the penalty. How Bracken can fully probate again in October after Sprowles fully probated his 4 cases in January defies logic.

But that’s Texas law for protected lawyers in the State of Texas.

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READ LIT’s DETAILED REPORT ON FULLY PROBATED SANDY SANCHEZ, THE LAWYER IN CORPUS CHRISTI THAT AVOIDS FURTHER PUNISHMENT DESPITE MULTIPLE OFFENCES AND A WILLFUL BREACH OF THOSE SANCTIONS

On October 28, 2019, Zenaida Sanchez [#17573800], 59, of Alice, accepted a nine-month fully probated suspension effective November 15, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 11 Grievance Committee found that Sanchez failed to respond to a grievance in a timely manner. Sanchez violated Rule 8.04(a)(8).

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On October 28, 2019, Brittany Lea Scaramucci [#24061388], 36, of Valley Mills, received a one-year fully probated suspension effective November 1, 2019.

An investigatory panel of the District 8 Grievance Committee found that the complainant hired Scaramucci to represent him in a divorce.

In preparing for trial, the complainant agreed to provide a potential witness with a copy of a journal his wife kept regarding her prior marriage.

Scaramucci sent the witness a link to the complainant’s entire Dropbox file, rather than providing only the journal.

As a result, the witness had access to the complainant’s confidential information, including financial records, credit card numbers, bank account information, and Social Security numbers.

Additionally, the complainant gave Scaramucci a check in the amount equal to the parties’ 2017 income tax refund. The funds were to be held in trust until the court determined how the refund was to be divided between the parties.

However, prior to the final hearing on November 2, 2018, Scaramucci withdrew the funds from her trust account and applied the funds to the attorney fees she claimed the complainant owed her without the complainant’s affirmative consent.

The complainant terminated Scaramucci on December 4, 2018, and requested Scaramucci return the funds, as his wife had already received her half.

Scaramucci failed to return the funds to the complainant. Scaramucci violated Rules 1.05(a), 1.14(b), and 1.14(c).

She was ordered to pay $1,693 in restitution and $1,915.41 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

“Brittany was a nightmare to work with. She took my money, laid down and refused to fight for me on my case.

She did her best to convince me to agree to everything the opposition proposed and refused to return phone calls, emails and texts.

She also refused to keep me up to date on changes, court dates, requests for information from the opposing council, and refused to accept any documents I gave to give her to present to the court on my case.

She even waited until the day of my final hearing to finally meet with me to prepare for my case after over eight months.

If I didn’t exhaust all of my money and max out all of my credit cards to pay her, I would have definitely went with another attorney.

I can go on and on about how horrible my experience has been with her but its past that point now.

I have since filed a grievance with the state bar and waiting to hear back.

If there’s anyone else that feels that their case has been neglected by Mrs Scaramucci or any other attorney for that matter you can call the state bar at 1800-204-2222 Or go to cdc.texasbar.com”

Q.S., Arlington, Texas, Yelp, July 2019

On September 9, 2019, Andrew David Vaughn [#24056764], 38, of Canton, received a two-year partially probated suspension effective March 1, 2020, with the first 12 months actively served and the remainder probated.

An evidentiary panel of the District 1 Grievance Committee found that Vaughn neglected the legal matter entrusted to him by failing to complete any legal work on behalf of his client, failing to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of his case, and failing to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from his client.

Vaughn failed to hold funds belonging to his client that were in Vaughn’s possession in connection with the representation separate from his own property.

Vaughn represented his client while he was actively suspended from the practice of law and failed to notify his client that his license to practice law was suspended.

Vaughn violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.14(a), 8.04(a)(7), and 8.04(a)(10). He was ordered to pay $1,600 in attorneys’ fees and $603 in direct expenses.

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On September 19, 2019, Andrew David Vaughn [#24056764], 38, of Canton, received a three-year partially probated suspension effective October 13, 2019, with the first 12 months actively served and the remainder probated.

An evidentiary panel of the District 1 Grievance Committee found that Vaughn neglected the legal matter entrusted to him, failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of her case, and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from his client.

Vaughn failed to surrender papers and property to which his client was entitled.

Vaughn represented his client while he was actively suspended from the practice of law and failed to notify his client that his license to practice law was suspended.

Vaughn violated Rules 1.01(b)(1), 1.03(a), 1.15(d), 8.04(a)(7), and 8.04(a)(10).

He was ordered to pay $1,980 in attorneys’ fees and $822 in direct expenses.

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CURRENTLY SUSPENDED DUE TO NON-COMPLIANCE

On August 7, 2019, Arthur G. Vega [#20533600], 67, of San Antonio, received a 24-month partially probated suspension effective September 1, 2019, with the first six months actively served and the remainder probated.

An evidentiary panel of the District 10 Grievance Committee found that Vega failed to hold client’s funds in a trust account, failed to deliver client’s funds, and, upon termination of the representation, failed to refund unearned portions of fees.

Vega violated Rules 1.14(a), 1.14(b), 1.14(c), and 1.15(d).

He was ordered to pay $11,000 in restitution and $7,747.95 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

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On September 27, 2019, L. Bruce Lambert [#00792973], 63, of Fort Worth, received a six-month probated suspension effective September 4, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 7 Grievance Committee found that in representing the complainant in a divorce case, Lambert neglected the legal matter entrusted to him, failed to keep the complainant reasonably informed about the status of her legal matter, and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from the complainant.

Lambert violated Rules 1.01(b)(1) and 1.03(a). He was ordered to pay $2,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On September 27, 2019, L. Bruce Lambert [#0079297th3], 63, of Fort Worth, received a 24-month probated suspension effective September 4, 2019.

An evidentiary panel of the District 7 Grievance Committee found that Lambert failed to timely furnish to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel a response or other information as required by the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.

Lambert did not in good faith timely assert a privilege or other legal ground for failure to do so.

Lambert violated Rule 8.04(a)(8). He was ordered to pay $3,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

Rest of the state

PUBLIC REPRIMANDS

On October 7, 2019, Thomas Christopher Lewis [#24059224], 49, of Dallas, agreed to a public reprimand.

An evidentiary panel of the District 6 Grievance Committee found that in October 2016, Lewis was hired to represent the complainant (Kathy Sweely) in a guardianship matter pertaining to the complainant’s father.

Lewis failed to keep the complainant reasonably informed about the status of her legal matter.

Lewis violated Rule 1.03(a). He was ordered to pay $2,000 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

On October 15, 2019, Nemuel E. Pettie [#15858440], 64, of Haltom City, received a public reprimand.

An investigatory panel of the District 7 Grievance Committee found that in July of 2014, the complainant hired Pettie for representation in a personal injury matter.

Pettie prepared a letter of representation on or about September 8, 2014, requesting records related to the complainant’s (Brenda Matthews) personal injury matter. In representing the complainant, Pettie thereafter neglected the legal matter entrusted to him by failing to perform legal work on the complainant’s case.

Pettie violated Rule 1.01(b)(1). He was ordered to pay $500 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

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Click image to Read Express News Foreclosure Article, where Van Cleave is the ‘Registered Agent’ of  Texas Homes 247, LLC and the ‘Manager” is Francisco Vasquez. Vancleave is also registered as a realtor on HAR.com.

“Rather than have Texas Homes 247 take title, Vasquez and Gutierrez had Copeland deed the property to 2476172 Jackies Trust. Texas Homes 247 is listed as the trustee of the trust.

A trust agreement Copeland signed named her and Texas Homes 247 as fifty percent beneficiaries of the trust. But another document dated the same day shows Copeland sold her interest in the trust to Texas Homes 247 for $10,700.”

On October 17, 2019, Gregory Thomas Van Cleave [#24037881], 41, of San Antonio, agreed to a public reprimand.

An evidentiary panel of the District 10 Grievance Committee found that Van Cleave neglected a client’s (Thomas Gillespie) matter and failed to keep a client reasonably informed.

Van Cleave violated Rules 1.01(b)(1) and 1.03(a). He was ordered to pay $800 in attorneys’ fees and direct expenses.

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  1. Pingback: Texas Personal Injury Lawyers are Stealing their Clients Cash in Settlements and Generally Face Being Slapped by the State Commission | Laws In Texas

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