Lawyer For Texas Exonerees Faces Misconduct Suit

ARLINGTON (AP) – The State Bar of Texas has filed a lawsuit against an attorney who collected millions of dollars from wrongly convicted ex-inmates, saying he committed professional misconduct by charging fees that were illegal and unconscionable.

Lubbock attorney Kevin Glasheen has been credited by lawmakers and advocates as the driving force behind a 2009 law that made Texas the most generous state in the nation in compensating the wrongly convicted. He has said he acted appropriately in charging his clients a 25 percent contingency fee.

But the bar’s disciplinary counsel office found evidence Glasheen overcharged his clients or charged fees that violate the bar’s professional code of conduct, bar spokeswoman Maureen Ray said Tuesday. It filed the lawsuit in an effort to sanction him.

If a court determines Glasheen committed misconduct, he could face punishments ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment.

The state bar filed the lawsuit last week in Lubbock County but asked the Supreme Court of Texas to assign a state judge from another district to handle the case. Glasheen had asked the state bar to file the lawsuit in open court, rather than conduct a private evidentiary hearing.

“The judicial review of these complaints gives them more careful scrutiny, more careful examination,” he said.

Glasheen, who represents 15 exonerated inmates, has collected about $5 million in fees from his clients. He kept $3.5 million for his firm and paid the rest to Jeff Blackburn, the chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas.

The windfall came after Glasheen lobbied the Texas Legislature two years ago to pay exonerees $80,000 for each year they were wrongly imprisoned, plus a lifetime annuity. The most recent exoneree in Texas, Cornelius Dupree, served 30 years in prison for a sexual assault and robbery he did not commit. Under the new law, he is eligible to receive a $2.4 million lump sum, plus the annual payment.

Glasheen convinced his clients to hold off on lawsuits and instead pursue the state compensation, ensuring a quicker and more certain result. He then took 25 percent of what they received.

Two former clients who spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit, Patrick Waller and Steven Phillips, have since sued Glasheen, arguing his fees were excessive because they hired him to be their lawyer — not their lobbyist. Phillips said Glasheen has tried to charge him $1 million, even though the attorney never filed any court motion on his behalf.

“It sucked the life out of me,” Phillips said. “There could be some sort of reasonable fee for lobbying. The gist of my complaint is I didn’t hire him to lobby. I hired him to sue the city of Dallas.”

Waller, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, has said he paid Glasheen $650,000. Both Waller and Phillips signed contracts with Glasheen that allowed him to collect a 25 percent contingency fee.

Randy Turner, who sued Glasheen on behalf of Waller and Phillips, said his clients are grateful for the state compensation money. But he called the fees “grossly unfair” and “obscene.”

“It makes me sick to my stomach,” Turner said.

Glasheen said he is being punished despite making his clients wealthy. For example, Phillips was eligible for about $1.2 million in compensation under the old law. Under the new one, he could receive as much as $4 million.

“We are dealing with a novel approach that we took to getting these clients some good results,” Glasheen said. “And it was risky and it worked out really well and there was a lot of money involved. It is only when we are really successful and there is a lot of money at stake that anyone would worry about fees.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • John C

    Why isn’t anyone going after the cops and district attorneys that lied leading to the wrongful conviction of these individuals. If not for this attorney, these individuals would not be collecting the funds they deserve.

  • julius

    What a load of bull. This man helped them be set free and made them rich and now they sue him? Where is the word gratitude here? For my freedom, I would pay any price. Bunch of ingrate clowns.

  • don rice

    If the truth was known, these freed inmates probably jumped at the chance to get out and would have given all the funds for freedom. A lawyer just like any other business deserves to be paid. Only after the fact and with the help of another attorney did it look like they wanted to take action. What a system we have. Some of those freed probably deserved to remain in jail, if not for the crime they were released on -others they committed and were not caught. Either way -pay the lawyer you idiots,; what is your freedom worth?

    • Richard Baker

      They were innocent lawyers well they are crooks thriving off of victims

    • Richard Baker

      Well don I think it is a safe bet your a money hungry lawyer hey don go to war and fight for yours or even sit down and read the thing we used to know as a constitution. You know the thing I fought for and my brother and uncle died defending. point is people are wrongly convicted because of mainly 3 reasons. convience for the law to put the case to rest and to save money. and racial profiling. I am a caucasion and will be the first to say people of color get a railroad job in our forgotten justice system. you know that system designed for RICH PEOPLE LIKE YOU

  • texas_t

    Injustice is an injustice…these men had their life taken away, because of bigotry and hatred for something so menial as the colour of their skin. Yes, the cops who bore false witness against each of these men should be stripped of all benefits he is/will receive of a job done so poorly.

    But you, all of you who state, such malicious remarks about, that’s where they should be…well, maybe you should be in prison, wrongly convicted or your daughter/son.

    This lawyer did nothing and he wants 1/4…give it to him I say, because the funds he receives will be ill gotten gains.

    What if the tables were turned and it was you people who have been treated unjustly throughout time? What would your words be then? Better yet do you even know what empathy is?

  • alan

    I do not get it. The guy gets 15 people out of prison, gets them double or more the amount of money they would have gotten before this guy came along, and he charges them 25% as a fee. All of this was spelled out in advance. So instead of getting 1 million, they get 3 or 4 million and the lawyer gets 1 million. That leaves his clients with 2 or 3 million instead of one million. And they are complaining? Give me a break.

  • Richard Baker

    If Texas will stop imprisoning the wrong people this would never have happened

  • eyesofTX

    Did Glasheen become the exonerees’ attorney before or after they were exonerated? The article does not say he was responsible for proving their innocence and getting them out of jail. It said he represented them in suing for compensation for being wrongly convicted.

  • facts11

    He didn’t help free these men. None of them. There are attorneys in TX who will file compensation work (a one-page form) for free. He also charged a contingency fee based on the outcome of his legislative lobbying activities, which is illegal. And Blackburn was paid millions out of the exonerees’ compensation in cases where he’d never even met a particular exoneree, much less work on a case. And come on, people, 25 years in prison when you are innocent? There’s no amount of money to repay for that kind of loss and trauma.

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