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July 2011

In the Dallas Office, Litigation Leads to Legislation

Dallas Partner Bob Bragalone represents three men wrongfully incarcerated by the State of Texas -- Steven Phillips, James Giles and Patrick Waller -- in their battles with their former attorney Kevin Glasheen.  Glasheen has collected (and in the Phillips case only, is attempting to collect) millions in contingent "fees" from the guaranteed payouts to the men provided by a new Texas law.  Glasheen argues that his lobbying efforts before the Texas Legislature to increase the statutory payouts available to the wrongfully-convicted DNA exonerees were legal services for which he could charge a contingent fee, even though he was not involved with their exonerations and the application for compensation is a purely ministerial function of the Texas Comptroller. Glasheen already has collected $8,000,000.00 in "fees" from a dozen exonerees.  The cases have garnered much national attention, including a recent article in the New York Times and dozens of articles in various Texas newspapers.

Glasheen's attempt to charge a contingent fee on the statutory payouts has created great controversy throughout Texas, including the State Bar, which has filed a disciplinary lawsuit against Glasheen, and the District Attorney's office, which is investigating Glasheen.  State Representative Rafael Anchia, sponsor of the bill that increased the statutory payouts to $160,000 per year served, is particularly disappointed and has led the charge to correct this abuse of the system.  Representative Anchia, aware of Bob's efforts on behalf of these men, invited Bob to participate in drafting legislation that would prevent this kind of exploitation by attorneys in the future.  Recognizing that Texas exonerees might wish to hire an attorney to assist them in applying for compensation, Bob assisted Representative Anchia in drafting the new legislation, suggesting that such representation should only be a reasonable hourly fee and that it be made illegal to charge a contingent fee on the statutory payouts.  The Texas legislature passed the amendment in unanimous fashion (HB 417), and Governor Rick Perry signed it into law on June 17, 2011.

Robert A. Bragalone