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July 11, 2003

Self-Regulating Softies in San Antonio

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:47 pm

I guess they haven’t heard of tough love over at the Texas State Bar. As covered yesterday at Overlawyered.com and today at The Legal Reader, three San Antonio lawyers, who were caught faking evidence and trying to bribe witnesses in a $2 billion suit against Chrysler, are being sued now by DaimlerChrysler in an attempt to hold law firms accountable for lawsuit abuse.

Back in 2000, an appellate court imposed sanctions of about $900,000 against the three lawyers from San Antonio’s Kugle Law Firm, and called the firm’s conduct “an egregious example of the worst kind of abuse of the judicial system.”

Reading the stories, your Editor wondered just what the Texas State Bar has done to discipline the three wayward bar members. Like other news sources, the New York Times, had noted that “The senior lawyer at the firm, Robert A. Kugle, has been suspended from the Texas bar.”  (Adam Liptak, “Law Firm Is Sued Over Conduct in Liability Case”, New York Times, July 10, 2003.)  Since suspension sounds rather inadequate, I pointed my browser at the Texas State Bar site to see if I could find out more.  Here’s what I learned:

Robert A. Kugle has indeed been suspended from practice in Texas, but it is an Administrative Suspension:

Current Status Detail: Administrative Suspension.  This attorney has been suspended by the State Bar of Texas for an Administrative reason. The suspension may be the result of one or more of the following: Failure to pay Inactive or Active Membership Dues Failure to pay Attorney Occupational Tax MCLE requirements non-compliance Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Default Failure to pay Child Support.

Andrew E. Toscano is still “Eligible to Practice in Texas” (although news accounts say he’s moved to Mexico). Toscano’s Discipline History Detail shows “None on File — This Attorney’s status record indicates no prior disciplinary actions.”

Robert L. (Trey) Wilson III, appears to be employed at the San Antonio Law Firm of Louis T. Rosenberg, P.C, and remains “Eligible to Practice in Texas.”   Like Toscano, his Discipline History Detail states “None on File — This Attorney’s status record indicates no prior disciplinary actions.”

We at ethicalEsq? get accused of being too tough on lawyers. But, it seems clear that the Texas State Bar has been a wee bit too soft on attorneys who have disgraced themselves and abused the justice system in an attempt to get very rich very quickly.  Is it any wonder a recent study found that over two-thirds of Americans lack confidence in the integrity of the lawyer discipline system? [See In the Interests of Justice: Reforming the Legal Profession (2000) by Stanford Law Professor Deborah Rhode.]   Neither the urge to let your colleagues “save face,” nor the desire to conserve bar counsel resources, should prevent any state bar from taking tough, public disciplinary action against lawyers who have so outrageously and infamously shamed our profession.

  • Two Cents from Jack Cliente: Texas got a “D” for Adequacy of Discipline, and an overall “C-“, last year, on its HALT Lawyer Discipline Report Card.  I’m a tougher grader: Texas deserves a big “F” for failing to stand up and let the bar and the public now just how f-ing unacceptable such conduct is.  Perhaps, bar counsel faced with such an assault on legal ethics and the legal system should use a phrase made famous recently by another Texan — “bring it on.”

P.S. As reported today by The Southern California Law Blog and the Sacramento Bee, the California State Bar has done a far more admirable job of policing its bar members’ conduct in another infamous case of lawsuit abuse.   The SoCal Law Blog has pithily described the case: “The largest State Bar investigation in California history will close now that the three Trevor Law Group attorneys who twisted California’s unfair business practices law to extort money from small businesses resigned their legal licenses rather than face a trial before the State Bar.”   That’s more like it.


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