By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"But ... basically the testimony coming to me today is that ... Mr. Glasheen was useless and worthless, and I'm not buying that, because he wasn't."
The judge's is a sentiment not uncommon, especially in the tight-knit community of exonerees. Even among those who are now suing him, their emotions conflict.
"They love Kevin Glasheen," former client James Giles says of his exonerated brethren. "I love him too. But I ain't gonna take no chance that he gonna give me no money if I don't file a lawsuit."
"I thank God for what Kevin and them did," adds James Waller, a former client who isn't currently suing Glasheen. "But like I say, we need to make things right and keep it right."
Steven Phillips sits with his thin, bare legs crossed in the kitchen of a Carrollton house just off the interstate. It's a hot August afternoon. His straw panama is shoved down on his head, and he peers from beneath it through a pair of thick wire-frame eyeglasses that amplify his bright green eyes.
Around him are the kinds of men he knows well — addicted, broken, paroled. He bought this house with the compensation money he got from the state. It serves as a halfway house and spiritual center for men on their second, third, even their fourth chances. In the beginning, instead of paying rent, the men slept on the unfinished floors and restored the place, laying new tile, refinishing the walls, making the place livable again. Phillips liked the metaphor. They restored the house and, while they were at it, they restored that part of them they lost in prison or to drugs.
"I don't know if they can learn anything from me," he says. "I just show up and not be a bad example. There's something to say for showin' up."
He's trying to be an example for Charles, 24, whom he's taken into his home as a son, along with Charles' pregnant girlfriend and child. Charles spent time in juvenile lock-up for aggravated robbery. He's the same age now that Phillips was when he went to prison.
Frank, a stocky guy with a neatly trimmed goatee, is on probation now, facing at least five years in prison — which would be his third trip — if he gets violated.
J.D., a new tenant, has only been out a couple of months after doing a long bid for prison-gang related stabbings. He belonged to the Texas Mafia, and would have beefed with Frank in prison. Now they're on the same softball team.
As they talk prison life, J.D. mentions that he served his sentence out at Coffield Unit. Phillips snatches his straw hat off of his head and looks at J.D., eyes wide through his eyeglasses.
The men laugh for a moment, and then Phillips grows serious. "We don't hold any of that against you here."
He knows that here, in the company of men whose past lives are a litany of mistakes, no white knights will be found. Or, for that matter, are there bad guys in black hats.
Also, if the victim knows about the other driver's bad driving record, this factor could be crucial in the determination of liability. In a city where frequent motorcycle accidents happen, like Denver, a motorcycle accident lawyer in Denver should go through the arguments of liability to make sure that the victim did not forget something important. A motorcycle attorney in Denver is able to conduct a thorough investigation that could potentially lead to more supporting evidence in favor of the victim.
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We would also like to see a story with the list of names of the prosecuting attornies that wrongfully prosecuted. Who are they? Where are they now? Have those prosecuting attornies also wrongfully prosecuted others in the past? Are those prosecuting attornies currently wrongfully prosecuting others?
If a lawyer is ripping off a client in Texas, the client should file an official complaint with the Texas Bar Association's Office of Disciplinary Council: http://www.texasbar.com/AM/Tem...
Without Glasheen these people wouldnt be getting the extra cash.....and Glasheen put his own cash and time on the line on a risky venture........now that his efforts pay off they dobn't like the agreement.....they took Glasheen's cash and cars because they were backed into a corner...so what? No one else was offering........
I'm not a big fan of lawyers but Glasheen had the plan to bring in the big money and now that he has they tell him to eff off........I guess Glasheen should have expected it considering the people he was dealing with.......
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So, how much work DID the lawyers perform on his case before he "fired" them? Did he wait until it was all over but the shouting and try to complete the last paperwork for himself to avoid their bills? Did he pay them ANYTHING for their efforts?What was the contract he originally signed with them? Details- please!
Texas is a test-case. I hope that the end-result of these lawsuits, including the lawsuit against Glasheen by the State Bar of Texas (SBOT), will be the establishment of clear, fair, policy changes. We need clarified policies put forth by both the judicial and legislative branches that will 1) benefit exonerees first and foremost, 2) prevent attorney exploitation, 3) make a way for attorneys (who are actually responsible for the release of those wrongfully convicted, meaning they did the work!) to be fairly paid according to the law. Phillips, Waller, and Giles are brave and have all my respect. Blackburn has been an innocence movement maverick, and will regain respect in time. Dallas and Texas started an amazing innocence movement. Let's keep it going! Judges, legislators, and SBOT -- please do what's right!
If all of this was spelled out a little clearer in the beginning then we wouldn't be having this little squabble. Who's responsibility is it to get things clarified in the first place so there's no question about clients getting taken advantage of? I see a bright line between traditional legal work and lobbying for legislation that needs to be spelled out clearly in any contingency fee agreement. The absence of such clarifying language should set the benefit of the doubt toward the client. More specifically, a vague "services rendered" should not include lobbying for legislation. The implication for "services rendered" clearly resides within the domain of traditional legal representation. This obfuscation puts the client at a lack of bargaining power in setting the terms of the transaction (if the client had known he could have arrived at an amount based upon the effort put forth relative to the number of other exonerees under contract with the attorney). I feel that the judge is misguided in considering what is fair for the attorney when the proper consummation of the engagement seemingly never took place. Now the exoneree is out additional legal fees in order to clarify what was inadequately spelled out in the first place.
I represented Steven. When he hired us, we were already representing 12 other exonorees. Steven signed a contract to pay us 25% of state statutory compensation, or 40% of recovery in civil rights litigation. If the clients accepted state statutory compensation, they had to give up their right to pursue civil rights litigation the clients didn't want to accept the state statutory compensation because it only paid 50k per year of incarceration. (20 years = 1 million). We had filed 7 civil rights lawsuits.
We made a deal with the city of dallas to put the litigation on hold while the legislature was in session, to see if we could get the state statutory compensation increased enough to satisfy our clients. The legislature increased compensation to 160k/yr of incarceration, half cash and half paid out over the claimant's lifetime, with interest. (Under the new law 20 years = 3.2 million vs just 1 million under the old law.).
Most of the clients elected to take statutory compensation. A couple of clients proceeded with litigation. Steven indicated he wanted statutory compensation. One week before the law went into effect Steven fired us and filed for statutory compensation.on his own. He then sued us to try to void the contract. Steven has never paid us anything, nor has he offered to.
My law firm spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on these claims, with no assurance of a recovery. The litigation could have proceeded, at each client's option. Statutory compensation is not a "sure thing" either. We have had to take several statutory compensation claims up to the Texas Supreme Court in order to compel the State to pay.
Most clients then elected
"If all of this was spelled out a little clearer in the beginning then we wouldn't be having this little squabble."
There's some truth to that, but I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that in this case all that was indeed spelled out clearly, certainly orally if not in the fee agreement (which I have not seen).
I happen to have been the only non-exoneree, non-attorney in the room in 2009 when Glasheen et. al. spoke to his clients (in a hotel conference room in Dallas) about restructuring their fee agreements if Ellis/Anchia's legislation passed increasing compensation amounts. Glasheen lowered his fee from 40% to 25% if the civil suits he'd filed were settled because the clients chose state compensation. (Remember, all these men had rejected state compensation at lower rates and chosen instead to sue.) All the issues discussed in this article (and quite a few others) were debated at great length, with exonerees (including some now suing Glasheen) asking plenty of questions and receiving what IMO were honest answers.
Having literally been in the room - I was there to give a legislative update so the exonerees would know first-hand exactly where the compensation bill stood - I can tell you I personally did not feel like anyone was misled or taken advantage of. Whether some state bar fee rule was violated I do know know, but as far as whether anyone was misled: Absolutely not. In retrospect, people look at the increase in compensation as inevitable, but really it happened in large part BECAUSE it settled all these cases. (There was a tort-reform aspect to the compensation bill that's often ignored but was key to GOP support, reducing lawsuits against cities and counties, especially in the Dallas area.)
Hindsight is 20/20, and nobody likes giving lawyers a cut of their legal winnings after the fact. But without contingency contracts, poor folks can't get into civil court, and all these exonerees hired Glasheen expressly because they made a choice not to accept the lower compensation amount ($50K flat per year falsely incarcerated, no annuity), just like after 2009 they could have chosen to reject the higher compensation amount and move forward with their suits. These were grown men making informed decisions, IMO, not suckers being duped. Bottom line: Even giving their lawyers 25%, everybody is better off than they would have been if they'd never hired Glasheen and taken the $50K compensation they were entitled to upon release. Which is exactly why they all took the deal: Not because they were marks for some greedy lawyer, but out of rational self interest.
Thank you, Mr. Glasheen. Unfortunately the comment system seems to have cut off the rest of your post, but I get the idea. I can't say that everyone will understand. People LOVE to pillory lawyers, but they forget that many of them are technicians, artists even, and devote hours upon hours to their craft. There's a reason that law school is very difficult and very expensive! Shoddy legal work can destroy a person as thoroughly as a slipshod doctor can. The attorneys on this case (you) deserve to be paid too- and how much is it worth to have your freedom and your life back? I'm sorry those prisoners thought they won the lottery and didn't have to share- but they didn't get out on their own. It took months of sweat and man-hours to do it- so what do they think is a fair payment for that?
Really, if you work for or even around the lawyers, as you and Circeherbivora do, you are not unbiased. The real crime is that no organization or entity would lobby the legislature on the behalf of the wrongfully convicted without the expectation of huge compensation. No one, least of all the Innocence Project of Texas, would do it simply because it's the right thing to do. That's what's missing from this story, that kind of analysis. We are so jaded that no one expects anything unless it's for the mighty dollar. I have no doubt that the lawyers, though skilled at their craft and very well connected in the good ole boy network that prevails in Texas, were in it first, for the money, and second, for the glory.
My mistake. Allow me to correct my thought. Ahem. Phillips accepted Glasheen's assistance in the HOPES of receiving a large compensation pay off. He received not ONLY legal assistance but also medical and financial aid and even a car. All of which, given his criminal history PRIOR to the wrongful conviction, he was probably desperately in need of. Personally, I would have been profoundly grateful- its hard enough to find work or a helping hand, especially in this economy.
But not Phillips. When he saw in writing how much money was involved, dollar signs flashed in his eyes and he forgot how much he had promised to his benefactor, in fact, how much he was indebted to him.
Folks, do you realize there are still states that won't even remove the conviction from a person's file once they've been exonerated? They still have to pay a fee to remove it! So, getting that compensation was a HUGE victory. Apparently people think it all happened by magic and for free.