Back in April, the carefully airbrushed Yelp reputation of Irving attorney Sherin Thawer took a major hit when user Kayur P. left a bruising, one-star appraisal of her legal talents. The content of the review has since been removed from the site for unspecified violations of Yelp's terms of service, but Thayer helpfully saved it for posterity by including it in the defamation lawsuit she filed four days later:
My brother hired Sherin back in February 2013 for his immigration case. She is the most unethical, incompetent lawyer you'll ever come across. I wouldn't even call her a lawyer, she's a FRAUD.
Strong words, but to prove defamation against Kayur and his brother Anish Patel (she sued both), Thawer would have had to have established, among other things, that Kayur's comment was false. And while it may have been hyperbolic (there's always a more unethical/incompetent lawyer out there), the heart of the claim rings true to the State Bar of Texas. On Tuesday its Commission for Lawyer Discipline sued Thawer, who is already in month two of a two-year suspension according her profile on the State Bar website, seeking additional sanctions.
Anish Patel hired Thawer and put down a $2,000 retainer (he would ultimately pay her $4,200) in February 2013 to represent him in removal proceedings. The details of Patel's immigration status aren't detailed in court documents. Suffice to say there was a June 5 hearing at which Thawer tried to have the case administratively closed.
"After her motions were denied by the Judge, Attorney Thawer requested a five-minute recess, which was granted," Anish Patel recalled in an affidavit filed as part of the defamation suit. "We went into the hallway and Attorney Thawer instructed me to leave the hearing with her, saying 'We are leaving the Courthouse because I can't deal with this.'"
When Patel checked in to see if the case had been resolved in his favor, he took her eventual email response -- "Yes, it's done --I'm getting paperwork done" -- to mean that it had. He was surprised, then, when eight months later, on February 13, his brother, who had signed the bond allowing Anish to be released, was served with a notice that Anish was to be delivered to the U.S. government for immediate deportation.
Thawer, according to the State Bar, hadn't gotten the case closed. When Patel didn't show up after the five-minute recess, the judge tried him in absentia and ordered him deported.
Distraught after receiving the order and unable to reach Thawer by phone or email, the brothers showed up at her office to retrieve Patel's files so they could hire another lawyer. They were frantic, given the looming deportation order, but were told that it would take three to five days to get a copy of his file and were ultimately escorted off the property by police. (Thawer defends the delay in later court filings: "[W]hat [the Patels] totally fail to state and bring to the Court's attention is the fact that February 13th 2014 was a Thursday and February 17th was a Monday. Friday was the 14th and Valentine's Day. Defendants wholly fail to inform the court that it was a 'weekend.'")
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Meanwhile, the Patels discovered through a cursory Google search that Thawer had, since Anish's ill-fated hearing, been suspended for one year from practicing in federal immigration court.
Kayur Patel subsequently posted the Yelp review. Anish Patel filed a grievance with the State Bar, which, with last month's suspension and yesterday's lawsuit, is just now starting to bear fruit. He also hired another immigration attorney, Gary Frost, who convinced a judge to reopen his case because of Thawer's actions.
Thawer couldn't be reached for comment, and her office voicemail is full.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.