The weirdness surrounding disgraced attorney Tom Corea has several levels. There's the obvious one, in which he was sued by several former clients who said he'd stolen their settlement money; indicted for felony theft by the Dallas County District Attorney's office; had disbarment proceedings initiated against him by the State Bar of Texas; and was evicted from his swanky Design District offices for non-payment. Corea's former landlords say he responded to that eviction, as one does, by trashing the place, including drawing penises all over the office , strewing used toilet paper about, and writing several insults on the walls about an out-of-state judge being a "Fat Whore."
Corea's bond was revoked for that last incident, the one with the dicks and the impugning of lady judges. He's currently in Dallas County Jail, with bail set at $575,000.
The other level of weirdness has to do with Corea's open cases, 300 or so of them, and who should take them over.
A hearing yesterday in the 95th District Court revealed that Shannon McCarty, Corea's girlfriend and former office manager, tried to sell the computer servers containing many of those case files to another local injury attorney, Eric Marye.
(According to the Dallas Morning News, prosecutors have accused McCarty of being "an accomplice" in Corea's crimes, although she hasn't been charged with anything.) In the meantime, the servers have been at her apartment. A bunch of the paper case files have been in the possession of another former Corea Group employee, Shelley Curtiss. In her truck, specifically.
The hearing in front of Judge Ken Molberg yesterday (at which Corea was not present) was in response to a petition filed by Brad Thomas, a 28-year-old former lawyer with the Corea Trial Group. Thomas said he quit in disgust soon after Corea's indictment and now practices law out of his apartment. He asked the court to assume jurisdiction of all of Corea's case files and then appoint him as their custodian.
Marye had a different idea about how the cases should be handled: he paid McCarty $10,000 for the computer servers, but was adamant that he was not trying to "buy" the cases themselves (which is, obviously, a no-no.) Instead, he and McCarty told the judge that they set up a makeshift office with the servers and began getting in touch with Corea's former clients by phone, to let them know that Corea had been disbarred and Marye was available to take over their cases. Marye said he'd been in contact with the State Bar's ethics board throughout the sale, to make sure it was kosher. McCarty said the money would go toward paying off the firm's debts.
But Thomas said that McCarty was trying to just sell the cases themselves outright. To back that point up, he played a video he recorded of himself and a process server delivering a subpoena to McCarty's house. In the video, Thomas asks McCarty what's happened to the files.
"I'm selling them," she replies. "Someone's buying them. Someone's taking them on."
"Who?" Thomas asks.
"That's none of your business," McCarty replies.
As the video played in the courtroom, several of Corea's former employees who were present started giggling. When McCarty was heard on the video giving Curtiss' contact information to Thomas, Curtiss shook her head in mock outrage at McCarty, who smiled back from the stand and mouthed something indecipherable. When Thomas himself took the stand later on, Curtiss could be heard loudly hissing the word "snake" at him from the audience. (She later told the judge that she was unhappy to have been subpoenaed in front of her children.)
Thomas told the judge that he was "absolutely not" trying to take over the cases himself.
"I'm asking for all the files to be in one place," he said, "In the broad daylight and fresh air." He called Corea's conduct a "blight on the legal community," and said that he and several other lawyers were working to "triage" the situation.
But when Marye quizzed Thomas on how long he'd been an attorney and how much experience he had, he admitted that since 2009, when he was admitted to the bar, he'd only been first chair on one case, which he'd lost, and hadn't ever handled a malpractice suit "from start to finish."
Marye told the judge that he himself was "more than qualified" and "very excited" to handle the cases. He admitted that taking them on would "obviously" result in "some monetary benefit" to him, but said that was hardly the point.
"This is Tom Corea's problem," he told the judge. "I hope the court would entertain me being allowed to be part of the solution."
In a way, the judge did just that. Molberg granted Thomas' petition to have the court take over jurisdiction of Corea's files. A former judge, James Stanton, was appointed the primary custodian. Marye will be the "secondary and temporary" custodian for the next few days, the judge ruled. He is required to assess the files and take "any immediate action necessary to prevent harm to clients." Some of Corea's clients have apparently had their cases dismissed because nobody showed up to hearings; the idea is that a custodian will prevent that sort of thing from happening anymore.
Thomas said he was "very pleased with the court's results," even though he'll play no role in the custodianship. "I'm confident the clients' matters will be resolved ethically, to protect the clients' interests," he said.
Corea's girlfriend also briefly testified yesterday about Corea himself, saying that he will not be able to make his $575,000 bail. "The judge is working on lowering his bond to get him out and move him into a treatment facility," she said. She and Marye declined to answer questions after the hearing about what type of treatment that might be.
Can we also suggest remedial art class? Those penises were really very odd-looking.