Lubbock personal injury attorney Kevin Glasheen, who represented a number of Dallas exonerees and successfully lobbied the state legislature to more than triple the amount paid for each year spent wrongfully imprisoned, was found innocent Thursday of professional misconduct charges brought by the State Bar of Texas.
Three of his former clients had filed lawsuits against Glasheen, one claiming he didn't file the civil suit he'd been hired for, the others contesting the slice his fee agreement took out of the annuity the state pays. They settled the claims back in November. But that didn't resolve the charges brought by the State Bar, which characterized his fee agreement with his clients as "unconscionable."
Reached just after a Lubbock district judge ruled that the Bar hadn't met its burden of proof, Glasheen said, "I'll tell you, we always knew as we went through these cases that we were dealing with very public cases, very high profile issues. And I always knew someone would want to scrutinize what we did and how we did it.
"We did it right. We followed the rules. It was a novel case."
Glasheen spent eight hours on the stand, testifying about the strategy he pursued on behalf of his clients (the subject of this August cover story). The State Bar had claimed, in the case of Steven Phillips, a Dallas exoneree who spent 25 years in prison for a string of rapes he didn't commit, that Glasheen's arrangement would result in an outsize windfall requiring little effort on the attorney's part. For the price of filling out a one-page form, the State Bar contended, some 25 percent of the $4 million Phillips was due from the state would be paid to Glasheen.
Glasheen has always contested the State Bar's characterization, noting that his firm spent thousands of man-hours in discovery, filing complaint after complaint against the City of Dallas and others, eventually pressuring the city to back an effort in the state legislature to beef up the paltry sum it offered the wrongfully imprisoned.
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"What it means to me is that we were right all along," Glasheen says. "What we did was a tremendous amount of work for these clients and achieved great results. This notion they publicized that all we did was file a one-page form is not true. And the great thing about a trial like this is it takes an oversimplification and misrepresentation and takes it apart, and that's what we did."
Phillips, for his part, is disappointed, but he tells Unfair Park he saw this coming. "It's not like they did this out of the goodwill of their heart. But there have been improvements. Given that, I'm not so surprised by the ruling."
The Texas State Bar sent this statement:
The Commission for Lawyer Discipline, the client body for attorney disciplinary matters, believes that this case involved important issues to be decided by the Court. It should be noted that in 2011 the Legislature amended the statute governing compensation for exonerees to prohibit the type of contracts used by Glasheen in these cases. The next step will be the consideration by the Commission of whether to pursue an appeal of the Court's decision. Any such appeal would be to the Seventh Court of Appeals in Amarillo.