Fight or flight?

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"Acting upon the suggestion of his attorney's representative, Walter attended chemical dependency treatment on November 4 rather than appearing in court. His attendance can be verified by the treatment facility if necessary."

Raynor, Waddle's new lawyer, wrote the judge later: "According to his ex-wife, the only reason Mr. Waddle is currently in jail is because of the failure of Mr. Brian Loncar to appear in your court and pass a case for announcement [meaning postpone the appearance until a later date]. Word is that you would not allow his paralegal to pass the case."

Both Waddle and his ex-wife say that various employees in Loncar's office--all non-lawyer aides or assistants--told them that Loncar employees had tried to fax an explanation to the court, and that a non-lawyer employee had gone to court to try to pass the case to a later date. "One of the people in his office said the judge was upset that an attorney wasn't there," Waddle says.

Judge Shipman told the Observer he would not discuss Waddle's case, but added: "Generally, it's against the law for someone to appear and purport to be a lawyer. They have to be licensed for them to appear before the court. I don't let people come in and act as a lawyer if they are not."

Dallas attorney William Shirer, who worked from 1993 to 1995 as one of two lawyers employed by Loncar, says it wouldn't have been the first time some unlicensed underling from Loncar's office was dispatched to do lawyer work.

"He'd send people, non-lawyers, and the judge wouldn't know unless the person he sent was a blithering idiot. How are they supposed to know who in the crowd is a lawyer?" Shirer says. "There were two law students that were extremely nervous about being sent. They didn't like doing it."

In Waddle's case, Loncar had a week, until November 11, to appear in court with his client and clear up the problem, Raynor says.

Waddle says he didn't even know there was a problem until the following Saturday, November 9, when he received a letter from Loncar stating that his case had "gone NISI."

The term means that the court ordered Waddle's bail bondsman to pay his full bond to the court because Waddle didn't show up. That was $7,500, according to court papers.

Loncar's letter also stated, "We have tried on numerous occassions [sic] to contact you at several different numbers but have been unsuccessful."

Waddle says he didn't know what "gone NISI" meant, but called Loncar the same day. Loncar returned his call. "When I asked him why his office had told me not to go to court and why he had not appeared in court himself, he said, 'I don't want to hear any shit about my staff, you still owe me money,'" Waddle says. He had paid $2,150 of Loncar's $2,500 fee--money he says it took him two months to earn.

Waddle says Loncar told him to call his office on Monday and Tuesday, but both days he says Loncar was not available to return his call. A week later, Loncar called Waddle and said he had "worked something out" with the district attorney. Waddle says he assumed that meant the bond problem was being handled, too.

Waddle says he was more than surprised when a pair of sheriff's deputies came to his apartment on December 13 and arrested him for failing to appear in court on November 4.

From there, Waddle's relationship with Loncar began deteriorating. He says he was taken to court as scheduled on December 18, but once again, Loncar was nowhere to be found. Court documents show that Loncar had rescheduled the appearance to a date in February, but Waddle says that was news to him. Loncar's office wouldn't accept his collect calls from jail, Waddle says.

Then they began arguing over whether Loncar knew about the October and September DWIs, and whether his fee covered his representation in those cases.

In a December letter to Waddle, Loncar claimed that nobody told him about the subsequent DWI charges, and that he had been hired only on the first case.

(If a lawyer is in Shipman's courtroom, he or she can easily check a client's charges by crossing the hallway and typing the client's name into a public-access computer terminal. The information pops right up.)

On December 19, Raynor appeared in court, alone, and handed Shipman a motion stating that Waddle had hired him as a substitute for Loncar. Without bringing Waddle to the court to verify his wishes, Shipman approved the motion and set a new bond amount: $5,000. "He must have known what was going on," Alisa says.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec