Friday, December 11, 2009

Exonerees, lawyers fees and innocence compensation: A personal perspective on an ugly dispute

I'm going to speak out of school a bit to offer a personal perspective on a dispute covered today in the Dallas News involving my former employers. I've not spoken to anyone involved about the lawsuit described below. I claim no direct line to the truth on this and only offer my own impressions.

However, I've got mixed feelings about today's media coverage over a fee dispute between one of Texas' DNA exonerees, his attorney, and the legal director of the Innocence Project of Texas. This spring I worked worked for/with both lawyers being sued - Kevin Glasheen and Jeff Blackburn - and my history with Blackburn goes back to working with him on the Tulia cases around the turn of the century. What's more, I know all of the exonerees and attorneys who are quoted in the story. If you know nothing besides what you read in Jennifer Emily's Dallas News story ("Innocence Project counsel criticized for profiting on exonerees"), it sounds pretty bad. Here's her lede:
Jeff Blackburn has helped spring dozens of Texans from prison after they spent time behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

But even as he's carried on the public fight to free the wrongly convicted as chief counsel for Innocence Project of Texas, he's been privately profiting off of some of the exonerated by claiming a portion of the state restitution paid to them.

Accepting fees from exonerees for services not directly connected to the nonprofit Texas Innocence Project is not illegal. But at least one public watchdog group says it appears improper, and a state legislator says he may file a bill to prohibit such profiteering.
At root, this critique is based on a sentiment, most directly expressed by Rep. Rafael Anchia, that "They should be helping the exonerees on a pro bono basis." But what other clients do attorneys represent without compensation? In this case, thanks to their lawyers, clients got aggressive representation across multiple fronts that resulted in changes to state law and opened the door for multi-million dollar settlements of their federal civil rights claims. That's no small thing. Texas could, as a state, change the way we compensate lawyers in civil court, but that's a much larger question.

The whiff of scandal promoted in the story is rooted in a fallacy the writer fails to rebut: The idea that exonerees could have just filed "
a one-page document the guy could fill out himself." The fact is that Texas already had a compensation statute when Steven Phillips got out of prison, but at a much lower compensation rate. All of the fellows who hired Glasheen (some of whom, but not Phillips, for which Blackburn receives a referral fee) could have filed that same one-page document already and received compensation at a lower rate. They each had a choice under the law: Sue or accept compensation. Some did accept the compensation and didn't pay lawyers anything. Bully for them. That was their decision, but they'll receive less money overall than Mr. Philips. The only ones on the hook for attorneys fees are the ones who made a conscious choice that the previous compensation package was not enough.

Under the law for exonerees who reject the state compensation package, their other option for compensation was and is to hire a lawyer and sue.
These are straight-up, contingency style Sec. 1983 federal civil rights suits which are very expensive to litigate and perhaps even more difficult to win - plaintiffs must not just prove harm but a "pattern and practice" of abuse. Those lawsuits were settled this spring in light of Texas' new compensation bill and a portion of the bill's success may be attributed directly to leverage from Glasheen's litigation - particularly among Dallas-area reps like Anchia whose local governments could otherwise be on the hook for big civil judgments. If the bill had failed, the litigation would have gone forward, including Mr. Phillips', of that I have little doubt.

Bottom line: these exonerees are in a unique position because of a) choices they made and b) the point in history they made them. Nobody going forward will find themselves similarly situated because the law has changed.

The compensation they'll receive under the new bill, even after paying their lawyers, will be much more than exonerees would have gotten otherwise. What's more, the new bill establishes an annuity that will pay them for the rest of their lives. Nobody's hurting for money here.

It should also be said I'm 100% sure the compensation bill would not have passed this year without Kevin Glasheen and Jeff Blackburn. While Blackburn's efforts were more high-profile, Glasheen, a Republican attorney out of Lubbock, brought connections and resources to the table that I'm absolutely certain pushed the bill over the top, especially during a session when money was tight and most other innocence legislation died. He was in Austin every week lobbying with terrific success, but his incentive to do so was the fee agreement. Should he, would he, would anyone expect him to do so just out of the goodness of his heart? He didn't take these cases pro bono; this is how the man earns his living.

Ditto for Blackburn, who faced similar criticism after the Tulia cases were settled. But how can he handle expensive, longshot innocence cases if he must earn his living hustling for DWI clients in Amarillo? I've watched Blackburn put tens of thousands in legal expenses on his own credit cards in possible-innocence cases, sometimes without getting it back. If we're going to blame Jeff when makes money, he should also get credit for putting in a lot more of his own money and pro bono time to help innocent clients post-conviction than most attorneys I know.

Another thing not mentioned in the story: Glasheen gave significant monetary advances to exonerees to help them pay bills while the litigation and legislation was pending - in some cases fairly significant amounts. Nobody had any complaints when they approached him seeking cash, one notices, and if the bill and litigation both failed, he'd be out that money. I'm just sayin'.

So while I understand why Phillips and perhaps others chafe at the notion, personally I don't begrudge the attorneys involved being paid. Professional-level services are not free, and otherwise the work wouldn't get done.


At the end of the day, Blackburn, Glasheen, and these exonerees together along with Anchia, Rodney Ellis, Robert Duncan and others at the Lege achieved something amazing with the passage of this bill. Exonerees in the past were compensated much less, and in a couple of instances wound up destitute and homeless a few short years after getting the money. Even after attorneys fees, these guys will get more than they otherwise would have, including a lifetime annuity. The fight for better statutory compensation - fought by the exonerees through their own efforts and their attorneys - both earned more for them and paved the way for improved justice for others in the future. Henceforth, it's true: Nobody need hire an attorney and exonerees can just file that one-page document. But that's a fight recently won, not a fait accompli that would have happened without these attorneys' effort.

Political and legal fights over public policy are messy beasts and seldom free from self-interest. This one was successful, so it's a shame to see victors feuding over the spoils. I'm sad that it's happening and wish everyone involved the best.

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Freedom isn't free. Literally...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if some of those behind these criticims are the people who don't like the fact that innocent people are being freed at all. When John Bradley testified in the recent Senate committee hearing on the Forensic Science Commission issues, I got the impression, from a couple of his remarks that he didn't like the innocence project (I think he referred to it as that non-profit in New York or something like that).

You'd think everyone, particularly those that work in the system, would be glad to see innocent people exonerated. After all, its supposed to be about justice, isn't it? Some seem more concerned with protecting a broken system than doing the right thing. Just look at the people still claiming Willingham's execution was okay!

I wonder if we are starting to see the beginnings of what could be a coordinated effort to try to discredit the innocence project and those that are working to free innocent people. What does that say about the people behind it? Think about it. They would rather see innocent people rot in prison rather than have an attorney make a few bucks by freeing them.

I think its perfectly appropriate for attorneys to profit from these situations. After all the sometimes incompetent, sometimes dishonest, sometimes just plain lazy, sometimes just ambitious, police and prosecutors that put these innocentp people in prison get a salary. If the legislature mentioned in the article is truly worried about the money, why isn't he working harder to stop these things from happening? It costs the state a lot of money to prosecute and incarcerate someone. Don't you think we should at least make sure we are spending that money incarcerating guilty people?

If the legislature were to pass the law this guy is proposing, requring that attorneys only take these cases pro bono, it would send the message that the state of Texas has no interest in justice and doesn't give a rat's a__ that innocent people are in the state's prison.

Furthermore,attorneys can profit from medical malpractice cases and many other tort cases where someone has failed to act in accordance with an appropriate standard of care. Attorneys can even be sued for legal malpractice and the attorney representing the plaintiff will make a profit. In many of these cases I think its clear that law enforcement or prosecutors did not act in accordance with an appropriate standard of care (that is their duty to seek justice). Therefore, I see little difference in these cases and the other types of tort cases so why shouldn't the attorney be compensated for his work.

One more point, I have personally seen the political machine in Smith County, headed by a district judge and the DA, commit dishonest, unethical and illegal acts in order to preserve their power. Its a scary thing to believe that people in power care more about protecting their power than in seeing justice done. But, unfortunately, its not that unusual.

Angee said...

These guys are fortunate that they are on the outside. "Free" does not get the zeal or dedication of a paid professional. This is a shameful act of entitlement against the wrong people. Maybe we could stick them back in prison and scratch everything that was done to free them. They are puppets and someone is pulling the strings.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a bunch of hypocrites. Lawyers rips off exoneree and you've got all kinds of excuses.

Bottom line: it is unethical to take a contingency fee to work on a criminal case. If the lawyer wants to be compensated for specific work on an hourly basis, OK. But, the lawyer should not play the lottery with exoneree money.

That system promotes dishonesty. Too easy for the lawyer to fudge the facts and spin the witnesses when he knows it will make him a millionaire.

Anonymous said...

John Reed said I feel sorry for that school.

Anonymous said...

"That system promotes dishonesty. Too easy for the lawyer to fudge the facts and spin the witnesses when he knows it will make him a millionaire."

But, its okay for prosecutors to do those things to enhance their political careers? Come on, give me a break! Can you name one of these exonerees that was freed because a defense lawyer was fudging the facts and spinning the witnesses hoping to get rich? On the other hand, how many innocent people are in prison because prosecutoor fudged the facts or spun witnesses to get convictions and enhance his political career?

Put a little thought into the issue, good grief!

Anonymous said...

Following anon 1:45's way of thinking, it would seem that all DA's need to be appointed and their continued employment, compensation, promotions or any other benefit should in no way be based on the number of convictions they obtain. They should have no possible motivation to obtain a conviction other than the interest of justice. Otherwise, according to anon 1:45's logic, we are encouraging dishonesty, fudging facts and spinning witness. Wait, that is what some prosecutors do now.........................Hmmmmmmm. Maybe he's right........

Anonymous said...

SHAME!

Anonymous said...

So, as chief counsel for Innocence Project of Texas, did Mr. Blackburn draw a salary?

Also, what was the contingency fee %?

Anonymous said...

The system has been corrupted by Ellis' payola. Get the victim to lie ("It never happened.") and everyone, including the defense lawyer, becomes a millionaire.

Shame on you Grits for selling out. What was your cut?

Anonymous said...

So Mr. Blackburn may have made a little money. Ooooh! Shame on him! Just imagine. I'm sure when he started out in the Innocence business he saw it for what it is -an ATM for greedy lawyers ... Come on folks, let's face reality here - I strongly suspect that those criticizing Blackburn are those who have a problem with exonerations per se. Has he really done anything improper? And by the way, contingency fees are perfectly OK in civil/1983 litigation - Anon 1:45 doesn't appear to understand what's criminal and what's civil.

To my mind the real scandal is that so few lawyers lift a finger to do any pro bono - there are so many people who could use a little help, and I've found some of my most enjoyable experiences as a lawyer have been doing something purely because it was the right thing to do, and because the client had no one else to give them an "assist".

And I must say, my tired old heart was warmed by Angee, who would put an innocent person back in prison simply because they may be making some self-serving financial decisions. If that was the criteria for imprisonment, 95% of the American public would be behind bars.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:45, the contingency fee was on the civil case; your critique is unwarranted.

2:37 writes: "So, as chief counsel for Innocence Project of Texas, did Mr. Blackburn draw a salary?"

Not to my knowledge, but I don't know for sure. I believe not.

On contingency fee percentage, the original contracts were at 40%. When it became clear the legislative solution would likely work out, it was cut to 25%.

2:28, If you want to accuse someone of "selling out," grow some cojones and sign your name to it. I'm not part of any fee sharing arrangement with anybody and I worked hard for the money I was paid working on these issues. I didn't notice you (or anybody else) up at the Lege working on this for free.

BEAST said...

Grits:

I would like to point out a discrepancy in a post.

The contigency fee at issue was set forth in a contract for IPOT to take on a criminal case. Yes the fee itself was for a civil case, but was entered into by an inmate for help with his criminal case. That is where the issue stems from. At bare minimum, it must be unconscionable for an attorney to enter into a contract to help an individual that is incarcerated, based on a hypothetical compensation package that the inmate has little knowledge of. But then again that is just me.

Besides, IPOT and Blackburn spent all their time and money that they received from the JEhT Grant (before Madoff ran off with the foundation's money) going around to any inmate that Blackburn thought had a chance to get exonerated. IPOT actually paid an individual to sift through all the cases in the Dallas DNA Project and had them sign a contract to help them with their criminal proceedings. The contract for criminal services stated that IPOT was to be reimbursed if the inmate was exonerated and received a civil settlement. Oh yeah, did I mention that there are attorneys that were helping these individuals for no fee at all. It was Blackburn that decided that these individuals needed to "pay" for legal representation.

At bare minimum, Blackburn used IPOT as a vehicle to secure these contracts and subsequently profit from their compensation packages. That is an extremely hard pill to swallow. A seasoned lawyer using a nonprofit organization to procure contractual agreements from incarcerated individuals, in the hopes to get a percentage of a compensation package that was meant to right a savage wrong.

This is at bare minimum in my opinion, a violation of the code of professional conduct. Further, I believe the "referral fee" that Glasheen and Blackburn had was also a violation of the code of professional conduct. But the details of that deal have not been fully disclosed in the media. Yet a referral fee is a referral fee. And in this state as of 2005, pure referral fees were done away with. So Blackburn must show that the fees are based on a "proportion of services" or "joint responsibility". Either way, I believe that Blackburn has still violate the code of professional conduct.

I believe lawyers should be paid for what they legally contract for. Blackburn deserves zero money for working on the exoneration of individuals through the Dallas DNA Project. He did little work on these cases personally. Students reviewed the cases as pro bono work. Blackburn was more concerned with signing up inmates for his unethical compesentation and trying to figure out how to massage FOX into putting him on TV. If anyone should deserve money for their work, it would be the organization. Not Blackburn. But then again, IPOT is a nonprofit organization, not a forprofit law firm.

And as far as Glasheen is concerned, by all means, if Glasheen contracted for lobby work with the exonerees,then he should be compensated for such work. However, it seems to me that he contracted for legal work, and I am not sure that lobbying the state legislature constitutes legal work. It may, but I would think a personal injury lawyer would have been more careful.

As for Blackburn, he deserves to be disbarred. 1L's learn that you cannot enter into a contingency fee based contract for legal work on a criminal case. Plain and simple.

Lastly, the Innocence Project of New York should be ashamed of itself for letting someone like Blackburn drag its sacred trademark through the mud like this. Maybe the Board of Directors or Scheck & Neufeld should tell Blackburn that he has missed the boat. IP work is supposed to be about helping those that were wrongfully convicted. Not making money off of them.

Just the opinion of one of many...

Old Cop said...

Right on, Grits. After 41 years in all facets of the Texas CJ System, I have some thoughts on this subject (right or wrong?)

I think that sometimes, by the very fact of long term incarceration and association with folks who really ARE guilty, some of the "exonorees" inadvertently develop the pen-rat mentality. Some of them, very few I think, may not really mind shafting the very people to whom they owe their newly won freedom and compensation. Hence, lawsuits bitching about fees rightfully earned.

And to Mr. Legislator who thinks the lawyers should be forced to do "pro bono" work in these cases...look at the current Indigent Defense Bill's effectivness in Texas counties. What a laugh for the most part.

Blackburn and his people are in the trenches, alone most of the time, doing a thankless dirty job that nobody else wants because some chuckleheaded law dog or prosecutor didn't do their job in the first instance.

..."not to convict but to ensure that justice is done..."

BEAST said...

Grits:

One more thought to leave you with...

If Blackburn and IPOT require that all their clients sign a contract that involves a contingency fee agreement, then does that mean that they are not eligible to be members of the Innocence Network?

http://www.innocencenetwork.org/join.html

Seems to me that they fail the pro bono criteria.

Just another opinion of one shared by many...

Amerloc said...

"{E}xonerees could have just filed a one-page document the guy could fill out himself."

True enough, I guess.

And, being able to rake my own leaves, I can stroll down the street and help out those with less mobility get their leaves bagged up and on the curb, too. No need for them to subsidize my rake or help out paying for the bags.

And tomorrow morning, if I'm feeling the coffee, I'll fire up the chainsaw and trim those limbs on their tree that's hanging over the street and obstructing their mailbox. I mean, I'm no arborist, and my saw ain't been sharpened for years, but I can see there's a problem, and I'd like to lend a hand. Just neighborliness.

But personally? I'm calling an electrician to upgrade my 100 amp service to 150 amp. And I'll gladly pay him.

Anonymous said...

Blackburn puts his heart and soul into these cases, not to mention his own money and the enormous amount of time. If I had a life sentence on a crime I didn't commit and these guys came along and helped prove my innocence I hope I would feel a little more obligated and indebted to them.

As far as JB, he will stop at nothing to get a plea or confession regardless of guilt or innocence, including dishonest means. If an innocent person is bullied into taking a plea in Wilco, then later realizes they should have demanded a trial and files an appeal, Bradley will nail them with "aggravated perjury" It has happened more than once.

Bradley's pissed at the Innocence Project of New York because of a pending lawsuit filed on behalf of Michael Morton and Patricia Stapleton against the fine District Attorney and WilCo's Sheriff James Wilson regarding DNA evidence.

Maybe Bradley's formed a "citizens watch" group to monitor the activity of anyone involved with the Innocence Project anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Look at how much the lawyers received that covered up the TYC sex scandal. Big bucks, but they did away with the whole sex scandal scandal and covered for the governor's office at the same time. Worth the money; you decide? Screw the public; you decide?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Blackburn convicted in federal court of tax evasion?

Anonymous said...

No; and don't try to ruin his reputation.

Anonymous said...

So when are we going to start seeing prosecutors wanting Brady violators to be charged with ethics violations? Or much less charged with a crime?

Didn't think so.

Rage

doran said...

It is my understanding that a lawyer can, without violating rules of ethical conduct, enter into a contract to represent an individual in a criminal case for a set fee or pro bono, and at the same time contract with that same client to represent the client on a contingency fee basis in a civil case involving, as examples, false arrest, false imprisonment, bodily injury or any other tort cognizable in State or Federal court. From what Grits has described, that is what Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Glasheen did.

The comments on this thread which excoriate those two lawyers, such as the one by "Beast," demonstrate a lack of understanding and a great deal of animosity toward Blackburn and Glasheen. The comments by "Beast" in particular seem to be informed by anger and hostility at those two lawyers simply because they were successful at correcting some horrible examples of failures of the Texas criminal justice system.

The comments of the person who is hiding behind the anon of "Beast" are probably those of a prosecutor who feels compelled to attack every lawyer who successfully defends a person charge with a felony, or who -- as Blackburn and Glasheen did -- demonstrate the failings of some prosecutors. His, or her, suggestion that Blackburn be disbarred is absurd and way out of line. It is the kind of remark that Beast can make only behind the cowardly shield of annonimity. He, or she, would never put their own identity out there for fear of being sued for slander.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me, and I am not a lawyer, that it's only fair that an inmate who has had the benefit of being exonerated by the Project should promise to contribute to the costs of his legal help with a portion of any settlement he gets for being wrongfully incarcerated. These individuals should have realized the costs of their defense seeing as how they were unable to hire private attorneys. They know the dollar cost of gaining their freedom and that what they contribute would in effect allow the Project to help others caught in the same position. Once in the system, freedom is most certainly not free and the system itself is a navigational nightmare that insures that inmates who do attempt to file their own legal work because of lack of funds are rejected at every turn for reasons as ill conceived as being “untimely” or the smallest mistake despite whatever pertinent information proving a false conviction or injustice has been committed in the courtroom has been supplied.

The project performs a much needed service. I am firmly convinced that if we could see them fully funded, we would see a much greater number of exonerations than we already have. Something the system in Texas greatly fears. The entire legal and prison system in Texas is a self sustaining monster that cares little about justice or actual guilt & innocence, but only about public perception, the numbers of convictions and feeding it's prison industry. Every exoneration seems to be a public slap in the face to a system that should be more concerned with correcting the mistakes they have made over misplaced pride in a completely corrupt and broken legal system.

The greatest shame in Texas is that it would seem that the families of inmates don't understand the power of organizing and their vote. With so many individuals in the system in one form or another, once organized they would be a powerful voice for reform and change in the system.

Jim B said...

BEAST wrote: "At bare minimum, Blackburn used IPOT as a vehicle to secure these contracts and subsequently profit from their compensation packages. That is an extremely hard pill to swallow. A seasoned lawyer using a nonprofit organization to procure contractual agreements from incarcerated individuals, in the hopes to get a percentage of a compensation package that was meant to right a savage wrong."


These comments reflect the heart of the matter. As an outsider I always assumed that Blackburn was working for the IPOT, not in an individual capacity. Now that I know he (and Glasheen) "made a lot of money, and we earned it" I view it on a completely different level. I did not realize the tremendous (potential) profits in these cases. $8 million is a bunch of money.

Grits points out that Blackburn was criticized for the same type of payouts after the Tulia scandal. Simply disappointing. An extremely bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't have time to respond to everything here, but I will say to "Beast," your comments are for the most part moot because you are lying about the nature of the "contingency" agreement at issue, which was between Mr. Phillips and Glasheen and to which neither Blackburn nor the Innocence Project were a party. Your claims about contingency contracts and alleged ethical violations don't remotely jibe with anything that's been reported about this case, and you've provided no documentation for your anonymous slurs.

To others who would rely on Beast's representations, I'd wait for a more credible source who's willing to put their name on their opinions before jumping on that particular bandwagon.

Finally, I ask again, why should lawyers taking on longshot innocence cases and complex federal civil rights litigation nobody else wants to touch eschew all payment? When did that become the rule? Or is that higher moral obligation something that's for some reason specific to Blackburn?

doran williams said...

Jim B:

According to the Dallas News story, "Randy Turner [is the attorney] who filed the lawsuit against Glasheen and Blackburn...." Do you think Mr. Turner should be working on a contingent fee basis? If so, at what percentage and if no, what should he get paid for his services, in your opinion?

I don't understand why you object to Glasheen, who was not connected to the IPOT, making a good fee for securing a lot of money for his clients. This is what some lawyers do for a living.

And, I'm really curious: What bothers you the most, that a couple of lawyers made money securing huge compensations for their wrongfully convicted clients, or that the clients were wrongfully convicted in the first place?

JIm B said...

Doran Williams:

I'm bothered most by the wrongful conviction. Perhaps those in the "business" knew all along about these contingency agreements, but I'm just a citizen who is concerned with these issues, and I didn't know.

Grits:

"To others who would rely on Beast's representations, I'd wait for a more credible source"

Fair enough. There's much to this story and I will keep an open mind as I learn more.

BEAST said...

Grits:

No, I do not believe that lawyers should work for free. Further, I believe that those who work as lawyers should be paid for what they earn by actually doing the work they set out to do.

But, I do take issue with someone that is merely getting a "referral fee" for hundreds of thousands of dollars off of the back of someone that was wrongfully convicted.

Particularly, when there are people willing to represent these individuals for absolutely zero money. Zero. Not one dime.

Further, I have issue with an attorney, regardless of who it is, taking advantage of a wrongfully convicted individual while that person is falsely incarcerated. IPOT, a member of the Innocence Network, is supposed to be a group doing primarily "pro bono" work to help those who were falsely convicted. But somehow, at the end of the day, those exonerees represented by IPOT must pay Blackburn a fee. In my opinion, that is not what is considered "pro bono".

Just an opinion of one of many…

BEAST said...

Grits:

In order to better clarify my statements, and provide "proof" of their nature, I offer the following:

1. Please read over the IPOT contract that is directly at question.

2. Please read this article that aired on the CBS News station in Dallas:
http://cbs11tv.com/local/steven.phillips.wrongfully.2.1204440.html

3. Talk to Michelle Moore

4. Talk to John Stickels

5. Talk to the Wesleyan Innocence Project

6. Please read the article by Jeff Carlton, an AP writer, that appeared on CBS 11 on December 9, 2009.

7. Please read the following article that aired on CBS 11 on September 23, 2009.


This article by Arezow Doost specifically states:

"(Michelle) Moore says they've been receiving calls from confused clients asking about letters they've received. The public defender's office provided a copy to CBS 11. In it, the head of the Innocence Project of Texas, Jeff Blackburn, agrees to represent a client without a fee. But if he's successful in getting an exoneration, Blackburn would "seek compensation and reimbursement for our time and expenses."

‘It's blood money,’ said Moore. Blackburn confirms he has sent several such letters to potential clients.

Blackburn also told us nothing unethical is taking place and lawyers have a right to be paid for the work they perform."

This is a contigency fee for a criminal case. Plain and simple.

As far as Jeff Blackburn is concerned, how is it that a person can use a nonprofit organization to build a clientele in a forprofit venture. There are numerous people that have left IPOT over these exact reasons. Specifically, the article by Jennifer Emily states that Michelle Moore and John Stickels left IPOT over concerns over Blackburn profiting off of exonerees.

Additionally, the contingency fee at issue in the article written by Jennifer Emily is entered into by potential exonerees (inmates) and IPOT. That contract is for legal services for the inmate in the endeavor of proving their actual innocence. To my knowledge, having read that contract, there is no mention of legal services for claiming compensation.

Based on the actual contract used by IPOT, I believe that Blackburn is agreeing to represent clients in a criminal matter for a contingency fee. That is a violation of the professional code of conduct. Period. IF the contract says something different, than, this would not apply. But as I read the contract, that is the way it is. Please do not dismiss my comments as "moot" because you have not provided any contrary evidence other than I must be lying. I expect more.

Glasheen’s contract with the exonerees is a totally different contract. Under state ethics rules, in order for lawyers to share fees, the client must consent to such fee sharing before the legal work starts. First, Glasheen contracted with exonerees for legal work in a civil matter for a contingency fee. But Glasheen has billed Phillips for a referral fee to the tune of $413,000.00. This issue there is would be whether or not Phillips agreed to this referral fee at the time this contract was entered into.

Now this point, the Glasheen contract, is likely “moot” as Grits point out, because Glasheen says that the itemized bill was a mistake committed by his accounting firm. But doesn’t seem odd that he this, almost half a million dollar mistake was only realized after Phillips brought suit against Glasheen. I wonder what other mistakes went unnoticed when the other exonerees “begrudgingly” paid Glasheen, much like Patrick Waller.

Just an opinion of one of many…

BEAST said...

Additionally, Doran:

I would like to point out a small discrepancy with your post.

You are correct that a lawyer can contract for both criminal and civil legal services. Here, however, Blackburn contracted to perform legal services in a criminal matter in return for a percentage of a civil settlement, that Blackburn did not do any work on. The IPOT contract is for criminal legal services. IPOT, from my understanding, does not engage in providing legal services for civil matters. Nor are they a forprofit law firm.

That is the crux of the argument that I was trying to express. Blackburn has used IPOT to make money. There are other projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that do the exact same thing that IPOT does without ever asking for a dime. Further, Blackburn and IPOT have managed to draw the Innocence Project "brand" into this money grubbing publicity, and in doing so has caused the entire movement to be harmed.

Just an opinion of one of many…

BEAST said...

Lastly, both Doran and Grits:

I understand that my comments are harsh, but attacking me personally is childish at best. If you want to attack my arguments, by all means raise those specific issues and I will address them accordingly. I did not make these comments because I do not like the innocence movement. Actually, I champion all those who work tirelessly to help those falsely incarcerated.

I am, however, vehemently opposed to making millions of dollars off of someone who has been wrongfully convicted. Period.

Just the opinion of one of many...

BEAST said...

Doran and Grits:

Almost forgot...

1. Not a prosecutor.
2. Not angry. Just passionate about the helping the wrongly convicted.
3. Not slander. Slander is oral communication of false statements that are injurious to a person's reputation. This is not oral communication, the statements that I have made are true.
4. Doran, unless you are part of Doran Doran, arent you using an anon as well?
5. Lying? How is it that you believe that I am lying? Or was that an attempt to cast doubt on the facts.
6. Slurs? Just my opinion based on the facts. If the facts are disparaging, then shoes fits.

Notice I do not attack either one of you, I am simply trying to bring about vigorous debate of the issue. Not about me personally.

Just the opinion of one of many...

Anonymous said...

Regarding Beast's comment at 6:38 on 12/11/09 -- Beast says: "And as far as Glasheen is concerned, by all means, if Glasheen contracted for lobby work with the exonerees,then he should be compensated for such work."

Actually, no. Texas law specifically prohibits attorneys from receiving compensation (i.e., $$$) for employment that is contingent on the passage (or defeat) of legislation. (Look at section 305.022 of the Texas Government Code -- it seems pretty black and white).

The other important issue that writers and commentators don't seem to understand: Not only are attorneys statutorily precluded from taking a contingency fee in exchange for "lobbying services," it's a third-degree felony offense (punishable by 10 years in prison) if the lawyer does so "knowingly or intentionally." (Look at section 305.031 of the Texas government code; again, seems pretty black and white).

(You can also find this info at the Texas Ethics page: http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/guides/LOBBY_guide.htm#OTHER RESTRICTIONS. Click "Prohibitions and Restrictions," then Click "Other Restrictions.)

Lawyers are charged with knowing the law and following the law. How long until the Texas Ethic's Commission takes a closer look at this??

Anonymous said...

The BEAST must be completely out of touch with reality if she really thinks that there are that many lawyers out there willing to represent the wrongly convicted for free. Who on earth are those people - would they care to identify themselves? I thought not.

There are lawyers who represent the wrongly convicted for free. I know because I am one of them, although fortunately for me I have a well-paid job which subsidizes the pro bono work I do. But anyone who works in the field where I volunteer - capital cases, and non-capital cases involving mental illness or compelling miscarriages of justice - can point you to a myriad cases where clients are languishing for lack of good representation. I think it's high time for the BEAST to slouch back into whatever the dark hole is where it usually lurks.

The Team said...

Please share any info. you may have re: lawyers and organizations willing to assist the wrongfully convicted, pro bono.

We are specifically interested in the ones in (Texas) willing to; represent the wrongfully convicted having closed criminal cases with nothing to do with DNA, Death Row, or those Currently in Custody.

Closed Non-DNA, Non-Death Row cases have been denied & ignored long enough. Thanks.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Beast, if you're so gung ho to help the wrongly convicted, why are you unwilling to do so under your own name? What are you embarrassed or afraid of?'

Steven Phillips suit is about the contract with Glasheen. He has no contract with Blackburn or the Innocence Project. That's why I say you're lying. You assert things that are untrue, anonymously, without sourcing that simply do not jibe with the facts of lawsuit.

I'd also add, you're a coward to make such statements anonymously. Put your name on it and be accountable, if you want to (pretend to) hold others accountable.

Ducker said...

Duh. Nobody works for free.

Its not this lawyer's fault you were wrongly convicted and yet without this lawyer's work you'd still be in jail. Pay up.

A better system would be have to the state pay the lawyer a nice fee. If the state did this we could have freelance innocence lawyers reviewing all convictions.

Class action lawsuits prevent big companies from scamming a lot of people for a little amount of money. The actual person with the faulty product will get some crappy coupon but the lawyer will make serious bank... by this manner class-action lawyers are crusading against scams and dangerous products making everyone safer even if they are just in it for their own greedy self-interest.

We need something like this for overturning bad convictions and the way to do it is by paying bounties to the attornies.

TxBluesMan said...

Doran's post of 8:14 is dead on.

No lawyer works for free all the time, pro bono work notwithstanding.

There is nothing unethical about the arrangement, the recently freed inmate could decline the representation or seek another attorney if they didn't want his professional assistance.

Beast, Doran Williams is not using an anonymous name. Look him up. He's a member of the State Bar under that name, and if you would bother to Google his name, you would find that he was part of the ACLU (or TCLU or whatever) back when just mentioning support of that organization was likely to get one run out of town on a rail.

I disagree with almost every position that he takes in re those convicted, appeals, etc, but anyone that disparages the work that he has done on his side, or that accuses him of "hiding" behind a nom de plume is just flat out wrong. He says what he believes and does so publicly using his own name, which is more than either you or I do.

Anonymous said...

I love it when someone like The Beast makes a logical fact based argument, you get the standard hyper-ventilating responses "liar, coward, hiding, must be a prosecutor, etc.," BUT NOT ONE COHERENT ARGUMENT OR RESPONSE TO THE FACTS OR THE LEGAL ARGUMENTS ASSERTED.

Anonymous said...

My name is DeJon Redd. I'm a 2L at Texas Wesleyan School of Law, and have had the honor of being a very minor contributor to the Wesleyan Innocence Project.

I appreciate and respect the contributions GFB provides for public discourse.

I've met Randy Turner and Michelle Moore a time or two, but seriously doubt they would say they know me. I also hold both of them in very high esteem.

I write to say two things. First, given the sensitive nature and serious consequences of this matter, it seems particularly unhelpful for anyone to lob ad hominem attacks.

Secondly, having explained my background, I don't mind saying that I have long been highly skeptical of Mr. Glasheen's motivations. I am also surprised, yet glad to read Mr. Henson has a personal relationship with Glasheen and Blackburn.

Further, any point made that attempts to impugn the exonorees is morally repugnant. I've enjoyed the few oppotunities I've had to discourse with Mr. Johnnie Lindsey, and Mr. Patrick Waller. They have suffered historical injustice, and have come through it with a sense of forgiveness and a lack of bitterness. Anyone who attempts to denigrate these men demonstrates an unacceptable amount of contempt, ignorance, and prejudice.

I don't know BEAST's identity, but I do know the student-leaders of the Wesleyan Innoncence Project. I know them to be the more hard-working, thoughtful, intelligent, and disciplined classmates of mine at Texas Wesleyan. I am proud to call them friends. If BEAST is one of them, lay off. Those folks do great work, and do it amid a hectic law student's schedule and... they do it for free.

Which brings to my reason for writing: a question. How and why did Mr. Glasheen come to procure these contracts with these exonorees. They obviously did not seek Glasheen's representation, but what did he tell these men (who have decades' of imprisonment as a good reason to be concerned the legal system will not treat them fairly)?

I will say that his methods for procuring the rep agreements are worthy of suspicion, and if he used a strong sales pitch then his actions were dispicable and predatory.

All of that notwithstanding, it is impossible to ignore that Glasheen is arguing he should be allowed to dip in to the pockets of the exonorees and take millions. If he should be compensated (and compensated so handsomly) how can he, in good conscious, take from these men who have already been so mistreated?

Thank you again for this discussion. It has been long-needed, I hope it proves fruitful.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of your position in this debate, it is important to not lose sight of what we are talking about here. Those who have been exonerated spent anywhere from 15 to 30 years of their life imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. They were desperate, weak, ignorant of the law, and hungered for someone/anyone to listen to their plight. At their weakest of moments, lawyers (lawyers who claimed to be seeking justice for past wrongs committed) approached these wrongfully convicted individuals while they were still behind bars and offered their legal services on a contingency fee basis. Now, just for the sake of discussion, let us for the time being ignore the fact that these lawyers were members of an organization(s) that forbid seeking legal fees on an individual basis. For now, let’s focus on the simple fact that these lawyers sought out these wrongfully convicted inmates, not as pro bono work, nor to further the altruistic “innocence” agenda of the organization(s) they purported to represent, but in an attempt to reap fame and fortune off the backs of those who have already been so unjustly mistreated by our legal system.
These contracts between those wrongfully convicted and the attorneys in question are at bare minimum unconscionable. To even entertain the idea of condoning such a contract would be morally repugnant and degrade this noble profession to a level below that of a leach. At least a leach knows when to stop sucking the blood of a lifeless animal.
These disputed contingency fees and the litigious debacle that has ensued are not to repay the out-of-pocket costs borne by Mr. Glasheen et al. If reimbursement were the only motive, I can guarantee you that those exonerated would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for those services rendered. I have personally spoken to several of those already exonerated and I know this to be true. These men don’t seek to skirt their responsibilities, including that of paying those fees actually earned by the attorneys who represented them. All they ask is that for once they receive a “fair shake” from the legal system. A contingency fee rate of 40% is not only excessive, but it literally yanks food out of the mouths of those who rightfully deserve it. The result is nothing short of disgusting.
As for Mr. Glasheen et al., your distasteful conduct is not without recourse. Your face and name will be forever branded with a scarlet letter of disgrace by those within the legal profession. My only hope is that you are content with spending the rest of your life defending DWIs and chasing ambulances.
To Grits for Breakfast:
As an avid reader of your blog, I must say that I am disappointed by your inability to listen to an opposing view point, and your insistence on personally attacking those whom you disagree with. This type of “stomp-out those opinions that differ” mentality serves no purpose other than to homogenize the thought process of your readers.

Anonymous said...

According to the Texas Ethics Commission website, Glasheen donated 2500.00 to Sen. Duncan (the senate sponsor of the legislation to increase the state restitution for the wrongly convicted) in November of 2008--several months BEFORE the legislation passed. Although the increase was needed, one can't help but now question whether this whole legislative effort was nothing more than a ploy to make some lawyers a boatload of money at the expense of the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Grits - after reading your posts on Blackburn I can see that your very short time with him made you a "True believer" and it's not surprising that you're defending your hero's honor...it's just too bad your hero has no honor.

Too bad you weren't around before this latest reinvention of his legend, the stars in your eyes would've gone supernova and you certainly wouldn't be wasting your time sucking up to him now.

doran williams said...

Well. Just got back to this and find Tex's post. Thank you so much, Tex, I appreciate the comments. I hope you won't think ill of me if I nonetheless let you have a broadside next time I think it appropriate. :)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:25, I can tell you for sure I have no stars in my eyes or any misconceptions about Jeff Blackburn's shortcomings. He's not an easy guy to work with and I've known him since 1999.

However, he's out there doing the work that needs to be done, and you are not. I'm personally glad the compensation bill passed and was thankful for Glasheen and Blackburn's work on the bill. Without them it wouldn't, couldn't have happened.

TxBluesMan said...

You're welcome Doran.

Just because we are on opposite sides of most issues is no reason for a lack of civility, which is one of the things that a lot of the younger lawyers don't seem to have anymore.

I can remember (as I'm sure that you can) when attorneys would fight like cats and dogs in the courtroom, but adjourn for a drink together afterwards. It a shame that this is not as common as it used to be.

And I fully expect you to launch into me when you disagree (lol, you'll still be wrong though)...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dejonn at 1:56 asks, "How and why did Mr. Glasheen come to procure these contracts with these exonorees. They obviously did not seek Glasheen's representation."

I don't know all the answers, but there is a big false assumption behind these statements. You say they "obviously did not seek Mr. Glasheen's representation," but that is "obviously" wrong. In fact, under they law, they could have chosen to accept the old, lower compensation amount if they wanted to forego their legal right to sue. Each of them chose to sue instead, so it's "obvious" they did indeed seek out a civil lawyer and knowingly enter into a contingency agreement. It was their only legal option to be compensated besides filing that "one-page document."

Blackburn referred them on some of the cases, but not all. On Steven Phillips, it's my understanding that Michele Moore referred him to Glasheen.

The answer to the question in your next to last paragraph is that law students may work for free but adults do not. The exonerees knowingly entered into a contract - if they did so intending not to pay, that was wrong on their part, even if previous wrongs have been done to them. "Contingecy" means just that - reward may be greater or less depending on the outcome. If the bill had failed and Glasheen were now in the midst of trying a dozen Sec. 1983 cases, the exonerees would surely all expect him to live up to his end of the bargain.

DeJon Redd said...

Grits,

Let's be clear. This is a moral problem with legal implications. You can argue that "adults" work for free, but most will see this rebuttal as nothing more than an attempt to justify what appears to be boundless greed by your good buddy.

The courts will deal with the legal implications of the contract, but don't attempt dismiss the ugly nature of Glasheen's actions with a proverbial pat on the head.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

DeJonn, what's the moral problem besides the fact that you think all advocacy work on behalf of exonerees should be done for free? Be specific.

If you feel I'm patronizing you it's because this is how the world works; it was that way long before these lawyers arrived on the scene. Any civil lawyer taking a Sec. 1983 suit would have a 40% contingency - 1/3 is the lowest you'd ever see. Glasheen is charging 25%. If you think it's "ugly," when you become a lawyer, only take cases where your clients can afford to pay you by the hour.

If their clients were harmed by the outcome, I might feel differently about this. But in fact, the exonerees who hired Glasheen all will receive more than they would have if they'd never hired a lawyer and taken the lower compensation, even after the attorneys fees. Plus the law was improved for everyone, so nobody will need to hire attorneys or sue in federal court going forward.

Look at it this way: If the exonerees had never hired Glasheen, which you seem to think would have been the wise choice, the law would never have changed (I can promise you that) and we wouldn't be having this conversation - they'd still be faced with the choice of lower compensation or a lawyer with a 40% contingency fee. Which is the better outcome for justice, Mr. Morals?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, DeJonn, good for you for showing some cojones and using your real name.

DeJon Redd said...

Grits,

I'm self-aware enough to acknowledge some situations will make practical application of ideals difficult to say the least.

However, I see your two options as a false dichotomy.

First, Texas had the moral imperative to update the woefully inadequate compensation offer the State provided pre-Cole. If the State fails to recognize this truth the exonorees do suffer, but forcing them to pay for redressibility is tantamount to bribery.

I have nodded in agreement every time you've discussed the Timothy Cole Act and the importance of this move by our state legislature. But the exonorees should not have to pay to get their government to do the right thing. If Glasheen and his cohort were an indispensible part of this just action, the exonorees should not be the one's footing the bill.

It violates natural law, and that is why this contract is different than any other legal contract an attorney might procure.

Anonymous said...

The moral problem is the lawyer becoming a millionaire several times over, off the exhonerated's case. Is that "just" just because other lawyers do it too? Is that 25% fair compensation or unjust enrichment?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

DeJonn, I wish politics were as pure and untainted as they seem to teach 2Ls at Wesleyan. The fact is, "moral imperatives" do not pass legislation at the Texas capitol. You may wish it were true, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I do not present a "false dichotomy" at all, I present you with the ACTUAL, real-world options facing those of us working for improved compensation at the Lege.

Your argument that it'd be better to remain morally pure and have the clients receive less generous settlements amounts to throwing the exonerees' best financial interests under the bus out of envy and spite that some lawyer might get to make a large bank deposit.

I guarantee if, in January, you'd asked the exonerees, including Mr. Phillps, this question - Would you rather get $X and have your lawyers get nothing or receive $3X and have your lawyers paid $X? - there's no doubt everybody would have said "Go for it, give me $3X." But nobody could know how things would turn out, so Glasheen couldn't guarantee that outcome. If the bill hadn't succeeded, he'd be preparing a bunch of federal civil rights case for trial right now. (That whole "contingency" thing.)

For myself, having been there step by step when the bill was in play (and hardly a fait accompli), I'm comfortable with the decision to maximize benefits to exonerees even if it means a couple of lawyers get a one-time payday. That's because we simply wouldn't have gotten a compensation bill otherwise. It won't be an issue going forward, the exonerees got more money (an issue you inexplicably appear to devalue), and outside of complaints from a few naive purists who mostly didn't lift a finger to pass the bill, anyway, at the end of the day all's well that ends well.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, DeJonn, would you mind pointing me to the text of this "natural law" you say is being violated? Presumably that's different from Texas' 2,383 felonies or all the other crimes on the books. I never went to law school so it'd help me to know exactly what is proscribed by "natural law" to guide my actions going forward. Even though I'm straight, I could be violating it in other respects. ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, once again, Ol' Grits is really showing his true colors on this topic. After all of his prior pontificating and railing against "systemic injustice," he sure doesn't mind selling his soul (or his lawyer buddies' souls) in pursuit of the almighty dollar!!!

This whole thing just stinks to high heaven! Some smooth talking, "snake oil selling" lawyer down there lobbying the legislature in Austin to "make whole" all of those poor "wrongly convicted" prisoners,----while at the same time he's cooking up some scheme to line his pockets (as well as his good ol' referral buddy at IPOT)at the expense of these noble "exhonerated" and Texas taxpayers!

And then for Grits to chastise a young idealistic law school student about how things are in the "real world!" Grits is right, Dajonn, out here in the real world it's all about the "bottom line." Forget all that "pro bono" stuff they are selling you there in law school. It's all about "ambulance chasing," "contingency fees," and "schmoozing legislators" so you can squeeze in for your turn at the public trough!!!!

I'm sorry, Grits. But no matter how much lipstick you want to put on this pig, at the end of the day it's still a pig and it still smells like one!

DeJon Redd said...

Grits, I wouldn't be surprised if Henry Wade employed your condescending, "real world" argument in an attempt to justify the actions that led to these unjust convictions.

Like you, I'll be anxious to hear how the courts ultimately deal with Mr. Glasheen's contract.

Lynn said...

Dejon, I'm curious to hear what your legislative strategy would have been to pass this bill? Seriously, I really am. Maybe you're onto something the rest of us who've done this are missing...

Anonymous said...

I knew it would only be a matter of time, like everything. Unfortunately we were able to see what was happening up close, live and in person. Yep, the truth is all too scary to tell on these men, the lawyers I mean, but truth be told and many other men have been set free because of it, exonerees I mean. Blackburn and Glasheen along with their staffs are so doomed, Noe Valles on the Glasheen dream team is exceptionally disturbing, not to mention Chris Moore's obsessive homophobia, Blackburn has a mysterious past surrounded with depression and stories of suicide or is it all an illusion of his alcoholism? Michelle, Ms. Moore, smart enough to try to pull out and remain safe (NOT) yet she sure was looking "well kept" as her salary was increasing rapidly while those black men were being let out, handed some used clothing and set for a new life. There are so many details yet to be told and heard, kind of like Tiger Woods, poor tiger, it only took one to turn on him...Can you hear me now Kevin?

Anonymous said...

The first innocent project of Texas commission was held sometime in 2007 at the Wesleyan School of Law. Guess who was there? Christopher Moore, an attorney with Glasheen's team who handled the wrongful conviction cases. Guess what was the main question posed to exonerees? "How much money would you consider fair compensation?" All exonerees on the panel stated that $50,000 a year was definitely not enough. Other concerns raised by the exonerees included medical, psychotherapy,education, job placement, etc. Later that evening there was an after-party were the exonerees were offered all kinds of imported beer and worked over by smooth talking Jeff Blackburn. "Yeah man, my friend Kevin has alot of money and he's very generous." You think offering a broke exoneree $2500 a month won't entice him to sign on? It definitely won't hurt big time rich guy Kevin Glasheen when he's gonna get it all back anyhow...with a profit. Think it's a coincidence these exonerees signed up with Glasheen after being wooed by smooth talking Jeff Blackburn? Think Kevin and Jeff didn't plan all this out from the jump?

Anonymous said...

Freedom costs a 1.05

Lynn said...

Way to go, Nancy Drew @ 1:41 and 2:45. Sounds like a great start to a terrible mystery novel. It's so obvious that many of these commenters just have a personal beef with Blackburn or Glasheen and then come here anonymously to trash them using bits and pieces of inside knowledge mixed with nasty rumors. Very juvenile. It's like the TYC threads...

Gianpaolo said...

As a member of the executive committee for the Innocence Project of Texas I have some perspective on these issues.

First and foremost, the Innocence Project of Texas has only one (1) prerogative: Get innocent people out of jail. With that being said, anything beyond that prerogative has nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with the Innocence Project of Texas.

When the Innocence Project of Texas gets an inmate released based on their innocence, we do not stop there, we also try and help them adjust to life in the "real world." In no way do we, as an organization, try and steer civil lawsuits towards any of our members.

The only thing that can be said about our organization going beyond our primary goal is when we went to the legislature to try and get some legislation passed to not only limit wrongful convictions, but to also increase compensation to those who were wrongfully accused. This was not only honorable, but right. Anyone who claims the contrary either has an alternate agenda or has their fact misconstrued.

It is not wrong to accept a civil case after an inmate has been exonerated. The two cases are separate. they are filed in separate courthouses and have separate causes of action. One cannot fathom the amount of money that is fronted on behalf of these inmates for the purposes of their complaints (civil). These individuals should be lauded, not berated.

Please feel free to email me with any questions at: gmacerola@gmail.com

My name is Gianpaolo Macerola, and I strongly support Jeff Blackburn, the Innocence Project of Texas and their cause.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lynn,
Obviously I crave attention and further comments will glutuntly feed my immense desire for fame (aka Perez Hilton) please let me clarify your Nancy Drew attempt at sarcasm, it's Columbo to you Missy!
Doesn't change the fact that IPOT, Glasheen, and fans have too much to learn, and learn they will.
It's not the messenger you're hating,
ITS THE MESSAGE!!!!!

Kevin Glasheen said...

Steven Phillips screwed up his claim. He only got 2.5 instead of the 4 mm he should have. He missed his ten day appeal deadline. Maybe he skipped the appeal because he is broke - his lawyers say he is about to be evicted. Maybe it is a good idea to have a lawyer to help you file and keep a roof over your head so you can afford the fight.

Michelle Moore said...

I haven't read the posts on this topic so it was interesting to hear everything. I did laugh out loud because apparently I received a pay raise and didn't realize it!

I both love and hate Jeff Blackburn and have told him so. He is one of the best civil rights attorneys in the nation. He's innovative and passionate about his causes. His work with IPOT on the Tim Cole case was nothing short of amazing. His boldness and caustic barbs about the criminal justice system threw IPOT to the forefront of the national scene.

Kevin Glasheen has continued to get his clients multi-million dollar settlements. It's what he does, and he does it well. The compensation package would not have passed without his lobbying efforts. And, yes, I did set up the meeting between Kevin and Steven Phillips at Steven's request after we had covered all of his compensation options

I come into this whole mess as a public defender, having taken my vow of poverty! This is my choice. There does need to be a way to compensate the attorneys who do this type of work. Many IP's fund their staff attorneys' positions through either grant money or through a university or public defender's office. Most IP's file the compensation claims for the client automatically without funds being syphoned off for either the project or the attorney.

I am proud that the men are making their own decision instead of a prison guard. That includes filing a lawsuit if the man feels that it is necessary.

The actions on compensation have made me wiser. Several of the organizations in Texas now fill out the one-page form for the men immediately before release so that they have an attorney in place when the time comes to file the papers. No fee is charged. We didn't have the luxury of this option before the law passed. We now also have means of helping the men live somewhat comfortably through the UTA Exoneree Project until compensation comes in.

As for the attorney's fees on compensation, it will be interesting to see what the judge decides. I don't personally like or agree with the amount of money that is being made off of these men, but 25% compensation is certainly not an outrageous attorney's fee. I don't agree that lobbying is attorney's work, but I don't know what agreements were made with the guys or what all of their contracts say. On one hand, I would tell you that Kevin Glasheen has the right to dole out his fee however and to whomever he sees fit after he gets the money. On the other hand, I have grave concerns that an executive board member with IPOT taking money based upon an exoneration could jeopardize the 501(c)(3) status of that organization. However, there is a conflict of interest statement filed with the board so that the board can regulate such actions, and I'm certain that Natalie Roetzel, the executive director, will have everything in order for the IRS. Despite my personal opinions on this, it will be interesting to see what the judges decide. (By the way, IPOT has now changed their contracts with clients. The contracts provide for re-payment of attorney's fees and expenses if the client gets out and gets compensation. It's a much better contract, and there have been no complaints from any families lately.)

In the meantime, the men are well. They are the only exoneree group in the nation that have a support group. Thanks, UTA, Dr. Jaimie Page and Dallas Central Ministries! The men's struggles are monumental with everything that I take for granted in daily life. Dr. Page has been working with them on everything from balancing a checkbook to buying a house. The papers have said these men are millionaires, but in truth they walked away with a lot less than that in their pockets. My hope is that the work continues with both the exonerees and in seeking justice, and NOT that this lawsuit becomes a set-back for any of the IP's. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

Anonymous said...

Phillips should really consider suing his lawyer (if he was represented) for legal malpractice for missing the ten day appeal deadline.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle,
As Kevin wrote, ignorance is no excuse.

Dear Kevin,
As Michelle wrote,
blah, blah, blah
Blah,Blah,Blah,
BLAH! BLAH!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Glasheen, why is is that you are communicating with Phillip's lawyer about his eviction, is it like sharing war stories or something? In the ghetto, people hang out of their windows to gossip, how do y'all do it?

Kevin Glasheen said...

Steven's lawyers were in court with me last week and made the statement to the Judge that Steven was going to be evicted this week if he didn't get some money immediately. He either didn't appeal because he missed the appeal deadline or because he was desperate for money. Either way it was negligent.

Anonymous said...

A while back I read the best seller "The Millionaire Next Door" basically talks about the habits and lifestyles of the really rich. One unexplainable thing to me about this blog is that a very wealthy man, (according to his winning status as an attorney) such as Kevin Glasheen would have the time, or any remote interest to answer or comment on any posts to this blog. It doesn't even seem like many of the exonerees are spending time writing about this subject. Does anyone know of any exoneree blogs or websites where they tell their sides of the story?

DeJon Redd said...

Grits,

The State Bar of Texas appears to be some of those "naive purists" taking issue with Glasheen's actions on behalf of the exonorees. To wit: the Timothy Cole Bill.

Hope to hear your take.

easrere said...

Here. My name is E. A. Srere. I'm a criminal defense attorney in Dallas, whose best friend in the PD's office here had a hand in a great majority of exoneration cases. I'm here to offer my services PRO BONO to ANY exoneree who needs to get their compensation from the State of Texas. Why???? Because THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING, WERE SCREWED BY THE STATE OF TEXAS, AND SHOULDN'T OWE A PENNY TO ANYONE FOR CLEARING THEIR NAMES AND RECEIVING COMPENSATION FOR SPENDING THEIR TIME INCARCERATED IN TDCJ, WHERE THEY WERE PROBABLY BRUTALIZED DAILY. How any lawyer could want to make money off of that just boggles my mind. If Blackburn and his crony Glasheen want to make millions off these guys, I challenge them to spend even ONE MONTH in TDCJ, and say that any monetary compensation is enough. "Your first night is your wedding night," is what my mentor King Solomon used to tell clients who could go to the pen. Grits, I'm ashamed of you. Really. And really, it is a one-page document. One signature. I've seen it. A million dollars? really???? What scum. No wonder no-one likes attorneys. This is a criminal matter, and there's no way that they intended to pay for lobbying. Sure, the compensation was upped. But all it's upped is taken by the lawyers' fees. Please.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

E.A., are you going to take Sec. 1983 civil rights cases pro bono? That's what's at question here, not filling out a one-page form.

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