No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

 Posted on July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about this British guy who has (as of today) been sitting in the Harris County Jail for more than three weeks, charged by complaint with the class C misdemeanor of aiding suicide.

The 351st District Court, where his case is pending, has no jurisdiction over a class C misdemeanor case. The maximum penalty for a class C misdmeanor is a $500 fine. The guy discharged that fine with his first ten days in jail.

The guy is represented by Dionne Press. I have dealt with this court-appointed lawyer before, and I anticipated that her client was going to receive substandard representation. It appeared that she had spent more time talking to the newspaper-and not doing her client any favors (actual quote: "It is very strange. Why the DA would choose to prosecute this, I don't know. I guess because [the decedent] was not elderly")-than researching the law applicable to the case.

So I go to see the guy in jail and offer him my pro bono help. I don't want money, and I don't want publicity. I just want to try to get him out from under these charges and back to his life, and I think I can bring more resources to bear on the problem than his court-appointed lawyer can or will.

Led to water, the horse didn't drink. That's okay. I emailed Dionne Press to offer her my help in filing a writ of habeas corpus to extricate the guy from jail. That horse wasn't thirsty either. I wasn't surprised-like I say, I have dealt with her before.

Today I learned that Dionne Press had complained to the DA's Office, trying to get them to file criminal charges or a bar complaint against me.

My visit to her client passes muster under both the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and the Texas Penal Code-solicitation of pro bono work doesn't violate either (in fact, it's in the best traditions of the bar). But Dionne Press is not the sort of lawyer whom I would expect to have more than the sketchiest familiarity with the rules or the law. So I was not shocked.

Not shocked, but not happy. Now, instead of fighting the DA's Office to try to get her client out of jail (where he is plainly unlawfully held), she's complaining about me?

You know what, Dionne? If you think there's a grievance to file, file it. But take care of your client first. The guy's case should be dismissed at his next court appearance on 30 July. If it is, that'll be nice, but he still will have spent weeks longer in jail than he should have. For that, Dionne, he can thank you.

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