CANTEY HANGER, LLP v. PHILIP GREGORY BYRD, LUCY LEASING CO., L.L.C., AND PGB AIR, INC., RESPONDENTS No. 13-0861 (Tex. Sup. Ct. Jun. 26, 2015)
BAD APPLE PROTECTIONISM
The big news last Friday from the judicial front was the legalization of same-sex marriage as a matter of constitutional right by the U.S. Supreme Court. But on the very same day, the Texas Supreme Court handed down a momentous ruling too. In a 5-4 decision, the Texas high court granted immunity to unethical lawyers by expanding attorneys' and law firms' litigation immunity to (mis)conduct that does not occur within the course and conduct of litigation, and may therefore not come within the scope of the court's power to sanction.
And that's nothing to cheer about. No matter if you are a Conservative or a Liberal.
The beneficiaries of the newly bloated definition of the scope of attorney immunity (no longer just judicial proceedings immunity or litigation immunity) will not be the ethical lawyers, not to mention the Texas Bar as a whole; much rather, the beneficiaries will be attorneys who cheat, prepare fraudulent documents, are dishonest in their dealings with their opponents, and engage in other forms of questionable conduct, if not outright wrongdoing that runs afoul of the law.
Having been exempted from civil liability predicated on complaints brought by non-clients by the court of last resort in Texas, these wayward practitioners will have one deterrent less to worry about. The prospect of having to pay civil damages to the victims of their malfeasance will no longer dissuade them from engaging in questionable, if not illegal, acts. And if may induce others to do the same.
HIGH COURT GIVES GREEN LIGHT FOR SHADY LAWYERING
Thanks to a majority of the Court, the bad apples in the profession have just been given a green light to bring down the ethical standards for the rest, -- and help give the practicing Bar in its entirety a bad name. For -- short of criminal prosecution -- wayward members of the profession will be able to engage in misconduct with impunity, and will be able to gain an unfair advantage over those attorneys who remain committed to honesty and high ethical standards.
Rather than promoting high standards of professionalism, the new protectionist precedent set by the Court last Friday will do the opposite: it will encourage others to stoop to low tactics likewise, lest they suffer a comparative disadvantage at the hands of those that have already gone that route, a route five members of the high court have just cleared and set up guideposts for.
CASE INFO FOR TEXAS SUPREME COURT'S 5-to-4 RULING SHIELDING WAYWARD ATTORNEYS FROM CIVIL LIABILITY FOR WRONGDOING COMMITTED AGAINST OPPOSING PARTIES
Cause No. 13-0861
CANTEY HANGER, LLP v. PHILIP GREGORY BYRD, LUCY LEASING CO., L.L.C., AND PGB AIR, INC.; from Tarrant County; 2nd Court of Appeals District (02-11-00468-CV,
409 SW3d 772, 08-01-13)
409 SW3d 772, 08-01-13)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment in part and renders judgment.
Justice Lehrmann delivered the opinion of the Court in which Justice Guzman, Justice Boyd, Justice Devine, and Justice Brown joined.
Justice Green delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Chief Justice Hecht, Justice Johnson, and Justice Willett joined.