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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This dispute concerns competing rights to attorney’s fees under contingent-fee contracts that appellant, Paula Robnett, referred to appellee, the Kirklin Law Firm (the firm), at least one of which the firm, in turn, referred to a third law firm. The firm prevailed by summary judgment after intervening in the trial-court cause, the “Thomas” case, seeking a declaration that it was entitled to attorney’s fees in that suit and in a second action, the “Trutec” case. Appellant Robnett opposed the firm’s intervention and claimed competing rights to the fees. The firm opposed Robnett’s challenge and sought traditional summary judgment on its intervention claim on the grounds that, when Robnett signed the initial contingent-fee contracts in both cases, her license to practice law in Texas had been suspended for nonpayment of her attorney-occupation tax and for failing to meet requirements under the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Program. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the firm and enjoined Robnett from seeking attorney’s fees from her former clients in both cases. In rendering summary judgment, the trial court ruled that Robnett was not retroactively reinstated when she executed the contingency-fee contracts in either the Thomas case or the Trutec case, that the firm was entitled to $15,542.13, or one-half of the funds deposited in the court’s registry, and that Robnett could not seek attorney’s fees in the Thomas case and was not entitled to receive any attorney’s fees in the Trutec case. Robnett challenges the summary judgment. HOLDING:Affirmed. Robnett’s first issue challenges the trial court’s rulings by claiming that her reinstatements on Oct. 30, 1998, and Feb. 18, 2000, operated retroactively and therefore validated the contingent-fee contracts that she executed with her former clients in the Thomas and Trutec cases. Because neither the Tax Code nor the State Bar of Texas rules provides for retroactive reinstatement for suspensions arising from nonpayment of attorney-occupation tax, the court concludes that the trial court correctly ruled that Robnett was not retroactively reinstated on Oct. 30, 1998, when the contingent-fee contract in the Thomas case was signed. Because Robnett was thus still suspended from the practice of law when the Thomas contract was signed, she had no authority to enter into that contract. The Supreme Court’s order imposes no “fees or assessments” that might, arguably, trigger the retroactivity provisions of Article III, 7(A) of the State Bar rules but simply effects suspension with no provision for retroactive reinstatement. The court concludes that Robnett relies mistakenly on article III, section 7(A)’s retroactivity provision. The court holds that the trial court correctly ruled that Robnett remained under suspension from the practice of law and was not retroactively reinstated on Jan. 27, 2000, when the contingent-fee contract in the Trutec case was signed. In A.W. Wright & Assoc. v. Glover, Anderson, Chandler & Uzick, L.L.P., 993 S.W.2d 466 (Tex. App. Houston [14th Dist.] 1999, pet. denied), the court recognized its prior holding in Lee v. Cherry, 812 S.W.2d 361 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 1991, writ denied), which upheld the rights of a disbarred attorney to receive attorney’s fees negotiated before referring the case to a different law firm. Here, Robnett initiated both the Thomas and Trutec contracts while suspended from the bar. The rule first enunciated in Lee and reaffirmed in A.W. Wright does not apply. The court does not consider several other contentions by Robnett because they were not timely presented to the trial court. OPINION:Alcala, J.; Taft, Alcala and Higley, JJ.

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