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Judge Resigns A county court-at-law judge in Harris County resigned Dec. 31, the last day of his term in office, under conditions of an agreement resolving complaints filed against him with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Gary Michael Block, who had been the Harris County Court-at-Law No. 2 judge, did not admit “guilt, fault or liability” regarding the matters in seven complaints filed against him in 2006. But he agreed that as of the close of business Dec. 31, 2006, he shall be disqualified from serving as a judge in Texas, running for election as a judge or exercising any judicial duties, including performing marriage ceremonies. In the Voluntary Agreement to Resign from Judicial Office in Lieu of Disciplinary Action, Block agreed to resign his judicial office in lieu of disciplinary action by the commission under Texas Government Code �33.032(h). According to the agreement, four complaints were filed against Block alleging he engaged in “inappropriate and unethical conduct in his chambers” at various times between 2004 and 2006, and three additional complaints were filed alleging “additional acts of judicial misconduct.” The agreement did not provide further details of the complaints, and Seana Willing, executive director of the commission, says they are confidential, although one received some news coverage. That was the complaint filed by Melissa Barloco, an assistant county attorney in Harris County, who says she filed a complaint against Block alleging he inappropriately touched her during a meeting in his chambers in February 2005. Barloco declines comment on the agreement Block negotiated with the commission. A telephone listing for Block could not be located, and Willing says he did not have an attorney representing him before the commission. Willing says the commission negotiated an agreement with Block, because he agreed to step down and never serve as a judge again. “If we had to go forward with prosecuting these cases against him, the worst that would have happened to him � since he had already been voted out of office � was that we would maybe have gotten an opinion from a review tribunal that you couldn’t sit again as a judge,” she says. “We accomplished the same goal and saved the taxpayers $25,000 at least.” Block lost a primary election in March 2006 to Jacqueline Lucci Smith, who took office Jan. 1. Smith says the agreement is fair, because Block agreed to the most severe punishment the commission can mete out. “I don’t think that Mr. Block really deserves to be a judge or act in that capacity,” Smith says. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal says his office investigated complaints against Block, but he says the investigation is over unless his office receives some new evidence. He declines to discuss the investigation. [See the Voluntary Agreement to Resign From Judicial Office in Lieu of Disciplinary Action.] Hello, Houston Five lawyers from litigation boutique Edwards, Burns & Krider, including Brady Edwards and Sandra Thourot Krider, joined Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to launch the firm’s Houston office Jan. 2. Edwards, Burns partner Randolph “Randy” Burns says that instead of joining Morgan Lewis, he chose to go solo in Port Aransas, where he moved about three years ago. Burns, who previously practiced at Baker Botts and Jones Day, says he prefers the small-firm practice. Edwards says he and the other lawyers from Edwards, Burns do a lot of products liability and toxic tort work, and that’s sometimes hard to do at a small firm, so they took the opportunity to move to 1,353-lawyer Morgan Lewis. “Our practice was essentially outgrowing the infrastructure of our small firm, and our clients were asking us to do things that were difficult to do with six lawyers,” Edwards says. Edwards and Krider joined Morgan Lewis as partners in Houston, along with of counsel Claire Swift Kugler and associate Patrick Elkins. Steven Luxton, who had been in Edwards, Burns’ Baltimore office, joined Morgan Lewis in Washington, D.C., as a counsel. Morgan Lewis moved into the Texas market in 2004, when it opened an office in Dallas. Currently, 14 lawyers work in Dallas. Francis Milone, chairman of Morgan Lewis, says the firm has eyed Houston for a while, and he hopes to expand several practice areas in Houston, including litigation, energy, labor and intellectual property. “Over the years, our litigation practice has done a lot of work in Houston, our labor practice has done a lot in Houston,” Milone says. “We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and the opportunity with Brady came along, and we seized it.” Krider could not immediately be reached for comment. In With the New It was billed as the official Dallas County Elected Official Swearing-In ceremony, but to the 1,000 people who attended the Jan. 1 event in a stately ballroom of the Adam’s Mark Hotel in downtown Dallas, it was just one more after-party to celebrate the Democratic sweep of 42 contested judicial races in the November 2006 election. Newly elected Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who made history in November by becoming the first African-American to be elected DA from a county in Texas, looked on as a spectator. He had been sworn in during a separate ceremony earlier in the day. Dallas solo Darlene Ewing, Dallas County Democratic Party chairwoman who served as master of ceremonies, told the eager crowd that Republican officeholders had been invited to the festivities but only a few had come. Although many of the speakers sounded a nonpartisan note, it was hard to divorce the event from politics. Retired 5th Court of Appeals Judge Ron Chapman, who was the last Democratic judge standing before the Republican takeover of the Dallas County courthouse two decades earlier, was the keynote speaker. Referencing the new judges, Chapman told the crowd, “What I want to know is, what took you guys so long to get here?” Chapman said, “I thought about giving a nonpartisan speech. But after trying for a time, I decided the hell with it.” Later, he struck a more conciliatory tone, recalling a time on the bench when a lawyer asked him, “Judge, I can’t remember, are you a Democrat or a Republican?” Chapman said he considered that a compliment. And for those who might already be suffering from a case of judgitis, Chapman had the antidote. “Remember, this is not your court. It is the people’s court.”

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