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Back on the Bench A legal battle between a South Texas district attorney and a judge isn’t over yet. Judge Rodolfo Delgado of Edinburg returned to his 93rd District Court bench on June 12, the day after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct lifted a more than two-year suspension of him. The commission had suspended Delgado after a grand jury indicted him in 2005. The commission lifted the suspension after Senior Judge Joaquin Villareal of Robstown dismissed the two charges of evading arrest and misuse of official information in State v. Delgado on June 7 in response to Delgado’s Motion to Dismiss Indictment for Outrageous Government Conduct. “I’m appealing the dismissal, which I thought was ill-advised and not founded in law,” says Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. McAllen solo Adolfo “Al” Alvarez Jr., Delgado’s attorney, says, “An appeal would just be sour grapes at this point.” Delgado alleged in his motion for dismissal of the charges that Guerra has abused the grand jury system � an allegation Guerra denies. “We have run the most ethical grand juries in the state in the last 25 years,” Guerra says. Guerra says he wants a trial for Delgado, because dropping the case would look bad to the public. Guerra says Delgado is one of his former assistant district attorneys and that Delgado’s brother is married to Guerra’s cousin. The story began in September 2002, when an Edinburg police officer arrested Delgado for allegedly driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor, and evading arrest, a state jail felony. According to Delgado’s motion, a 206th grand jury returned a no bill in November 2002, declining to indict Delgado on the evading arrest charge. Alvarez says Delgado did not try to evade arrest and had stopped his car 200 yards from the spot where the officer turned on his lights and siren. Guerra charged Delgado with the misdemeanor DWI offense, which the prosecutor did not have to present to the grand jury, by filing a complaint and information in January 2003, but Judge Daniel Robles, a visiting judge from Brownsville, dismissed the charge in 2005 on the ground that Delgado had not received a speedy trial. In February 2005, a 398th District Court grand jury indicted Delgado for evading arrest and misuse of official information. Guerra contends Delgado is using the police department’s confidential offense report from the September 2002 arrest in a federal suit, Delgado v. Rivas, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in McAllen. Delgado filed the suit seeking damages against the arresting officer, the city of Edinburg, and other city and police officials for, among other things, alleged civil rights violations. Delgado alleged in his motion for dismissal in State v. Delgado that he informed Guerra about receiving the offense report. Guerra says his office filed a notice of appeal with the 13th Court of Appeals on June 12 and predicts it could take up to five years for the case to make its way through the appellate process. No Assignment In a unanimous opinion, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a prisoner seeking compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment under Chapter 103 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code cannot assign that claim to another person. But Justice Scott Brister, writing for the court in Texas v. Oakley on June 8, also ruled that a claimant is not barred from recovering money from the state under Chapter 103 if he already has settled a separate federal suit with the city of Austin over his wrongful imprisonment. The high court’s opinion concerns Barbara Oakley, who is the legal guardian of Richard Danziger. Danziger and Christopher Ochoa were convicted for the 1988 rape and murder of a woman at an Austin pizza restaurant. In 1996, someone else confessed to the murder and the charges against Danziger and Ochoa were dismissed based on actual innocence. Both were released from prison in 2002, according to the opinion. While he was imprisoned, another inmate assaulted Danziger, leaving Danziger with a severe brain injury. Danziger and Ochoa each filed a civil rights suit against the city of Austin in federal court. The city settled those cases, leaving Danziger with $9 million and Ochoa with $5.3 million. Danziger also sued Ochoa in state court for allegedly falsely implicating him in the murder. To settle the case, Ochoa assigned Danziger $500,000 of his recovery from the city and all of his compensation rights under Chapter 103, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion. The Texas Office of the Attorney General filed a plea to the jurisdiction opposing the assignment of Ochoa’s Chapter 103 claim and Danziger’s right to bring a Chapter 103 action after settling his federal case � a motion the state trial court and Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals rejected before the AG’s office appealed to the Supreme Court. Both of those issues were important, says Cynthia Alexander, an assistant attorney general who represented the state in Texas v. Oakley. “The assignment issue was important, because I felt like it could make litigation very complex. We could potentially see lawsuits being sold to people from prison,” she says. Alexander says the AG’s office has not decided whether to ask the high court for a rehearing in the case. Scott Ozmun, a partner in Austin’s Whitehurst, Harkness, Ozmun & Brees who represents Oakley, says he is disappointed the court did not allow Ochoa to assign his Chapter 103 wrongful-imprisonment claim to Danziger but is relieved that it allowed Danziger’s Chapter 103 claim against the state to go forward. Farewell to Founder Fentress Bracewell, a founder of the firm now known as Bracewell & Giuliani, died on June 13. He was 85. Managing partner Patrick Oxford says, “We would have a totally different tone at this firm if it wasn’t for him.” The Houston firm Bracewell established has thrived for more than 60 years. In 1945, after graduating from Baylor University Law School, Bracewell joined his father, a brother, Searcy, who later became a Texas state senator, and Bert H. Tunks, who later became a state district judge, in starting Bracewell & Tunks. In 1966, the partners adopted the name Bracewell & Patterson, recognizing partner Harry W. Patterson, who joined the firm in 1951. In 2005, when former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani joined the firm, the partners adopted the name Bracewell & Giuliani. Oxford says that Bracewell “was a lawyer and a gentleman from the old school.” As a result, Oxford says, the firm still has a compassionate manner, and “we all treat each other with respect.” Not a legacy anyone would regret.

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