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Promises, Promises Clara Harris, the Houston dentist serving a 20-year sentence in state prison for killing her orthodontist husband by running over him in a Mercedes-Benz, lost again at the courthouse. In 2003, a jury convicted Harris of manslaughter. In 2004, Harris sued her criminal-defense lawyer, George Parnham, alleging he breached his fiduciary duty to her in connection with fees he charged her for her criminal defense. But on Feb. 29, a jury in 127th District Judge Sharolyn Wood’s court in Houston returned a verdict that orders Harris to pay Parnham $70,250 on a promissory note and another $398,443 to cover the fees he paid his defense team. The jury found Parnham, of George Parnham & Associates, complied with his fiduciary duty to Harris and found he did not engage in any false, misleading or deceptive act or practice that she relied on to her detriment and that caused her damages for signing a promissory note and security agreement. The promissory note Harris signed after her conviction was for trial expenses. Parnham says, “It’s gratifying that my reputation has been vindicated.” His attorney, Charles “Chip” Babcock, a partner in Jackson Walker in Houston, says the jury made the right decision. Harris’ attorney, Houston solo Dean Blumrosen, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Waiting With Abated Breath The Texas Office of the Attorney General on Feb. 26 temporarily halted a civil suit it filed in Travis County last October, alleging Mauricio Celis of Corpus Christi has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The AG’s office also alleged in the petition that CGT Law Group International of Corpus Christi permitted Celis as a “non-lawyer” to share in fees and referrals. On Feb. 26, 53rd District Judge Scott Jenkins in Travis County signed an agreed order between Celis and the AG’s office that will stay proceedings in Texas v. CGT Law Group International, et al. for the earlier of 10 months or until criminal proceedings against Celis in Nueces County are resolved. In the motion seeking the stay, the AG’s office alleged it sought the stay to “preserve state resources” since the criminal prosecution in Nueces County is based in large part on the same conduct that’s at issue in its civil suit. But in a written statement on Feb. 29, a defense attorney for Celis in the AG’s suit, Phyllis Pollard, questions the motivation of the AG’s office. “Why is it that the AG’s office thought this case was so extremely urgent when it was making headlines, but is suddenly willing to postpone it now that the focus is elsewhere?” writes Pollard, a partner in Scott, Douglass & McConnico in Austin. “All this about wanting to “save resources’ is a cop out. They certainly weren’t worried about wasting taxpayer money when they first filed their complaint.” Pollard writes that AG Greg Abbott’s purpose in suing Celis was to “smear a politically-connected Democrat.” Pollard did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the AG’s office, writes in a statement that the AG’s office will continue to assist Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez with the investigation and prosecution of Celis. “Because the defendant’s law firm has dissolved, and because criminal cases are subject to constitutional protections that do not apply in civil cases, this office is abating its lawsuit until the criminal charges are resolved. At such time, we will resume our pursuit of any remedies available to Texans harmed by the defendant’s unauthorized practice of law,” Strickland writes. In November 2007, a Nueces County grand jury indicted Celis on 10 criminal charges: seven counts of falsely holding himself out as a lawyer, one count of aggravated perjury, one count of impersonating a public servant and one count of theft. He has pleaded not guilty. More Appellate and IP Punch Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s 32-lawyer Houston office boosted its appellate and intellectual property strength by hiring Claudia Wilson Frost and Jeremy Gaston, who left Mayer Brown’s Houston office on Feb. 29. Frost and Gaston joined Pillsbury as partners on March 1. Frost, who joined Mayer Brown in 2003 after leaving Slusser & Frost, says she’s excited to become co-leader of Pillsbury’s national appellate practice. “I like to create things and build things, and this was a real great opportunity for me to do that,” she says. Frost says she has a large appellate practice, but she’s done more intellectual property litigation over the past two-and-a-half years than anything else, largely because of client needs. Gaston, who joined Mayer Brown in 2004, says he moved to Pillsbury for the opportunity to continue to work with Frost and also because he’s excited to “chart out an area in the appellate space” at Pillsbury. He says he has a background in computer science and expects that to come in handy, because New York-based Pillsbury has a strong presence in California, which is home to many technology companies. Frost and Gaston decline to identify clients they brought with them to Pillsbury, but Frost notes that Mayer Brown and Pillsbury share a number of clients. Michael Niebruegge, the Mayer Brown partner in charge in Houston, could not be reached for comment before presstime on March 6.

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