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Robert S. Bennett says he’s seen a lot of seemingly bizarre complaints over a decade of defending Texas lawyers from grievances, but one of the strangest was filed against him. Bennett, of the Bennett Law Firm of Houston, recently received word from the State Bar of Texas that a grievance filed against him was dismissed on the ground the complaint did not allege a violation of a disciplinary rule. What may be unusual about the grievance — and what has Bennett shaking his head in disbelief — is the complaining party. The grievance was filed by a former member of a disciplinary panel in Houston who alleges Bennett violated disciplinary rules by talking about a grievance filed against a client. The remarks at issue appear in a 1999 Texas Lawyer story about Houston lawyer Gary Green’s unhappy, but ultimately vindicating, experience with the grievance system. A panel of the District 4B Grievance Committee in August 1998 recommended a public reprimand against Green, but after he and Bennett, his lawyer, asked for an evidentiary hearing, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline dismissed the case in April 1999. According to a letter provided by Bennett, Richard L. Halferty Sr. filed a complaint in August against Bennett and Green, alleging they violated Rule 2.15 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure by talking about the grievance. Halferty, who served on the grievance committee for six years, alleges they “publicly revealed matters before a confidential hearing of which they were a part without authority nor permission to do so.” Halferty also asked Dawn Miller, chief disciplinary counsel, to determine if former commission chairman David Evans violated “his oath of confidentiality” because he also was quoted in the article. Halferty said in the letter the reputations of grievance panel members are impugned when lawyers make public statements on grievance hearings. “If the statements go unchallenged, surely attorneys and public volunteers who read the article will think twice before offering their services to the Texas Bar!” Halferty wrote on Aug. 22. Halferty says in a telephone interview he filed the complaint because he believes Green and Bennett should not have talked publicly about the grievance. But if they were able to waive confidentiality and criticize the panel’s decision, then committee members also should be able to respond. “There’s no axe to grind with anyone here,” he says. “It has to do with the process and improving the process. The process is improved by getting the gray areas cleaned up.” In a Sept. 1 letter, Miller notified Halferty the complaint against Bennett was dismissed after review because it did not allege professional misconduct. “There is no language which states that a lawyer can be disciplined for violating a rule of procedure,” she wrote. Also, Miller pointed out in the letter the disciplinary proceeding against Green became a public proceeding after the grievance panel recommended a public reprimand and it became a matter for the Commission for Lawyer Discipline. Halferty says he did not receive the letter. Miller says she cannot discuss the complaint filed against Bennett because it was dismissed. She also says she cannot say if Halferty’s complaint against Green and Evans had a similar fate. Green, a partner in Martinez & Green, and Evans, a partner in Bourland, Kirkman, Seidler & Evans of Fort Worth, decline comment. But Bennett says he is invoking Rule 6.02 and waiving confidentiality. He says the fact he was hit by a grievance filed by a public member of a grievance committee is evidence panel members need more training. “It’s a basic problem of training by the State Bar,” Bennett says. “They have to be the Elliott Ness of the State Bar process. You have some lawyers who need to be reprimanded and disbarred, but every time somebody files something, these grievance committee members think they [lawyers] have to be machine-gunned.” Halferty could not be reached for further comment.

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