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It was another fun-filled year for the Texas legal community. TV aired a new courtroom drama: “Don’t Count Me Out,” shot on location in Florida courtrooms and the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices on the Texas Supreme Court found plenty to fight about among themselves. And three Texas firms had to dig deep into their own pockets to settle a suit in which fraud was alleged. The players kept if from being just another dawn-of-a-new-century year. So, without further ado, it’s time to hand out the Texas Lawyer Tongue-in-Cheek Awards for 2000. � The presidential election didn’t have a monopoly on the absurd. The Court of Criminal Appeals races attracted 15 candidates, including one who already had ties to the court. The recipient of this year’s No Conflict Here Award is Sally L. Ray, a Georgetown lawyer and the wife of CCA Judge Paul Womack. After filing, Ray told Texas Lawyer she sees no ethical problems with a married couple serving on the court. “We know how to disagree, and we do it agreeably. We definitely have our own opinions,” Ray said in the earlier interview. � Justices on the state’s supreme court found themselves at odds over a new law that requires a doctor to notify the parents of a minor seeking an abortion unless the girl can convince a judge that notification isn’t necessary. Disagreement over the issue led to sharp language in the court’s Jane Doe opinions. The most frequent and heated dissenter was Justice Nathan Hecht, recipient of the 2000 Give Them Hecht Award. Hecht labeled the majority’s opinions in the parental notification cases as “hasty” and “ill considered.” But Hecht’s disagreement with the court’s majority wasn’t limited to the abortion cases. Hecht wrote numerous other dissents in which, more often than not, Justice Priscilla Owen joined. � This year’s recipients of the We’ve Done No Wrong Award are three firms that were sued to recoup funds for investors in Austin Forez International, a failed foreign currency firm run by former University of Texas football star Russell Erxleben, who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and securities fraud. The suit alleged that Locke Liddell & Sapp, Sheinfeld Maley & Kay and Kuperman, Orr, Mouer & Albers aided Erxleben in defrauding the investors. All three firms settled out of court. They deny any wrongdoing. Locke Liddell agreed to pay $22 million; Sheinfeld Maley agreed to an $8.5 million settlement; and Kuperman Orr agreed to pay $800,000. � The Allegedly Surreptitious Solicitation Award goes to Sugar Land solo Marilyn Eickenhorst and her former firm, Clements, O’Neill, Pierce, Nickens & Wilson. The Houston-based firm sued Eickenhorst for an almost $14.7 million fee she got after winning a $93.2 million judgment in a class action in Arkansas. In a suit filed in July, the firm alleges that Eickenhorst developed the claims for the class action using confidential information she obtained while doing work in 1995 for Clements, O’Neill client Enron Oil & Gas Co. and that she “surreptitiously” solicited clients while on the firm’s time and Enron’s bill. Eickenhorst left Clements O’Neill in January 1996 and filed Allen Hales, et al. v SEECO Inc., et al. in May of that year. Eickenhorst alleged in her answer to the suit that lawyers at Clements O’Neill knew years ago that she would file the suit on behalf of the class of royalty owners. In the interest of fairness, Texas Lawyer is recognizing both sides in the contingent-fee fight. � Another dual recognition goes to a Dallas civil judge and his former lawyer. Judge David R. Gibson of Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 1 and Jeffrey T. Robnett, who had represented the judge in a divorce, win the Outrageous Allegations Award. Robnett alleged in an affidavit presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI that Gibson solicited a bribe from a defense lawyer involved in Universal Image Inc. d/b/a Chalboardtalk.com v. Yahoo! Inc., et al. According to his affidavit, Robnett listened as Gibson and Yahoo!/broadcast.com lawyer Steven Stodghill, now a partner in Fish & Richardson in Dallas, allegedly discussed pending motions in the Yahoo! case, including a sanction motion filed against a lawyer for Chalkboardtalk. Robnett also alleged that Gibson told Stodghill he wanted a fund-raiser at the home of Mark Cuban, a defendant in the suit. Gibson denied Robnett’s allegations and filed a defamation suit against his former lawyer in July. The two buried the hatchet — luckily not in each other’s heads — at an Oct. 31 news conference. Robnett said he misunderstood the context of the conversation between Gibson and Stodghill and was uninformed that the Yahoo! case had been removed to bankruptcy court. Gibson announced he was dropping the defamation suit. � Last, but not least, the state’s flawed indigent defense system deserves this year’s Kervorkian Award for its role in the record 40 executions carried out this year by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. With the continuing reports about court-appointed lawyers who were asleep in court, or simply asleep at the switch, that number could go higher in the future.

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