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On Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas

William Satterwhite sued his former criminal defense attorney, George Jacobs, for professional negligence and breach of contract. Jacobs moved for summary judgment on the professional negligence claim, asserting that Peeler v. Hughes & Luce, 909 S.W.2d 494 (Tex. 1995), precluded Satterwhite’s claim as a matter of law. Satterwhite responded that he was asserting only a claim for breach of contract. The trial court granted summary judgment without stating the grounds. On appeal, Satterwhite complained that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment on the breach-of-contract claim because it was not addressed in Jacobs’s motion for summary judgment, but he did not complain about the summary judgment on the professional negligence claim. Without distinguishing between the professional negligence and breach-of-contract claims, the court of appeals reversed and remanded the cause to the trial court. 26 S.W.3d 35. We reverse and render in part and affirm in part the court of appeals’ judgment.

Satterwhite was charged with falsely holding himself out as a lawyer. He hired Jacobs, a licensed attorney, to represent him at a hearing on the State’s “Motion to Hold Defendant Without Bond.” The trial court granted the State’s motion, and Satterwhite was ordered incarcerated pending trial. Satterwhite alleges that his incarceration was due to Jacobs’s “negligence and wilful and wanton conduct” at the hearing and that Jacobs violated his oral contract with Satterwhite to “vigorously appeal” the trial court’s ruling and to “vigorously prepare for and try the criminal charge.” According to Satterwhite’s affidavit, Jacobs did file a notice of appeal, but in the wrong court, and then failed to pursue the matter further. Jacobs contends that although Satterwhite did not pay him any additional fees, Jacobs made sure that the appeal was “promptly filed and perfected.” Ultimately, Satterwhite retained new counsel, pleaded guilty to the felony offense of falsely holding himself out as a lawyer, and accepted ten years probation. Satterwhite then sued Jacobs for $750,000 in actual and punitive damages allegedly resulting from “Defendant’s negligence and breach of his contract with Plaintiff.”

 
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