The Kindness of Strangers

Greg Meece, a litigation partner in Thompson & Knight in Houston, is fitting in time at the office in between physical therapy sessions as he recovers from an automobile accident. Meece says he is lucky that his spinal cord was not severed in the accident, and fortunate that bystanders came to his rescue. On Feb. 23, Meece was in Dallas to meet a client to prepare him for a deposition. Meece was driving a rental car on the North Dallas Tollway when the driver of an 18-wheeler lost control and rolled over onto Meece’s car. Meece says his spinal cord was injured in the accident. Bystanders removed him from the crushed vehicle and a former emergency room nurse at Parkland Health and Hospital System who happened to be driving by stabilized his neck at the accident scene. Meece says he was transported to Parkland Hospital, and at that point he didn’t know if he would walk again. However, he underwent surgery on Feb. 24 to reconstruct his spine, and two weeks later, walked out of the hospital and returned home to Sugar Land. In March, he spent two weeks in Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, where he had surgeries to repair muscles and underwent treatment for an infection. On March 29, Meece returned to his office at Thompson & Knight for some previously scheduled meetings with clients from Korea and Peru. “Since then, I’ve tried to come in a couple of days a week for a few hours a day. My energy isn’t back yet. . . . I can’t drive yet,” he says. He can walk, but recently started physical therapy to regain strength and movement. He has some numbness in his fingers and arms due to nerve damage from the accident, but says his doctors expect that to lessen over the next few months as his nerves regenerate. Meece says lawyers on the other side of the litigation he’s handling have been “incredibly understanding” and he has secured extensions to many deadlines. Also, lawyers at the firm have filled in for him when needed. Meece says he feels blessed by “phenomenal” support from his firm and particularly by the people who came to his aid in the minutes after the accident. “It was God putting those people there,” he says.

More Courts, Please

Judge Rex Emerson of the 198th District Court says a group of nine county judges around his Hill Country jurisdiction agree the area needs two more district courts. “Our citizens are having a hard time moving their cases through the justice system,” explains Emerson. “Our real concern is people having access to the justice system in a timely manner.” The region currently has two district courts: The 198th covers Edwards, Kimble, Kerr, McCulloch, Mason and Menard counties, while 216th District Judge Keith Williams ‘ court covers Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall and Kerr counties. At an April 16 meeting, county judges from all nine counties agreed that the two courts need help, says Emerson. “I think what’s happening is in the 216th, because of the rapid growth of the counties, Judge Williams’ dockets are out of control. They’re working 10, 12 hours a day, five days a week,” he says. Emerson’s district has a different problem: He says he’s on the road by 6:30 a.m. every workday to make the rounds to his six counties. He normally drives between 1,500 and 2,000 miles each week. It’s getting harder to set timely trial dates in both jurisdictions, Emerson says. The county judges think if the Texas Legislature created two more district courts for the region, it would “increase the court access,” he says. Emerson notes there’s another meeting to discuss the idea on May 7. Emerson says Kerr County Judge Pat Tinsley organized the April 16 meeting. Williams did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Tinsley could not be reached before presstime.

Up in Austin

Cox Smith Matthews of San Antonio boosted the size of its Austin office by adding three shareholders who formerly were partners in K&L Gates ‘ Austin office. The new shareholders are Keith Shuley , who joined the real estate group; Phillip Slinkard , who joined the corporate group; and Mary Schaerdal Dietz , who does business and commercial litigation. Dietz joined Cox Smith on April 16, while Shuley and Slinkard joined a week earlier. Shuley, managing shareholder of the Austin office, says he moved to Cox Smith because he wanted to practice at a Texas-focused firm. “K&L is a great firm, but it has a very international practice and my clients didn’t really need that, so I was looking for a firm that wanted to be a Texas firm and saw that as its primary focus,” he says. Shuley, who does a lot of environmental work, says his clients include HollyFrontier Corp. of Dallas and AutoZone Inc. of Memphis. Shuley says he, Slinkard and Dietz were each independently considering new firms, and it’s happenstance that they all joined Cox Smith at the same time. Slinkard and Dietz did not return telephone messages. Neither did Jack Erskine , administrative partner in Austin for K&L Gates. Jamie Smith , managing director of 130-lawyer Cox Smith, says he’s excited the firm hired “talented lawyers with great clients that fit well into our collection of services.”