What do you do with more than 300 case files that once belonged to a disbarred lawyer who is currently incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail and two competing lawyers who step forward asking to be appointed conservator over those case files?
That was the unusual question presented to Ken Molberg, judge of Dallas’ 95th District Court, last week during a show cause hearing. Last month, Brad Thomas, a former lawyer with Dallas’ The Corea Law Group, petitioned the trial court to assume jurisdiction over the law firm and its client files after two separate orders of disbarment by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline were issued against the law firm’s founder, Thomas Corea. Neither judgment is final, according to a State Bar of Texas spokeswoman.
Corea was also indicted in August by a Dallas County Grand Jury and charged with fraud, use and possession of identifications other than his own and misapplying more than $200,000 in fiduciary possessions of his clients, among other things. Corea is currently incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail.
At a show cause hearing on Nov. 20, Thomas asked to be appointed conservator over Corea’s case files. Eric Marye, of Dallas’ The Marye Law Firm, who represents the former office manager of the Corea Trial Group, also made an appearance asking that Molberg appoint him conservator over the Corea case files. Marye argued to Molberg that he had much more experience in tort litigation and was better able to handle Corea’s litigation files than Thomas, who testified that he has been licensed to practice law since 2009.
Marye, who told the court he’s been licensed since 1998, also testified that he had paid $10,000 to the firm’s former office manager for The Corea Trial Group’s old office equipment, including the firm’s old computer server, which contained client case information. Molberg told Marye he was concerned that the purchase, combined with his request to be a conservator, would appear as a “high-tech solicitation” of clients.
Ultimately, Molberg appointed James Stanton, counsel in the Dallas office of Andrews Kurth, to be conservator over those case files. Molberg also appointed Marye as temporary conservator over the case files, but restricted Marye from soliciting any of those clients as an attorney. [See the judge's assumption order.]
At the end of the hearing, both Thomas and Marye said they were pleased with Molberg’s decision. “I have absolutely no doubt that the clients’ files will be taken care of. And I’m pleased with the result,” Thomas says.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Marye says. “This was not a win for me. It was not a win for Thomas. This was a win for the clients.”
Stanton says he’s glad to do the job: “I appreciate the confidence that Judge Molberg has placed in me. I look forward to educating myself about my assignment and fulfilling my court-appointed responsibilities.”