Hutchison’s Big Move

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison joined Bracewell & Giuliani on Feb. 6, where she will counsel clients in the energy, banking, transportation and telecommunications industries. Hutchison, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1993 through earlier this year, will be a senior counsel in Bracewell’s Dallas office, where her husband, Ray Hutchison, is a public finance senior counsel. Hutchison, who did not seek re-election, says she will not lobby. She says she is excited to help Bracewell expand its international practice. "I also will be of course giving the benefits of my experience on how things are done in Washington. It will be a counselor role," she says. Hutchison notes that she also will devote time to boards: She is a member of the Bank of America Global Advisory Council and an advisory board member for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which she describes as a think tank for national security. Hutchison says she also will be doing public speaking, and she already had a sit-down with New York City name partner Rudy Giuliani, who is also active on the lecture circuit. Hutchison says Bracewell is the right firm for her post-Senate career. "It fit was what I was looking for — certainly a Texas-based firm that had a strong Washington-based presence, because my experience will be in Washington, both on the regulatory side and the congressional side," she says. Also, Hutchison says, Houston partner Patrick Oxford, chairman and former managing partner of the firm, is a friend from the University of Texas School of Law. Mark Evans, the firm’s Houston-based managing partner, says energy and finance are two top practice areas for the firm and Hutchison will be particularly helpful in both areas. "She brings an incredible experience, enthusiasm, energy. She again knows many of the top people in our client base. She’s going to be very helpful in a senior role," he says. Hutchison says the last time she and her husband worked in the same office was at his public finance firm before she ran for Texas treasurer. She served as Texas treasurer from 1991 to 1993.

Guilty of Threats

On Jan. 31, Larry Boyd Wren II pleaded guilty to writing a letter that could lead to him serving up to 10 years in prison and paying a fine of up to $250,000. Wren, an inmate in the Brown County jail, pleaded guilty to one count of mailing threatening communications. His addressee: U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings of the Northern District of Texas. According to a factual résumé that Wren and his lawyer, federal public defender Michael King in Lubbock, signed — and filed on the same day of Wren’s guilty plea — Wren wrote the letter to Cummings in June 2012 when Wren was incarcerated in Brown County, accused of committing several state offenses. According to the factual résumé, Wren previously had been convicted in the Western District of Texas for a firearms offense, then his case was moved to the Northern District of Texas. The factual résumé states that Wren wanted to make sure that the time he served for the state offenses also kept the clock going for his federal sentence of 41 months, to be followed by three years of supervised release. According to the factual résumé, Wren expressed his frustration with his incarceration and lack of legal resources, writing in the letter to Cummings: "[Y]ou can either review my fed & state situation or I’ll cut your fucking head off and earn a real charge!" King says his client was seeking to be taken into federal custody to ask for a resolution on his revocation of supervised release. Due to the letter, King says, Wren’s case was transferred from Cummings to U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in the Northern District of Texas.

High Court Request

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson‘s experience making clear points within a strict time limit as an appellate lawyer was on display Monday: When talking with Texas senators about the court’s next budget, Jefferson finished a mere moment before a bell rang to end his testimony, eliciting laughter from the audience. Jefferson told members of the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 4 that, due to budget cuts over the past few legislative sessions, the court cut funding for security for justices, lowered its costs for printing and research and employs fewer staffers. Yet the court is more efficient in clearing cases from its docket because of a new case management system that allows justices to work from anywhere, he said. The Legislative Budget Board recommends the court receive funding of $60.04 million for the 2014-15 biennium, which is an 18.7 percent decrease from the 2012-13 budget. Jefferson said currently, 95 percent of the court’s budget pays for personnel like staff attorneys. "We fear any additional cuts would cut into that personnel, and they are essential," said Jefferson. The court asked for an additional $5.14 million, which includes $4.6 million for civil legal aid and $539,000 to increase the pay of staff attorneys and other court personnel, hire a new rules attorney and fund travel for Supreme Court committees, among other things. Jefferson also told the committee that the court supports a separate recommendation to increase judicial salaries, and he asked committee members not to cut a general-revenue appropriation — the $4.6 million in the court’s additional budget request — for civil legal aid services.

Playing Santa

For the last five years, Ajamie LLP senior associate Jason Braun has worked for weeks, even months, to obtain special Christmas gifts for firm founder Thomas Ajamie from all of the firm’s lawyers. In December 2012, Braun arranged to give Ajamie a copy of his 2010 book, "Financial Series Killers: Inside the World of Financial Money Hustlers, Swindlers and Con Men," (which Ajamie wrote with Bruce Kelly) that was signed by lawyers and judges Ajamie admires. The signers were Houston trial lawyers Joe Jamail and Steve Susman, criminal defense attorney Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, two judges: U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of the Southern District of Texas, and 5th Circuit Judge Jennifer Elrod. "They said nice things, wished me well," says Ajamie. Ajamie says he was touched by each inscription. Jamail, of Jamail & Kolius, is an "inspiration to any Houston trial lawyer" and Susman, a partner in Susman Godfrey, is an "icon." Ajamie says he faced off against Haynes on more than one occasion, and worked with Ellison and Elrod at Baker Botts of Houston. Braun says his goal each year is to think up a unique gift for Ajamie. In 2009 and 2010, Braun says he obtained signed copies of books Ajamie liked. In 2011, Braun had Susan Saladoff sign a DVD of her documentary, "Hot Coffee"about the McDonald’s coffee litigation, for Ajamie. Those gifts took a few weeks to secure. But Braun spent seven months in 2010 securing a signature from rocker Alice Cooper on a pizza box, because Ajamie at age 16 got backstage at an Alice Cooper concert by delivering a bunch of pizzas from his family’s pizza business in Scottsdale, Ariz. Cooper also autographed his book for Ajamie, Braun says. Braun says he made contact with Alice Cooper’s manager through a lawyer who was representing the musician in some litigation. "I sent the pizza box out with a copy of his [Cooper's] book," Braun says. "Sure enough, Alice Cooper signed the pizza box, something like, ‘Tom, thanks for the pizzas.’???" Ajamie says he’s "humbled" by the gifts.

Injunction Time

An Austin bankruptcy lawyer in late January won $115,000 and a permanent injunction against a former client in a dispute that started with a Rolex watch as payment for legal services. After a bench trial on Dec. 3, 2012, 98th District Court Judge Rhonda Hurley awarded Michael Victor Baumer actual damages and issued a permanent injunction barring Scott Alexander Morris from publishing two websites and "making false statements" about Baumer, his business and his reputation, according to a Jan. 22 Permanent Injunction and Final Judgment in Michael Victor Baumer v. Scott Alexander Morris. Hurley found for Baumer on his three causes of action — tortious interference with prospective business relations, business disparagement and defamation — and ordered that Morris take nothing by his counterclaims. "I’m happy about it in the sense we got the permanent injunction. That was more than anything the real goal. . . . 
I don’t think I’ll ever see a penny from him, but at least the website is down," Baumer says. Morris says in representing himself pro se he made a mistake in "being emotional rather than being a lawyer." Morris says he may hire an attorney for an appeal and he thinks there’s "enough cause to have a retrial." Morris adds, "I’m going to fight back, and I expect to win the second time around." The Feb. 21, 2012, Original Petition and Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Temporary Injunction in Baumer v. Morris, filed in Travis County’s 419th District Court, alleges that Morris hired Baumer in 2007 to represent him in a bankruptcy. Morris "did not have enough cash" to pay Baumer and offered to pay Baumer $800 and give him the watch, worth $2,500. A dispute ensued about the watch. [See "Lawyer Gets Temporary Injunction Against Ex-Client's Websites," Texas Lawyer, March 26, 2012, page 1.] Baumer alleged in his petition that Morris launched websites that said, among other things, "If you have lost everything like I had, the last thing you need is a lawyer who steals your family heirlooms and kicks you while you are down." Morris’ March 5 Defendant’s Cross Counterclaim brought causes of action against Baumer including breach of contract, fraud and deceptive trade practices. Morris previously told Texas Lawyer he thought the allegations against him were "without merit." Sophia Palat, Baumer’s lawyer, previously told Texas Lawyer that the allegations in Morris’ counterclaim were "completely false."

Touchdown!

When a fellow partner in the Austin office of Locke Lord asked Tai Tran if he wanted to help a client with the financing to rehabilitate a tired, low-income apartment complex, Tran’s ears immediately perked up when he heard the words "Britain Way." "I said, ‘You mean Britain Way in Irving?’???" Tran recalls. "It was like hearing someone say they want to buy your home." Located a stone’s throw from Airport Freeway in an aging neighborhood not far from Texas Stadium, Britain Way is the place Tran called home in the early 1990s. It’s the place he walked home to every day from nearby Irving High School, where he played quarterback for the Irving High Tigers. And 20 years later, he helped a firm client buy the place with tax subsidy assistance and rehabilitate the property, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 22. It was the first time Tran had been back to his old neighborhood in two decades, an experience that brought back good and bad memories. He has fond memories of playing football for fun in Britain Way’s courtyard and some not-so-nice memories of his family’s apartment being burglarized twice. The second time, his father had to fight off an intruder and chase him out of the family’s home. Now, Britain Way looks and feels so much different to Tran, he says. "It really made me happy for the community. It was a big project," he says of the complex, which has the feeling of safety (and lighting) that was missing when he grew up there. "It now has a swimming pool, a community center. And now those kids living there have all of that. It made me proud just to be a part of that process," he says. Any fan of Irving High Tiger football will tell you that there’s plenty of reason to take pride in Tran’s football skills. As a senior in 1992, Tran quarterbacked the Tigers to beat Euless’ Trinity High School Trojans, by throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind 17 to 7 win. Trinity High has become famous in recent years for producing giant defensive linebackers, state championships and war dances.