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An appeals court decision means Houston’s Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom may go back to representing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association on consolidated Hurricane Ike litigation in Galveston County.

A panel of Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals conditionally granted a mandamus on Nov. 7, ordering 212th District Judge Susan Criss of Galveston to vacate a Feb. 5 order disqualifying Martin Disiere and partner Christopher Martin from Ike work for the association. Judge Michael Massengale, joined by Judge Jane Bland, concluded that Criss erred in applying the law to the facts and by ordering the “blanket disqualification” of Martin and his law firm. Judge Terry Jennings dissented, writing that the majority “substitutes its factual determinations in place of those made by the respondent trial court,” does not follow the “well-settled standard” for review and “misapplies the governing law.” Dale Wainwright, a Bracewell & Giuliani partner in Austin and a former Texas Supreme Court justice, argued for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). He said the panel’s decision affirmed two important principles: The disciplinary rules for attorneys are intended to protect clients, not lawyers, and “it continues to be difficult for an adverse party in litigation to disqualify the other side’s lawyers.” “This was not a case where the party wasn’t happy with the lawyers. It was the other side’s lawyers trying to get rid of TWIA’s lawyers,” Wainwright said. Jennifer Hogan, a partner in Hogan & Hogan in Houston who argued the appeal for the real-parties-in-interest did not immediately return a message for comment. The real-parties-in-interest, who maintained Criss’ disqualification order was justified, include Galveston lawyer Craig Eiland and his firm; the city of Santa Fe, Texas; members of a purported class of plaintiffs suing TWIA in Galveston County over Hurricane Ike claims; and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the Hurricane Ike litigation. The 1st Court heard oral arguments on April 17.

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