The Commission for Lawyer Discipline makes nearly identical allegations in separate lawsuits that two Houston lawyers violated a disciplinary rule that says lawyers cannot “engage in conduct that constitutes barratry,” among other rules. But one of the defendants—State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D–Missouri City—said the allegations are “baseless.”
The CFLD alleges that Reynolds and Clyde Miller, of The Miller Law Firm in Houston, improperly solicited legal clients by paying a nonlawyer who contacted car accident victims and “engaged in an ongoing effort to solicit personal injury clients” for both lawyers.
But Reynolds said that, while the nonlawyer “referred” some cases to him, the methods of getting the clients were “unbeknownst to me.”
“I’m looking forward to vigorously defending myself. I’m very confident that this is a very baseless charge and allegations against me, and I feel confident that I will be able to maintain my law license once I have my day in court. I have independent witnesses that will verify I did nothing wrong with respect to our conduct with respect to Mr. Valdez. I feel like, because I’m a state representative, they are trying to target me and make an example out of me without me having an opportunity to give my perspective,” said Reynolds, shareholder in Ronald E. Reynolds PLLC in Houston. “Basically, the state bar just took the allegations and ran with them.”
Neither Miller nor Alison Elam, assistant disciplinary counsel in the Houston Regional Office of the State Bar of Texas Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, returned a telephone call for comment.
When asked to respond to Reynolds’ comment, OCDC spokeswoman Claire Mock declined to comment.
The allegations are nearly identical in March 11′s CFLD v. Miller and Feb. 12′s CFLD v. Reynolds, both filed in Harris County District Court.
The CFLD alleges in the original disciplinary petitions and requests for disclosure that during, 2012 and 2013, Robert Valdez Sr. “engaged in an ongoing effort to solicit personal injury clients on behalf of and at the direction of” Miller and Reynolds. Valdez—”a nonlawyer employed or retained by” Miller and Reynolds—contacted people involved in car accidents and recommended that they hire Miller or Reynolds, alleges the petition.
Miller gave Valdez a “Power of Attorney and Contingent Fee contract” for the people to sign, said the CFLD v. Miller petition. Reynolds gave Valdez a “Ronald E. Reynolds, PLLC Attorney-Client Agreement” for people to sign, said the CFLD v. Reynolds petition.
According to the petitions, Miller and Reynolds ordered, encouraged and permitted the solicitation, “consistently compensated” Valdez and “knowingly accepted employment” from the solicitation. The CFLD v. Miller petition lists three Houston residents that Valdez allegedly solicited for Miller. The CFLD v. Reynolds petition lists five Houston residents that Valdez allegedly solicited for Reynolds.
Both petitions allege that Miller’s and Reynolds’s acts and omissions “constitute professional misconduct” and that they violated six rules in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The CFLD is asking the court to discipline the two lawyers by reprimand, suspension or disbarment and is seeking to recover expenses, court costs and attorney fees.
Reynolds said the state bar’s petition is based on allegations in a Montgomery County criminal case against him. The Oct. 21, 2013, indictment in State of Texas v. Reynolds charges him with 10 counts of third-degree felony barratry. It goes to trial in June, according to the Montgomery County district clerk’s online records.
Valdez also faced a criminal case in Montgomery County.
He pleaded guilty to one count of barratry, and on Nov. 20, 2013, he was sentenced to five years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division, according to the Judgment of Conviction by Court–Waiver of Jury Trial in State of Texas v. Valdez, filed in Montgomery County’s 221st District Court. The June 20, 2013, indictment charged Valdez with 13 counts of barratry. The March 28, 2013, complaint alleged that Valdez did “with intent to obtain an economic benefit, solicit by telephone, employment for Ronald Reynolds by contacting a prospective client concerning professional employment within the scope of Ronald Reynolds’ license as an attorney.”
David Bluestein, who represented Valdez, didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.
Texas Lawyer could not contact Valdez, who is confined in the Pam Lychner State Jail in Humble, according to TDCJ Offender Information Search records. The records show that Valdez also has two past convictions for possession of cocaine and one for assault. His “projected release date” is Feb. 8, 2022.
Reynolds said that as part of a “plea deal” with prosecutors, Valdez made barratry allegations against eight lawyers, including Reynolds and Miller.
“He has a very, very checkered background,” Reynolds said about Valdez. “He was going to be facing a pretty healthy prison sentence if he didn’t come up with something. He’s a very uncredible person. They have to make their case based on this person.”