Robert S. 'Bob' Bennett, attorney and owner of Houston's Bob Bennett & Associates
Robert S. ‘Bob’ Bennett, attorney and owner of Houston’s Bob Bennett & Associates (Clifton Brantley)

Robert S. Bennett, who was disbarred in March, wants a judge to suspend enforcement of the judgment so he can resume his law practice pending his appeal and pending a mediation that he’s seeking with the Commission for Lawyer Discipline.

Bennett, who practiced in Houston, alleges in a June 3 motion that he seeks a stay of the enforcement because he will be “irreparably harmed” if a stay is not granted and “the preponderance of the evidence establishes no harm to the public or to Bennett’s clients.

“His career may be destroyed and his clients will be irreparably deprived of the lawyer of their choice whose background and experience are unique. The disbarment also stigmatizes Bennett, affecting his reputation and relationships, as well as the well-being of his family members,” Bennett alleges.

He also alleges that due process requires staying the judgment “since a lawyer has a constitutionally protected interest in practicing law.”

Bennett also, for the second time, asked 289th District Judge Carmen Kelsey of San Antonio, a “specially assigned judge” presiding over the commission’s disciplinary lawsuit against him, to order the commission to participate in mediation. Bennett alleges that Texas Rule of Disciplinary Procedure 3.08 states that it “shall” be the policy of the commission to participate in alternative dispute resolution “where feasible.”

“It seems like there ought to be a discussion. Maybe, in this particular case, is disbarment the right result?” said Lamont Jefferson, a partner in Haynes and Boone in San Antonio who represents Bennett in postjudgment motions.

Bennett, on April 16, filed a motion seeking a new trial. However, according to Harris County District Clerk online court records, Kelsey did not rule on the motion by June 4, so it was “overruled by operation of law.”

“I’m highly disappointed, and I thought the motion deserved a live hearing,” Jefferson said, noting that Bennett will seek an oral hearing on the motion to suspend enforcement.

Claire Mock, public affairs administrator for the chief disciplinary counsel, said the commission declines to comment because the matter is in litigation. However, in a May 22 response to Bennett’s motion for new trial, supplemental motion for new trial and motion to modify, reform, or correct the judgment, the commission alleges that there is “no basis” for a new trial and, among many things, alleged that the court acted properly when imposing a sanction of disbarment.

On March 21, Kelsey signed a final judgment of disbarment in the disciplinary suit that the commission had filed against Bennett in 2013. Bennett’s trial began on March 17. Bennett had denied the allegations.

After finding that Bennett violated Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(d) and 3.02, Kelsey found that “the appropriate sanction is disbarment,” effective March 21.

Rule 1.15(d) covers a lawyer’s responsibilities when terminating representation, and Rule 3.02 prohibits a lawyer from taking a position that unreasonably increases the costs or other burdens of the litigation or unreasonably delays resolution.

The disciplinary petition stemmed from a fee dispute arising from Bennett’s representation of Gary O. Land in a breach of contract suit and a potential federal civil rights action.

Bennett’s disbarment suit has attracted attention from many Texas lawyers.

A total of 1,054 Texas lawyers signed a request of amici curiae characterizing Bennett’s disbarment as an “extreme result” that is “unfair” and one that “does not foster the respect and confidence in our disciplinary system that are essential within the Texas bar.”

The request of amici curiae, which was attached as an exhibit to Bennett’s motion asking Kelsey to suspend enforcement of the judgment, asks the court to resolve the matter “by mediation or other final resolution in a manner that is fair and just for all concerned.”