Ty Clevenger
Ty Clevenger ()

One attorney who describes himself as a crusader and muckraker has recently brought the reprimand of U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, a new criminal investigation into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the indictment of a former district attorney.

But Ty Clevenger’s actions as a civil litigator have also brought sanctions from federal judges and an attorney disciplinary reprimand.

“I’ve always been a crusader,” said Clevenger, a former Dallas lawyer who now works in New York City. “Part of it is part of my personality, but the more I practiced, the more disillusioned and disgusted I got with the courts and legal profession.”

Clevenger said he had a tough childhood and now has a “Batman complex” that pushes him to “take it out on the bad guys.” He said he’s lost faith in the justice system, and he feels frustrated and outraged watching corruption and not being able to do much about it.

After earning an undergraduate degree in 1992, Clevenger was a journalist and then a deputy sheriff. He earned his JD from Stanford University School of Law in 2001. He was a law clerk for Judge Morris S. Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He served as a trial attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Later, he operated a solo practice while serving as of counsel to a small firm in Bryan, Texas. Now Clevenger said he plans to start an in-house counsel job at a New York startup.

But he still hasn’t quite given up on journalism. Clevenger said he’s working on a book, “Liars and Horsethieves: A Book about Lawyers and Judges,” that will expose alleged corruption in the legal profession. He also writes about alleged misconduct on websites like lawflog.com, boogercountymafia.com and dirtyrottenjudges.com. His allegations are serious, and his prose inflammatory. He said he has documents to back up his claims.

“I’m not just making allegations based on bald conjecture. Yes, I am animated about it, because I am frustrated. I am tired of watching powerful people get away with things that would send other people to prison,” Clevenger said.

Victories

Clevenger said he deserves about 95 percent of the credit for Judge Walter Smith’s reprimand for sexual harassment of a court clerk, and for former Robertson County DA John Paschall’s criminal indictment for first-degree felony misapplication of fiduciary property.

The Jan. 14, 2015, indictment in Texas v. Paschall, filed in Robertson County’s 82nd District Court, alleged that between 1997 and 2010, Paschall misapplied $200,000 or more of trust money he held as a fiduciary under a couple’s last will and testament.

On Jan. 21, Paschall pleaded guilty to third-degree felony misapplication of fiduciary funds, said James & Reynolds partner Jim James of Bryan, who represents Paschall. A judge sentenced Paschall to five years in prison, which was converted to 10 years of probation. He must serve 30 days in jail in non-work hours. Paschall’s plea deal required him to give up his law license, pay a $1,000 fine and do community service.

“John Paschall is a friend of mine. He is a good man. He made a mistake. He has admitted it, and hopes to move on with his life,” James said.

Waco solo Greg White, who represents Smith, didn’t return a call seeking comment before. A woman who answered a call to Smith’s chambers said the judge doesn’t speak to the media.

“I won’t call it an outright victory, because there were significant disappointments in both the cases—Judge Smith and Paschall. I don’t think they have received the punishment they deserved, but I am glad something finally happened,” Clevenger said.

He has also played a role in Paxton’s case.

Clevenger blogged about a 2004 land deal in which Paxton—then a state representative from McKinney—was an investor. The Dallas Morning News broke news of the land deal previously in 2014. But Clevenger took action that might have resulted in two lawyers appointed to investigate the matter.

“I directly wrote to the grand jury and asked them to investigate,” he explained.

An Austin American-Statesman story said that the partnership in which Paxton invested had bought a parcel of land in McKinney for $700,000, and shortly thereafter, the partnership petitioned successfully for a zoning change to the land. Later, the investors sold the land for $1 million to a Dallas real estate firm. It’s now the site of the Collin County Central Appraisal District.

Fish & Richardson principal Bill Mateja, who represents Paxton in his felony securities fraud case, wrote in an email that he’s confident that investigators will find no wrongdoing. Paxton wasn’t involved in the investors’ partnership selling the land to the real estate firm, nor in that firm’s sale of the land to the appraisal district, he added.

Sanctions, Discipline

Some of Clevenger’s allegations and tactics have not ended well for him.

Among other sanctions by federal judges, Smith once sanctioned Clevenger and his client for $25,000 for a 2009 lawsuit. Smith found the suit was frivolous, failed to meet statutory requirements, listed unrelated plaintiffs and unrelated claims and more.

Another federal judge in Washington, D.C., sanctioned Clevenger for about $123,800 for filing two lawsuits with identical claims that the judge found were meant to delay litigation and contained some baseless allegations. That judge found that Clevenger acted in bad faith, with disregard for the judicial system.

Based on those two sanctions, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline filed a 2014 disciplinary petition against Clevenger. An Aug. 18, 2014, public reprimand found that he committed professional misconduct.

But Clevenger said that the attorney who filed the grievance against him has committed professional misconduct himself. Clevenger said he agreed to the reprimand because the State Bar promised to investigate that lawyer’s misconduct. The bar investigated but hasn’t yet brought a grievance against that lawyer, he said.

Claire Mock, a spokeswoman in the bar’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Clevenger wrote in an email, “I don’t mind people questioning my methods or even my judgment, but I hope they understand that I am trying to do the right thing.”