Exonerees Settle Lawsuits Over "Unconscionable" Fees Charged by Attorney
A lawsuit filed by three Dallas exonerees against their high-powered personal injury lawyer has finally come to an end after more than two testy years. The dispute was over fees charged for more than tripling state compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned.
Danny Fulgencio Steven Phillips
According to Lubbock attorney Kevin Glasheen, who represented a dozen men locked up for crimes they didn't commit, he has refunded portions of his fees to all of them, not just the men who took him to court: Steven Phillips, James Giles and Patrick Waller.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, he wouldn't say for how much.
"I contacted all the other clients and gave them a similar refund of some fees, because I didn't want them to be treated any differently than the guys who made claims," Glasheen tells Unfair Park. "It was gratifying to me when some of them said 'You don't need to do that. We thought the fees were fair.'
"I didn't want them to be penalized for being agreeable."
Phillips' attorney, Randy Turner, said they agreed on a "take-nothing judgement," meaning he didn't pay Glasheen any of the fees the attorney claimed were owed. The settlement amounts for his other clients, he says, are confidential.
Phillips said he was "thrilled" with the settlement. "It's been a pretty long battle, really. I believe our side prevailed. I think the good guys won."
Wielding the threat of civil litigation, Glasheen lobbied the state legislature successfully on behalf of Texas exonerees, raising compensation rate from $50,000 a year for every year spent in prison on a bogus conviction to $180,000 in 2009. Each of Glasheen's clients signed his standard contingency contract, entitling him to a quarter of their take. But when the bill came due, Phillips, Giles and Waller balked. Phillips in particular -- who spent 25 years in prison for a string of sex assaults he didn't commit -- said he'd hired Glasheen to file a civil suit against the City of Dallas on his behalf, not to lobby the legislature. But when he fired him after the law's passage, he filed for the compensation on his own and sued Glasheen (all chronicled in this Observer cover story).
Judge Ken Molberg, who was set to try the case this month in Dallas district court, appeared to be taking an increasingly dim view of the arguments from both sides of the aisle, and each side's demonization of the other. Glasheen, for his part, said, "My initial reaction was what we contacted for was fair, but it's important for a lawyers to resolve disputes with their clients."
What isn't clear is whether or not this settlement will put to rest a suit filed by the State Bar of Texas against Glasheen for alleged professional misconduct. We put in a call to the Bar, but, alas, they're closed for Veteran's Day.