To say that former Congressman Craig Washington has a checkered past would be an understatement.
In 2009, the dapper bow tie-sporting lawyer admitted in court to illegally shooting a couple of teenagers who were looking for a parking spot in his private Midtown lot (bullets hit the car but the boys were unharmed). Then, after being sentenced to two years of probation for the offense, Washington sued both teenagers in civil court for about $600,000 each. Right around that time, Washington just so happened to be fighting a lawsuit from the IRS seeking more than $600,000 in unpaid taxes.
All the while, Washington fought complaints by former clients and disciplinary filings by the State Bar of Texas alleging several instances of attorney misconduct. After fighting those allegations for many years, early this month Washington was finally suspended from practicing law for 18 months.
The case that ultimately got Washington suspended dates back to 2006. That year Michael Gobert hired Washington to represent him while he was fighting to keep his mother's house from being transferred to her live-in boyfriend in a Montgomery County court. According to court records, Gobert paid Washington $10,000 for his services. In return, Washington failed to tell Gobert about a pre-trial hearing the week before his case was set to go to court. When the case was called, neither Gobert nor Washington showed up, and Gobert's case was dismissed (Gobert's had no luck on appeal).
Last month Washington's disciplinary case, brought by the State Bar of Texas, went before a Bastrop County jury, which found that the former congressman had committed professional misconduct in Gobert's case. The court also made Washington pay the state bar's attorney's fees, about $25,000.
Complaints that Washington screwed over clients led to at least two other public reprimands, according to state bar records. One reprimand stems from a 2004 case in Brazoria County involving Pamela Williams, who sued a department store and the College Station Police Department after she was wrongly arrested and accused of stealing. In 2007, Washington settled the case for $8,000 dollars. When Williams wanted records and accounting from Washington to make sure he withheld the correct amount in attorney's fees (seems even Washington's client didn't trust Washington), Washington refused to turn over any records, according to court documents. Washington then failed to respond to inquiries from the state bar's Client-Attorney Assistance Program after Williams filed a complaint.
State bar records show that Washington was also reprimanded for his work in the case of a man who was ultimately convicted of shooting a cop during the chaos of post-Katrina New Orleans. Around November 2005, months after Jamil Joyner and three others were arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer, Joyner's mother contacted and hired Washington to represent the group, court records show.
Despite being paid $40,000 to represent the four defendants, it's unclear what actual work Washington ever did on the case. Washington wasn't licensed to practice in Louisiana, so he told Joyner's family he'd hired a New Orleans attorney as co-counsel. When Joyner was eventually called into court hearings, none of his attorneys showed, according to disciplinary records filed in court. The state bar's complaint against Washington claims that Joyner, left without Washington's help, went almost a whole year in lockup without being arraigned. When Joyner ultimately hired another attorney to take his case, that attorney couldn't get Washington to turn over the files he'd kept on the defendants.
Washington has yet to respond to a request for comment left at his Houston law office. In his voice-mail greeting, Washington offers this bit of advice: "The key to success is to work like you don't need the money, dance like nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt." Maybe he should add work like you've never been paid.
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