Former Texas congressman Craig Washington will not get a new trial over his suspended law license, the Third District Texas Court of Appeals has recently ruled, because he did such a bad job of representing one of his clients that there's no way to argue otherwise.
To his credit, Washington has never argued that he actually did a good job representing Michael Gobert in 2006 when Gobert and Gobert's grandmother hired Washington. They paid the sleek, bowtied lawyer $10,000 to help them duke it out in court over whether Gobert and his sister or Gobert's mother's live-in boyfriend would keep his dead mother's house, and then Washington failed to show up to the pre-trial hearing, the case was dismissed for want of prosecution and the house was sold.
Gobert subsequently complained to the State Bar of Texas once he found out the lawsuit had actually been thrown out in 2009, three years before.
This isn't the first time Washington has gotten in trouble. Back in 2009, the attorney admitted in court to shooting two teenagers looking to park in his private Midtown parking lot. Then, after getting two years of probation for the crime, he turned around and sued both teens in civil court for about $600,000 each, which just happened to be the amount the IRS was seeking in a lawsuit over unpaid taxes.
Former clients have also filed a number of complaints over the years. While Washington had always managed to quash complaints from former clients and disciplinary filings alleging attorney misconduct, this time around the allegations of how Washington mishandled Gobert's case weren't so easy to shake.
In December 2014, Washington's disciplinary case, brought by the State Bar of Texas, went before a Bastrop County District Court 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. Washington appealed the Bastrop County District Court decision to suspend him from practicing law for 18 months, but while the court dropped his active suspension time to 12 months, the judges refused to grant him a new trial, stating that nothing could explain away how Washington treated his clients.
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When his case landed before the Third District Texas Court of Appeals, Washington tried to argue for a full reversal and for his suspension from practicing law to be revoked by picking at various aspects of how the trial went down without ever actually arguing about how his handling of Gobert's case was presented to the jury.
Washington claimed the Bastrop County trial court had failed to allow him to bring in all of his character witnesses, had refused to let the jury determine his punishment as he'd requested, had allowed the jury to be tainted by a document that showed he had briefly been suspended from the state bar for not paying occupational taxes back in the 1990s, and maintained that the way the trial court had handled things required a full reversal of that court's decision.
However, the Third District Texas Court of Appeals wasn't having any of it. In a 27-page opinion issued last week, the court shut down all of Washington's arguments for a new trial by pointing out how none of the issues he was raising had anything to do with how he actually handled the case in question.
"Given the nature of the allegations and the evidence presented at trial, the excluded testimony of the character witnesses would have been irrelevant," the Third District Court of Appeals opinion states. "The issue here was not whether Mr. Washington was generally an honest person; the issue was whether the evidence showed that he violated several provisions of the disciplinary rules in the client's case."