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James v. Comm'n for Lawyer Discipline

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

April 5, 2010, Opinion Filed

No. 05-08-01553-CV

Opinion

 [*588]  Opinion By Justice Myers

Dell Edward James appeals the default judgment ordering his disbarment from the practice of law. Appellant argues the trial court erred in rendering the default judgment for disbarment because: (a) the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case; (b) the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over appellant; (c) the judgment did not conform to the pleadings; and (d) the sanction of disbarment was excessive. Appellant also contends the trial court erred in not granting appellant's motion for new trial. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

BACKGROUND

On November 26, 2007, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline filed its original petition seeking the disciplining of appellant for violations of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of Thomas Rush. On January 11, 2008, the Commission filed its first amended petition seeking appellant's disciplining for violating the rules of professional conduct in his representation of Rush and Ruth Grisales.  [**2] Citation was issued for the original and first amended petitions. The process server made five attempts to serve appellant between January 14 and 31, 2008 by going to appellant's usual place of business and the Collin County Courthouse when appellant had a hearing scheduled, but he was unable to serve appellant.

On April 15, 2008, the Commission filed its second amended petition alleging violations of the rules of professional conduct in appellant's representation of Rush and Grisales. When the process server tried unsuccessfully four more times to serve appellant with the second amended petition at his usual place of business, the Commission filed a motion for substituted service. On May 21, 2008, the trial court granted the motion and authorized substituted service on appellant "by leaving a true copy of the citation, with a copy of the Second Amended Disciplinary Petition, with anyone over sixteen years of age at Respondent's usual place of business, which is 5700 Granite Parkway, Suite 281, Plano Texas 75024." George Weis filed an affidavit of service stating he served appellant on June 4, 2008, "by delivering to Jenna Pecor, a person sixteen (16) years or older, a true and correct  [**3] copy of the above mentioned documents at the Defendant's usual place of business at 5700 Granite Parkway, Suite 281, Plano, TX 75024, per Order Granting Petitioner's Second Motion for Substitute Service of Process, having first endorsed thereon the date of the delivery."

On August 5, 2008, appellant had not filed an answer, and the Commission moved for a default judgment, which the trial court granted, finding appellant violated the rules of professional conduct. After a hearing that included testimony from Rush and Grisales and evidence appellant [*589]  had received a public reprimand in 2005, the trial court rendered judgment that (a) appellant was disbarred and his license to practice law was revoked, (b) permanently enjoined appellant from practicing law, (c) ordered appellant to take particular actions for the protection of his clients and the public, and (d) ordered him to pay restitution to Rush and Grisales and attorney's fees and costs to the Commission.

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310 S.W.3d 586 *; 2010 Tex. App. LEXIS 2715 **

DELL EDWARD JAMES, Appellant v. COMMISSION FOR LAWYER DISCIPLINE, Appellee

Subsequent History: Released for Publication May 17, 2010

Related proceeding at State Bar v. James (In re James), 2017 Bankr. LEXIS 3521 (Bankr. E.D. Tex., Oct. 11, 2017)

Prior History:  [**1] On Appeal from the 416th District Court, Collin County, Texas. Trial Court Cause No. 416-04033-07.

James v. Comm'n for Lawyer Discipline, 310 S.W.3d 598, 2010 Tex. App. LEXIS 2703 (Tex. App. Dallas, Apr. 5, 2010)

CORE TERMS

disbarment, disciplinary, settlement, default, server, void, disciplined, election, receptionist, conform, abode, subject-matter, Misconduct, injunctive, handling

Legal Ethics, Sanctions, Disciplinary Proceedings, Hearings, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, General Overview, Service of Process, Methods of Service, Proof of Service, Service of Summons, Content & Form, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Preliminary Considerations, Discovery & Disclosure, Judgments, Entry of Judgments, Disbarments, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Relief From Judgments, Motions for New Trials, Pretrial Judgments, Default & Default Judgments, Relief From Default