TX lawmaker who won re-election from jail cell stripped of law license

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas state representative Ron Reynolds is down, but he’s not yet out. The Missouri City Democrat is continuing his fight to save his law license—10 days after the state stripped him of his bar card.

Reynolds spent most of the last seven years an accused man—eventually convicted of crimes outlawed in Texas in 1876.

A Montgomery County jury convicted him on five counts of Barratry and Barratry Ill Obtain Employment—crimes commonly known as ambulance chasing. The crime happens when an attorney solicits clients or is caught “stirring up litigation,” as a judge in an appeals court opinion described the charges in Reynolds’ criminal case.

Rep. Ron Reynolds surrendered to Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies in September 2018 to begin serving a year-long sentence on barratry convictions.

Layers are barred from contacting victims within 30 days of a crash or disaster the filing shows.

A judge sentenced Reynolds to 365 days in jail and $4,000 fines for his crimes.

The state suspended Reynolds’ law license in May 2016 and he appealed his conviction the same day. It took until September 2018 for an appeals court to uphold the conviction. Reynolds was arrested days after losing the appeal and spent about four months of the 12 months he was sentenced to serve.

As Reynolds sat in a Montgomery County jail cell in November, Houston-area voters re-elected Reynolds to another term in the Texas House of Representatives.  Reynolds would have missed the entire 2019 legislative session had he served his entire 12-month jail sentence.

Reynolds was back in Austin for the opening day of session in January.

LAW LICENSE REVOKED

The state’s 12-member Board of Disciplinary Appeals issued an order July 29, revoking Reynolds’ law license. The board decided to strip his license after hearing arguments from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and from Reynolds’ attorney.

“In this particular case, was not charged—or not convicted of an intentional felony—but of a misdemeanor,” Reynolds’ attorney James Goodwille Pierre told the board during a July 26 hearing.

The Supreme Court’s Board of Disciplinary Appeals heard arguments from Rep. Ron Reynolds’ attorney on July 26, asking the 12 member board to order a suspension in lieu of disbarment. The board disbarred Reynolds three days after this hearing in Austin.

“It [Reynolds’ convictions] doesn’t involve anything revolving [sic] misrepresentation, fraud and deceit or stealing of any money,” Pierre said, “We would ask that this board respectfully deny the request for disbarment outright and allow respondent’s three-year suspension to serve as punishment served. Or, alternatively, include additional time for suspension, but not totally disbarred.”

“He’s not eligible for suspension. There is potential for suspension when someone had a probated sentence, but Mr. Reynolds has actually served jail time, his sentence was not fully probated, he is therefore not eligible for suspension versus disbarment,” Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Amanda Kates told the board.

Reynolds’ crimes are considered “Intentional” and “Serious,” according to Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. The convictions and jail time earned Reynolds a disbarment, Kates told the board.

Reynolds sat without speaking during the July 26 hearing before the board. Reynolds provided KXAN a statement through his House of Representatives email account indicating his plans to appeal the disbarment:

“We have discovered additional evidence in my favor and are confident that we will prevail on appeal. This is a gross injustice that I was disbarred for a misdemeanor that no other attorney was disbarred for.” 

Rep. ron reynolds (d-Missouri city)

Reynolds’ attorney argued that other attorneys charged with the same crimes were not given the same punishment as Reynolds. The appeal, which has not been filed as of this report, will likely include more detail on those other cases.

Reynolds’ disbarment, if not overturned on appeal, would allow him to petition a district court for his law license back on July 29, 2024.

REYNOLDS’ CRIMES

A husband and wife were able to turn the Houston Police Department’s online crash database into a lucrative business.

They’d pull car crash reports and find “not-at-fault” drivers involved in car crashes, then contact those drivers “before he or she signed with a lawyer,” Eighth District Court of Appeals Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote in a 2017 opinion.

The husband and wife would later meet with the driver “to sign them up with a lawyer,” McClure wrote.

The husband was working for “one of several law firms,” according to the opinion. Those lawyers would pay the couple “a set fee for each referral.” The husband also “directed victims to two injury clinics that he controlled, and to auto-body shops that paid him referral fees,” the judge wrote.

The wife would “pull some 20-25 accident reports a day” and would hold at least two “follow up appointments” each day, according to the opinion. The wife confessed the “scheme” and the husband later pleaded guilty to barratry “and agreed to testify against the several lawyers also charged.”

Reynolds met the husband in 2007 when the man attended a meeting at Reynolds’ now-closed law office. Reynolds “attended the meeting, but said nothing,” court filings show. One of the firm’s partners—who is not named in the 2017 opinion—offered the man $200 for each crash victim.

The man went to work for Reynolds’ firm full-time in 2009.

The man upped his production to signing 40 clients each month and “also admitted to being paid under the table by chiropractors and body shops,” according to court records.

In 2012, Reynolds opened his own firm, Ronald E. Reynolds & Associates, PLLC, and scheduled a meeting with the man. Reynolds offered the man “$800 for regular cases, $1,000 for policy limit cases, and $1,500 for collisions caused by commercial vehicles,” court filings show.

Reynolds paid the man in cash, the filings show.

Evidence in the case contained a logbook that listed 800 names of clients the man solicited in a single year. Also included in the state’s evidence were text messages between Reynolds and the man and a fee contract with Reynolds’ law firm letterhead.

A search warrant on Reynolds’ law office turned up copies of the same files investigators found when they searched the man’s home earlier in the investigation.

In July 2015, Reynolds was charged with five separate counts of violating the state’s barratry ban.

Reynolds was the target of a 2012 barratry investigation by Harris County investigators. Investigators identified five cases where they believed Reynolds was involved in barratry crimes.  

Investigators charged Reynolds with using a third-party “runner” to solicit clients. But Reynolds’ charges were dismissed in 2013 after the investigator in the case was arrested and charged “with some criminal conduct,” court filings show.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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