Attorney discipline, or precisely the disciplining of attorneys, is a subject that s rarely discussed, and it s a good bet that most lay persons are 1 completely unfamiliar with the process and 2 highly suspicious of the very thought that the organized Bar would take action against one of its own Frank Southers attempts to shed some light on the subject with his novel, The Grievance Committee, and does a good job of describing how the disciplinary system works in his home state of Texas, although not quite as good a job of writing a compelling novel.Southers certainly knows whereof he speaks, at least in terms of the Texas disciplinary process, since he was a member of a grievance committee in San Antonio for a number of years and, since that time, has represented both accused attorneys and their accusers As Southers explains in The Grievance Committee, in Texas, those who feel that an attorney has violated the Professional Rules can file a complaint that is heard before the Committee, an administrative panel with both lawyer and non lawyer members If the Committee recommends discipline, possibly including disbarment, the attorney can appeal and have the case decided in a civil trial in a local court The Grievance Committee describes a fictional case that all too often finds real world similarities Jose Quiroz, a San Antonio attorney with a spotless record, is accused of extorting sexual favors from an accused shoplifter he represented Quiroz admits a relationship with his accuser but says it is consensual at the time, such a relationship wasn t an automatic violation of Bar Rules in Texas as it is in many states What readers know, but most of the characters in the book don t, is that Quiroz is guilty and has done it on other occasions Eventually two other women come forward with similar complaints The case eventually winds up going to trial, and, since Quiroz tells a plausible story, it s unclear whether a jury will rule against him.Southers does an excellent job in The Grievance Committee of explaining how the disciplinary system works and the legal principles involved, including details like the burden of proof, the Committee s deliberation process, and the procedures involved at the various stages Further, he does so in language that avoids most legalisms and explains things in terms non attorneys can easily follow As an attorney myself in another state, I wound up learning a thing or two along the way as well.However, even though Southers does a good job of explaining the legal principles and he certainly has an interesting case on his hands, his skills as a novelist need a good bit of work Much of the language in the book is stilted, because he works so hard at using precise terminology in describing his procedure and being thorough in his descriptions that the flow of the narrative is awkward A typical line of dialogue reads After you decline to accept the Committee s decision, you have another 20 days to elect the de novo trial in court or the Evidentiary Hearing before the Committee Your election for court means that the matter is forwarded to the Commission For Lawyer Discipline, a committee consisting of 2 3rds lawyers and 1 3rd non lawyers in Austin While I have no doubt that Southers facts are correct, the passage which goes on a good bit longer in the book reads like a textbook instead of actual spoken dialogue Ironically, on those few occasions when Southers lets his characters talk like real people, The Grievance Committee comes alive Two members of the Committee, a fundamentalist who is highly critical of the complaining clients and a woman who is highly skeptical of Quiroz descriptions of his relationships, make no bones about their feelings and when they are talking, the book is quite lively.Southers tries to throw in some complications in the book, including a possible blackmail scheme involving the trial judge, but they aren t that effective because he spends too much time discussing sometimes interesting but eventually irrelevant details about his various characters These serve as space consuming distractions that get in the way of the legitimate plot complications he attempts to introduce The Grievance Committee is Southers first novel, and it is a good effort at describing the workings of a rather complex disciplinary system as seen in the circumstances of one highly sensational case Further, he knows how to craft an interesting plot and write compelling dialogue when he just lets his characters talk instead of deliver lectures Despite the annoyance I felt a number of times about Southers awkward language and distracting plot detours, I was interested in seeing how the case would turn out For that reason, I m recommending the book Greater familiarity with the fiction writing process in later books will mean that readers will have fewer grievances about his work in the future. A Novel About A Serial Shoplifter Alexandria Who Wants The Grievance Committee To Discipline Her Court Appointed Lawyer For Tricking Her Into Sexual Relations His Defense Counsel Claims Her Made Up Charges Are Spite From A Broken Love Affair And He Argues That Texas Lawyers Are Not Prohibited From Sexual Relations With Clients As The Case Moves Through The Secret Lawyer Disciplinary System In San Antonio, Texas, Alexandra With The Help Of Her Patron Saint Discovers Two Other Women With Similar Experiences With The Accused Lawyer And Convinces Them To Also File Grievance Complaints With His Defense Counsel S Tactics And With The Help Of The Accused Lawyer S Parish Priest S Threats To One Of The Women, The Accused Lawyer Appears To Be Winning As The Case Heads For A Jury Trial Before A Judge With Something To Hide For The Rest Of The Story, Read On
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- 251 pages
- The Grievance Committee (The Grievance Committee #1)
- Frank R. Southers
- 17 March 2017 Frank R. Southers