Vasilas v. State
TTLA joined University of Houston Law Professor Lonny Hoffman, the Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas, Texas LULAC, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and the Texas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in an amicus brief filed in support of review and reversal by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals of the Dallas court of appelas's opinion and judgment in Vasilas v. State. The Texas Association of Defense Counsel is apparently considering filing a separate letter brief in support of review and reversal.
The case involves the criminalization of lawyer misconduct. Vasilas, an attorney, filed a motion for expunction of his client's criminal record. The client had been indicted on two charges, the felony offense of delivery and the lesser offense of possessionof marijuana; at trial, the client was convicted of possession, but acquitted of delivery. The motion for expunction stated, inaccurately, that the delivery charge had been "dropped."
The Dallas County prosecutor brought criminal charges against Vasilas directly for filing a false government document. In the first appeal, Vasilas contened that the motion for expunction was not a "government document" subject to the statute; the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, and remanded remanded the case back to the Dallas court. The lower court then held that the criminal statute was not in pari materia with other statutes and rules governing attorney conduct, and that Vasilas could indeed be prosecuted. That holding is now the subject of a petition for discretionary review in the Court of Criminal Appeals.
It is the view of TTLA and the other signatories that the courts already have a variety of tools to control and punish attorney behavior, and that application of the statute in the courtroom context runs the risk of criminalizing zealous advocacy. TTLA and the other signatories are particularly concerned about the troubling civil rights implications of the ruling.
TTLA worked closely with Prof. Hoffman in preparing the amicus brief, and was instrumental in marshaling the brief's other signatories.