State Bar to Investigate Professional Misconduct by District Attorney Allison Palmer
AUSTIN, TX — The State Bar of Texas has agreed to investigate the actions against defense attorney Patricia Stone by 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer as a grievance, claiming Professional Misconduct.
Palmer, the senior elected district attorney serving the four district courts here, is demanding Stone sign what has been characterized as a “Confession” that contradicts Stone’s arguments before the appellate court where Stone is working to overturn a conviction prosecuted by Palmer’s office.
The State Bar verified Stone’s complaint as a legitimate grievance and will initiate an investigation, a letter from Luis Marin states. Marin is an investigator for the State Bar. The first step is to forward Stone’s written complaint to Palmer and give Palmer 30 days to respond in her defense. “After receipt of the lawyer’s written response, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel shall investigate the Complaint to determine whether there is Just Cause to believe that the lawyer has committed Professional Misconduct or Suffers a Disability,” the letter states.
That the complaint rises to the level of grievance to be investigated by the State Bar is an important hurdle for Stone’s case to jump.
According to the rules of the State Bar:
“If the grievance does not allege professional misconduct, it is classified as an Inquiry and dismissed. If the grievance alleges professional misconduct, it is classified as a Complaint and sent to the respondent lawyer for a response.”
If after receiving Palmer's response, a panel at the State Bar reviews the case. The panel can dismiss or refer the case to a hearing before the Bar or to a district court for a trial of the complaint.
Stone alleges Palmer is retaliating against her for her written arguments in a 3rd Court of Appeals case, Carpenter vs. State of Texas. Stone was appointed by the court to represent a San Angelo man, Austin Carpenter, in an appeal of his conviction following the revocation of the defendant’s probation. He was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In her brief to the appellate court, Stone argued that Carpenter was abused by excessive pre-trial incarceration until her client accepted a deferred adjudication plea bargain, requiring him to plea guilty to a crime Stone argues her client didn’t commit. Her brief calls into question the constitutionality of all plea bargains in Texas.
Ever since Stone filed that brief, the DAs’ offices in Tom Green County have refused to agree to a plea bargain with any client of Stone’s, or discuss the matter with Stone in order to reach a compromise. All Tom Green County district court DAs are demanding Stone sign what has been characterized as a “Confession.” The “Confession” Stone is asked to sign states that plea bargains are constitutional. A signed Confession is required from Stone before any DA will agree to a plea bargain with her clients.
Stone withdrew as the court-appointed defense attorney from 10 pending cases Thursday after a trial judge refused to grant a motion filed by Stone to sanction Palmer and the rest of the DAs for retaliation against her. She said she could no longer ethically represent her clients because of the DAs’ office actions against her.
Palmer told the visiting trial judge that her office has cause for concern with entering plea bargain deals with any of Stone’s clients on a legal basis that Stone’s clients may at a later date argue for a reversal of their convictions. After all, Palmer argued, if the court-appointed defense attorney believes all plea bargains in Texas are unconstitutional, why is she advising her clients to commit to an unconstitutional act?
Stone said she was appointed by the court to represent Carpenter to the best of her ability. She did not seek the assignment; she was asked to accept the charge. In doing so, she said, it is her duty to find the best arguments to properly represent Austin Carpenter, her client. That Carpenter was forced to languish for 11 months in the county jail without adequate legal representation, she said, is reason to question the way plea bargains are adjudicated not only in Tom Green County but also statewide. To not argue this would be unfair to her client, she said.
Stone fears a copy of a signed “Confession” from the DAs’ offices will find its way to the appellate court and torpedo her case. How can Stone argue on appeal that all plea bargains in Texas are unconstitutional while at the same time, she signs multiple admonishments attached to other clients’ plea bargain agreements stating the opposite?
Palmer said her office has no interest in what happens at the appellate level even though the appellate court could reverse a conviction from her office.
Stone believes otherwise. “I don’t trust the DAs’ offices,” she told the judge.
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