Judge sanctions prominent Dallas lawyer for misconduct

DALLAS (TIP): In a scathing ruling issued last month a state judge in Lubbock declared that prominent Dallas trial lawyer Bill Brewer committed misconduct when he used so-called push polling to improperly influence potential jurors in a West Texas wrongful death and products liability case.

State District Judge Ruben Reyes described Brewer’s conduct as “unprofessional” and “unethical” – findings that Brewer adamantly denies – and ordered the hard-charging trial lawyer to pay more than $133,000 in sanctions and take 10 hours of legal ethics courses.

Reyes found that Brewer and his law firm conducted a push poll with questions and statements “designed to influence or alter the opinion or attitude of the person being polled.”

Brewer represented Titeflex Corp. in a multimillion-dollar case in which a West Texas family said that the company’s poorly made steel pipelines led to a gas explosion that killed their son, Brennen Teel.

In the weeks before the case was to go to trial, Brewer hired a professional polling firm to survey Lubbock-area residents about issues in the lawsuit.

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The judge ruled that the questions were designed to shift blame from Titeflex to those who installed the pipeline or to city employees in charge of inspections.

In court documents, lawyers for Brewer dispute that the survey was a push poll. They also argued that there is nothing illegal or unethical about Brewer hiring a professional polling firm to gauge public sentiment on issues related to the case.

Brewer said that those contacted by the polling firm were selected randomly and that any contact with people directly involved in the case was inadvertent.

“We have the greatest respect for Judge Reyes, but respectfully disagree with the court’s findings,” Timothy T. Pridmore, a partner at McWhorter, Cobb & Johnson who is representing Brewer, said in a written statement.

“There is nothing Mr. Brewer and the firm take more seriously than their professional responsibilities and ethical duties,” he said.

Bickel & Brewer, known for aggressive litigation tactics, changed its name last year to Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, after founding partner John Bickel retired and later joined Fish & Richardson in Dallas.

The parties in the Teel vs. Titeflex case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2014. Reyes held hearings on the sanction motions against Brewer last year.

In a four-page ruling issued late Friday, the judge found that the decision to conduct the survey “falls into the category of misconduct, which is highly prejudicial and inimical to a fair trial by an impartial jury.”

“The court finds Mr. Brewer’s attempt to avoid responsibility and accountability for his conduct to be at the very least unpersuasive and at worst in bad faith, unprofessional and unethical,” the judge concluded.

If Brewer appeals the sanctions order and loses, the judge said, the sanctions would increase to $173,000.

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