The State Bar—Its Ugly Side

In 2007, an ‘independent’ three-member panel selected by the State Bar of Texas found that there was “No Just Cause” to proceed further on a Grievance filed against me by Bob Bennett in the Anthony Graves case. The panel directed the State Bar to ‘dismiss’ the Grievance, close their files, and further noted that the dismissal could not be appealed. Those findings were set out in writing in two letters that I received from the State Bar dated July 18th and August 16th, 2007. Both of those letters can be found on my website at: charlessebesta.net.

Then seven years later, on January 20, 2014, the same grievance was refiled. When the State Bar was contacted and asked why the case was being reopened, my attorney was told that the Bar’s administrative staff had made a mistake in 2007 and used the wrong form letters when they notified me of the finding of “No Just Cause.

The attorney was also told that the three-members serving on the Summary Disposition Panel did not act or make a finding of “No Just Cause” since the case was dismissed ‘internally’ by the Bar because of the Statute of Limitations.

But what began as a ‘half-truth,’ has turned out to be a complete fabrication, and here’s why: When that 2007 Grievance was filed, the State Bar initially determined that the Statute of Limitations had run and the Grievance was dismissed.

Bob Bennett immediately filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals and the Board agreed with Bennett. It “Reversed” the initial finding by the State Bar, and the Grievance was reinstated and reclassified as a formal “Complaint.” With the Statute of Limitations no longer an issue, I was ‘ordered’ by the State Bar to answer the Grievance on its ‘merits.’

The letter that I received from the State Bar dated March 20, 2007 (also on my website), reads in part as follows:

“The Board of Disciplinary Appeals granted the Complaint’s appeal in the above-referenced case and this matter is now classified as a Complaint.”

“You must furnish to this office a written response to the Complaint within thirty (30) days of the receipt of this notice. The response should address specifically each allegation contained in the Complaint, and should further provide all information and documentation necessary for a determination of Just Cause as defined in the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.”

“You will be notified of further proceedings in this matter.”

I did exactly as directed, and Bennett provided a rebuttal, after which the three-member ‘Panel’ made a ‘formal’ finding of “No Just Cause.” (You might note that in the letter of July 18, 2007, the ‘then’ Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the State Bar actually recommended a finding of “No Just Cause.”)

At no time between August 16, 2007 and April 14, 2014 was I ever notified by anyone employed or associated with the State Bar of Texas of the ‘alleged’ mistake; and that’s something the State Bar doesn’t deny. When asked by one of my attorneys if Mr. Sebesta had ever been advised of the ‘alleged’ error, the response was, “No, it just fell through the cracks.”

Yet earlier this year, an additional grievance was filed against me alleging that I “lied on my website” when I said that the State Bar had found “No Just Cause” to proceed on that 2007 Complaint. Linda Acevedo, the current Chief Disciplinary Counsel is actually guilty of spreading that fabrication with selected members of the media.

Which raises the question: How can I lie about something I’m totally unaware of? The only thing in my possession when my website was updated was a letter from the State Bar saying the case had been dismissed by a Summary Disposition Panel because of ‘No Just Cause!’

Adding to the drama surrounding the 2007 Grievance is the fact that the State Bar’s ‘file’ and all of its contents have disappeared. However, Linda Acevedo has an explanation for that missing file. She says that a file was never opened since State Bar never conducted an investigation into the Grievance.

Yet members of her own staff indicated that that’s not true, because the file was deactivated and destroyed two years after the grievance was dismissed, which is keeping the the statutory protocol.

The ‘Senior Investigator’ for the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel was assigned to the case, and I have correspondence under the State Bar letterhead that he personally signed, as well of copies of my response and attachments returned to him. I also recall one particular telephone call with him where we discussed at length, the fact that I had voluntarily taken and passed a lie detector test involving the central issue raised in the Grievance.

Then there is the 46-page Grievance itself; my 26-page response; and the rebuttal filed by Bennett. What happened to those documents? And ditto for copies of all the correspondence prepared by the State Bar and mailed to the various parties involved.

Fortunately, I maintained my own personal file and saved copies of everything pertaining to the Grievance, including all correspondence by and between the State Bar and me in 2007!

Even stranger, though, is the fact that the State Bar has blocked efforts to obtain statements from the members of that Summary Disposition Panel. I filed a waiver of ‘confidentially’ associated with that hearing in 2007, but at least one member who served on that panel has been threatened with ‘sanctions’ by Laura Popps, the Deputy Counsel for Administration, if he talks to my attorneys or gives any type of written statement about that 2007 hearing—that the Bar maintains, never occurred.

But the real proof that someone at the State Bar is not being honest about what they are calling an administrative error is documented in the State Bar’s letter to me dated March 20, 2007. That letter acknowledges the granting of Bennett’s appeal by the Supreme Court of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals and it very clearly states that the Grievance dismissed earlier by the Bar because of the Statute of Limitations, had been reinstated and was now a “Complaint.’

It wasn’t a form letter and it negates the Bar’s claim that the correct letter would have been one saying that the Grievance was dismissed by the Bar because of the Statute of Limitations.

So why after seven years has Linda Acevedo suddenly decide that the case was dismissed because of the Statute of Limitations?”

In 2013, the Texas Legislature made significant changes in the laws pertaining to the Statute of Limitations. And Acevedo believes that as a result of this legislation, the case can be revived if the Bar can show that it was dismissed in 2007 because of the Statute of Limitations. But there is something she is overlooking.

If a case is decided on its ‘merits,’ as this one was; and dismissed for “No Just Cause” by a Summary Disposition Panel, as this one was; by statute it cannot be re-opened or appealed by the State Bar.

Acevedo was not the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the State Bar in 2007, and her name does not appear on any of the correspondence I received from the Bar that year. Yet it is she, who led the parade to resurrect that 2007 Grievance. It’s also no secret that Acevedo, a career employee of the State Bar, wants to be its next Executive Director.

It is not the responsibility of the State Bar of Texas or its employees to ‘sanction’ its members just to satisfy the demands of the media or various special interest groups. The Bar’s mission is to provide equality, and protect the interest of both the public and its member attorneys.

The “Scales of Justice” symbolize a ‘Level Playing Field.’ And this playing field isn’t level.

It’s also time that someone at the State Bar took note of the sworn affidavit provided by Retired District Judge Harold R. (Bob) Towslee, who served as the presiding judge during the trial of Anthony Graves. In that document, Judge Towslee says, “At no time during the trial did I observe misconduct by Mr. Sebesta. To the contrary, Mr. Sebesta conducted himself in a professional manner at all times.” And he added, “My recollection of the evidence presented at the trial differs significantly with that reported by the media.”

The legal community needs to wake up, because the ‘integrity’ of State Bar’s Grievance process and the ‘credibility’ of its employees are under attack from within!