A party in a complicated divorce proceeding has filed a lawsuit claiming his former counsel promised him a favorable outcome because of a “special relationship” with the presiding judge. The attorney and law firm named in the suit vehemently deny that any member of the firm made such a declaration at any time. The divorce involved significant property division issues, according to an attorney for the firm named in the suit.  See the full article at Texas Lawyer (shout out to John Council who wrote the article). 

Bascially, what happened according to the lawsuit (according to the client) — the lawyer told the client that he had a special relationship with the Judge and therefore could affect the outcome of the case.  There was also a receiver appointed to sell a marital asset, and (again, according to the client), the lawyer said he had a relationship with the receiver and could obtain a favorable outcome from the receiver.  Then, all went badly for the client.  The receiver didn’t do what the client wanted and somehow the Judge gave some informal opinion negative to the client, so the client agreed to an outcome that he didn’t want.  So, the client blames the lawyer and files a lawsuit.

First, and very obviously, this is a one sided story.  The ethical rules require that lawyers cannot imply they have a special relationship with anyone in a manner that would influence the outcome of the case.  Further, a lawyer cannot guarantee a client a favorable or certain oucome.  IF the lawyer did either of those things, then the lawyer could be in big trouble.  But, again, that’s a pretty big IF.  I’d think that the client who filed the lawsuit is going to have to have some corroborating proof of his allegations, beyond just his word that the lawyer made those statements.

This is Dallas divorce law drama unfolding.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.