Legal Ethics

Lawyer Files Brief from Mental Hospital; License Briefly Suspended over CLE Lapse, Not Commitment

A lawyer confined to a mental hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial is still in good standing with the state bar and representing a client in a criminal appeal.

Carolyn Barnes has been a forced patient in a Texas mental health facility since the middle of last year, when she was committed after being charged with shooting a gun at a census worker, the Austin American-Statesman reports. She says the incident never happened.

Barnes filed an appellate brief three weeks ago seeking dismissal of a charge of misdemeanor theft against her client. On Wednesday, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals sent the filing back to the trial court and questioned whether a lawyer found incompetent to stand trial in her own matter should be representing a client.

The Williamson County District Attorney’s office is pushing for a suspension of Barnes’ law license, but she is currently in good standing, the story says. Barnes says her license was briefly suspended after her commitment because she was unable to meet her continuing legal education requirements from the secure facility where she was being held. She is now being treated at a hospital with fewer restrictions, and she has completed her CLE courses on the Internet.

Barnes contends that her law license serves as evidence that she should be released from the hospital and be allowed to stand trial.

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