Legal Ethics

Disbarred lawyer says he will continue to practice while appealing the order

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Following a jury trial, Texas attorney Mark A. Cantu was disbarred in an April 11 court order, effective immediately, over his conduct in personal bankruptcy cases.

But he says the order doesn’t bar him from continuing to practice while appealing and he intends to do so, reports the Monitor.

“I’m not disbarred from the practice of Texas; the judge just signed an order,” the McAllen practitioner told the newspaper last week. “We have an appellate process, and I’m going to appeal the decision from this court—it’s not immediate, and I want all my clients, judges, and lawyers reading the article to know that I can still practice law. Even though the order says it’s immediate, it’s not immediate.”

However, a representative of the chief disciplinary counsel’s office of the State Bar of Texas had a different perspective.

The disbarment of Cantu was indeed effective on April 11, says public affairs administrator Claire Mock and, unlike a suspension from practice, a disbarment order cannot be delayed pending appeal.

“A judgment of disbarment cannot be superseded or stayed,” Mock told the newspaper. “When someone is disbarred, they are disbarred on the date of the order.”

Cantu’s jury trial took place in Hidalgo County’s 398th District Court and was presided over by 437th District Judge Lori Valenzuela of Bexar County.

In the April 11 order, she wrote: “Effective immediately with the signing, Respondent Cantu is ‘prohibited from practicing law in Texas, holding himself out as an attorney at law, performing any legal services for others, accepting any fee directly or indirectly for legal services rendered after today, appearing as counsel or in any representative capacity in any proceeding in any Texas court or before any Texas administrative body, or holding himself out to others or using his name, in any manner, in conjunction with the words ‘attorney at law,’ or ‘attorney,’ or ‘counselor at law,’ or ‘lawyer.’ “

Unlike some states, Texas provides in the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure for a district court jury trial in legal ethics cases, if the attorney wishes. The case is then presided over by a judge from a different district.

Cantu told the Monitor he plans to file his appeal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. “That’s why we have the appeals process, even though [the judge] put that [the disbarment was] immediate, I’m not disbarred, I’m still practicing law, I still have my law license, I’m still representing clients, I’m still making phone calls and I’m still doing everything a lawyer does including going to court, and I will continue doing that until the appellate process is over and I have no more avenues.”

Related coverage:

Monitor: “Attorney in Ford case has long history of disciplinary concerns”

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