Legal Ethics

Judge fines prominent lawyer $133,000 for alleged push poll before trial

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A Texas judge has found that a poll conducted at the behest of Dallas lawyer Bill Brewer was intended to influence jurors in an upcoming trial rather than gauge sentiment on issues in the case.

The judge, Ruben Reyes, ordered Brewer to pay a $133,000 sanction that would increase to $173,000 if the lawyer appeals the decision and loses, Texas Lawbook reports in a story published by the Dallas Morning News. Law360 also has a story on the judge’s “blistering order.”

Brewer was representing pipe maker Titeflex Corp. in a suit claiming its product’s poor design led to a deadly gas explosion. Reyes said the survey questions were apparently intended to shift blame from Titeflex to pipe installers or city inspectors. The case later settled.

Brewer was name partner at Bickel & Brewer when the poll was taken in 2014. The law firm changed its name to Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors after name partner John Bickel retired.

“The court finds Mr. Brewer’s actions were not merely a negligent act, a mistake or the result of poor judgment, and Mr. Brewer’s explanation that he bears clean hands because the poll was a blind study conducted by a third party vendor is insulting to this court,” Reyes wrote. “The court further finds Mr. Brewer’s attempt to avoid responsibility and accountability for his conduct to be at the very least unpersuasive and at the worst in bad faith, unprofessional and unethical.”

In court papers, Brewer has denied that the poll was designed to influence attitudes. Brewer’s lawyer, Timothy Pridmore, told the publications that he and his client “respectfully disagree with the court’s findings. We are closely evaluating our options on moving forward.”

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

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