You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Practice Law

December 26, 2012
/ Author: Rick

But it doesn’t hurt, either.

At least in Texas.

One Texas attorney — or should I say “at least one” — has spent the last year-and-a-half practicing law from inside a psychiatric ward, where she was committed after being declared incompetent to stand trial on criminal charges against her.

You might think that an individual who was not competent to stand trial would also be incompetent to perform trials, but…

She ain't crazy; she's my lawyer

Okay. She’s not actually performing trials.

But she is practicing law, with the “blessing,” as it were, of at least one judge.

During her time in the psychiatric facility, Barnes has continued practicing as an attorney. A state appeals court had questioned whether she was competent to do so, and it asked Judge Doug Arnold to weigh in.

“Ms. Barnes is, as of this moment, a licensed member of the bar,” Judge Doug Arnold said. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to unilaterally decide if she’s competent to act as an attorney.”

A judge can, of course, “unilaterally decide,” usually after being advised by qualified psych practitioners, that a lawyer — or anyone else for that matter — is not competent to stand trial. And I’m personally aware of judges removing defense counsel when they believed they were not mentally capable of handling a case. So I’m not a hundred percent sure why this judge has ruled otherwise.

No doubt the judge is technically-correct; there’s almost certainly some kind of procedural hurdle to a judge deciding on his own that a licensed attorney cannot practice law without some type of hearing. But I can’t help but wonder why a hearing that declared an attorney incompetent to participate in her own defense would not also be sufficient to have an attorney declared incompetent to participate in someone else’s defense.

At any rate, if you think she’s crazy, think about whichever clients are currently using her to represent them! 


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