U.S. Markets closed

Discipline Case Hits Pro Se Lawyer for Falsely Claiming Relative Raped Opposing Counsel's Mom

A new attorney disciplinary lawsuit alleges that Austin solo Brandi K. Stokes, who appeared pro se in a family law case, made false accusations against her opposing counsel when she said that her relative had raped his mother and therefore has a conflict of interest. The disciplinary suit also alleges that Stokes may have a mental health problem interfering with her ability to practice law. Stokes denies all of the allegations. “The petition and the complaint underlying the petition are retaliatory in nature and the allegations are simply false,” Stokes wrote in her pro se answer. Well-known Austin criminal-defense attorney Sam Bassett, a partner in Minton Burton Bassett & Collins and a past president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, filed the grievance that lead to the disciplinary lawsuit. Stokes practices family law, administrative and public law and ethics and legal malpractice, according to her State Bar of Texas profile. She earned her law degree in 2005 from the University of Texas School of Law, and was licensed in Texas the same year. Stokes has no public disciplinary history. In an underlying child custody modification case, Bassett represented Stokes’ ex-husband, and Stokes represented herself. The Jan. 30 disciplinary petition in Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Stokes, said that Stokes filed frivolous pleadings and made false statements about Bassett and his family. In a motion to disqualify Bassett, Stokes asserted that Bassett had a conflict of interest, alleging that Stokes’ relative had raped Bassett’s mother. She was trying to compel DNA testing of Bassett. “Many of the false statements related to complainant’s family and had no relevance to any of the issues in the legal proceedings,” said the petition. Stokes sent emails directly to her ex-husband—even though she knew he had a lawyer—about the issues in their case. She never had Bassett’s permission to communicate directly with his client, her ex-husband. Stokes would also send inappropriate emails to other people involved in the case, as well as try to involve people who had no knowledge of the facts, weren’t connected to the litigants and didn’t know about the litigation’s subject matter. “Respondent verbally attacked and attempted to depose respondent’s former wife and other attorneys in the community,” said the petition. Stokes threatened to file a bar complaint against Bassett if he or anyone in his firm filed an answer in the modification suit. “Respondent’s pleadings and emails indicate that she may have mental health issues that are interfering with her ability to practice law within the bounds of the disciplinary rules,” alleged the petition. She has claimed she has Asperger’s syndrome, the petition said. According to the Mayo Clinic, Asperger’s syndrome is a condition on the mild end of the autism spectrum disorder that causes problems in social interaction and communication. The Commission for Lawyer Discipline claims that Stokes’ has violated rules in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibit an attorney from asserting frivolous proceedings or issues; taking a position that unreasonably increases costs or delays resolution of a matter; lying to a court; communicating directly with another lawyer’s client without permission; doing things solely to embarrass, delay or burden someone else; and threatening to file a grievance against someone to prevent him from participating in a disciplinary proceeding. Stokes denied all of the allegations in a Feb. 7 answer. Bassett has unsuccessfully sought sanctions against Stokes twice for the alleged conduct, she wrote. She wrote that she’s considering pursuing sanctions and is trying to press criminal charges against the bar disciplinary counsel who filed the petition. She also has a number of counterclaims against the State Bar of Texas, the answer said. She asked the court to transfer the disciplinary case to a different county, claiming that she’s facing prejudice in Travis County and can’t get a fair trial. Stokes’ answer noted that the disciplinary case relates to an underlying case, In re E.R.C, which started in 2010. Since then, Stokes has filed multiple cases against her ex-husband. She also sued the judge in the child custody case, Tim Sulak, in federal court. Her 192-page answer includes many attachments, including her lawsuit against Sulak. Claire Mock, spokeswoman for the State Bar of Texas Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which represents the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Bassett declined to comment. Stokes wrote in an email that she’s inviting any volunteer Texas attorney to review the evidence in her case “to help with the corruption problem in Travis County,” which she says is the bigger story. "It is a very sad state of affairs when the Texas state bar has become so complicit with attorney corruption that its assistant disciplinary counsel would rather file a trumped up disciplinary petition against a whistleblower than to conduct any meaningful investigation into attorney misconduct within the local establishment,” Stokes said.