Sunday, April 14, 2013

Peller v. Hughes & Luce case brief

Peller v. Hughes & Luce case brief summary
909 S.W.2d 494 (Tex. 1995)

Appellant, convicted of a federal offense, challenged the order of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas, denying relief from the trial court's summary judgment in favor of appellees, her attorneys in the criminal matter. Appellant alleged violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. §§ 17.41-17.63, legal malpractice, breach of contract, and breach of warranty.

OVERVIEW: Appellant was an officer of a corporation trading in government securities. She and other individuals came under federal criminal investigation by the United States Internal Revenue Service because they were suspected of engineering illegal tax write-offs for wealthy investors. Appellant hired appellee attorneys to represent her. A federal grand jury indicted appellant on 21 counts and also indicted her husband. Under a plea agreement, appellant admitted her guilt to one count and the United States dropped the balance of the charges against her, dismissed all charges against her husband, and recommended a relatively short prison sentence. Appellant sued appellees, claiming that they failed to tell her of an offer of absolute transactional immunity. The lower appellate court affirmed the trial court's summary judgment.

The court affirmed, holding as a matter of law, that because appellant pleaded guilty, remained convicted, and was unable to prove innocence, she could not have brought the claim against her attorneys.

The court held that the summary judgment did not violate the open courts, outlawry, and equal protection provisions of Tex. Const. art. I.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed, holding that appellant client's own conduct was the sole cause of her indictment and conviction, and appellant, who was not exonerated by direct appeal, post-conviction relief, or otherwise, could not sue her attorney. The court held that the lower appellate court's holding did not violate appellant's rights under the open courts, outlawry," and equal protection provisions of the Texas Constitution

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