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Committed Defense Counsel

One of the advantages of criminal appeal practice is that you can write a brief from just about anywhere, as long as you have a computer and Internet access.  Eric Dexheimer has this story in the Austin American-Statesman on a defense lawyer with an unusual address.

Three weeks ago, Randy Gourley's attorney filed a lengthy legal document at the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals arguing that the criminal case against her client should be dismissed. Gourley stands charged with misdemeanor theft for attempting to sell a small amount of prescription animal medication on Craigslist, she said.

"Gourley should be immediately set at liberty with the recall of the arrest warrant and dismissal of these groundless charges," wrote Carolyn Barnes, Texas State Bar license No. 01761550.

A close reading of the Nov. 15 filing shows an unusual return address for Barnes: Unit 3B of the Kerrville State Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric facility.

Barnes, who has been licensed to practice law in Texas since 1984, has been a forced patient of the state psychiatric system since mid-2011, when she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She is accused of firing a handgun at a census worker outside her rural Leander home; she contends the incident never occurred.

Despite her hospital commitment, Barnes' license to practice law remains in good standing. On Wednesday, the appeals court diverted her filing back to a Williamson County court-at-law.

"We question whether Barnes, having been found incompetent to stand trial in her own matter, may represent Gourley in this separate matter," the justices wrote.

James Taranto at the WSJ notes, "We don't see the problem here. When you're involved in a legal dispute, don't you want a lawyer who's committed?"

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