A Wichita Falls attorney with a history of violations will be suspended from practicing law for a year beginning Friday because of professional misconduct, according to a judgement from the State Bar of Texas.
Bruce Harris, a well-known lawyer who has been active in local politics, mishandled a DWI case, according to the findings in the Nov. 8 judgement.
Harris didn’t file a response or show up for Oct. 27 proceedings for a complaint against him. A State Bar panel found the allegations were true and ordered him suspended in a default judgement.
Harris, 54, must notify his clients and return any money and other property belonging to them. He also has to notify judges and opposing attorneys in his cases about his suspension.
He is prohibited from calling himself an “attorney” or “counselor,” performing any legal services or accepting legal fees directly or indirectly during his active suspension.
He is also ordered to surrender his law license and permanent State Bar card to disciplinary officials in Austin.
Attempts to contact Harris on Thursday evening for comment were not immediately successful.
The grounds for his suspension stem from a woman’s DWI case. Harris was hired and paid $1,500 to represent her on June 18, 2020, according to the judgement. He failed to explain the case well enough so she could make informed decisions about the representation.
Harris is a former chairman of the Wichita County Republican Party and has representing clients in numerous cases.
His suspension is for 24 months, but it is partially probated. Harris is prohibited from practicing law in Texas from Friday until Nov. 29, 2024.
If he fulfills requirements, a one-year probated suspension will begin Nov. 30, 2024, and end Nov. 30, 2025. Harris can practice law during the probated suspension.
He is required to pay $2,300 for attorneys’ fees to the State Bar and get in touch with the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. The office administers the discipline system for Texas attorneys and represents the Commission for Lawyer Discipline in legal disciplinary matters.
If Harris fails to do that, his active suspension from practicing law will extend for the entire two years, according to the judgment. In addition, if he violates the terms of his probated suspension, officials could revoke his probation.
This is Harris’ latest suspension but not his first.
The State Bar directory online shows two fully probated suspensions for professional misconduct in 2020 and 2021 and a public reprimand June 9, 2014. An attorney can practice law during a probated suspension but must follow the terms of probation.
In one disciplinary case, Harris was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to a former client and $2,500 for attorneys’ fees to the State Bar, according to an Oct. 7, 2020, judgement. He also agreed to a probated suspension Nov. 1, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2021.
A woman hired Harris in May 2016 to represent her in a criminal matter and paid him $10,000, according to the judgement. Harris neglected her case, failing to work on it.
He also didn’t explain her case well enough to her. In addition, Harris didn’t promptly give her a full accounting of the fees she paid him. When he stopped representing her, he didn’t refund unearned advance payments.
In another disciplinary case, a State Bar panel sanctioned Harris with a fully probated suspension June 15, 2021, to Dec. 14, 2021, after he and officials reached an agreement, according to a June 25, 2021, judgement. Harris was also ordered to pay $500 to the State Bar for attorneys’ fees.
A man hired Harris to represent him for a divorce in June 2018. Harris did not explain the case well enough for the man to make informed decisions about the representation.
Information on the public reprimand was not available in Harris’ public disciplinary history on the State Bar’s website.
Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news and more. Contact Trish with news tips at [email protected]. Read her recent work here. Her X handle is @Trishapedia.
This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: Wichita Falls attorney to be suspended from practicing law in Texas
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