(Book Three in The Grievance Committee Series)

By:   Frank R. Southers


The crumpled note threatening death to Jonathan Carter lay in the bottom of his law office wastebasket.  It threatened to get even and said:

” U R on Ur way 2 Hell, Scumbag!”

But the note omitted why, how, and when.

The unsigned note with yesterday’s San Antonio, Texas postmark had its words formed with snips from various magazines.

Like many other threats from unidentified senders, Jonathan ignored the note, treating it as a risk going with the territory.

In the past before the inception of caller id, he had received threatening phone calls from some unknown and unidentified caller, who would bang the phone down at the end of the harangue.  It wasn’t always the same caller.  Thank goodness, caller id ended that cowardly practice of secrecy.

He headed out his office door, on his way to the Grievance Committee, where as Chair, Jonathan would judge his brothers and sisters of the Bar as he heard their troubled stories at today’s Investigatory Hearings.

He knew this third Thursday in December would probably create a few more enemies for him no matter that the votes by the Panel Members were confidential.  Either the complainant, or the accused lawyer, or both would dislike the Panel’s judgment and would hold Jonathan responsible since his name, as Chair, would be the only name on the notification letter.

This was not the only time Jonathan received someone’s intense dissatisfaction and threats to even a score, or, as he termed it, to get even.

Every time Jonathan handled a personal injury case, the possibility existed that someone—the client, the defendant, the opposing lawyer, the insurance company’s adjuster or supervisor, a witness, a juror, or even a judge—might harbor a grudge because of dissatisfaction with Jonathan.  He had received those threats in the past, usually without identification of the sender but with some need for vindication for the imagined wrong by Jonathan.

On the first Monday in January, Jonathan was set for trial in a medical malpractice case involving two doctors and a hospital who had failed to monitor and prevent the buildup of bilirubin in a new-born baby boy.  The doctors and the hospital and their defense lawyers would barely respond to any settlement negotiations because Jonathan’s clients suffered from a dose of unreasonable settlement expectations.  Everyone seemed to blame Jonathan for the impasse.  Whether he won or lost the case, the result would displease someone, maybe enough to take matters outside the law.  His clients might be the worst of the bunch.

But he knew those risks went with the territory.


At the Grievance Committee, Jonathan reviewed the schedule for today’s Investigatory Hearings which began at 1:30 this afternoon.

First up was the grievance against Karl Kincaid who, according to Doctor Fred Lazar’s complaint, had verbally abused the physician—as the insurance company’s expert witness—by attacking the doctor’s Jewish heritage in order to sway the jury to award workers’ compensation benefits to Kincaid’s client.   Jonathan recognized that Dr. Lazar was used regularly by many insurance companies in their attempts to defeat heart attack claims.  Since the doctor’s lawyer in the grievance was Robert Goldstein who had lost the case to Karl Kincaid, Jonathan could smell revenge in the grievance.  But since the trial transcript produced by the doctor’s lawyer verified Kincaid’s many transgressions, Jonathan could not think of any way for Kincaid to escape a sanction for violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

The second case was against attorney Kevin Kalka who co-mingled his personal bank account, his wife’s personal bank account, and his law office bank account with his law office trust account—an obvious no-no.  Because Kevin Kalka had hired Albert Hicks to represent him before the Grievance Committee, the Hearing would be interesting.  Albert Hicks didn’t roll over simply because the case against his client seemed hopeless.  Ever the magician, Albert Hicks had the uncanny ability to produce a rabbit from his hat.  In fact, the word on the street rhymed Hicks with tricks.  Jonathan agreed that the man was amazing.

The final grievance pitted local insurance giant, Fair & Friendly Insurance Company, against lawyer Mac McCormick who was accused of fraudulently claiming under his insurance policy loss of income resulting from his injuries in an accident.  Mac McCormick already escaped two earlier grievances and he owned anger issues.  The insurance company was represented by Robbie Williamson, for whom Jonathan worked as an associate many years ago, while Mac McCormick’s lawyer was the same Albert Hicks.  Fireworks could be expected between two titans like Robbie and Albert.

But wait!  Jonathan read that the Fair & Friendly verses McCormick grievance had been re-set for the January docket.  He breathed relief since the Panel might finish a little early today and he’d have one less antagonist with which to deal.


Now in the last year of a three-year term, Jonathan had been elected as temporary Chair when Chair Catherine Collins decided to quit the Grievance Committee and then, in July, he had been elected as the new Chair for the entire oncoming year.

If he wanted to be re-appointed for another three-year term in June on the Grievance Committee, Jonathan would need the nomination of one of the two State Bar Directors from San Antonio. His fate rested in the hands of Gordon McInnis since he knew he had no chance with Shirley Helene Hoefska who hated “ambulance chasers” like Jonathan Carter.  He had whipped Shirley Helene in one hotly contested trial and would face her again in that January case in which she represented the hospital.  Shirley Helene jabbed at Jonathan on every possible occasion, even appointing her own associate (Tony Flatten) as Scott Lonnigan’s replacement after Scott’s forced resignation from the 10-B Grievance Committee because of his criminal conviction.  Jonathan suspected Tony was Shirley Helene’s eye looking for some dirt on Jonathan or for revealing any goof-up in Jonathan’s handling the Grievance Committee.

Jonathan greeted the other Panel Members as each entered the Hearing Room on the third floor of the downtown branch of the Broadway National Bank across from the Adams’ Mark Hotel on Soledad Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Each Panel Member took a seat along the horizontal bar of the “T” formation of the Formica tables.  The complainant, the accused lawyer, and any others would sit at the opposite end of the vertical bar of the “T”.

To one side, Bob Jones, the Staff Investigator, readied the video camera used to record the Hearings, as Ron Millhouse, Staff Attorney, sat nearby.

When Jonathan signaled Bob Jones to bring in the participants in the first case, Bob headed for the reception area.





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