There’s one good way to describe In The Matter of The Law Practice of Thomas Corea — a case pending in a Dallas state court that concerns what exactly should happen to the more than 200 clients of a jailed, disbarred plaintiff’s attorney: It’s a giant mess.
After a show cause hearing on Nov. 20, 95th District Judge Ken Molberg took notice that two separate orders of disbarment by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline were issued against Thomas Corea and that he was currently incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail after he was indicted in August by a Dallas County grand jury and charged with fraud, use and possession of identifications other than his own and misapplying more than $200,000 in fiduciary possessions of his clients, among other things.
So that same day, Molberg appointed James Stanton, a counsel in the Dallas office of Andrews Kurth, as conservator over Corea’s law practice files. Stanton, a former Dallas state district judge, was assigned by Molberg to sort through all of Corea’s client files, contact the clients, make sure there were no pending hearings in their cases, and find permanent custodians for 219 active case files.
Stanton learned of his appointment while he was on vacation in Colorado with his family. Stanton says he spent an entire month after returning from vacation handling the Corea matter. In a Dec. 18 order appointing several permanent custodians to handle Corea's former clients (including former Dallas U.S. District Court Judge Joe Kendall, among others) Molberg praised Stanton's work in a footnote: “The intense work and dedication of Judge Stanton, his colleague-assistants Mark Mutschink and Nicole Kamprath, and their law firm, Andrews Kurth, in dealing with this distressing matter cannot go without mention.
“This was an arduous task, undertaken without compensation, involving an investment of countless hours, and fraught with frustration. Judge Stanton and his colleagues’ performance here exemplifies the very best of the legal profession — a refreshing contrast to the actions of Corea, which exemplify the very worst.”
Stanton says he’s just glad he could help — and that he was allowed to help by his firm. “That’s a high complement, especially coming from him,” Stanton says of Molberg’s footnote. “And my firm, Andrews Kurth, essentially let me and two young lawyers work on this case for a month for free. And that’s a testament to the Bar and to them.”
Corea is currently in the Dallas County Jail and could not be reached for comment. John Helms, a partner in Dallas Helms Roberts & Diaz who is Corea's criminal defense attorney, says his client is innocent until proven guilty. “I certainly don’t want to disagree with anything that Judge Molberg said about the lawyers that he appointed. I would say that there has not been a trial in the civil case or in the criminal case. . . . I don’t think what Judge Molberg said can be seen as any adjudication or finding and I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way.”
— John Council