False, Anonymous Web Attacks on Fellow Members of the Harris County Bar; Unethical and Pathetic
By Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer John Floyd
This is a difficult and unfortunate article to post. It is about a fellow attorney: Andy Nolen, or someone associated with the law firm that carries his name. This Houston “criminal defense attorney,” as he calls himself, has been responsible for posting negative “comments” on the Yahoo Local websites about various Harris County criminal defense attorneys, including myself.
Nolen attempts to disguise these assaults on the professional character of fellow lawyers by using fictitious names. But, after a simple investigation, it is obviously apparent that Nolen’s firm has entered into a concerted campaign to slander others lawyers to promote his own website. Unfortunately, this appears to be a strategy not uncommon to Nolen.
Andy Nolen resides in a downtown high rise, where, according to property records, he owns two condo units. Residents say he has been a source of continuous discontent with the Home Owners Association in that building. The HOA has been forced to fine Nolen (after numerous warnings) for repeated violations of home owner rules.
This past May, Nolen created a website registered under his name with a P.O. address in Sunnyvale, California to fight the HOA. This site is highly critical of the building and the HOA. Nolen’s website has posted a series of racially charged and inflammatory anonymous “comments” obviously designed to provoke racial discord within the building. Nolen has also apparently refused to post other comments favorable to the building and/or the HOA. Given Mr. Nolen’s proclivity to post false comments anonymously on Yahoo, I can only guess how many of the comments on his HOA protest site are simply his own, designed for some self-serving goal.
Mr. Nolen obviously enjoys using fictitious names, or anonymous comments, to denigrate his fellow criminal defense attorneys and to attack his neighbors and the workers in his condominium building. Nolen probably engages in this highly unprofessional behavior motivated by the unquenchable desire for success. He probably believes that by posting vicious character attacks against other attorneys, under fictitious names, he will drive traffic to his law firm’s website, which he most certainly has. But at what professional cost?
And what will potential clients find at the Nolen law firm website? Not much. It is amateurish, and relies upon misleading, deceptive and self serving information to pump-up his previously unknown reputation and doubtful skills as a criminal defense attorney. For example, Nolen touts that his law firm has “handled thousands of criminal charges” and lists a several dozen examples of cases supposedly “dismissed by the State.” This figure alone signifies nothing, as many cases are dismissed by the state, sometimes without any effort by the defense attorney, because they have no merit or because the defendant has pled guilty to other charges.
I now find that Mr. Nolen has a Public Disciplinary History from the State Bar of Texas. On January 27, 2006, a grievance was filed against Nolen and, after the process was investigated, heard and considered, he was disciplined with a two year suspension, fully probated. The suspension was imposed by the Bar for the following reasons:
Neglected a legal matter of a client
Failed to carry out obligation to a client
Failed to keep client informed
Failed to explain matter fully to client
Charged and collected illegal fee
Failure to respond to Chief Disciplinary Office investigating complaint
I can only imagine what he did to receive this fine honor.
This leads to the inescapable conclusion that Andy Nolen is a “criminal defense attorney wannabe.” He lacks either the resources or ability to establish his own professional worth in the Harris County criminal defense community, so he tries to maliciously tear down those who have worked hard, and sacrificed much, to earn their respected professional reputations.
Mr. Nolen has disparaged me, he has attacked our former Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association President, Mark Bennett and Jack Carroll, Don Becker, Tyler Flood, Wayne Hill, Dane and Leslie Johnson, Dan Gerson, Jeff Purvis,
Mekisha Murray, David Breston, Paul Kennedy, Cynthia Henley and many others, many of whom are my good friends and some of the finest lawyers in town. This strategy is idiotic, as most of us can “fend” for ourselves and have the ability to do so. This continued track will lead to ruin, as many clients will not trust a “lawyer” like this, one driven by profit rather than professionalism. One who has been abandoned by his brothers and sisters. One who must be trusted to handle a criminal case for a friend or loved one, cases which are often the most important and potentially devastating events in a person’s life.
By engaging in this kind of “despicable” behavior, Nolen has violated a fundamental ethical responsibility that requires every attorney must maintain the highest standards of professional conduct. This ethical responsibility exists not only when an attorney is dealing with his/her client or the general public but also in his relationship with others members of the bar. 1/
Because of an attorney’s “special position in society,” and because even “minor wrongdoing” can lessen public confidence in the “legal profession,” a criminal defense attorney in this state bears a professional obligation to refrain from “any conduct that creates the impression of dishonesty, fraud or deceit.” 2/
Andy Nolen has not fulfilled this obligation. While we could continue this discussion for pages about this attorney’s irresponsible behavior and other potential violations of his ethical responsibilities, we have made our point. Andy Nolen is a minor league player ethically incapable, in my opinion, of handling even simple misdemeanors on the criminal defense ball field. He lacks the character and intuitive skill necessary to play in the major league. He should cease his idiotic rants on the Internet and leave fellow members of the bar alone. He should at least be capable of that in the professional world. He is not capable of much more in the professional world.
We all make mistakes.
I have never cast stones against another criminal defense lawyer before, and hope I will never do so again, but, as professionals, we must defend our names and our Bar. I hope this example serves as a lesson to those who would use the ever increasing power of the internet to harm the good reputation of others. It will not stand!
1/ Bray v. Squires, 702 S.W.2d 266 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1985).
2/ Id., at 270.
We did not list the website Nolen created about the building in which he lives because it would be unfair to other residents in the building to give Nolen’s rants any additional air time, and possibility effect their property values. However, we did verify he owns the website, owns the property and viewed many anonymous comments which seemed illustrative of his modus operandi.
I would also like to thank my good friend Mark Bennett who alerted me of the sabotage set within our ranks. Mark and I decided long ago that, although we may compete for clients, we are not competitors, but fellow colleagues who together fight against the government. I know our friendship has improved my practice.
Mark has more on this topic here: http://bennettandbennett.com/blog/2009/08/andy-nolen-todays-last-chapter.html
By Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer John Floyd