In common law, barratry is a crime of excessive intermeddling in family affairs. According to Blackstone, this crime is a scourge of civil society and a huckstering act of litigious discord. The crime is based on the principle of a single act, but can be committed multiple times. In McCloskey v. Tobin, a common law case, the court found that the defendant engaged in excessive intermeddling in the affairs of the other spouse.
Barratry is a third-degree felony in Texas and can lead to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In April 2012, the legislature of Texas passed legislation to combat this practice. In a recent example, state representative Ron Reynolds was accused of barratry. The Texas legislature has passed legislation to clamp down on barratry. In addition to Reynolds, other lawyers have been accused of barratry.
Barratry occurs when an attorney initiates contact with a potential client whose case is not legitimate. In Texas, lawyers are not permitted to make personal contact with potential clients. Moreover, attorneys must not encourage clients to file lawsuits when there is no basis for them to do so. However, some cases have been exempted from the punishment of disbarment. By contrast, attorneys who solicit business from potential clients should avoid barratry.
The principle of barratry is simple: attorneys cannot sue clients for their own benefit. The law defines barratry as an illegal act committed by a lawyer. This involves filing an unfounded lawsuit in order to collect legal fees from clients. It is illegal in all U.S. states, and if convicted, attorneys could face criminal penalties and disciplinary action by their state bar. The lawyer could even lose his or her license to practice law.