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barratry, maintenance, and champerty

Barratry is the improper solicitation of a client done by or on behalf of an attorney and is a criminal offense in most states. The filing of a lawsuit or other legal complaint without the permission of the named plaintiff or complainant may also constitute barratry. And a judge who accepts a bribe in exchange for a favorable decision may be guilty of barratry.

Maintenance refers to improper assistance in prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, provided by someone who has no legitimate interest in the case—also known as meddling in someone else's litigation.

And champerty is an agreement between a litigant and an intermeddler in a lawsuit in which the intermeddler helps the litigant pursue the claim in exchange for receiving part of any settlement or judgment in the litigation.

Laws regarding barratry, maintenance, and champerty vary from state to state and are usually located in a state's statutes—often in the penal code or criminal code. Barratry is illegal in all states, with criminal prosecution and state licensing implications for attorneys who engage in the practice. But the maintenance and champerty doctrines are not recognized in all states.

In Texas, barratry is considered a criminal offense under the Texas Penal Code. It is defined as the solicitation of professional employment from someone who has not sought the attorney's advice or with whom the attorney has no family or past or present attorney-client relationship. This includes soliciting clients for a lawsuit through various means, such as by phone, in person, or through written communication, within a certain period following accidents or disasters. Violation of barratry laws can result in criminal penalties, including jail time and fines, as well as civil consequences, such as the forfeiture of fees and the right to recover fees for services rendered. Additionally, attorneys found guilty of barratry can face disciplinary action from the State Bar of Texas. Maintenance and champerty, while historically considered torts or misdemeanors that involve third-party interference in litigation, are not specifically addressed in Texas statutes. However, Texas courts have generally moved away from these doctrines, focusing instead on the ethical rules that govern attorney conduct to address issues related to litigation funding and support by third parties with no direct interest in the case.

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