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Posted Tuesday January 4, 2011 10:25pm

Judge Gattis Hires Top Lawyer to
Defend him in Removal Lawsuit

Williamson County Judge to Pay
Martha Dickie Out of Own Funds

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2010

Dan GattisDan GattisMartha DickieMartha DickieWilliamson County Judge Dan A. Gattis today retained Martha Sue Dickie of the Austin law firm Almanza, Blackburn & Dickie LLP to represent him in the civil lawsuit filed by Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty which, if successful, could result in his immediate suspension and upon verdict of a jury trial his permanent removal from office.

Connie Watson, public information officer for Williamson County, said Gattis retained Dickie and will pay her fee. There was no action by the commissioners court to pay for his defense, Watson said.

Rick Morris, judge of the 146th Judicial District Court of Bell County, in Belton, was assigned by the Texas Supreme Court to preside in this case. That appointment and background information about Morris was published by The Austin Bulldog yesterday.

Jana DutyJana DutyThe lawsuit filed by County Attorney Duty alleges five instances of “incompetence and official misconduct” and asks the court to suspend Gattis and appoint another person to perform the duties of county judge until final judgment and, upon trial by jury and a final judgment, to remove Gattis from his position as county judge.

Gattis issued a statement December 29 indicating there has been no misconduct or violations of the law of any kind.

Dickie’s background

Dickie, a Democrat representing Gattis, a Republican, brings a wealth of experience to the task of defending the county judge. She has been at the center of some important legal matters.

Dickie was hired to represent Austin’s largest law firm, Clark, Thomas & Winters, against the Pedernales Electric Cooperative concerning payments the firm made to outside consultants and the PEC’s reimbursement of some of those payments. The firm agreed to pay $4.1 million to avoid a lawsuit in these matters and ended a 70-year relation with the co-op. It was a costly divorce, the Austin American-Statesman reported in January 2009; the firm collected $9.4 million in co-op payments from 1998 to 2007, according to an investigation by Navigant Consulting Inc.

In 2007, Dickie, then serving as president of the State Bar of Texas, was a leading advocate in support of a bill to establish a state Office of Capital Writs, which would’ve employed specialized attorneys and investigators to replace the system of court-appointed lawyers that produced inadequate appeals for Texas death-row inmates, the Austin American-Statesman reported in June 2007. The bill failed in the waning days of the session in a chamber distracted by a late effort to oust then House Speaker Tom Craddick.

In 2002, Dickie, then with Minton Burton Foster & Collins, assisted attorney R. Mark Dietz of the Round Rock law firm Dietz & Jarrard PC, in defending then Williamson County Attorney Eugene Taylor in a lawsuit filed by a former assistant county attorney, Carol Collins, who worked for Taylor, and alleged age and sex discrimination. In September 2004 that lawsuit was settled by the county for $60,000, plus $18,428 in trial related expenses.

According to Dickie’s résumé published on the firm’s website, she graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1980, was admitted to the bar that year, and clerked for U.S. District Judge Jack Roberts 1980-1982.

She worked for Minton, Burton, Foster & Collins PC 1982-2004 and was of counsel to Akin & Almanza in 2004, then was a partner in the firm from February 2005 through December 2009. The firm changed its name to Almanza, Blackburn & Dickie LLP on January 1, 2010.

Dickie served as president of the Travis County Bar Association 1988-1989, president-elect of the State Bar of Texas in 2005-2006, and president in 2006-2007. She was a board member of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission 1994-2000.

Dickie is married to James N. Rader, associate general counsel for the Lower Colorado River Authority.

This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Austin Bulldog has many investigative projects waiting to be funded. You can bring these investigations to life by making a tax-deductible contribution.