According to a story in the San Antonio Express-News, husband-and-wife legal partners Ted H. and Mary Schorlemer Roberts received money in a curious sequence of events. Mary, claiming to seek “no strings” discreet encounters, would seduce men over an Internet dating service. Ted would then write the men (in legal documents sometimes typed by Mary) and notify them that he planned to seek intrusive and public civil discovery to investigate whether the affair brought forward potential causes of action that were flimsy at best; the men would pay tens of thousands of dollars for a release and confidentiality agreement. (As the law firm’s web site puts it, “We believe in a team approach.”) Because of Texas’s permissive legal ethical rules, prosecutors decided they couldn’t pursue extortion charges; state law permits Roberts to bring “creative” claims and to take discovery in advance of filing a lawsuit, and the prosecution had no way of proving that Roberts’s intent in submitting the documents was a bluff rather than a “legitimate” lawsuit.
The newspaper found out only because another lawyer, Robert V. West III, sought to raise the scheme as part of a separate business dispute with the Roberts; fans of poetic justice will note that the Roberts accuse West of blackmail, and brought disciplinary charges against West and his lawyer to the state bar. The bar is investigating West, but, apparently, not the Roberts. Everyone involved denies any wrongdoing. Roberts unsuccessfully brought suit to prevent publication of the story, but the court records remain sealed. (Maro Robbins and Joseph S. Stroud, Jun. 13) (via Bashman).