Chart Westcott Explains Why He Has a Probationary Law License

Westcott

After I posted an item yesterday about Morgan Meyer’s 1997 arrest, more than a few people told me to go find out why one of Meyer’s opponents in the House District 108 race, Chart Westcott, has a probationary law license. The Texas Board of Law Examiners is prevented by statute from explaining why a lawyer has a probationary license. But here are the two reasons that a license would be probationary, from the BLE’s site:

1) when the Board determines that the Applicant suffers from chemical dependency or has been convicted of, or is on probation for, a first offense of driving while intoxicated under Texas Penal Code §49.04; or

2) in other circumstances in which, on the record before it, the Board determines that the protection of the public requires the temporary monitoring of the Applicant in question.

I emailed and called Westcott to find out which of those two reasons applied in his case, and I got no response. But, as luck would have it, our own Dan Koller, of Park Cities People fame, had a previously scheduled interview with Westcott this morning. Here’s a snippet of that interview:

DK: “Why is your law license on a probationary basis?”

CW: “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not, you know, big and juicy, and I’m not going to take any lawyer’s dodges. And I don’t have to get permission from the Dallas Morning News to lie about this. You know, I made a decision to abstain from alcohol four years ago. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. There was no specific incident — period — that led to that decision. Much like George W. Bush, I just decided that my life would be better off without it. The Board of Law Examiners asks you to disclose a decision like this on your bar application, and I happily disclosed it because it was the right thing to do.”

DK: “You disclosed that you had decided to abstain from alcohol?”

CW: “Correct. In response to this disclosure, they gave me a probationary bar license that will convert in two years to a regular license if I continued to abstain from alcohol [meaning it will convert in June]. I’m proud to say I have not had a drink in three years.”

After Dan transcribed the above, he called Westcott to ask about the discrepancy between making the decision four years ago and then not having had a drink for three years. Westcott said he lapsed after making the decision.

So there you have it. I would hope that the same lawyers who jumped into the comments on the Meyer post to discuss the difference between civil and criminal proceedings will help us out in this instance, too. Without an incident, would the BLE issue a probationary license if an applicant disclosed that he voluntarily quit drinking?

While we are pondering that question, Dan reports that in the Morning News’ endorsement of Meyer, they probably should have revealed that Meyer has done legal work for the paper.

35 comments on “Chart Westcott Explains Why He Has a Probationary Law License

  1. Wait, are you telling me that if you declare on your bar application that you have decided to abstain from alcohol, THEY PUT YOU ON A PROBATIONARY LICENSE??

    Tim, please call the Texas State Bar and confirm this — because this is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

  2. Alcoholism is not an easy thing to prove. An alcoholic can get life insurance at standard rates or even preferred rates if there are no warning signals or test results in underwriting. The day an alcoholic admits that he has a problem and seeks help, he becomes uninsurable for a period of time and then rated for a long time if not forever.
    There are plenty of alcoholic attorneys, judges and legistators that have not disclosed or admitted it. For this young man to address this issue at his age is commendable.
    Full disclosure: I do not know any of the candidates in this race and I do not live in the District.

  3. I love how he starts off huffy and non-lawyerly dodgy, and then offers without context that NOT drinking gets you a two-year probationary license. Maybe he should carpool to Austin with Stefani Carter.

  4. Mr. Westcott is not exactly right when he says “[t]he Board of Law Examiners asks you to disclose a decision like this on your bar application.” The BLE doesn’t give a probationary license to every Mormon or Baptist convert who decides to abstain from alcohol.

    The pertinent question in the BLE’s Declaration of Intent to Study Law (found online at http://www.ble.state.tx.us/applications/declaration/ble-1_%285-2012%29%283%29.pdf) is whether the applicant has, within the last ten years, ” abused or been addicted to, or treated for the use or abuse of alcohol or any other substance, to include any court-ordered treatment.” That was the question to which he must have answered “yes” to be given a probationary license.

    So Mr. Westcott is an alcoholic, I guess. Or maybe he was treated for alcoholism, doesn’t think that he’s really an alcoholic, but still opts not to indulge lest his self-diagnosis be incorrect. Or maybe there’s something else going on that he hasn’t disclosed to the media. Whatever it is, he has not been any more forthcoming about his alcohol issues than Mr. Meyer was about his indiscretion in Virginia.

    Next up–Court Alley. What’s that guy hiding?

  5. Since the BLE won’t tell you why they gave him a probationary license, I guess you need to ask him to tell you on which of the four stated grounds they based their decision:

    1. BLE determined that he has a chemical dependency.
    2. BLE determined that he has been convicted of DWI.
    3. BLE determined that he is on probation for DWI.
    4. BLE determined that he must be monitored for the protection of the public.

    Somehow, the explanation he gave, that he has a probationary license because he decided to stop drinking, seems questionable, or at least incomplete. Why doesn’t he just fully disclose the circumstances, and move on?

  6. The only items on the application that seem to be related require an applicant to disclose if he or she has (1) ever been convicted of (or granted deferred adjudication) for an offense involving drugs or alcohol, (2) in the last 10 years, been arrested or cited for or charged with an offense involving drugs or alcohol, or (3) in the last 10 years, been ordered by a court to obtain treatment for the abuse or alcohol or other substances. Nothing I found requires you to disclose that you’ve become a tea-totaler.

    Of course, lots of fine (and lousy) legislators would have to answer “yes” to some of those questions. But if Mr. Westcott is trying to blur the facts, it wouldn’t be the first time trying to cover up a problem proves to be more of an issue than the problem itself.

  7. If you convert to Islam and decide to stop drinking as part of your religion, the BLE will not give you a probationary license. You’ll get a full license just like everyone else. It’s only if the BLE determines that you have a chemical dependency that motivated your decision to abstain will you get a probationary license.

  8. The question now is did Meyer think his arrests were worth disclosing to the bar.
    Based on the link you provided he should have provided the bar with all the record related to his arrest. Interested to hear whether he did so or not.

  9. That would be true if he admitted to having been an alcoholic. But he didn’t. He did the political thing, which is to dodge the question by suggesting that he was given probationary status because he doesn’t drink.

  10. “…suffers from chemical dependency or has been convicted of, or is on probation for, a first offense of driving while intoxicated…”

    “…abused or been addicted to, or treated for the use or abuse of alcohol or any other substance, to include any court-ordered treatment.”

    “Much like George W. Bush, I just decided that my life would be better off without it.”

    so many more questions…

    could Mr. Westcott please clarify exactly why he made the decision, four years ago, to abstain from the consumption of alcohol? I figure the public has a right to know things, like this, about a public figure.

    also, it took D until yesterday to start asking questions about this / bring this to light? hasn’t Mr. Westcott had a probationary law license since june of 2012? Was everyone too busy watching “courtney loves dallas” on tivo to bother going to the state bar website to brush up on a local political candidate they report on?

  11. That answer is completely nonsensical. You don’t get a probationary license simply for volunteering to stop a perfectly lawful activity. “I voluntarily decided to stop smoking so the Board gave me a probationary license.” “I voluntarily stopped looking at porn so the Board gave me a probationary license.” There is more to this story that Mr. Westcott has not disclosed — ask him to hand over a copy of his bar application to see what it really says.

  12. The question quoted above is from the declaration of intent to study law — the form from when you start law school. The application to take the bar exam itself may have different questions.

  13. It’s really none of our business what Chart put on his bar application. It seems to me he was honest and forthright when he completed it.

  14. Wow, that is one of the more entertaining (and disingenuous) excuses I have read. The funniest part is when he says he doesn’t need the DMN’s permission to lie about it (sour grapes about not getting an endorsement perhaps?). I guess there he is being truthful, he lies about it without asking anyone’s permission. That glass house is starting to be problematic it would seem…

  15. The problem is that he is not being honest and forthright about it now. The Board of Law Examiners doesn’t care whether you drink or not. It cares whether you’ve been treated for alcoholism or drug addiction.

    As a person who has known a fair number of them, it’s a real red flag when an addict refuses to acknowledge his addiction.

  16. You don’t believe that the voters should know whether their state representative is an alcoholic? It’s certainly our business. Even if he is a recovering alcoholic. It might give me pause and a reason to question whether he can stay on the wagon amidst all the pressure in Austin and all the booze and parties offered by lobbyists. Truthfully, if Westcott was an astute political candidate and if he was a recovering alcoholic, then he could win over voters and create a net positive by taking this issue head on. Instead, he tries to dodge while claiming he’s not dodging. Maybe Chart shouldn’t ignore Step 1 … admitting the problem.

  17. I’ve seen high school student council elections that weren’t as petty as all of this. Meyer got a couple tickets, who cares. Wescott got a DWI (or didn’t but got scared of the boozies), who cares. We’re all flawed humans (or sock puppets). Nobody honestly believes any of this matters. It’s just mudslinging.

    Honestly, D can do better than perpetuate this slapdickery.

  18. He may not be forthcoming about this but at least (according to the ~763rd mailer that I recently received from his campaign) he’s going to save us all from puppy mills. It’s so good to have a candidate focused on the real issues and it’s too bad the other candidates in the race hate poor, little innocent puppies so much that they will (probably) turn Texas into one giant puppy mill. Or at least that is my assumption since I haven’t received anything in the mail from them telling me they do not intend to do that.

  19. No, it is actually the form you fill out when you “intend to apply for licensure in Texas” (i.e., are going to take the bar exam to become licensed). The form itself says, in bold at the top, “Do not file this form until you have actually started law school.” Thus, the questions are the actual questions asked when you take the bar exam.

  20. Morgan, Chart and Court – cannot we get a Bob, Dan, Tim or Zac. Ah, teh Park Cities – eh, Wick.

    mike

  21. That “general application” doesn’t appear to be what he’d fill out — he went to law school in Texas. And (my mistake) I assumed without looking back that you were the same poster that cited to the “intent” document, above. I couldn’t see the form for the the Texas law grad to take — it looks like it’s an online thing that you have to register for.

    At any rate, I’d expect the questions to be similar. Many years ago when I filled our similar forms, it amounted to “tell us everything about anything we might find relevant” and the last thing you wanted was for them to decide you hid or even fudged something.

  22. (fake) Transcript from Morgan Meyer call to DMN –

    MM: I was arrested but don’t want voters to find out

    DMN: Hmm, were you in cuffs? Put in a cell?

    MM: uh yes to both

    DMN: that doesn’t really count so don’t mention it and we’ll endorse you. By the way thanks for getting us out of that discrimination lawsuit it saved us millions.

  23. @Uppercase Matt: You’re right. He went to SMU law school, so he’d submit a different form when he applied to take the bar exam. Although the format of that form is slightly different, the substance of the questions are the same on both forms. Neither of them asks if you’ve given up alcohol, so Chart’s answer massaged the real reason for his probationary status. Cynics (or maybe realists) might claim that makes him well qualified to be a politician. But if his answers are shady before he’s even elected, it doesn’t inspire much confidence in how he’d behave in office.

  24. Been awhile since I applied to the Texas Bar, but I don’t recall being asked if I abstained from alcohol… Weird.

  25. It certainly sounds like Little Lord Fauntleroy couldn’t put the bottle down and had to do a rehab stint while in law school. Everyone does dumb stuff in their 20s and it shouldn’t be a disqualification for public office…unless you’re running when you’re 28 and the only thing you’ve done is work for your Daddy.

  26. Hey Tim can someone please ask this Ronald Reagan-wannabe why he donated money to liberal Democrat Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign in California? Specifically- which of Jerry Brown’s policies does Little Lord Fauntleroy agree with?

  27. You are on to something D. Keep digging please. You might find a connection between Chart’s time in California and his probationary law license. His answer was inadequate and untruthful, a born politician indeed.

  28. This is not unusual, I know others who have been put on initial probationary status because of something substance abuse related on their bar applications.

  29. Letter to the editor:
    I’m a democrat but I’m going to vote in the Republican primary. Here’s why.

    Chart Westcott: what a name, what an a hole. Morgan Meyer: what a name, but at least he’s not chart Westcott. From the crap Chart Wescott sends me in the mail, I conclude he thinks that I’m a Tea Party Republican jonessing to kick liberal butt or that, if I’m not that, that I’m a member of a group that is so small as not to matter: in other words one of the Liberals whose butt he plans to kick.

    Signed,

    I penned this, but will not sign it, for fear of repercussions.