CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A judge has dropped South Texas Democratic donor Mauricio Celis from parts of a Zapata County lawsuit in which a McAllen firm disputed attorneys fees with him.
District Judge David Peeples signed an order Monday dismissing Celis, his firm CGT Law Group International, former partner Chris Pinedo and Owen & Associates law firm from parts of the suit.
"This is yet another example that shows that Mauricio Celis is the victim of a baseless hue and cry," Celis' attorney, Andrew M. Greenwell, said in a news release. "There was so much smoke in all these cases, I guess people could be excused for thinking there was fire. But there's no fire, there's just a lot of artificial smoke and mirrors."
Celis, a longtime donor to state and national Democratic candidates, has come under fire as the subject of several legal challenges based on allegations he practiced law without a license. Gonzalez & Associates and their client Priscilla De Los Santos had accused Celis and his firm of negligence, unauthorized practice of law and contract interference.
The judge dismissed the negligence charges on Monday as well as some allegations that Celis violated civil practice laws. Peeples also dismissed Gonzalez & Associates' claim of unauthorized practice of law — but not De Los Santos' claim of unauthorized practice of law. The contract interference claim will stand against Celis and the other defendants.
"We are pleased the court has left the bulk of our charges against Celis and his group in tact," Ray Thomas, who represents the Gonzalez & Associates firm, told The Associated Press.
The lawsuit is one of several around the state involving Celis, who came under scrutiny after a local lawyer ran television ads starting in September alleging Celis did not have a law license. Celis has said that he never represented himself as a licensed lawyer in the United States.
Celis, 36, since has been sued by the Texas Attorney General's Office and the state Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
A Nueces County grand jury indicted him in November on felony charges of perjury, theft, falsely holding oneself out as a lawyer and impersonating a peace officer.
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.