Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt announced Friday he's been acquitted of 16 charges of contempt accusing him of practicing law in Texas without a license.
Merritt, who is well known in North Texas for taking on high-profile clients, often over police misconduct allegations, said Friday he is now considering legal action against a committee of the Texas Supreme Court that accused him of practicing without a license.
The charges stemmed from a complaint originally filed in January. To resolve it, Merritt signed an agreement not to practice law in any state cases in Texas. He is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but can only practice federal law in Texas.
The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (UPLC) said Merritt broke their agreement and they were seeking "six months imprisonment" for each alleged violation plus a $500 fine for each instance.
Merritt disputed the allegations. He said that in each case the motion for contempt cited, he acted as an advocate for a family while he prepared to file a federal civil rights claim, and that he always worked with a licensed Texas attorney who handled the criminal side of any state case.
Merritt called the allegations an attempt to silence and discredit him for pursuing civil rights cases.
"Ultimately, I believe that the prosecution was designed to stop the civil rights work that I was doing," Merritt said Friday. "I think the actors who were responsible for that plan, to stop the work that I was doing, are the state agents who came to testify, the state agents who made the original complaints."