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Head of Counsel for Texas Prisoners Fired

In September 2002, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice fired John Fant, head of the State Counsel for Offenders (SCFO), after an investigation revealed that he had lied on a 10-year-old employment application.

In a written statement, the prison board alleged that Fant stated on his 1992 application that he was a licensed attorney "when in fact his license had been suspended in 1987 for failure to pay his bar dues."

SCFO is an independent office charged with representing and aiding indigent prisoners for, among other things, crimes that occur in prison (Texas also has special prosecutors for this); divorce, immigration and civil commitment proceedings; backtime discrepancies; and PDR filings.

David O'Neil, who five years ago left the SCFO office "because of the ethical constraints that [he] had to work under," said that he believed John Fant's firing was just part of the prison board's continuing effort to "chip away" at the SCFO office "with the ultimate goal of either dismantling it or making it totally ineffective."

Prison board officials, however, claim that Fant was fired for clear policy violations. They further allege that in addition to lying on his employment application, Fant filed "false statements in courts in Walker and Anderson counties in which he claimed to be a licensed attorney."

Records from the State Bar show that Fant has no disciplinary actions and that he is currently licensed to practice in Texas.

Source: The Dallas Morning News

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