Houston criminal defense attorney Kent Schaffer is suing his longtime office mate, David Bires, for breach of contract for allegedly failing to pay half of their office lease in June.
In a petition filed on Tuesday in state district court in Harris County, Schaffer alleged that Bires, who is also a criminal defense lawyer, is obligated to pay $6,992 for the month of June, but only paid $1,576.
“As a result of Bires’ breach, Schaffer has suffered damages in the amount of $5,417,” Schaffer alleged in the petition in Schaffer v. Bires.
Bires, who left the joint office space in December, said Tuesday, “We don’t want dirty laundry flapping around in the breeze,” and declined to comment further.
According to the petition, Schaffer and Bires started a firm together in 1988, Bires & Schaffer but never created a “formal Texas entity.” They agreed to operate separate law practices in a joint office space, and to split the operating expenses such as administrative support, rent, common spaces and utilities.
They agreed, Schaffer alleged in the petition, that any income from providing part of a joint office space to other lawyers would be applied to toward the payment of operating expenses and they would split the net cost each month.
Based on that understanding, Schaffer alleged, he and Bires co-signed a 10-year lease in 2011 for office space in downtown Houston. Over the years, he and Bires split the net cost for the office after payments from other lawyers using the office space were credited, he alleged.
However, Schaffer alleged, Bires notified him last December that he “no longer wished to participate in this business arrangement and that he intended to abandon the office space.”
Bires left on Dec. 15, 2018, Schaffer said in the petition.
In the several months since then, Bires continued to pay Schaffer his half of the base rent, an amount that was net of payments from other lawyers using the office space, the petition said.
“Several times after Bires abandoned the office space, he sent Schaffer a check for his percentage of the base rent,” Schaffer alleged.
That ended in June, when “contrary to his conduct for the past eight years,” Bires decided to “unilaterally reduce” the amount he would pay, Schaffer alleged.
“Despite the fact that Schaffer has attempted to mitigate his damages by finding new occupants … Bires refuses to pay Schaffer an amount that would result in Schaffer’s payment of only one-half of the base rent,” the petition said.
In an interview Tuesday, Schaffer, whose firm is now called Schaffer Carter & Associates, said “the lease is still in effect and so I”m responsible for half, he’s responsible for half.”
He said Bires did not give him a reason for paying the reduced amount in June.
As to their relationship, Schaffer said “it’s over.”