News that Sandra Bullock has filed for divorce from her estranged husband, mogul mechanic Jesse James, made national headlines yesterday. But today the buzz, at least in Houston, is over her representation.
The divorce papers have now surfaced, first reported by TMZ, and they reveal that Bullock filed in Austin, where she keeps a house. More interesting is her selection of lawyer — a New Orleans-based criminal attorney named Walter Becker.
Never heard of him? Neither has anyone else.
Bucky Allshouse, one of Houston's most prominent divorce attorneys, tells CultureMap that he's been getting phone calls and e-mails from fellow family-law hot shots asking, who is this guy? "It's the latest gossip on the family law bar," Allshouse says. "I got a call yesterday from a lawyer in Austin wanting to know who this lawyer was in Houston. He'd never heard of him, and neither had anyone else."
So who is Walter Becker? He works for the law firm of Chaffe McCall, and practices out of its offices in both New Orleans and Houston. He got his undergraduate and law degrees from Tulane University, and spent almost 20 years as a state and federal prosecutor, including four as Assistant District Attorney, where he was Chief of the Narcotics and Homicide Divisions in New Orleans.
In other words, he's somewhat of an odd choice for a divorce lawyer.
"Most criminal lawyers do not do family law," Allshouse says. Although he adds that,"you'll see some who are good litigators, for lack of a better word, like Rusty Hardin, do an occasional divorce case."
There has been speculation that Becker helped Bullock in the adoption of her newly revealed son, Louis, and he did resolve a prior tax issue for the star.
The mystery of their association remains (how did this guy get this gig??), but Bullock's reasoning for filing in Texas is relatively clear. Allshouse says Texas' community property laws (here, property doesn't have to be divided evenly) and alimony statute (it's easy to get out of) are attractive.
I can't conceive of a judge giving Nazi-sympathizing serial philanderer Jesse James a cent, but if Sandy needs back up, there's a stable of bewildered Texan J.D.s happy to help.