Mina Brees, a prominent Austin attorney and former president of the Austin Bar Association who was recently subpoenaed by the Texas attorney general's office, died Friday in Colorado, a family member said. She was 59 .|
Marty Akins, Brees' brother who is also a lawyer and former University of Texas quarterback, said he was told Friday morning that Brees died in Colorado, where she was visiting her son Reid. Akins said he did not know the cause of her death.
"It's my understanding that she was at her girlfriend's house," Akins said. "That's all I know. I just know that she passed away, and I loved her very much."
Brees, the mother of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a former Westlake High School standout, had her business records subpoenaed Tuesday after she sent letters informing a number of prominent Austin and Houston restaurants that they had lost the legal right to use their business names but could get them back for up to $25,000 each.
The mailings, bearing the letterhead of Brees' law office and dated July 20, said Brees represented a company, Chicksports Inc., that had assumed ownership of the restaurant names because the current owners neglected to reserve them or failed to renew them under Texas business codes.
The letters did not mention that Brees was the president of Chicksports or that the corporation shared her law office's address and phone number.
The Texas Restaurant Association, however, alerted its members to Brees' activity, saying there was no reason for restaurants to pay Chicksports for continuing to use their names.
Brees received the Austin Bar Association's 2005 professionalism award for legal ethics and professionalism. In 2006, she came within 22,168 votes of being elected to the state 3rd Court of Appeals in 2006, losing to Republican incumbent David Puryear by 4.5 percentage points. Brees ran as a Democrat.
Brees' campaign was hurt when Drew Brees asked his mother to stop using his likeness in campaign ads. He said his relationship with his mother had soured and was nonexistent.
Drew Brees, who could not be reached for comment, left training camp with the New Orleans Saints Saturday and did not participate in the team's annual Black and Gold scrimmage.
Coach Sean Payton said he was unsure when he would return to practice.
News of Brees' death was met with shock and sadness within Austin's legal and political communities Saturday. "She was one of those lawyers everyone in the local bar (association) knew about because she was someone who gave so much to the community," said former Austin City Councilmember Brewster McCracken. "She organized other lawyers in volunteer efforts and played a big role in getting people to volunteer."
Martha Dickie, a past president of the Texas Bar Association, said Brees was a popular figure in Austin's legal community. "She was viewed as a high-energy advocate," she said. "She was an interesting person."
On Tuesday, the attorney general's office issued a subpoena indicating that Brees was being investigated for possible violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.
Travis County records show Chicksports reserved the name of 34 restaurants in January, including Threadgill's, Fonda San Miguel, Stubb's barbecue, Chez Nous, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Eastside Cafe, Shady Grove and Matt's El Rancho.
Such "assumed name" filings cost about $14 each and are valid for 10 years.
It was not known whether all 34 establishments received a letter from Brees, a lawyer for nearly 30 years.
But records show that Chicksports abandoned its claim on all 34 restaurant names July 28 - the same day the Houston Chronicle reported that scores of similar letters had been sent to Harris County restaurants, generating a spate of negative publicity.
Two days later, Brees dissolved Chicksports' incorporation in a filing to the Texas secretary of state.
Kevin Robbins, Joshunda Sanders and Jeremy Schwartz, American-Statesman staff
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Aug. 8 to Aug. 13, 2009