Deutsch v. Clark et al
ORDER GRANTING 68 Motion for Sanctions. Harrington is awarded $32,962.50 in fees, and Herring & Panzer, L.L.P. is awarded $136,122.50 in fees and $6,588.78 in expenses. Signed by Judge Mark Lane. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix) (td)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
JON R. DEUTSCH,
JON R. DEUTSCH,
DRAKER ENTERPRISES, INC.,
JON R. DEUTSCH,
JON R. DEUTSCH,
CHRIS D. CLARK AND RONI CLARK,
JON R. DEUTSCH,
LA TIERRA DE SIMMONS FAMILIA
JON R. DEUTSCH,
PHIL’S ICEHOUSE INC.,
Before the court are Defendants’ motions for sanctions. E.g., Def. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt.
#68] in Deutsch v. Clark et al., 16-cv-88-LY. Defendants have filed identical motions for
sanctions as well as supplemental memoranda specifying the alleged sanctionable conduct in the
above-styled causes. 1 The motions have been referred to the undersigned for disposition by
United States District Judges Lee Yeakel and Robert Pitman. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A),
FED. R. CIV. P. 72; Loc. R. W. D. Tex. Appx. C, Rule 1(d). Because the motions are identical
and the underlying issues involve the same parties—namely Plaintiff’s counsel, Omar W.
Rosales (“Rosales”), and Defendants’ counsel, James C. Harrington (“Harrington”) 2—the
undersigned finds it appropriate to address the identical filings in a single order. 3
Furthermore, the Magistrate Court emphasizes that this Order only deals with the issue of
sanctions in these six cases. Other pending matters regarding outstanding discovery disputes and
motions to dismiss will be addressed separately.
Normally, people resort to the court system to resolve grievances and discover the truth.
In these six cases, however, Rosales has used this system to create strife and perpetuate lies. He
For purposes of this Order, the undersigned will refer and cite to the motion for sanctions and supplemental
memorandum filed in the Clark case. See Def. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt. #68] & Def. Supp. Mem. [Dkt. #82] (“Supp.
Mem. I”) in Deutsch v. Clark et al., 16-cv-88-LY-ML. The undersigned reiterates, however, that Defendants have
filed the same Motion and Memorandum across all causes addressed by this Order. In addition, docket citations
throughout this Order reference the Clark case unless otherwise noted.
While the individual defendants differ in each cause, Harrington represents all of them.
At the September 13, 2016 Show Cause hearing, discussed infra, Rosales objected to the court’s consolidation
of these matters in a single sanction order, but did not cite any authority to support this objection. Transcript of
Show Cause Hearing [Dkt. #114] (“Show Cause Tr.”) at 9. The undersigned finds that judicial economy and
common sense warrant this consolidation: the challenged conduct and potentially sanctionable parties are the same
across all cases. Furthermore, both district and bankruptcy courts have routinely consolidated cases in similar
situations. See generally e.g., In re Carroll, Case No. 08-10756, 2016 WL 1084287 (Bankr. M.D. La Mar. 17, 2016)
(issuing joint order awarding sanctions to trustee of three separate bankruptcy estates for misconduct by debtors in
multiple cases); Shavers v. Shavers, 2007 WL 312705 (S.D. Miss. Jan. 30, 2007) (consolidating several actions in a
single sanctions order); Chosin Few, Inc. v. Scott, 209 F. Supp. 2d 593 (W.D.N.C. 2002) (issuing a single order
awarding attorneys’ fees to multiple firms as lawyer’s misconduct occurred over multiple cases).
has defamed opposing counsel with false and abusive statements, attempted to derail the
administration of justice with frivolous motions, and submitted fabricated evidence to subvert
proceedings in this court. Throughout, his conduct has forced the Magistrate Court to feel more
like a referee in a boxing match than an impartial arbiter of the law. Defendants’ sanctions
motions catalogue almost a year’s worth of Rosales’ bad behavior.
Having reviewed the
motions, the entire cases filings, and the relevant law, the undersigned finds that sanctions are
not only warranted, but imperative to remedy the damage caused by Rosales’ serious and
pervasive misconduct in these causes.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Context and Early Proceedings
Plaintiff Jon R. Deutsch (“Deutsch”) is an individual with disabilities who requires a
wheelchair for mobility. Together with his lawyer Rosales, Deutsch has filed 385 lawsuits in the
Austin Division of the Western District of Texas since 2015. These lawsuits follow a similar
model—Deutsch sues a small business in Austin alleging violations of Title III of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., its attendant regulations, the
Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”), the Texas Human
Resources Code (“THRC”), TEX. HUM. RES. CODE ANN. § 121.001 et seq., the Texas
Architectural Barriers Act (“TABA”), TEX. GOV’T CODE Ch. 469, and its Texas Accessibility
Title III and its attendant regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in
places of public accommodations, which include privately owned businesses that are generally
open to the public, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, and recreation facilities. E.g., 42
U.S.C. § 12182.
This provision was designed to ensure equal access to individuals with
disabilities; to that end, Title III requires the removal of structural barriers in existing public
accommodations “where such removal is readily achievable.” 4 Id. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv). See
also 28 C.F.R. § 36.304 (listing examples of, and prioritizing, readily achievable repairs). Where
removal of the barrier is not readily achievable, the facility must provide access “through
alternative methods if such methods are readily achievable.” 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2)(A)(v). To
enforce Title III, the ADA contains both a private right of action and a right of action for the
Attorney General. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)–(b). The only remedies available under the private
right of action are injunctive relief and the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs. 42 U.S.C.
§ 12188(a)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-3(a).
The complaints in each Deutsch case, including the damages requested, are almost
identical. Generally, Deutsch alleges that he could not access the defendant’s facilities due to
insufficient or inadequate disabled parking, lack of required signage, or thresholds or transitions
between the parking lot and the business that do not meet the relevant accessibility standards. As
has become clear, the violations alleged are mostly real yet de minimis, and the business are
mostly unaware that they are not in compliance with ADA requirements. In each case, he seeks
injunctive relief to cure the alleged accessibility violations, declaratory relief, statutory damages,
and attorney’s fees and costs.
The six lawsuits before the court fit this model. The Henry Defendant owns a taqueria in
south Austin which Deutsch alleges lacks ADA-compliant van accessible parking, an appropriate
entrance ramp, and accessible threshold. 1st Am. Compl. [Dkt. #4] in Henry, ¶ 2. 5 The Clark
Defendants own a furniture store in south Austin. Deutsch claims their property lacks ADAcompliant van accessible parking and that the threshold to the establishment exceeds one-half
The ADA defines “readily achievable” as “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much
difficulty or expense.” 42 U.S.C. § 12181(9).
Deutsch’s original complaint incorrectly listed Defendant’s surname as his first name.
inch. Compl. [Dkt. #1] in Clark ¶ 8. The Draker Defendants own a local restaurant chain.
Deutsch complains that one of their restaurant locations lacks ADA-compliant van accessible
parking, proper signage, and an accessible entrance. Compl. [Dkt. #1] in Draker ¶ 9. The
Chiwawa Defendant owns an auto repair shop; Deutsch alleges it lacks ADA-compliant van
accessible parking and that the entrance exceeds one-half inch. Compl. [Dkt. #1] in Chiwawa ¶
2. The La Tierra Defendant owns a dry cleaning business; Deutsch alleges the business lacks
ADA-compliant van accessible parking, an appropriate entrance ramp, and that the entrance
exceeds one-half inch.
Compl. [Dkt. #1] in La Tierra ¶ 2.
Finally, the Phil’s Icehouse
Defendant owns a restaurant and bar; Deutsch alleges the business lacks ADA-compliant van
accessible parking, an appropriate entrance ramp, and that the entrance exceeds one-half inch.
Compl. [Dkt. #1] in Phil’s Ice House ¶ 2.
As mentioned, Harrington serves as counsel of record for Defendants in all six cases.
When Harrington began representing these Defendants, he was director of the Texas Civil Rights
Project (“TCRP”), a tax-exempt nonprofit foundation that protects the civil liberties and civil
rights of low-income Texans who cannot otherwise afford counsel. Harrington founded TCRP in
1990 and served as its executive director until he retired in September of this year. Harrington
represented Defendants pro bono in all six cases in his individual capacity, and not on behalf of
The procedural history in these cases is copious and convoluted. In this section, the
undersigned will review the filings that have become most relevant to the issue of sanctions in
The Magistrate Court first entered the fray on January 11, 2016, when District Judge Lee
Yeakel referred Deutsch’s motion to quash a deposition in the Henry case. See Pl. Mot. Quash
[Dkt. #10] in Henry. The undersigned held a hearing on the motion on January 27, 2016, and
chose a deposition date for the parties because they refused to agree to one on their own. Order
of January 28, 2016 [Dkt. #23] in Henry.
Less than a month later, on February 18, 2016, the parties again appeared before the
undersigned on the same case, this time to hear argument on Deutsch’s motion to compel
adequate discovery responses. Pl. Mot. Compel [Dkt. #25] in Henry. In the briefing on this
motion and at the hearing, the rancor between the parties crystallized. Henry’s response to
Deutsch’s motion revealed that Rosales had taken photos of persons entering the Texas Civil
Rights Project. Resp. [Dkt. #33] in Henry at 7–8. Henry’s response argued that such actions
implicated the privacy concerns of TCRP’s invitees, many of whom are undocumented victims
of domestic violence. Id. The response also cited disparaging and derogatory ad hominem
attacks launched by Rosales at Harrington in an e-mail correspondence. See id. at 3 (quoting email from Rosales to Harrington in which Rosales calls Harrington a “lying draft dodger” and a
“coward”). Based on these actions, these comments and others, Henry requested that the court
sanction Rosales for his behavior. Id. at 9–10.
In the order granting in part and denying in part Deutsch’s motion to compel, the
undersigned declined to impose sanctions. However, the undersigned admonished the parties as
follows: “The court is troubled by certain behavior and conduct of counsel for each side,
particularly the personal insults directed towards Defense counsel by Plaintiff’s counsel. . . . The
court hereby warns Plaintiff’s counsel that should he fail to amend his behavior, the court will
not hesitate to grant a renewed motion for sanctions and reserves the right to impose sanctions
sua sponte.” Order of February 19, 2016 [Dkt. #38] in Henry (emphasis added). Despite this
admonition from the court, the parties’ relationship, and especially Rosales’ behavior,
Around this time, Harrington ramped up his discovery requests aimed at testing
Deutsch’s standing to bring these suits and uncovering the veracity of Deutsch’s allegations that
he had visited the businesses he sued at the dates and times claimed. To this end, Harrington
filed a motion to compel in Henry requesting production of the logbook Deutsch used to record
trips to the various establishments he eventually sued. Def. Mot. Compel [Dkt. #49] in Henry.
Deutsch had refused to provide them in the normal course of discovery, objecting on grounds of
relevance, work product, and attorney-client privilege. See generally Resp. Mot. Compel [Dkt.
#51] in Henry. The court scheduled a hearing on this motion for May 26, 2016. On May 20,
2016, Rosales filed an incident report with the Austin Police Department and obtained a
temporary ex parte protective order against Harrington in Travis County Court, alleging that
Harrington was harassing, stalking, and making terroristic threats against him.
Separate Hearing Ex. 1 [Dkt. #25-1] (“Temp. Ex Parte Order”) in Clark. These allegations
mainly stemmed from a comment Harrington made to Rosales during a deposition that he knew
Rosales drove an expensive car. See Supp. Mem. I Ex. 2 [Dkt. #82-2] (“Rosales Aff.”). After
obtaining this ex parte protective order, Rosales filed a motion for a separate hearing in this
court, arguing that the protective order prevented Harrington from being within 200 yards of
Rosales at any time. Mot. Separate Hearing at 1. Upon learning of the protective order,
Harrington sought emergency relief from the County Court. Supp. Mem. I n.13. The County
Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the protective order and dismissed it. Id. This court
likewise dismissed Rosales’ motion for separate hearing. Order of May 24, 2016 [Dkt. #26].
Despite these hiccups, the Magistrate Court was able to hold the hearing as scheduled on
May 26, 2016, during which time it ordered the parties to supplement their inadequate briefings.
See Order of May 27, 2016 [Dkt. #57]. At this hearing, the undersigned again warned Rosales of
the possibility of sanctions if he did not curtail his behavior: “Here’s my warning to you. I don’t
want all the verbiage in [your] motions any more. . . . We’re going to have an evidentiary hearing
and you’re going to have to back up what you say, and if you don’t, I’m going to apply
sanctions.” Transcript of May 26, 2016 Hearing [Dkt. #84] in Clark.
It also came to the court’s attention that Rosales had used at least four different spellings
for his client’s surname across the nearly 400 cases he had filed. As a result, the court ordered
Rosales to file motions to correct and conform the spelling in all active cases. Id.
subsequent order, the court instructed Deutsch to submit both unredacted and redacted versions
of the logbook for in camera review to determine whether the claims of work product and
attorney-client privilege were genuine. Order of June 17, 2016 [Dkt. #64] in Henry.
On June 17, 2015, Deutsch filed a motion to dismiss the Henry case pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2), stating that the property at issue had been brought into
compliance and requesting that each side bear its own costs and attorney’s fees. Pl. Mot.
Dismiss [Dkt. #65] in Henry. 6 Henry opposed the motion to dismiss, stating that issues of
sanctions, standing, and attorney’s fees needed to be resolved prior to dismissal. Resp. Pl. Mot.
Dismiss [Dkt. #67] in Henry. Deutsch eventually filed motions to dismiss in all six cases
referred to the undersigned; Defendants in each case oppose the motions along the same grounds
asserted in the Henry response.
Because Defendant had already filed an answer in this case, dismissal of Deutsch’s suit requires a court order.
Compare FED. R. CIV. P. 41(a)(1)(A) with FED. R. CIV. P. 41(a)(2).
The Initial Sanctions Motions
Soon after the filing of the motions to dismiss, the litigation took a turn for the worse. On
June 20, 2017, Rosales filed a motion styled “Motion for Sanctions: Racial Slur Used by Defense
Counsel and His Staff.” Pl. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt. #67] in Henry. Rosales eventually filed
identical motions in all six cases. See Dkt. #11 in Draker; Dkt. #28 in Chiwawa; Dkt. #48 in
Clark; Dkt. #37 in La Tierra; Dkt. #20 in Phil’s Ice House. In this motion, Rosales alleged that
Harrington and a member of Harrington’s staff called him a racial slur and requested that the
court refer Harrington to the State Bar of Texas. Rosales based this allegation on a March 25,
2016 e-mail Harrington sent to Rosales which contained an e-mail from Harrington’s legal
assistant, Aura Valdez-Payan (“Valdez-Payan”), in which she referred to Rosales as “El Sapo,”
the Spanish word for “toad.” Pl. Mot. Sanctions Ex. 1 [Dkt. #67-1] in Henry. Citing to
urbandictionary.com, Rosales stated that el sapo is a “racist term” against Mexican Americans
that means “snitch” and “South American Piece Of Shit.” Id. [Dkt. #67] at 3. Harrington
responded to Rosales’ motion the next day, stating that he did not realize that he had mistakenly
forwarded Valdez-Payan’s e-mail until he read Rosales’ motion. Resp. Pl. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt.
#68] in Henry at 1. Harrington also copied the e-mail he sent to Rosales immediately upon
realizing his mistake, in which he apologized: “I regret you got this inadvertently. And I
apologize.” Id. In addition, he maintained that while the use of el sapo was meant literally and
pejoratively, there were no racial or ethnic connotations. Harrington also pointed out that he
never referred to Rosales by that term, rather that it was used by a TCRP employee who is
Next, on June 21, 2016, Rosales filed a motion for gag order, which accused Harrington
of making “numerous comments” in the news media about the pending cases and requested the
court place Harrington under a gag order. Mot. Gag Order [Dkt. #46] in Clark. Once again,
Rosales filed the same motion in all six cases. Harrington responded, noting that Rosales’
allegations were “utterly baseless,” and that Rosales’ argument regarding potential prejudice to a
jury was nonsensical as Rosales had not requested a jury trial in any of these cases. Resp. Mot.
Gag Order [Dkt. #72] at 1.
Finally, Rosales filed a motion styled “Motion for Sanctions: Further Racist Comments
by Defense Counsel” in the La Tierra and Draker cases. Dkt. #32 in La Tierra; Dkt. #13 in
Draker. In this motion, Rosales accused Harrington of being “racist” and “insensitive” for
noticing a deposition at Maudie’s, a local Mexican restaurant. The restaurant is owned by the
Draker Defendants and forms the basis of Deutsch’s suit against them. Rosales claimed it was
racist to notice the deposition at Maudie’s because he is Mexican-American and because
Harrington knew that Rosales’ first job was in a Mexican restaurant. Pl. Mot. Sanctions II [Dkt.
#13] at 1 in Draker. 7 In response, Harrington noted that he set the deposition for Maudie’s
because (1) it was the property at issue in the lawsuit, and (2) “in earlier cases [Deutsch] could
never quite remember anything about the place he allegedly visited” so Harrington wanted to
avoid any recall issues. Resp. Mot. Sanctions II [Dkt. #18] in Draker. Recognizing the extreme
nature of the allegations made in these motions, the undersigned set another hearing for August
3, 2016. Order of July 8, 2016 [Dkt. #77] in Henry.
Prior to this hearing, Harrington filed his own motion for sanctions against Rosales and
Deutsch in all six cases, requesting that the court impose sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 and its
inherent power. Def. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt. #83] at 1 in Henry. The motions were substantively
identical in five of the six cases, arguing, inter alia, that Rosales’ sanctions motions and
This motion contained additional incendiary accusations which the undersigned will discuss in full infra.
responsive briefings contained “knowingly false and outrageous personal attacks” against
Harrington’s sanctions motion in the Clark case, filed several days later, contained an
additional allegation. In the Clark case, Harrington had filed a motion to compel the depositions
of two witnesses, Sharon Deutsch, the Plaintiff’s wife, and Andrew Rosales, Omar Rosales’
brother, which the undersigned granted. In this motion to compel, Harrington stated that he sent
Rosales deposition notices for June 24, 2016, but that Rosales and the witnesses did not show up.
In Rosales’ response to the motion to compel, he argued again that the depositions were not
relevant even though the court had previously decided otherwise. 8
He also charged that
Harrington had failed to provide deposition dates for the Clark Defendants, despite a court order
to do so. Resp. Mot. Compel [Dkt. #62] at 9. To support this claim, he attached a purported email he sent to Harrington requesting deposition dates for the Clarks and stating “I have asked
you 3 times to provide . . . dates.” Resp. Mot. Compel Ex. 4 [Dkt. #62-4].
Harrington filed his motion for sanctions in the Clark case subsequent to Rosales’
response to the motion to compel. The Clark motion contained the same request for sanctions
regarding Rosales’ ad hominem attacks against Harrington, but also raised a new allegation: that
Rosales fabricated the e-mail attached as Exhibit 4 to his response to Defendants’ motion to
compel. Def. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt. #68] at 6 in Clark. Harrington stated that he had no
recollection of receiving any such e-mail from Rosales regarding the Clark depositions, and that
the e-mail server logs he obtained from the University of Texas at Austin, his e-mail provider,
Rosales objected to the District Court regarding the Magistrate Court’s decision to order the depositions. See
Obj. [Dkt. #37] in Clark. The District Court overruled Rosales’ objection and affirmed the Magistrate Court in a
June 14, 2016 order. See Dkt. #42 in Clark. Rosales in turn filed a writ of mandamus with the Fifth Circuit
challenging the Magistrate Court’s initial order and the District Court’s affirmation. See Dkt. #49. The Fifth Circuit
summarily denied Rosales’ writ on September 2, 2016. See Dkt. #95.
confirmed that he did not receive any e-mails from Rosales within eleven hours of the purported
date stamp on the e-mail Rosales submitted to the court. Id. at 6–7.
Preliminary Hearing on the Sanctions Motions
At this point, it appeared that the litigation was spinning out of control. The Magistrate
Court added Harrington’s sanction motions to the hearing scheduled for August 3, 2016. The
undersigned viewed this hearing as a preliminary attempt to discuss and gain some resolution
regarding the pending motions in these six cases—which included Plaintiff’s motions to dismiss
and motions for sanctions, as well as Defendants’ motion for sanctions, and several discovery
disputes. The undersigned anticipated, however, that a full evidentiary hearing, with character
and expert witnesses, would be required on the sanctions motions at a later date.
On July 26, 2016, Rosales filed a “Notice of Non-Consent to Magistrate Hearing,” stating
that he and Deutsch did not consent to the Magistrate Judge conducting the hearing. E.g., Notice
[Dkt. #71] at 1 in Clark. He claimed that the Magistrate Court did not have authority to conduct
the proceedings on the pending motions because one of the pending motions was a dispositive
motion (a motion to dismiss) which was referred to the Magistrate Court for a Report and
Recommendation. Id. Rosales cited no authority for his claim that Magistrate Judges lack
authority to conduct hearings on dispositive motions referred to them. See id. at 2. The
undersigned’s best guess as to why Rosales neglected to cite any legal authority for this
None exists. Rosales further claimed that the undersigned “made previous
statements on the record that he does not support the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Id.
As to Rosales’ claim that the Magistrate Judge had made statements indicating a lack of
support for the ADA, Rosales cited to a colloquy between himself and the undersigned from the
May 26, 2016 hearing. In the part of the exchange quoted by Rosales, the undersigned inquires
whether Rosales had sent demand letters to any of the 400-plus businesses prior to filing suit.
The quoted exchange includes the following statement from the undersigned, “You could keep
attorney’s fees really low in these cases. You’re not doing that. . . . [Y]ou have a right to file
lawsuits. Mr. Deutsch has a right to be a plaintiff in the lawsuits.” Id. at 3 (quoting transcript of
May 26, 2016 Hearing). Rosales’ argument seems to be that the undersigned, by inquiring into
whether Rosales had filed any demand letters before suing 385 small businesses, indicated his
lack of support for the ADA. While the undersigned regrets that Rosales labored under this
misapprehension, he has noted time and again his support for this legislation and affirmed—as is
clear from the quoted passage—the court’s understanding that the statute provides for private
litigation. On August 2, 2016, District Judges Yeakel and Pitman denied Rosales’ request to
have the matters heard before them instead of the Magistrate Judge. Order of August 2, 2016
[Dkt. #75] in Clark; Order of August 2, 2016 [Dkt. #55] in La Tierra.
Thus, the hearing continued as scheduled on August 3, 2016. Rosales appeared alone for
the Plaintiff’s side. Deutsch did not appear at the hearing despite the fact that Defendants’ had
issued a subpoena for his attendance. Harrington appeared for Defendants along with Charles
Herring (“Herring”) as conflicts counsel on the sanctions motions.9
At the hearing, the undersigned informed both parties that an evidentiary hearing on the
sanctions motion would follow if the parties wanted to pursue their claims. Transcript of August
3, 2016 Hearing [Dkt. #88] in Clark. Both parties were given the opportunity to discuss the
bases of their motions. Harrington and his team stated that they welcomed an evidentiary
hearing on their sanctions motions and were ready to proceed accordingly. Id. at 3, 19.
Given the opportunity to discuss the basis for his sanctions motions, Rosales struggled to
articulate any legitimate factual or legal grounds. To wit, the record showed he had requested a
Herring was retained by the Henry, Draker, and Clark Defendants.
gag order in cases that did not involve juries and where, to the extent defense counsel had spoken
to the media, it was solely to relay facts about the case; he claimed that noticing a deposition at a
defendant’s Mexican restaurant, the very restaurant his client sued, was a racist act; and, citing
only to an unverified website, accused defense counsel of being racist for forwarding an e-mail
in which a Mexican-American staffer referred to Rosales by the Spanish word for “toad.” In
light of the paucity of evidence supporting Rosales’ sanctions motions, the undersigned offered
him an opportunity to withdraw those motions. After some equivocating, Rosales indicated that
he wanted to withdraw his two motions for sanctions and motion for gag order. On August 5,
2016, Rosales filed notices of withdrawal in each case. See Dkt. #93 in Henry; Dkt. #48 in
Draker; Dkt. #42 in Chiwawa; Dkt. #79 in Clark; Dkt. #56 in La Tierra; Dkt. #38 in Phil’s Ice
The undersigned informed Harrington that if he wanted to pursue his sanctions motion in
an evidentiary hearing, the Magistrate Court would need supplemental briefing detailing the
specific conduct for which he was seeking sanctions. After reviewing this supplemental briefing,
the undersigned stated a show cause order would issue regarding which conduct the Magistrate
Court believed could merit sanctions; the subsequent evidentiary hearing would be cabined to
that conduct. The undersigned took these steps to ensure Rosales was afforded the due process
protections of notice and an opportunity to respond and prepare his defense. Transcript of
August 3, 2016 Hearing at 56; see Order of August 4, 2016 (directing Defendants to file briefing
regarding the alleged sanctionable conduct of Rosales and giving Rosales seven days to respond
to any briefing from Defendants).
Defendants’ Consolidated Supplemental Memorandum
Sanctionable Conduct and the Show Cause Order
Defendants filed their supplemental briefing on their sanctions motions on August 10,
2016. E.g., Supp. Mem. I [Dkt. #82] in Clark. The motion separated the alleged sanctionable
conduct into nine categories. Id. at 1–2. Again, Defendants requested the court impose sanctions
on Deutsch and Rosales pursuant to the court’s inherent power and Rule 11.
The undersigned reviewed the supplemental briefing and decided to move forward with
an evidentiary hearing on five categories cited by Defendants: (1) Rosales’ “false, abusive
statements”; (2) the allegedly fabricated e-mail; (3) the criminal stalking charge made by Rosales
against Harrington; (4) Rosales’ motion requesting a separate hearing from Harrington; and (5)
alleged violations of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. 10
Rosales’ “false and abusive statements,” Defendants cited twenty-nine unique statements made
by Rosales a total of 113 times in various filings across the six cases. See Supp. Mem. I at 4–6;
id. Ex. 1 [Dkt. #82-1] at 1–7 (listing each discrete filing containing the complained of
statements). These statements include the following representative examples:
Harrington used “racial slurs against Plaintiff’s counsel.”
Harrington believes it is “acceptable to refer to Hispanics as toads, sapos,
snitches, and South American Pieces of Shit.”
Harrington’s claimed use of the term sapo is “the same racist and twisted logic
that refers to people of colors as monkey’s [sic], gorillas, rats, and roaches.”
Harrington used “racist and anti-Semitic terms against minorities.”
Harrington “appears to have a medical issue.”
Harrington has made “continual comments” that “show a high level of hostility,
racism, and hatred to people who are not the majority and white like [him].”
Harrington “treats Hispanics like servants and ‘noble savages’ that need his
superlative help and guidance.”
Harrington’s decision to set a deposition at Defendants’ Mexican restaurant was
a “covert racist jab at Plaintiff’s counsel”
The undersigned declined to move forward on the following four categories: Rosales’ statements concerning
the Magistrate Court and Judge Yeakel; Rosales’ alleged unethical settlement practices; issues relating to feesharing with a non-lawyer; and alleged conflicts of interests. See generally Supp. Mem. I.
In arguing that Harrington’s decision to notice a deposition as this Mexican
restaurant evinced a racist motive: “Does Jim Harrington expect Mr. Rosales to
mop the floors and bring him chips and salsa also? If Mr. Rosales were AfricanAmerican, would Jim Harrington order the Deposition be held in a Church’s
Fried Chicken? If Mr. Rosales were Asian, would Harrington order the
Deposition be held in a Chinese buffet restaurant?”
Harrington has been “stalking Plaintiff’s counsel.”
Harrington “threatened Plaintiff’s counsel’s life.”
Supp. Mem. I Ex. 1 at 2–7.
The second category that the undersigned determined merited inclusion in the show cause
hearing was the allegation that Rosales had fabricated an e-mail he submitted to the court with
his response opposing Defendant’s Motion to Compel in Clark.
Next, Defendants sought sanctions for the police report and ex parte protective order
Rosales filed against Harrington in Travis County Court, based on Rosales’ claims that
Harrington was harassing, threatening, and stalking him.
Defendants charged that these
allegations were “spurious,” having stemmed mostly from a single comment Harrington made
wherein Harrington said he knew what kind of car Rosales drove and how much it cost. See
Mot. Adv. Inf. [Dkt. #15] in Clark. Relatedly, Defendants sought sanctions for Rosales’ filing a
motion for separate hearing in Clark based on the ex parte protective order. Defendants argued
that Rosales’ motion requesting a hearing separate from Harrington had no legitimate purpose.
Finally, the undersigned determined that Defendants’ allegations that Rosales’ conduct
violated various Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct merited review at the show
cause hearing as well. Generally, the rules cited prohibit attorneys from making false statements
to a tribunal, offering evidence known to be false, taking positions that unreasonably delay
resolution of the case, and impugning the integrity of a judge or official.
The undersigned issued the show cause order on August 23, 2016, ordering Rosales and
Deutsch to appear in person for an evidentiary regarding Defendants’ five categories of
allegations and whether they merited sanctions pursuant to the court’s inherent power and Rule
11(c)(3). E.g., Show Cause Order [Dkt. #90] in Clark. The Order directed both Rosales and
Deutsch to appear at the hearing since Defendants were seeking sanctions against both, with the
understanding that the Magistrate Court would make the requisite culpability determination as to
each respondent at the hearing. Id. at 1. The Order further stated that with respect to the e-mail
fabrication charge, it would look favorably upon a party obtaining Rosales’ e-mail server logs
from his e-mail provider, Yahoo, Inc. (“Yahoo”). The undersigned reasoned that these server
logs, whether provided by Rosales or subject to Defendants’ subpoena, would provide
unequivocal proof of the e-mail’s origin. Id. at 5–6. The Order also encouraged both parties to
retain experts to testify regarding the potential e-mail fabrication, and directed that any expert
must be designated and disclosed at least seven days before the hearing. Id. at 6.
Prior to the hearing, a few more motions were filed which the undersigned must mention.
Defendants subpoenaed Yahoo requesting Rosales’ e-mail headers for the dates in question.
Mot. Compel [Dkt. #91-1] Ex. 1 in Clark. Because Rosales would not give his consent to their
release, Yahoo’s standard procedures required it to observe a fifteen-day grace period prior to
releasing them to Defendants. Thus, Defendants filed an emergency motion, asking the court to
compel Rosales to consent to Yahoo’s release of the e-mail headers. The undersigned denied the
motion to compel, findings that the fifteen-day grace period was not unreasonable, and that
Defendants’ could file a motion to continue if necessary.
Rosales also filed objections to the Magistrate Court’s show cause order. Obj. [Dkt. #98]
in Clark. In his objections, as well as in his response to Defendants’ emergency motion to
compel, Rosales argued that the Magistrate Court had violated Rule 11’s “safe harbor” provision
in allowing Defendants’ sanctions motion to proceed. While Rule 11(c)(2) does include a safe
harbor provision, Rule 11(c)(3)—the provision under which Defendants requested sanctions and
the authority by which the undersigned issued its show cause order—does not. Compare Fed. R.
Civ. P. 11(c)(2) with Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(3); see also Elliott v. Tilton, 64 F.3d 213, 216 (5th Cir.
1995) (explaining that, unlike subsection 11(c)(2), subsection 11(c)(3) does not contain a safe
harbor provision). The undersigned explained this distinction to Rosales in multiple orders to no
avail. Show Cause Order [Dkt. #90] in Clark.
Finally, the undersigned notes two motions filed by Rosales: (another) motion to recuse
the Magistrate Judge and, one day before the show cause hearing was scheduled, a motion to
reschedule the hearing due to a purported medical issue Deutsch was experiencing. In the
motion to recuse, Rosales argued that the undersigned had demonstrated bias and impartiality
throughout these proceedings that merited recusal. Mot. Recuse [Dkt. #99] in Clark. District
Judges Yeakel and Pitman denied the motion for recusal. Order Denying Mot. Recuse [Dkt.
#101] in Clark; Order Denying Mot. Recuse [Dkt. #79] in La Tierra. Their orders stated that
“Deutsch’s allegations of bias and prejudice are speculative and fail to show that a reasonable
person would harbor doubts about Judge Lane’s impartiality in this case.” Id. at 6.
In his motion to reschedule the show cause hearing, Deutsch asserted that he could not
appear at the hearing because he was experiencing a “serious urinary tract infection” and was
scheduled to see a doctor on the day of the hearing. Mot. Resched. [Dkt. #102] in Clark. He
offered to provide medical records in support. The undersigned denied the motion, based on a
determination that the sanctions allegations concerned Rosales’ conduct alone. Order of Sept.
13, 2016 [Dkt. #103] at 1. Having resolved these motions, the show cause hearing could proceed
Show Cause Hearing
At the hearing, Rosales appeared alone for Plaintiff. Herring and Jason Panzer (“Panzer”)
appeared as attorneys for Harrington. Defendants called four witnesses. Betty Balli Torres
(“Balli Torres”), the Executive Director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the largest
funder of civil legal aid to the poor in Texas, testified first. Harrington went next, followed by
Matthew L. Danner (“Danner”), a digital forensic examiner, who presented testimony on the email fabrication issue. Lastly, Aura Valdez-Payan (“Valdez-Payan”), the associate of
Harrington’s who sent the e-mail referring to Rosales as el sapo, testified about her involvement
in these cases, her own background, and her other interactions with Rosales. Defendants offered
twenty-two evidentiary exhibits. Rosales called no witnesses and offered no exhibits. The
undersigned summarizes the relevant parts of Defendants’ witness testimony below.
Balli Torres’ Testimony
Balli Torres testified that she is a licensed attorney, has known Harrington for over
twenty-five years, and has talked with him “hundreds of times.” Transcript of September 13,
2016 Hearing (“Show Cause Tr.”) at 33–34. She stated that she is aware of the allegations
launched against him in these cases. Id. at 34. She testified to Harrington’s “extensive” work
advocating for social justice, equal rights, and civil rights with the TCRP, adding that she does
not know any lawyer in Texas more dedicated to these causes. Id. at 35–36. She further testified
that based on her personal experience with and knowledge of Harrington, she has never
witnessed him make any statement that would be considered racist or anti-Semitic. Id. at 36.
After stating that Spanish was her first language, she also addressed the use and meaning
of the term el sapo. Id. at 37. She testified that she is familiar with the use of the word in
Spanish, and that it is the equivalent of calling someone a toad in English. Id. at 38. She further
stated that she has never known anyone to use the word el sapo in the manner defined by the
Urban Dictionary citation referenced by Rosales. Id.
On cross-examination, Rosales asked whether Balli Torres had ever litigated against
Harrington; she stated she has not. Id. When asked whether Harrington has a “short temper” or
is “quick to anger,” she responded that she had never observed that type of behavior from him.
Id. at 39–40. She acknowledged that el sapo was not a term of endearment. Id. at 41.
Before stepping down, the court inquired whether Balli Torres had an opinion as to
Harrington’s character trait for being the kind of person who gets along with people of different
ethnicities and races. She responded that as is clear from his life’s work at the TCRP, where 70
percent of the people he represents are Hispanic, she believes his reputation in this respect is
“impeccable.” Id. at 45. The court further inquired whether she is familiar with his reputation in
the legal community for this trait; one again she responded that it is “impeccable.” Id. She also
stated that the reputation and opinion testimony she offered applied not just to people of color,
but across all members of the community. Id. at 46.
Harrington testified next and described his legal career. He stated that upon graduation
from law school, he worked for ten years in South Texas on behalf of the farm workers
movement. Id. at 51. He later returned to Austin to serve as the legal director of the Texas Civil
Liberties Union. Id. In 1991, he founded the Texas Civil Rights Project. Id. For twenty-seven
years, he has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Id.
He testified that he has litigated many antidiscrimination cases on behalf of Hispanic people,
including a legal challenge to discrimination against Hispanics in grand jury selection that he
argued in front of the Fifth Circuit. Id. at 52. 11 He also advocated successfully with the Mexican
American Legal Defense Fund (“MALDF”) in a lawsuit that resulted in an extension the Texas
Equal Rights Amendment to minority voting.
He also testified that he has served on the board of advisors for the Texas Hispanic
Journal of Law and Policy as well as human rights delegations throughout Central and South
America in countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Chile, and Nicaragua. Id. at 56. He discussed
his current position as “Abogado Consultor del Gobierno de Mexico,” a role he serves in by
invitation of the Mexican government, referring cases regarding abuse of Mexican nationals in
the United States. Id. at 57. In total, he stated that he has worked with and on behalf of the
Hispanic community for fifty years. Id. at 58–59.
Harrington testified that he was familiar with the list of “false, abusive statements”
contained in Defendants’ Supplemental Memorandum and cited in the court’s Show Cause
Order. Id. at 61. Harrington testified that none of the accusations launched by Rosales are true.
Harrington stated that he has never used “racial slurs” against Rosales. He noted that the only
word Rosales had identified as being potentially racially charged was el sapo. Harrington stated
that, in his opinion, all of the statements made by Rosales and recited in the Supplemental
Memorandum were derogatory. Id. at 65–66. He added that in his forty-three years as a licensed
attorney, he has never encountered another lawyer who has made statements remotely
comparable to the twenty-nine statements Rosales has made in his court filings. Id. at 67.
Harrington next recounted the el sapo e-mail incident. He noted that he inadvertently
forwarded to Rosales the e-mail from Valdez-Payan containing the el sapo reference. Id. at 68.
He acknowledged that the term was used in his office to refer to Rosales on occasion and that it
was intended to be “mildly pejorative.” Id. at 68–70. He testified that he understands the word
See Ciudadanos Unidos De San Juan v. Hidalgo Cty. Grand Jury Com’rs, 622 F.2d 801 (5th Cir. 1980).
to mean toad, and that he was familiar with its usage in Spanish kids’ songs and birthday songs
from his work in south Texas. He stated that he looked up the word in standard Spanish-English
dictionaries and found “toad” as the sole definition, and consulted with a Spanish professor who
stated the same. 12 Id. at 74–75. Regarding Valdez-Payan, Harrington noted that she was a
native Spanish speaker, born in Mexico City and raised in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
Id. at 71. Harrington pointed out that when Rosales brought the e-mail to his attention on June
20, 2016, he responded immediately with an apology. Id. He also clarified that he did not view
the word as an ethnic slur and that Valdez-Payan did not intend it as such. Id. Harrington noted
that this single appearance of the word el sapo in an e-mail not written by him was the only
evidence that Rosales could cite in his effort to brand Harrington as a racist.
Id. at 73.
Harrington’s testimony also revealed that a local restaurant in Austin named itself El Sapo, and
that the Texas Department of Transportation has approved license plates containing that word
notwithstanding their practice of rejecting plates that contain racial or ethnic slurs, such as
“gringo.” Id. at 78–79.
Regarding his decision to schedule Deutsch’s deposition in the Draker case at
Defendant’s Mexican restaurant, Harrington explained that he made this decision because in his
two previous depositions with Deutsch, Deutsch was not able to recall any details about the
property he was suing. Id. at 87–88. Harrington stated he had scheduled depositions at his
clients’ businesses in other Deutsch cases as well. Id.
As to the accusation that Harrington asked Deutsch if he was a cross-dresser, Harrington
explained that he never made any such statement. Id. at 88–89. Rather, during a deposition,
Harrington asked Deutsch why he visited a woman’s clothing store, one of the 385 businesses
Rosales objected that Harrington’s testimony as to the Spanish professor was hearsay. This objection was
overruled because the court considered it not for its truth, but rather for the fact that the professor was consulted.
Deutsch had sued. Deutsch responded to this question by asking whether Harrington was
accusing him of being a cross-dresser. Id. at 88–92; see also Supp. Mem. I Ex. 7 (“Depo. of Jon
Deutsch”) at 63–64.
At the hearing, when asked why he decided to represent Defendants in these cases,
Harrington testified as follows: “[I]n my view, Mr. Rosales and . . . Deutsch are undermining the
ADA. He will be a poster child of a congressional attempt to amend and weaken the ADA. . . .
I’ve done a large number of ADA cases myself, but they have always been systemic cases,
nothing like this just to make money. And the danger in my view . . . is that this sort of scheme
and nonsense is going to lead to a very drastic weakening of the ADA.” Show Cause Tr. at 93–
Rosales made several allegations regarding Harrington’s purported medical condition,
which Harrington discussed at the hearing. For example, in at least one court filing, Rosales
wrote: “In a bizarre e-mail, Defense counsel [Harrington] told the Plaintiff’s counsel: ‘I hope
your wiser Angel prevails. The words (hearing angels) are characteristic of someone who is
schizophrenic. If the Defense counsel is hearing angels, he needs medical treatment
immediately.” Resp. Opp. Mot. Sanctions [Dkt. #70] at 7 in Clark.
At the hearing, Harrington addressed this specific allegation, explaining that the e-mail
Rosales cited was written in response to the police report Rosales filed against Harrington
accusing him of stalking and terroristic threats. Show Cause Tr. at 96. After learning of the
police report and believing it to be groundless, Harrington e-mailed Rosales requesting that he
withdraw it. Id. Included in this request was a paraphrase of Abraham Lincoln’s famous line
from his First Inaugural Address, “the better angels of our nature.” Id. at 96, 99. Rosales, either
unfamiliar with one of the most quoted passages from American oratory or feigning ignorance,
responded with the above accusations—that Harrington’s behavior appeared “schizophrenic” and
indicative of someone requiring “medical treatment immediately”—allegations he repeated in six
separate court filings. See Supp. Mem. I Ex. 1 n.20.
Harrington also gave his account regarding Rosales’ alleged fabricated e-mail. He stated
that when he received Rosales’ filing containing that e-mail attachment he “went back” and
“looked through all my e-mails,” but did not find any such e-mail from Rosales. Show Cause Tr.
at 105. When he went to copy and paste Rosales’ e-mail from the PACER PDF filing into his
own Microsoft Word document, the document properties changed. Id. at 109. Specifically, the
“from” and “to” fields in the e-mail header changed. The PDF of the e-mail on PACER
displayed the “from” field as Rosales’ e-mail address, email@example.com, and that it was
sent “to” Harrington’s e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. When Harrington went to copy and paste
the PDF into a Word document, however, the fields appeared as “from” email@example.com
and “to” firstname.lastname@example.org. Id. at 110–111. In addition, the date listed on the e-mail
changed from June 22, 2016 on the PACER document to July 8, 2016 on the Word document.
Id. at 111. Harrington also testified that he asked his e-mail provider, the University of Texas at
Austin, to check their server records to see if there was any record of Rosales having sent him an
e-mail on June 22, 2016. Id. at 112. UT responded that there were no such e-mails on this date.
Id. At this point, Harrington concluded that Rosales had fabricated this e-mail. In an attempt to
gain additional independent proof, Harrington explained that Defendants subpoenaed Rosales’ email service provider, Yahoo, to obtain Rosales’ e-mail logs from the date in question, but
Rosales opposed the subpoena request. Id. at 114–115. Harrington noted it was peculiar that
Rosales would oppose this request as it had the potential to unequivocally exonerate him against
the charge that he fabricated this e-mail. Id. at 116.
Harrington also noted that Rosales filed a grievance against him with the State Bar of
Texas reciting the same allegations regarding Harrington’s purported racism and mental
instability that he has made in federal court. Id. at 139.
In summary, Harrington testified that all of the allegations made against him—from
racism, to anti-Semitism, to medical issues—were indeed false and abusive. He testified that as
a result of these allegations being launched in the pleadings and filings in these cases, national
media has picked them up and his reputation is being harmed. Id. at 146.
Rosales began his cross-examination of Harrington by asking the following question:
“Do you support the overthrow of the government of the United States?” Id. at 152. On cross,
Rosales also attempted to show that Harrington lacked knowledge of the specifics of each case,
inquiring about the specific violations alleged in particular cases. Id. at 158–59. This tactic
backfired, however, as it only served to reveal that Rosales could not keep straight the different
defendants he had sued on behalf of Deutsch. See id. (discussion showing Rosales confused the
Draker case with the Clark case). Aside from these two lines of questioning, Rosales did not
present any evidentiary exhibits in his cross-examination of Harrington.
Danner testified next in his capacity as an expert witness. Danner stated that he is
employed as a digital forensic examiner. Id. at 163. 13 He explained that his job duties required
him to “conduct investigations and examinations of digital media for the purposes of legal
matters.” Id. at 167. He further stated that he is a Certified Fraud Examiner, certified by the
Before Danner could start to testify, Rosales objected that he had never received Danner’s expert witness
report. Id. at 163. Defendants countered, and the record confirmed, that they had electronically filed the expert
report in accordance with the date set in the Magistrate Court’s August 23rd order. Order of August 23, 2016 [Dkt.
#90] in Clark; see also Def. Expert Disclosure [Dkt. #96] in Clark. To ensure due process, the undersigned granted a
short recess to give Rosales time to review the expert report. Upon reconvening, the undersigned inquired whether
Rosales had adequate time to review the report and whether he had any objections; he responded that he had
reviewed it and that he had no objections. Id. at 166.
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and holds a license as a Certified Forensic Computer
Examination issued by the International Association of Criminal Investigative Specialists. Id. at
For his examination in this case, Danner stated he reviewed the PDF from PACER of the
e-mail in question to determine if there was evidence to support fabrication. Id. at 171–72.
Danner stated he also reviewed a document called the “PDF Reference,” which is a document
constructed by Adobe, the company that created PDFs. Id. In addition to this document, Danner
used a forensic tool called “X-Ways Forensics” and standard Adobe Acrobat software to
examine the PDFs in question. Id. at 174. Danner testified that he also reviewed another e-mail
on the PACER system as a control to compare to the e-mail in question. Id. Finally, he also
created an e-mail through Yahoo’s mail service—Rosales’ e-mail provider—to determine what
would be expected in printing an e-mail to a PDF file. Id.
To start his examination, Danner reviewed the metadata 14 of the e-mail in question. Id. at
174–75. He then used the standard tools described above. Id. at 175. From this examination he
concluded that Rosales’ e-mail “was altered in such a way to show a different recipient and a
different data transmission for the e-mail itself.” Id. He elaborated that he believed the e-mail
was originally sent to email@example.com on July 8, 2016, and not, as it appears in Rosales’
filing to Harrington’s e-mail on June 22, 2016. Id. He noted that the Adobe software detected
an additional e-mail in the “to” field underneath Harrington’s e-mail address. Id. at 177. He was
also able to pull out additional text data within the “date” field by conducting a “copy operation”
on that field and then pasting it into the text document. Id. at 178.
Danner also detected different font properties in the header of the e-mail between the text
that is visible on the face of the document and the text he was able to “pull out” from under the
Merriam-Webster defines “metadata” as “data that provides information about other data.”
visible text. Id. As he testified, “[b]y simply placing a cursor in Adobe Acrobat on the text
that’s visible and on the text that is invisible, I was able to determine that there were two
different font types and two different font sizes.” Id. As to the difference in the visible date and
the invisible date—i.e., the date hiding underneath the visible date text—Danner stated that it
“signifie[d] to me that someone altered this document in order to show a different date of
transmission. Specifically, it was altered to show an earlier transmission date of Wednesday,
June 22nd, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.” Id. at 183. He stated that based on his analysis, however, he
believes this e-mail was actually sent on Friday, July 8, 2016. Id. at 186. Danner also noted
some smaller inconsistencies in the e-mail documents that further confirmed his belief that the email in issue had been manually altered and that Harrington’s e-mail was not originally a part of
the PDF file submitted to the court by Rosales. Id. at 186.
After testifying to his methods and what they revealed, Danner performed a live
demonstration for the court of all the actions that he took and the results they produced so that
the court could see in real time the ways in which the document was altered. See id. at 178–83.
In summary, Danner stated his belief that the e-mail was fabricated was based on the
different font size and type apparent in the metadata of the document, the text hidden behind the
various header fields, and the lack of a semicolon in the “to” field. Id. at 188–89. He stated that
his report containing these conclusions was reviewed and confirmed by two other technicians at
his company pursuant to their administrative and technical review procedures. Id. at 189.
On cross-examination, Rosales asked two questions. First, he inquired about Danner’s
hourly rate. Id. at 190. Next, he asked whether he had examined Harrington’s e-mail account, to
which Danner responded he had not. Id.
Valdez-Payan identified herself as an executive assistant at TCRP. Id. at 192. She stated
she was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States at sixteen. Id. at 192–93. Spanish
is her first language. Id. She testified that she sent the el sapo e-mail that formed the basis of
Rosales’ racism accusations. Id. at 193–94. She stated that she understood el sapo to mean toad
in Spanish. She acknowledged that she did not mean the term as a compliment and explained
that she used the word because: “I don’t have the best opinion [of Rosales] professionally, and it
was just a facetious descriptor for my opinion of him in terms of an attorney.” Id. at 195. She
states that in no way did she intend the term to have any racist or ethnic connotations and that, as
a Mexican-American herself, she takes umbrage with Rosales’ accusations. Id. She noted that
the e-mail she sent containing the word el sapo was a private e-mail that she never published or
distributed anywhere and that the matter would not have been made public but for Rosales’
decision to make the e-mail part of his own court filings. Id. at 201. Valdez-Payan further stated
that she worked closely with Harrington at TCRP and never observed any mental issues of the
type alleged by Rosales. Id. at 197.
Next, Valdez-Payan testified to the personal actions Rosales has taken against her. First,
he filed a complaint with her employer, threatening to endanger the tax-exempt status of TCRP
because she called him el sapo. Id. at 199. In addition, she described a lawsuit Rosales filed in
federal court in Brownsville, Texas naming her among the defendants and accusing her of
slander. Id. at 199. She stated that she has had to retain counsel to defend that suit. Id. at 200.
On cross-examination, Rosales asked whether he had ever been mean to Valdez-Payan in
any of the depositions they mutually attended. Id. at 202. She responded that he had not. Id.
Defendants then rested their case. Rosales had the floor, but, as previously mentioned
offered no evidentiary exhibits and did not call any of his own witnesses.
Questioning by the Court and Findings
Based on the prior testimony which revealed that Rosales had filed suit against ValdezPayan in Brownsville, the undersigned inquired why the pleadings in that case stated that
Rosales resided in Cameron County when he used a Travis County address for all of the cases
filed in this court, and in his application for an ex parte protective order filed against Harrington
in a Travis County court. Id. at 207–09. Rosales stated that he does reside in Cameron County.
Id. at 208. When pressed by the undersigned regarding this inconsistency, Rosales invoked his
Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer any more questions,
stating that he did not want to incriminate himself. Id. at 208. The court then clarified with
Rosales that he was invoking this right with respect to any and all questions from the court,
including questions pertaining to the e-mail fabrication issue. Id. at 209–10. Based on this
invocation, Defendants decided not to call Rosales to the stand.
The undersigned then made some specific findings based on the testimony and evidence
provided at the hearing. Specifically, the undersigned found that Rosales had conducted himself
in bad faith throughout the litigation of these six cases. Id. at 211. Based on the evidence
presented, including Rosales’ statement that all charged conduct was his alone, the undersigned
did not make a “bad faith” finding as to Deutsch.
Inherent Power Sanctions
A district court has the inherent authority to impose sanctions “in order to control the
litigation before it.” NASCO, Inc. v. Calcasieu Television & Radio, Inc., 894 F.2d 696, 703 (5th
Cir. 1990), aff’d sub nom. Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32 (1991). “In order to impose
sanctions against an attorney under its inherent power, a court must make a specific finding that
the attorney acted in ‘bad faith.’” Chaves v. M/V Medina Star, 47 F.3d 153, 156 (5th Cir. 1995).
The court also has inherent power to impose sanctions when other rules do not provide an
adequate remedy. See Chambers, 501 U.S. at 50 (“[W]hen there is bad-faith conduct in the
course of litigation that could be adequately sanctioned under the Rules, the court ordinarily
should rely on the Rules rather than the inherent power. But if in the informed discretion of the
court, neither the statute nor the Rules are up to the task, the court may safely rely on its inherent
power.”). The Fifth Circuit has made clear, however, that “it does not necessarily follow that
inherent power starts where rule or statute ends.” NASCO, 894 F.2d at 702. Reliance on this
inherent authority is appropriate when there is a “wide range of willful conduct” implicating
multiple rules, Woodson v. Surgitek, Inc., 57 F.3d 1406, 1418 (5th Cir. 1995), or when the
conduct at issue is altogether “beyond the reach of the rules,” Chambers, 501 U.S. at 51. Using
the court’s inherent power in such situations promotes efficiency and avoids the needless satellite
litigation that would occur if the court had to apply the rules to each discrete occurrence
separately before invoking its inherent power. Woodson, 57 F.3d at 1418.
This inherent power includes the power to award attorney’s fees in certain circumstances.
Chambers, 501 U.S. at 45, (quoting Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 765 (1980)).
“A court should invoke its inherent power to award attorney’s fees only when it finds that ‘fraud
has been practiced upon it, or that the very temple of justice has been defiled.’” Boland Marine
& Mfg. Co. v. Rihner, 41 F.3d 997, 1005 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46). In
addition, it has long been recognized that this power includes the inherent authority to suspend or
disbar lawyers. In re Snyder, 472 U.S. 634, 643 (1985) (citing Ex Parte Burr, 22 U.S. 529
(1824). “It is extremely desirable that the respectability of the bar should be maintained, and that
its harmony with the bench should be preserved. For these objects, some controlling power,
some discretion ought to reside in the Court. This discretion ought to be exercised with great
moderation and judgment; but it must be exercised.” Ex parte Burr, 22 U.S. at 530. Moreover, a
district court has “the power and the obligation to protect the public and the efficient
administration of justice” from vexatious litigation. In re Martin–Trigona, 737 F.2d 1254, 1262
(2d Cir. 1984).
See also Peabody v. Schroll Trust, 892 F.2d 772, 777 (9th Cir. 1989)
(recognizing that, in addition to its inherent power to sanction attorneys for reasons related to its
own docket, a district court has “a broader duty to the public, as well”); Standing Comm. on
Discipline v. Ross, 735 F.2d 1168, 1170 (9th Cir. 1984) (stating that, in a disciplinary
proceeding, “[t]he court must consider . . . the need to protect the public from an unqualified or
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 authorizes a court to impose sanctions on a party who
files a pleading for an improper purpose, such as to harass the opposing party, delay the
proceedings, or increase the expense of litigation. FED. R. CIV. P. 11(b)–(c). Sanctions under
Rule 11 may be appropriate if the Court finds that a document has been presented for an
improper purpose, FED. R. CIV. P. 11(b)(1)–(2); the claims or defenses of the signer are not
supported by existing law or by a good-faith argument for an extension or change in existing
law, FED. R. CIV. P. 11(b)(2)–(3); or the allegations and other factual statements lack evidentiary
support or are unlikely to do so after a reasonable opportunity for investigation, FED. R. CIV. P.
11(b)(3). The purpose of the rule is to “deter baseless filings in district court,” Cooter & Gell v.
Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 393 (1990), and “to spare innocent parties and overburdened
courts from the filing of frivolous lawsuits,” Kurkowski v. Volcker, 819 F.2d 201, 204 (8th Cir.
1987). After notice and opportunity to respond, courts finding a Rule 11(b) violation may
impose appropriate sanctions. FED. R. CIV. P. 11(c)(1).
These may include monetary and
injunctive sanctions, Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359–60 (5th Cir. 1986),
and even dismissal, see Jimenez v. Madison Area Tech. Coll., 321 F.3d 652, 657 (7th Cir. 2003).
Courts have a duty to impose the least severe sanction that is sufficient to deter future conduct.
Mendoza v. Lynaugh, 989 F.2d 191, 196 (5th Cir. 1993); FED. R. CIV. P. 11(c)(4). A court may
impose sanctions on its own initiative under Rule 11(c)(3) even after a party has moved for Rule
11 sanctions without complying with the safe harbor provision. See Brunig v. Clark, 560 F.3d
292, 297–98 & n.18 (5th Cir. 2009); Elliott v. Tilton, 64 F.3d 213, 216 (5th Cir. 1995). Rule
11(c)(3) requires courts to issue a show cause order before sua sponte imposing sanctions. See
FED. R. CIV. P. 11(c)(3).
THE COURT’S FINDINGS
Findings Regarding Rosales’ Conduct
The undersigned finds that the evidence presented at the hearing and in Defendants’
briefing conclusively establishes that Rosales engaged in serious and habitual misconduct—from
making false and offensive statements about Harrington in multiple court filings to knowingly
submitting fabricated evidence. 15 The undersigned will highlight some of the evidence that
overwhelmingly establishes Rosales’ various bad faith conduct.
The Fifth Circuit has not definitively determined the evidentiary standard that applies to a court’s imposition
of inherent power sanctions. Compare U.S. Dist. Court S. Dis. of Tex. Victoria Div. v. Greeson, 167 F. Supp. 3d 835
(S.D. Tex. 2016) (stating that “arguably” a “clear and convincing” burden of proof standard applies for a court’s
imposition of inherent power sanctions) with White v. Reg’l Adjustment Bureau, Inc., 647 F. App’x 410, 411 n.1 (5th
Cir. 2016) (suggesting that the higher burden of clear and convincing evidence is not always required). The
undersigned finds that even if the higher clear and convincing standard is applied, the sanctions in this case are
supported by clear and convincing evidence of bad faith.
False, Abusive Statements
As to the evidence that Rosales made twenty-nine false statements about Harrington in
113 separate filings, the undersigned takes judicial notice of the court filings in all six cases. A
full list of the statements, with their corresponding docket citations is contained in the Appendix
attached to this Order. On the issue of Harrington’s character—specifically, that his character
proves these statements to be false—the court finds the testimony of Balli Torres, Valdez-Payan,
and Harrington credible. The court likewise finds the declarations of Michael E. Tigar, Senator
Jose Rodriguez, Senator Rodney Ellis, Renato Ramirez, and Richard P. Daly credible. 16 Hearing
Exhibits, Ex. 36 [Dkt. #107] in Clark. Harrington’s career-long commitment to defending and
promoting the civil rights of minorities—especially Hispanics and persons with disabilities—is
irrefutable. His resume, his own sworn testimony, the sworn testimony of Balli Torres, and the
sworn declarations of two state senators, a law professor, the CEO of a local bank, and a member
of the clergy—each of whom has known Harrington for several decades, both personally and
professionally—provide compelling rebukes to Rosales’ outlandish claims that Harrington is
racist, anti-Semitic, or schizophrenic.
In response to Defendants’ overwhelming evidence that these statements are false and
abusive, Rosales presented almost no defense. Indeed, the only justification Rosales offered for
his submission of over 100 court filings full of ad hominem, outrageous attacks on Harrington’s
character, was that Harrington referred to him as el sapo in an e-mail. The undersigned find this
attempt at a defense lacking for several reasons. First, Rosales presented no evidence that
Harrington himself used that term to describe Rosales. Indeed, Rosales does not dispute that the
Rosales objected that these declarations were inadmissible as hearsay and impermissible character evidence.
The undersigned overruled this objection, finding that Rosales had put Harrington’s character in issue, FED. R. EVID.
404 advisory committee’s note to 1972 proposed rules, and that the declarations met the hearsay exception for
reputation concerning character, FED. R. EVID. 803(21).
e-mail containing this term was written by Valdez-Payan, a Mexican-American, and merely
inadvertently forwarded to Rosales by Harrington.
Second, while both Valdez-Payan and
Harrington acknowledged that the el sapo reference was not intended as a term of endearment,
the court finds that the defense’s witness testimony and documentary evidence conclusively
proves that this term is not an ethnic slur and that they did not intend this term as a racial or
ethnic slur. Third, Rosales’ only evidence provided in support of his incredible claim of the
racist nature of this slight is a citation to a crowdsourced online dictionary that was founded as a
parody of legitimate dictionary sources. E.g., Jenna Wortham, A Lexicon of Instant Argot, N.Y.
TIMES (Jan. 3, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/technology/a-lexicon-of-the-internetupdated-by-its-users.html?ref=technology. Fourth, unlike Rosales’ reiteration of his claims of
Harrington’s racism, cowardice, and anti-Semitism in myriad court filings, Harrington did not
publicize the use of el sapo in connection with Rosales. Rather, the reference only entered the
public realm when Rosales filed the e-mail attachment in his own motion.
The court does not present these points to defend name-calling between parties in federal
court. Indeed, the court believes it is unprofessional to refer to someone as a toad, and had
Defendants made that reference in a court filing, the court may have ordered them to strike it.
Rather, the court’s point is that Rosales’ attempt to defend his twenty-nine unique ad hominem
attacks against Harrington, which he submitted in 113 separate court filings, by pointing to
Valdez-Payan’s reference to him as el sapo is preposterous. By its nature, our judicial system is
adversarial, litigation is often contentious, and people make mistakes and say things they do not
mean, or at least do not mean to say aloud. Harrington’s inadvertent forwarding of an e-mail
where Valdez-Payan referred to Harrington by the Spanish word for toad was such a mistake.
And, like the respected professional Harrington is, he apologized to Rosales immediately upon
learning of this mistake.
By contrast, Rosales’ twenty-nine false statements, repeated 113 times are not mistakes—
they are habitual, bad faith misconduct that demean not only their intended recipient, but Rosales
and the federal court in which he filed them as well. And, while it would hardly cure the harm,
Rosales has not even apologized.
On the issue of the e-mail fabrication, the court finds Harrington and the expert witness,
Danner, credible. The evidence presented tells the following story: Rosales sent the e-mail to
himself, doctored it to change both the recipient and the date sent, and then filed it with his
response to Defendant’s motion to compel in hopes of influencing the court’s ruling on that
Danner’s detailed forensic analysis, discussed above, makes any other narrative
Despite this seemingly incontrovertible evidence, Rosales initially maintained in open
court at the show cause hearing that he did in fact send the e-mail at issue to Harrington on the
“visible” date that appeared in the attachment:
MR. ROSALES: Your Honor, I did send the e-mail to him, but also, he also did not
provide dates. . . .
THE COURT: Okay. So just so that we’re clear, are you clear —
MR. ROSALES: Yes, your Honor —
THE COURT: — on the e-mail that’s attached at Exhibit No. 4 to document No. 62
in the Clark case? You sent that e-mail on the date and at the time that — as noted.
MR. ROSALES: Yes, your honor.
Show Cause Tr. at 27–28.
Rosales presented no evidence, other than his statements, that he sent the e-mail on the
date and to the recipient that appeared in his exhibit attachment. It is clear from Harrington and
Danner’s testimony and Danner’s expert report, however, that Rosales was lying. When pressed
by the court to expand on his claim that he did not fabricate the e-mail, he pleaded the Fifth. Id.
While Rosales has neither apologized for nor recognized the seriousness of his conduct, it
is now essentially undisputed that Rosales (1) made false and offensive statements about
opposing counsel in myriad court filings which he either knew or should have known to be false;
(2) submitted fabricated evidence to this court; and (3) lied about doing so in multiple court
filings and at the show cause hearing. The same evidence establishes the latter two forms of
grievous misconduct: the lie is his claim that he sent Harrington the fabricated e-mail. Rosales
did not dispute Danner’s testimony and report regarding the fabrication of the e-mail—either
with his own exhibit evidence or by presentation of his own expert. Indeed, he barely crossexamined Defendants’ expert at the show cause hearing.
Criminal Stalking Charge, Ex Parte Protective Order, and Motion for
The undersigned finds that the evidence presented at the hearing proves that Rosales filed
a groundless report with the Austin Police Department alleging that Harrington was stalking him
and applied for an ex parte protective order based on this report in bad faith. As a result of this
application, Harrington was forced to retain counsel and seek emergency relief from the County
Court to dissolve the protective order. After an evidentiary hearing, the County Court dismissed
the protective order. See Supp. Mem. [Dkt. #82] at 11. In reviewing these same allegations
which Rosales used to form the basis of a motion for adverse inference and sanctions against
Harrington in the Clark case, this court found them to be “baseless” and “fantastical.” Order of
May 27, 2016 [Dkt. #30] in Clark at 3; see also Mot. Adv. Inf. [Dkt. #15] in Clark. Again, the
undersigned finds Rosales’ testimony that he feared for his safety based on Harrington’s
observation of the type of car Rosales drove not credible.
The undersigned further finds that Rosales’ motion requesting a separate hearing in the
Clark case, filed after obtaining the ex parte protective order, was filed for an improper purpose.
See Mot. Separate Hearing [Dkt. #25] in Clark.
Violation of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct
While the undersigned believes that Rosales’ multifarious misconduct in these cases
violates numerous disciplinary rules, it will leave that determination to the appropriate
disciplinary bodies of the Federal and state bar associations.
Findings Regarding Culpability Determination
At the hearing, the undersigned found that Rosales had conducted himself in bad faith
throughout this litigation, from the false statements about Harrington contained in his various
filings, to the submission of the fabricated e-mail, to his filing of a police report and application
for an ex parte temporary restraining order against Harrington.
See GREGORY P. JOSEPH,
SANCTIONS § 27(A) (5th ed. 2013) (“The essential element in triggering an award of sanctions is
the existence of bad faith on the part of the offender. A finding of bad faith is sine qua non to the
imposition of inherent power sanctions.”) (citing Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752,
765–66 (1980); Alyeska Pipeline Serv. v. Wilderness Soc’y, 421 U.S. 240, 258–59 (1975)).
Rosales testified that he was solely responsible for the complained of pleadings and filings, and
that the conduct directed towards Harrington was his alone and not his client’s. Show Cause Tr.
at 106. Because bad faith is personal to the offender, Browning Debentures Holders’ Comm. v.
DASA Corp., 560 F.2d 1078, 1089 (2d Cir. 1977), the undersigned does not impute Rosales’ bad
faith to Deutsch. Therefore, Rosales alone is the culpable party for the sanctionable conduct in
In NASCO, Inc. v. Calcasieu Television and Radio, Inc., 124 F.R.D. 120 (W.D. La 1989),
the district court imposed a bevy of sanctions pursuant to its inherent power, including almost $1
million in attorneys’ fees and costs and disbarment of an attorney. This decision was affirmed
by the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court without comment. In that case, the district court
dedicated some ink to describing why the attorney defendants’ sanctioned conduct was
“distinctly different” from the other lay defendants under consideration. The undersigned finds
the court’s words applicable to Rosales:
An attorney is schooled in the law. Because of his unique relationship with his clients
and with the public, he is taught ethics and governed by rules of professional ethics.
The Court has a right to expect him, as an officer of the Court, to lend his assistance
in preserving order and decorum in the Court; to be truthful and forthright with the
Court and other counsel; to be truthful and not mislead the Court or other counsel. His
signature certifies that pleadings and other documents filed by him are “to the best of
the signer’s knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is
well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for
the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law and that it is not interposed for
any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless
increase in the cost of litigation.” Rule 11. He is bound to preserve the integrity of the
law and the Constitution of the United States and the several states and to seek justice
in his representation of clients before the Court. In his conduct in this case, [counsel]
has actively violated almost every one of these ethical and professional
NASCO, Inc., 124 F.R.D. at 144 (W.D. La. 1989), aff’d and remanded, 894 F.2d 696 (5th Cir.
1990), aff’d sub nom., Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32 (1991). The same sentiments
apply to Rosales’ conduct in these cases. He has repeatedly misled the court regarding the basis
for and intent of multiple motions and other filings; 17 he used the federal judiciary’s public filing
service to conduct a systematic character assassination of one Austin’s most dedicated defenders
See generally Def. Mot. Summ. J. [Dkt. #50] in Draker (stating that Defendant’s property was remodeled and
brought into compliance with ADA requirements before Deutsch filed his lawsuit).
of the rights of the marginalized; and he actively misled the court by falsifying a document
which he submitted as evidence to influence a judicial ruling. He has abused both the letter and
the spirit of one of our nation’s landmark antidiscrimination statutes, debasing its purpose and
trivializing the needs and rights of those it was enacted to protect.
Because the wide range of conduct at issue in this case does not fall neatly within Rule
11, or any other Rule, the Court will apply the inherent powers framework. 18 E.g., Greeson, 167
F. Supp. 3d at 845. See also GREGORY P. JOSEPH, SANCTIONS § 26(A)(1)(a) (5th ed. 2013) (“If,
however, ‘neither the statute nor the rules are up to the task,’—e.g., if they do not cover the
complete gamut of misconduct—the federal courts may rely on their inherent power in
sanctioning the totality of abusive behavior before them.”) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 50).
The undersigned notes that the procedural due process protections of notice and opportunity to
be heard were met: the court warned Rosales multiple times of the possibility of sanctions,
conducted a preliminary hearing on potential sanctions, issued a show cause order specifying the
alleged sanctionable conduct, allowed Rosales time to respond to the allegations, and held a
show cause hearing at which Rosales was free to testify and provide evidence in his defense.
See, e.g., Chambers, 501 U.S. at 50 (observing that a court must comply with due process
mandates before imposing sanctions under its inherent power); FED. R. CIV. P. 11 advisory
committee’s note to 1993 amendment (“[T]he procedures specified in Rule 11—notice,
By this declaration, the undersigned does not intend to “waive” any ability to impose sanctions pursuant to
Rule 11(c)(3). To the extent that Rule 11(c)(3) bestows authority on this court to award sanctions in this matter, the
court invokes that authority. See Clark v. Mortenson, 93 F. App’x 643, 653 (5th Cir. 2004) (per curiam) (stating that
it was not error for the district court to state whether Rule 11 or § 1927 served as the basis for its sanction order and
asserting that “a court need not provide specific factual findings in every sanction order. . . . [T]he fact that the
district court did not state what authority it was basing the sanctions on does not require reversal”).
opportunity to respond, and findings—should ordinarily be employed when imposing a sanction
under a court’s inherent power.”).
Before specifying the discrete sanctions awards, however, the Magistrate Court must
declare what should go without saying: the ADA is a landmark and necessary piece of
antidiscrimination legislation, and its enforcement has empowered countless Americans. Both
private citizens and the attorney general have used Title III’s rights of action in admirable ways
to improve access to various facilities to individuals with disabilities. The court’s issue, of
course, is not with Title III of the ADA, nor is it even with Rosales’ actions in finding a willing
plaintiff for almost 400 cases. Rather, the Magistrate Court’s issue is the abusive, disrespectful,
and fraudulent manner in which Rosales has conducted this litigation. From his baseless and
offensive attacks on opposing counsel, memorialized in over a hundred court filings, to his
fabrication of an e-mail submitted as evidence to the court, Rosales has behaved in embarrassing
and shocking ways throughout this litigation. Indeed, the Fifth Circuit, which thus far has seen
only a slice of these acrimonious proceedings, has already expressed its disapproval. In a
concurrence to the Court of Appeals’ denial of one of Rosales’ writs of mandamus, Judge Elrod
wrote: “I write separately to note my concern with the derogatory written exchanges between
counsel that appear in the record. These exchanges do not reflect the best in Texas lawyers.” In
re Jon R. Deutsch, No. 16-51121 (5th Cir. Oct. 19, 2016) (Elrod, J., concurring). In short,
Rosales’ conduct demeans both the honorable legislation he invokes and the judicial system he
has attempted to make his unwitting accomplice.
This District and these Defendants are not the first to fall victim to abusive ADA
litigation of the Rosales mold. Indeed, a review of the case law shows similar litigation clogging
district courts from Florida to California. A Central District of California opinion discussing the
phenomenon is almost chilling in its applicability to the cases at bar:
The ability to profit from ADA litigation has given birth to what one Court described
as “a cottage industry.” Rodriguez v. Investco, L.L.C., 305 F. Supp. 2d 1278, 1280–81
(M.D. Fla. 2004). The scheme is simple: an unscrupulous law firm sends a disabled
individual to as many businesses as possible, in order to have him aggressively seek
out any and all violations of the ADA. Then, rather than simply informing a business
of the violations, and attempting to remedy the matter through “conciliation and
voluntary compliance,” id. at 1281, a lawsuit is filed, requesting damage awards that
would put many of the targeted establishments out of business. Faced with the specter
of costly litigation and a potentially fatal judgment against them, most businesses
quickly settle the matter. The result of this scheme is that “the means for enforcing
the ADA (attorney’s fees) have become more important and desirable than the end
(accessibility for disabled individuals).” Brother v. Tiger Partner, LLC, 331 F. Supp.
2d 1368, 1375 (M.D. Fla. 2004). Serial plaintiffs . . . serve as “professional pawn[s]
in an ongoing scheme to bilk attorney’s fees.” Rodriguez, 305 F. Supp. 2d at 1285. It
is a “type of shotgun litigation [that] undermines both the spirit and purpose of the
ADA.” Brother, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 1375.
Molski v. Mandarin Touch Rest., 347 F. Supp. 2d 860, 863 (C.D. Cal. 2004), aff’d in part,
dismissed in part sub nom. Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2007).
Yet, even worse than the potential profit-making motive behind these suits is the way in
which Rosales has conducted this litigation. And it is this conduct—not the merits of the suits—
which is currently before the Magistrate Court. Because Rosales has conducted himself in bad
faith throughout this litigation, as evidenced by the many hearings, court filings, and this Order,
the undersigned finds the following sanctions are merited.
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
The court’s inherent power to sanction includes the power to award attorneys’ fees and
costs in an amount designed to provide full relief to the aggrieved party. See Alyesksa Pipeline,
421 U.S. 240; Roadway Express, Inc., 447 U.S. 752 (1980). The amount of the assessment is a
matter of discretion for the court; the purpose of the assessment is punitive. GREGORY P. JOSEPH,
SANCTIONS § 28(B)(2) (5th ed. 2013). See also NASCO, Inc. 124 F.R.D. at 147 (imposing
sanctions of almost $1 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses); Stalley v. Mountain States
Health Alliance, 644 F.3d 349, 352 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[Appellant] contends that the district court
did not ‘explain why all of the fees and expenses incurred [by Defendants’] law firm . . . had to
be awarded to assured the desired deterrence.’ . . . However, we have explained that ‘sanctions
imposed . . . pursuant to a court’s inherent authority are [also] punitive.’ . . . So even assuming
that the award was greater than necessary to deter future violations—a contention of which
[appellant] has failed to convince us—another valid basis exists for the award. . . . And the
amount of the award does not strike us as unreasonable under the circumstances.”) (internal
Among the expenses that a court may order reimbursed are expert witness fees needlessly
incurred by an opponent as a result of bad faith misconduct of the sanctioned party. Barnes v.
Dalton, 158 F.3d 1212, 1215 (11th Cir. 1998). To impose an award of fees and expenses
pursuant to a court’s inherent power, a court must make a specific finding that the party at issue
acted in bad faith. See Matta v. May, 118 F.3d 410, 416 (5th Cir. 1997) (“A court may assess
attorney’s fees under its inherent powers when a party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously,
wantonly, or for oppressive reasons” but “must make a specific finding that the sanctioned party
acted in bad faith in order to impose such sanctions”). The undersigned has already found that
Rosales conducted himself in bad faith throughout this litigation. In the Fifth Circuit, courts
normally apply a lodestar analysis to calculate attorneys’ fees in a sanctions context, multiplying
the hours expended by the appropriate hourly rates. See, e.g., Tollett v. City of Kemah, 285 F.3d
357, 367 (5th Cir. 2002).
Rosales’ abuse of the litigation process has imposed substantial burdens on Defendants,
including attorneys’ fees—incurred both by Harrington in his own right in having to deal with
spurious motions and protracted discovery disputes on Defendants’ behalf, as well as the
attorneys’ fees incurred by Harrington’s counsel, which he was forced to obtain when Rosales
filed baseless sanctions motions against him—as well as costs. The undersigned therefore finds
that both Harrington and Herring are entitled to their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs
incurred in this case as a result of Rosales’ litigation misconduct, bad faith, and fraud.
The fees claimed by Harrington and Herring were assembled, documented, and filed with
the court and served on Rosales. See Supp. Mem. II. [Dkt. #109] in Clark. Harrington and
Herring’s fee submissions are accompanied by detailed supporting evidence documenting the
lodestar calculation, including sworn declarations and billing records, as well as citations to
relevant authorities justifying the itemized number of hours expended in connection with the
recoverable attorneys’ fees as well as the reasonable rates requested. Id. The claimed amounts
reflect only the amounts expended by Harrington and Herring as a result of Rosales’ misconduct,
and not the fees incurred by Harrington in the normal course of this litigation. Rosales has not
challenged the amounts claimed, either with respect to the rates charged or hours billed. Indeed,
he did not file any response.
In his declaration, Harrington states he has been a civil rights lawyer and practicing
attorney for forty-three years. Supp. Mem. II Ex. 2. [Dkt. #109-2] (“Harrington Decl.”) at 1. He
notes that he is the founder and director emeritus of the Texas Civil Rights Project, having
served as its executive director for twenty-six years. Id. Today, TCRP has five statewide offices
and a staff of forty persons. Id. He also recites his extensive work in disability rights litigation,
including his work as part-time director of the Americans with Disabilities National Backup
Center and as Regional Litigation Attorney with Disability Rights Texas from 1993-1995. 19
Indeed, Harrington’s relevant work experience and professional honors are too various and
voluminous to summarize.
For the cases at bar, Harrington seeks recovery for 71.65 billable hours at a rate of $600
per hour for a total of $42,990 for his work on these six cases. Harrington states that his rate is
reasonable based on his forty-six years as a practicing civil rights attorney in Texas and his status
as a leading civil rights attorney in Texas and a nationally recognized disability rights expert.
See Harrington Decl. at 5. He also seeks recovery for 17.1 hours of work conducted by his legal
assistant, Valdez-Payan, at a rate of $100 per hour. In total, Harrington seeks recovery of
$44,700 in fees. See Supp. Mem. II Ex. 2B.
Herring in turn seeks recovery for the time and expenses incurred by his law firm,
Herring & Panzer, L.L.P., in connection with the cases for which his firm is counsel of record for
Defendants, specifically the Clark, Draker, and Henry cases. Supp. Mem. Ex. 1[Dkt. #109-1]
(“Herring Decl.”) at 1. The expenses sought include the expert expenses for retaining Danner;
costs of transcripts from three hearings related to these cases; the fee for serving Yahoo with the
subpoena for Rosales’ e-mail headers; costs for certain copy services; and the cost of a certified
copy of the Application for Protective Order filed by Rosales in state court for use at the Show
Cause Hearing. Id. at 2. Herring seeks recovery for 168.8 hours of his own work at a rate of
$600 per hour; for 131.25 hours of work by his partner Jason Panzer at a rate of $450 per hour;
and for 83.15 hours of work by an associate attorney Lauren Ross (“Ross”) at a rate of $350 per
hour. Supp. Mem. II Ex. 1A. In total, Herring requests $189,448 in fees and $6,588.78 in costs.
At the time, the organization was called Advocacy, Inc.
In defending the reasonableness of these rates, Herring notes that he has been practicing
law in Texas for nearly forty-one years, during which time he served as head of the Austin
litigation group at Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the United States. Herring Decl. at
6. His practice at Jones Day centered on complex litigation, with a special focus on lawyerliability cases. In 1994, he started his own firm, Herring & Panzer, L.L.P., which focuses almost
exclusively on handling lawyer-liability cases. Id. at 6–7. Panzer has practiced law for almost
twenty years, specializing in legal malpractice cases since at least 2001. Id. at 9. Along with
Herring, he is the co-author of the TEXAS GUIDE
LAWYER DISQUALIFICATION. Ross has
practiced law for ten years. Id. at 10. In 2016, Thomson Reuters named Ross a “Texas Super
Lawyers Rising Star” in the area of Administrative Law. Id. at 11.
The undersigned recognizes that the fee amounts claimed by Harrington and Herring are
significant. Yet these attorneys, especially Harrington and Herring, are experts in their respective
fields. Indeed, Harrington and Herring have almost ninety years of legal experience between
them. Rosales—first in filing these suits and then in conducting himself in bad faith
throughout—picked this fight. As such, the court agrees with the sentiments expressed in Dayan
v. McDonald’s Corp., No. 70CH2258 (Ill. Cir. Ct. March 1, 1983) and quoted favorably by the
Fifth Circuit in Schwarz v. Folloder, 767 F.2d 125 (5th Cir. 1985):
It is unbecoming for the plaintiffs to hail the defendant into court by means of
false allegations and then to complain when the defendant hires skillful,
experienced and expensive advocates to defend against those allegations. Having
wrongfully kicked the snow loose at the top, [the plaintiff] must bear the
consequences of the avalanche at the bottom.
Schwarz, 767 F.2d at 133–34.
The allegations contained in the six complaints before the court were not necessarily all
false—Deutsch may have visited some of these premises and some may have been out of
compliance, in at least the most technical sense, with the ADA and its attendant regulations. Yet,
Defendants have argued that in at least one suit—Draker—the property was not out of
compliance at the time Deutsch brought suit. 20 Regarding Rosales’ motions for sanctions and
the allegations launched at Harrington, the above-cited paragraph could not be more on point.
Rosales cannot repeatedly hurl offensive and baseless allegations at Harrington and then expect
to avoid the financial consequences when Harrington obtains top-flight representation to defend
against this character assassination. As Rosales has made his bed, he must lie on it.
Furthermore, it is clear from their declarations and logs of billable hours that the
attorneys exercised billing judgment. Harrington avers, inter alia, that he intentionally did not
include “extensive e-mail exchanges and telephone calls with co-counsel” and Valdez-Payan.
Herring and his team excluded over 170 hours from their final time and expenses record. See
Harrington Decl.; Supp. Mem. II Ex. 1A.
Nevertheless, the undersigned finds there are some ways in which the lodestar amount
must be reduced. In the attachment itemizing his billable hours for these six cases, Harrington
includes 1.25 hours for “preparation for hearing on motion for sanctions in Throckmorton
matter.” See Supp. Mem. II Ex. C at 5. Throckmorton is a separate case that has not been
referred to this Magistrate Court and was not the subject of our sanctions hearing. As such, the
undersigned finds that this 1.25 hours must be excised from Harrington’s reasonable hours
expended, bringing his hours down to 70.40 from 71.65.
In addition, the undersigned finds that the rates claimed by each attorney must be
reduced. In reducing these rates, the undersigned does not necessarily intend to imply that
Harrington and Herring are not worth the rates they claim—a cursory glance at either man’s
resume demonstrates stunning professional experience and achievements. Furthermore, the fact
that Rosales has not contested the rates requested could, standing alone, give the court a
See generally Def. Mot. Summ. J. [Dkt. #50] in Draker.
greenlight to approve them. See Tollet, 285 F.3d at 369 (questioning reasonableness of rate
claimed, based on counsel’s own affidavit, but ultimately approving it “only because” the
opponent did not contest it) (emphasis added). Yet, the undersigned is likewise mindful that the
“relevant market for purposes of determining the prevailing rate to be paid in a fee award is the
community in which the district court sits.” Id. at 367–68. 21 The undersigned takes judicial
notice of the State Bar of Texas 2015 Hourly Rate Fact Sheet (“Fact Sheet”), which reports
median hourly rates by years of experience, practice area, and region. STATE BAR
2015 HOURLY RATE FACT SHEET. The Fact Sheet reports the following relevant statistics: the
2015 median hourly rate for attorneys in Texas with over 25 years of experience is $300; the
median hourly rate for attorneys in Austin is $300; and the median hourly rate in the practice
area of ethics and legal malpractice is $273.
Id. at 3, 6, 8.
The undersigned notes that
Harrington and Herring’s hourly rates of $600 and Panzer’s rate of $450 exceed the average
community standards. As a result, the undersigned finds that Harrington and Herring’s rates
should be reduced to $450; Panzer’s rate should be reduced to $300; Ross’ rate should be
reduced to $250; and Valdez-Payan’s rate reduced to $75. These reductions bring the rates closer
in line with the median rates for attorneys in the relevant community with similar years of
Based on these rate reductions, the undersigned awards Harrington $32,962.50 in fees,22
and Herring & Panzer $136,122.50 in fees and $6,588.78 in expenses. 23
The undersigned also notes that some circuits embrace a requirement that the offender’s ability to pay a
financial sanction imposed under a court’s inherent power be considered in the fee award. See, e.g., Martin v.
Automobil Lamorghini Exclusive, Inc., 307 F.3d 1332, 1338 (11th Cir. 2002) (reversing $1.5 million sanction where
district judge did not consider each offender’s ability to pay the sanction).
This figure results from multiplying Harrington’s $450 hourly rate by his 70.4 billable hours and adding it to
Valdez-Payan’s fees, obtained by multiplying her hourly rate of $75 by her billable hours of 17.1. See Supp. Mem.
II Ex. 2B.
The undersigned obtained this figure by multiplying the Herring & Panzer attorneys’ reduced hourly rates by
the billable hours cited in Ex. 1A.
The undersigned finds it appropriate that an objective body review the actions of Rosales
in this matter. Therefore, the undersigned REFERS the issue to the Western District of Texas
Disciplinary Committee, Karl O. Bayer Jr., Esquire, who is the chair of the committee, to address
whether further sanctions are appropriate.
Among possible additional sanctions, the court
specifically requests that the Committee consider whether disbarment from the Western District
of Texas is proper. Finally, the court requests that the Committee consider whether forwarding
this Order and the Committee’s findings to the State Bar of Texas and any other state and federal
licensing authorities is appropriate.
The ADA is not a perfect law, and the federal judiciary is not a perfect system. Both
depend on advocates who use their powers to promote justice, not pervert it. Rosales’ conduct in
this litigation exploits not just the noble purposes of the legislation but also the public’s faith in
the ability of the justice system to render accurate and fair judgments. The sanctions for such
abuse must be harsh.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions, filed in all six
causes, is GRANTED as fully set forth above. Harrington is awarded $32,962.50 in fees, and
Herring & Panzer, L.L.P. is awarded $136,122.50 in fees and $6,588.78 in expenses.
SIGNED December 7, 2016.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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