(CN) – A Texas attorney showed an “utter disregard for the judicial system” after a jury entered a $7 million verdict against his client, a federal judge ruled, ordering sanctions.
Ty Clevenger, of Youngkin & Burns in Bryan, Texas, represented Wade Robertson in litigation against his former business partner William Cartinhour Jr.
During the litigation, the U.S. District Court and the D.C. Circuit issued Clevenger numerous warnings and $17,000 in sanctions for “vexatious,” “meritless,” and “reckless” filings.
Robertson and Cartinhour had entered into a 2004 partnership to invest in class action securities litigation, with Cartinhour contributing $3.5 million and Robertson, an attorney, contributing his legal services.
Unbeknownst to Cartinhour, however, Robertson borrowed $3.4 million from the partnership in interest-free loans. That amount dwindled to $700,000 by the time Cartinhour tried to get his money back in 2009.
In 2011, a jury awarded Cartinhour $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
After this loss, Robertson filed a second action against Cartinhour in a different jurisdiction seeking $3.83 million in damages for fraud and defamation. The District Court dismissed his complaint, and accused Robertson of “blatant forum-shopping.”
Given the “tortured history” of this case, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle granted Cartinhour’s motion for sanctions against Clevenger for filing excessive and frivolous pleadings.
“The court has no difficulty concluding that sanctions are appropriate,” she wrote.
“Given the court’s rejection of the claims in Robertson II as being flatly inconsistent with Robertson’s claims in Robertson I, the jury’s verdict for $7 million in that case, and Clevenger’s course of conduct throughout this litigation, the court is convinced, as were Judges [Laura] Swain and [Royce] Lamberth, that Robertson II was brought for no legitimate purpose but rather for harassment and delay,” she added.
“Most importantly, the jury unanimously found that Robertson had breached his fiduciary duties to Cartinhour and, therefore, there could be no basis in law or fact for Clevenger’s allegations in Robertson II that Cartinhour and others had conspired to defraud Robertson,” the decision also states. “By pursuing Robertson II after the verdict in Robertson I, Clevenger was far more than recklessly indifferent; he acted in bad faith and with utter disregard for the judicial system.”
Huvelle said she gave Clevenger numerous warnings that his frivolous litigation would not be tolerated.
“Despite this, Clevenger did not heed the warnings,” she wrote. “Instead, he defied the Court by pursuing baseless claims and arguments. Sanctions for this bad faith conduct are clearly warranted.”
“Nor can Clevenger immunize himself by relying on the duty to zealously represent his client,” Huvelle added. “An attorney also has a duty to the profession and the Court and it is his responsibility to fulfill both.”
Since that the court declined to issue sanctions at the close of Robertson’s first case, however, Huvelle limited sanctions to attorneys’ time spent after February 2011.
She ordered Cartinhour to resubmit documentation for attorneys’ time spent between February 2011 and March 2012.