BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) – A mother who says a Border Patrolman shot her son to death claims in court that an attorney sent men to her house who got her to hire his law office by threatening her, paying her $1,000 and offering to buy her a house.
Ernestina Cazares Santillan sued Marc G. Rosenthal and his Austin law office, Rosenthal & Watson, in Federal Court.
Cazares’s attorney in her previous lawsuit against the United States, Ed Stapleton, and his law office, Stapleton & Stapleton, also are plaintiffs in the new case, as are Cazares’s daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
The lawsuit follows a federal complaint that Cazares filed against the United States in July.
In her new complaint, Cazares states: “On or about July 7, 2012, while in the Republic of Mexico, Juan Pablo Perez Santillan, was shot and killed by a United States Border Patrol Officer who was in the United States of America.”
Cazares says the Mexican Consulate put her in touch with attorney Stapleton, who on July 10, agreed to represent her and her daughter-in-law, Amada Martinez Morales, in a lawsuit against the United States.
According to the new complaint: “On July 22, 2012, while in the presence of the Mexican Consulate and in its office, Stapleton spoke to Cazares, who affirmed that she signed a representation agreement with Rosenthal’s agents because they had intimidated her with threats of violence and had given her and Martinez each $1,000.00, along with the promise of buying them a home. At that time, arrangements were made to reduce these statements to writing before a notario publico.”
(Notaries in Mexico can perform many more legal duties than can notaries in the United States. Numerous lawsuits have been filed over the years accusing Spanish-speaking notarios publicos in the United States of preying upon Spanish-speakers by claiming to be de facto lawyers.)
Cazares and Martinez claim that on July 23, they gave sworn statements about Rosenthal’s office’s sales call, with the help of the Mexican Consulate’s office.
With the help of the Mexican Consulate, Cazares and Martinez say, they stated: “That on July 19, 2012, a group of agents from Rosenthal appeared at the home of Cazares, without request or previous representation, for the purpose of representing her in relation to the death of Juan Pablo Perez Santillan.
“Two (2) of the agents, Oscar Balli and Humberto Saganon, stated that they came on behalf of Rosenthal and handed her a business card from Rosenthal.
“Cazares informed Rosenthal’s agents that she was represented by Stapleton.
“Rosenthal’s agents falsely replied that Stapleton could not help her because Ed Stapleton ‘worked for the Government.’
“Rosenthal’s agent made the same representation to Martinez.
“Rosenthal’s agents offered Cazares and Martinez each $1,000.00 and offered to buy them a home or apartment in exchange for agreeing to be represented by Rosenthal.
“Cazares stated that she was threatened with violence by Rosenthal’s agents.
“Based on the representation made by Rosenthal’s agents, Cazares and Martinez signed a representation agreement with Rosenthal, however, after conferring with the Consulate of the Republic of Mexico, they both wished to be represented by Stapleton.” (Citations to exhibits omitted.)
Cazares and Martinez say that that same day, with the Mexican Consulate’s help, they hired Brownsville attorney David Willis to represent them in their lawsuit against Rosenthal.
Stapleton filed Cazares’s and Martinez’s wrongful death complaint against the United States, on July 27. According to the new complaint: “Later that day, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Rosenthal delivered correspondence to Stapleton in Brownsville, Texas claiming to include a statement by Cazares and Martinez terminating Stapleton’s representation. On July 30, 2012, Rosenthal delivered correspondence to Stapleton in Brownsville, Texas stating that a criminal complaint had been filed in the Republic of Mexico against Ed Stapleton. On information and belief, each of Rosenthal’s correspondence contains blatant misrepresentations of fact and were delivered for the weak and improper purpose of attempting to intimidate Stapleton and to delay his litigation of Cazares and Martinez’s claims in No. B-12-cv-149, in addition to furthering Rosenthal’s efforts to illegally secure the representation of Cazares and Martinez.” (Citations to exhibits omitted.)
Cazares, Martinez and Stapleton seek damages from Rosenthal and his law firm, alleging Texas Government Code violations, conspiracy, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, deceptive trade and tortious interference.
They also seek a declaration that any contract the plaintiffs signed with Rosenthal is void because it was procured in violation of Texas barratry laws.
Cazares et al. are represented by David Willis of Brownsville.