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State Intervenes in Dallas DA’s Legal Tangle

DALLAS (CN) - Texas has taken control of a lawsuit from a former prosecutor who wants Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk removed from office and who asked for Hawk's medical records.

Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson filed notice in Dallas County Court on Friday that he is appearing on behalf of the state in a lawsuit that Hawk's former administrative chief Cindy Stormer filed in October.

Hawk dropped from sight for two months this year, after taking office in January. In her lawsuit, Stormer cited Hawk's lengthy absence, several controversial firings of longtime staffers and said Hawk's erratic and paranoid behavior indicated a "complete break with reality."

Stormer said Hawk acknowledged during her 2013 campaign that she had been treated for addiction to a prescription drug "similar to Adderall" and that "(t)hose close to DA Hawk have publicly acknowledged that she is also addicted to OxyContin and Hydrocodone."

Stormer also claimed Hawk asked her to use public funds improperly, that Hawk held onto a $22,500 check of public money for two months and "claimed that she thought it was her pay stub."

But Wilson, who also is the Ellis County attorney, says that the state, through his office, "has the sole legal authority to prosecute this ouster case."

In a unanimous 5-0 vote last month, the Dallas County Commissioners Court asked Wilson to intervene in Stormer's lawsuit on behalf of the state. Both Wilson and Hawk are Republicans.

"Although Cindy Stormer remains named in these proceedings as the relator and may be responsible for court costs under certain circumstances, she is only a nominal party who has no active role to play in this lawsuit now that the state has appeared and taken control of this lawsuit on behalf of the public," Wilson said in his 9-page Notice of Appearance.

Wilson asked the court for a pretrial conference to address the discovery of Hawk's medical records, particularly prescription drugs, because they "concern essential elements of this ouster action since her medical and psychiatric/psychological condition" are at issue in the lawsuit.

Stormer's attorney, Mark Haney with Puls Haney in Fort Worth, expressed happiness with the filing.

"We believe this is a just case," he told The Dallas Morning News on Friday. "We're pleased the district attorney in Ellis County sees it the same way, and we believe her removal is in the best interest of the citizens of Dallas County."

Hawk's attorney, Daniel Hagood with Fitzpatrick Hagood in Dallas, said Wilson has discretion to drop the lawsuit at any time and that the filing merely allows him to gather more information.

"This does not mean there will be a trial," he told the Morning News.

Mental health groups spoke in Hawk's defense after the lawsuit was filed, urging Stormer to drop it because it stigmatizes mental health problems, discourages others from seeking help and attacks medical privacy .

The Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other groups wrote to Stormer on Oct. 15, telling her the lawsuit "purposefully works against HIPAA laws that protect the private medical records of Americans, and could set a precedent that strips this privacy and promotes discrimination based on medical history."

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