Judge fines lawyer and his clients $ 220,000 for alleged misconduct in guardianship case

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Lawsuits & Litigation

Judge fines lawyer and his clients $ 220,000 for alleged misconduct in guardianship case

A Texas judge ordered a lawyer and his clients to pay more than $ 220,000 in penalties for an alleged “vexatious litigation campaign” against a mentally disabled millionaire and his guardians.

Judge Oscar Kazen imposed the penalties against lawyer Phil Ross and his clients in a decision of May 24, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Ross falsely portrayed himself as the attorney for Charlie Thrash, 81, the mentally incompetent millionaire, and assisted in Thrash’s marriage and adoption of his new wife’s adult children, Kazen said in his opinion. Thrash’s marriage to Laura Martinez, who was Ross’s client, has been called off and the adoptions have been called off, according to the Express-News.

Thrash is the former owner of a specialty auto repair shop with an estate valued at over $ 3 million. Martinez has been involved with Thrash since 2012, the article reports. A court-appointed psychiatrist found Thrash to be mentally incapacitated in 2017 after an anonymous complaint was filed with Adult Protective Services. A court investigator concluded earlier this year that Thrash did not want to marry Martinez and was isolating him from her friends.

Thrash did not have the legal capacity to marry, and Ross and Martinez were aware of the January order finding Thrash to be incompetent at the time of the marriage, Kazen said in his opinion. Ross was a witness at the March wedding, held in another county, and he signed the marriage certificate. The lawyer also signed and filed a spousal support claim on Martinez’s behalf.

Ross also signed and filed an adoption application in March claiming Ross was Thrash’s attorney, Kazen said. Ross did not disclose the incapacity order during adoption proceedings before another judge, Kazen said.

Ross also appeared before a justice of the peace with Martinez and one of his daughters, Brittany, to assert rights under a lease. After being confronted with Thrash’s attorneys, Ross admitted that the lease had been “reconstructed from memory,” according to Kazen.

Martinez and Ross also went to a Social Security office to get checks for Thrash redirected to Ross at his residence, Kazen said.

Ross says Thrash has regained his mental abilities and is appealing the January 2019 order declaring him totally incompetent. He filed more than 70 pleadings in an attempt to oust the guards and obtain the disqualification of Kazen. He also filed separate lawsuits against Kazen in state court, against the two guardians in federal court and against the guardians in state court, according to the Express-News.

Kazen imposed a joint and several penalty of approximately $ 187,500 on Ross, Laura Martinez and Brittany Martinez, payable to Trash’s estate and her guardians to cover attorney fees. He also ordered Ross to pay a penalty of approximately $ 30,400 for attorney fees and a punitive penalty of $ 5,000. The judge ordered Laura Martinez to pay a punitive penalty of $ 2,500 and Brittany Martinez to pay a punitive penalty of $ 1,500.

Kazen also said he would impose a penalty of $ 30,000 for an unsuccessful appeal of the sanctions order to the Texas Court of Appeals and $ 50,000 for an unsuccessful appeal of the order to the Texas Court of Appeal. the Supreme Court of Texas.

As a further sanction, Kazen barred Laura Martinez from pursuing any claims that she is or ever was Thrash’s wife, whether through a ceremonial marriage or common-law relationship.

Kazen had previously issued a temporary restraining order forcing the Martinez family to leave Thrash’s home. Thrash has been transferred to a relative’s home and caregivers are monitoring him around the clock, one of Thrash’s guardians told Express-News.

Ross told the News-Express that he had done no harm to Thrash and that the sanctions raise more questions about the case. He says he represents his pro bono clients.

“How did the judge allow guardian lawyers to charge Charlie’s estate over a quarter of a million dollars to try and stop his common-law partner Laura and Brittany from trying to help him out?” to restore its capacity and to revoke the guardians? He said in an interview with News-Express.

“The other question is why are they so afraid of us? They are trying to silence us. All we’re saying is Charlie is not incapacitated and the guardians should be removed, ”he said.

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