April 18, 2008
Ibarra brothers want to go back to court

You know that settlement agreement in the lawsuit against the Sheriff's office? It may not be so settled after all.

The county paid Sean Carlos Ibarra and Erik Adam Ibarra the agreed settlement on April 1, but the brothers want to return the $1.7 million and resume their battle in court because Harris County is appealing some portions of the case.

The Ibarras are seeking an emergency hearing and reinstatement on the trial docket, but U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt has not yet acted on that request.

"We're dead serious about this," said the Ibarras' attorney, Lloyd Kelley. "I don't imagine that the court is just going to blow it off."

County Attorney Mike Stafford denied that the county has violated the settlement agreement.

"Everything is in the hands of an experienced, fair-minded judge, and he'll make the right decisions," Stafford said Thursday.


Kelley said the county breached that settlement agreement with his clients by recently challenging Hoyt's 2005 decision to sanction and fine two assistant county attorneys for improperly obtaining the Ibarras' medical records from the Harris County Hospital District.

But assistant county attorneys Frank Sanders and Mary Baker have every right to appeal Hoyt's decision to disbar them from the case and fine them $10,000, their legal counsel retorted.

The county ultimately deposited that money into the court's registry pending the outcome of the civil lawsuit.

Furthermore, Sanders' and Baker's appeal does not affect anyone's ability to comply with the settlement, said their attorney, Lynne Liberato.

"Sanders and Baker still may appeal for the sake of their professional reputations," Liberato wrote in court papers.

I'm not sure what to make of this. On the face of it, I don't see any reason why the attorneys in question shouldn't be able to appeal their punishment. I'm a little confused as to why that's happening now when the sanctions were given in 2005, but I don't know all the details so perhaps I'm missing something. I suppose the issue for the Ibarras here is if the county is paying the legal fees for Sanders and Baker as they pursue this appeal, and if part of the settlement agreement was that those two had done wrong and deserved those sanctions. If so, then I can see a distinction between them pursuing an appeal on their own, and them doing it on the county's dime.

Kelley also alleged the county violated the settlement by challenging some of the legal fees, court costs and expenses related to the Ibarras' suit after it had agreed to pay all of them as a condition of the settlement.

But the county has since alleged Kelley charged an excessive hourly rate and submitted large amounts of "unexplained expenses."

Well, Kelley's fee request was rather unusual, and I have a hard time faulting the county for taking issue with it. And with all due respect to Lloyd Kelley, it's not really clear to me how this disagreement over the bill affects the deal with the Ibarras. It feels to me like it's Kelley's business and not theirs.

But whatever. Back to you, Judge Hoyt.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 18, 2008 to Local politics

Kelley settled with a jury that probably would have given him more. He's thinking that if he can overturn the case, he could eventually get more.

Posted by: Ron in Houston on April 18, 2008 11:26 AM