My reaction to the news that the lawsuit brought by the State Bar of Texas against Trump nutcase lawyer Sidney Powell was being dismissed was that it was the State Bar’s fault for screwing up the paperwork. The DMN editorial board puts the blame elsewhere.
A local Republican judge’s decision to throw out the State Bar of Texas’ disciplinary case against former Donald Trump lawyer Sidney Powell on flimsy technical grounds was a disservice to the public the judge serves.
Collin County state District Judge Andrea Bouressa last week granted Powell’s motion for a summary judgment largely because of filing and clerical errors bar lawyers made. Among the mistakes Bouressa found so egregious were a mislabeling of the bar’s exhibits and a failure to file a sworn affidavit attached to a motion.
What a travesty of justice. Such errors occur in court cases often. And while not excusable, they shouldn’t be a basis for a judge to throw out such a serious case without considering evidence.
There’s no question the state bar made some careless errors in its brief asking the judge to deny Powell’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Exhibits were clearly mislabeled and some were altogether missing.
But Bouressa’s heavy-handed ruling is concerning. First, it wasn’t rendered as part of an in-person hearing, during which the filing issues may well have been quickly resolved in open court.
Rather, her decision came after her private review of the parties’ documents. Her judgment says that she tried to contact the bar’s lawyers for clarification on their confusing exhibits, but it “responded that no corrective action was necessary.”
That’s puzzling. The court file revealed only one email exchange between Bouressa’s court coordinator and a legal assistant at the bar, and it involved only one question about one exhibit. The assistant answered the question.
We understand it’s within Bouressa’s right to rule against a party for clerical errors. But legal experts tell us that appellate courts lately have been frowning upon judges who dismiss cases based on filing mistakes rather than on actual evidence.
That’s what happened here. Eric Porterfield, associate professor at the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law and an expert in civil procedure, reviewed the judgment for us and said it’s clear that while the bar was sloppy, Bouressa’s decision wasn’t based on the merits of the case.
Instead, the regal Bouressa got hung up on what she called the “defects” of the bar’s documents. In doing so, she shut the door on the public’s right for a full hearing of the facts surrounding Powell’s outlandish conspiracy theories that threatened the peaceful transfer of the power of the presidency.
See here for the background. As I said, my initial inclination, made with admittedly limited information, was that the State Bar screwed it up. If this take is more accurate, then they were screwed by the judge. The good news there is that appealing the dismissal is an option and it has a decent chance of working. If they do that, then I retract what I said before about the State Bar.