Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 9, 2008, 6:00am
A federal judge in Central Texas recently ruled that a lawyer had such a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits that he banned the attorney from any further litigation in Texas federal courts.
On March 25, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. for the Waco Division of the Western District of Texas dismissed a suit filed by plaintiff Daniel Simon against officials from Williamson County. Simon was represented by disbarred attorney Charles Edward Lincoln.
Smith then went a step further and fined Simon and Lincoln $150,000 and banned Lincoln from filing any more federal lawsuits.
The court found that Simon and what Judge Smith called his "de facto" attorney have engaged in "harassment of public officials by filing numerous frivolous lawsuits and removals to federal courts."
Smith wrote that after reviewing pleadings in the case and other cases federal courts in Western and Southern Districts of Texas or state court in Williamson County, it became clear that "Charles Lincoln has spearheaded efforts to have the Texas Family Code declared unconstitutional."
"He has enlisted the assistance of numerous pro se litigants, including Daniel Simon, who continue to prosecute baseless claims against state officials," Smith wrote.
Smith went on to order sanctions against Simon and Lincoln in the amount of $150,000 "because of their pattern of harassing litigation." In addition, Smith ordered that any lawsuits either filed or removed to any federal court in the Western District of Texas were "hereby dismissed with prejudice," and that Simon and Lincoln were prohibited from filing any further suits or pleadings in any federal court in Texas until the sanctions had been paid or get special permission from a federal judge.
Smith's order was forwarded to the clerks for the Northern, Eastern and Southern Districts of Texas.
"We are pleased that the Court agreed with the county's argument that this case was just one more example of how Charles Lincoln consistently enlists the assistance of pro se litigants including Mr. Simon who continue to prosecute baseless claims against state officials," Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty said in a press release.
The ruling was also applauded by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas for Smith's "zero tolerance approach to what he considers abusive lawsuits designed to harass, not right a legitimate wrong."
"Unnecessary lawsuits clog our courts, delaying justice for true victims," Kirsten Voinis, spokesperson for CALA of Central Texas said in a press release.
Voinis also praised Smith for exercising an often overlooked judicial power.
"While judges have the power to issue fines against lawyers who abuse our court system and to throw out frivolous cases, this power is rarely used," she said.
Voinis said that abuse of the civil justice system is especially egregious when the defendant is an entity supported by taxpayer money.
"In this case, the plaintiffs abused Williamson County taxpayers as much as they did the civil justice system by forcing Williamson County officials to spend time and resources to defend the county against what the judge determined to be baseless claims."
According to the State Bar of Texas, on Aug. 22, 2001, the Supreme Court of Texas accepted the resignation, in lieu of discipline, of Charles Edward Lincoln [#00791116], 40, of New Orleans, La. The court found that on March 17, 2000, Lincoln entered into a plea agreement in Cause No. A-99-CR-275-WS, The United States of America v. Charles Edward Lincoln, wherein he pleaded guilty to falsely representing his social security number (42 USC Ã¯Â¿Â½408(a)(7)(B)).
As a condition of the plea agreement, Lincoln agreed to resign from the practice of law in Texas in lieu of disciplinary proceedings by the State Bar of Texas.
Williamson County is located in Central Texas and is part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area.