Hardball tennis

The SE Texas Record Feb. 14, 2009, 10:14am

Tennis great Yannick Noah once described the game as "combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their racquets and their courage as their weapons"

Apparently he never played in suburban Houston's North Country Ladies' Tennis League, where competitors don't quit at game, set, and match. And they don't come armed with just racquets.

Victoria Hall and Holli Roffey's doubles match against Roxanne Guest and Leslie Weldy didn't end when they forfeited play after it turned contentious. They hired attorney John Osborne to bring suit in a different court.

Osborne's lawsuit charged Guest and Weldy with defamation. Counter charges followed. Tennis league suspensions got enforced. One of the four was put on league probation. All this because some hard tennis shots were fired by some combatants after the game was forfeited. Then came hard words, league actions and finally the suit. Much ado about absolutely nothing, a court watcher might say. This was a tennis match, not a blood sport.

A district court quickly dismissed Osborne's lawsuit, and Guest and Weldy sued, seeking sanctions against Osborne. His lawsuit was frivolous and brought simply for purposes of harassment, they alleged.

Judge Suzanne Stovall agreed. She found that Osborne and his clients sued "to harass, embarrass, and cause needless and unnecessary expense." They didn't bother to investigate their charges before making them in court, she said.

As reported by our Steve Korris, Texas' Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont unanimously backed Judge Stovall's ruling this week. She was correct in her finding that Osborne groundlessly filed suit. And the lawyer should be subject to sanctions for his actions which turned a tennis court match into an unnecessary court battle. No kidding.

You might think that Osborne could have had better things to do than file a lawsuit like this one? Do we need licensed lawyers using our courtrooms to represent feuding adults trying settle petty scores against opponents they couldn't defeat in racquet sports?

Our justice system entrusts lawyers to talk sense to hot-blooded clients, not fuel irrational passions for revenge.

Here's hoping John Osborne only gets love at court. Game, set, sanction.

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