McALLEN – Earlier this month, a district judge in Hidalgo County ordered a disbarred attorney to pay more than $120,000 in legal fees to a newspaper he sued for defamation.
On Oct. 10, Mark Cantu filed a motion for reconsideration, stating he learned of the ruling while reading The McAllen Monitor, the paper he sued for reporting on a Texas Supreme Court decision, which found evidence he colluded with a juror to help force a $3 million settlement with Ford Motor in a personal injury lawsuit.
Cantu originally filed suit against The Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and the owner of the publication, Aim Media Texas, on May 13, 2015 in Hidalgo County District Court.
The author of the article, Emaa Perez Trevino, and Carlos Sanchez were also named as defendants.
“On June 28, 2014 … (the defendants) caused the written publication and widespread (sic) dissemination of (sic) one-sided, false, misleading and factually incomplete articles … directly featuring Cantu and his law practice,” the suit states.
“The writings were written intentionally to impeach (sic) plaintiff’s honesty, integrity or reputation.”
While the trial court refused to grant the defendants’ summary judgment, the 13th Court of Appeals found Cantu’s suit failed to overcome the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, court records show.
SLAPP lawsuits (strategic lawsuit against public participation) are brought to censor free speech by burdening defendants with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
After succeeding on appeal, the defendants, on Aug. 14, filed a motion to recover fees and costs under the Texas Citizens Participation Act.
On Oct. 3, Judge Luis Singleterry, 92nd District Court, signed off on an order granting the defendants $120,383 in reasonable attorney fees and $459 in costs, including the cost of the appeal.
Cantu is representing himself in the proceedings.
The defendants are represented in part by Jeff Nobles and Laura Haley, attorneys for the Smith Law Group in Harlingen.
Cause No. C-2063-15-A