SAN ANTONIO - The Spike Lee actress who lost a federal lawsuit against El Paso Attorney Kenneth Krohn and Houston Attorney Don Ford last year has filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.
The Western District of Texas federal court dismissed Plaintiff Juliette Fairley’s complaint for lack of diversity jurisdiction. At issue is whether the Plaintiff paid the attorneys more than $75,000.
“Calculations in Doc 53 did not include payments made by the Plaintiff that went uncredited to her billing statements, which were brought to the attention of the Court and are in the record,” the Plaintiff stated in a Feb. 1 pleading filed with the federal court. “Calculations in Doc 53 did not include the $10,000 retainer paid to Defendants nor did it include payments made in billing statements that are missing (August).”
Diversity jurisdiction requires that litigants reside in two different states and that the claim involve more than $75,000.
According to a press release, the Plaintiff is a resident of New York, not the state of Texas, who paid more than $75,000 to Kenneth A. Krohn and Don D. Ford to represent her in an underlying guardianship proceeding, which is taking place in the Bexar County Probate Court.
The allegations lodged against Don Ford and Kenneth Krohn include breaches of fiduciary duty, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade-Consumer Protection Act and negligence, which they vehemently deny, according to court records.
On July 3, 2017, Don Ford and Kenneth Krohn filed a claim in the Southern District of Texas federal court against the Plaintiff after she requested a disgorgement of all fees paid on May 31, 2017, according to a June 15 filing in the Bexar County Probate Court.
After the federal suit was dismissed, the Plaintiff subsequently filed her claim against the attorneys in the 215th District of Harris County and landed in the Honorable Judge Elaine Palmer’s court room in Houston. However, the Defendants Ford and Krohn moved to transfer the case to the Bexar County Probate Court in San Antonio where the Plaintiff says she was improperly dismissed with prejudice despite filing an affidavit of inability to pay $20,000 in cash to the court.
“Although Kenneth Krohn denied it in open court on Nov 9, 2017, his boss Don Ford sits on the Judicial Branch Certification Commission with the presiding judge, the Honorable Polly Jackson Spencer,” states the June 15, 2018 pleading. “In filing a claim against Juliette in the Bexar County Probate Court, Don Ford and Kenneth Krohn are intentionally depriving Juliette of her Due Process rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
The Judicial Branch Certification Commission certifies guardians appointed by the court involved in the adult guardianship program throughout the state of Texas. Both attorney Don Ford and the Honorable Retired Bexar County Probate Court Judge Polly Jackson Spencer were appointed to the Judicial Branch Certification Commission by the Supreme Court of Texas, according to the Judicial Branch Certification Commission website.
The Plaintiff’s appeal comes at a time when the adult guardianship program in Texas has been under scrutiny. The Spectrum Institute’s Legal Director Tom Coleman filed a class action complaint with the Supreme Court of Texas, alleging violations of the American with Disabilities Act to which Texas Judicial Council Executive Director David Slayton responded in part in a May 7, 2018 letter that, “The Texas Judiciary recognizes the great importance of making adjustments to the guardianship system, and we will continue to evaluate and make modifications to the system.”
Located in New Orleans, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the federal district courts within the state of Texas, including the Western District in San Antonio and the Southern District in Houston.