BEAUMONT – Last year, local attorney John Morgan was hit with $65,000 in sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit against the attorney who represented his ex-wife during their divorce proceedings.
On Dec. 20, the Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order and gave the green light to up the dollar amount.
Morgan and his former wife divorced in 2008, spawning a heated legal battle that would eventually draw in his ex’s attorney and consume the courts for years to come.
At some point, Morgan faced a criminal charge of making a false report to police. A court at law judge entered an order against disclosure of the case record.
In December 2014, the judge amended the order to apply specifically to certain persons, including Sheryl Johnson-Todd, the attorney who represented Morgan’s ex-wife.
Morgan filed suit against Johnson-Todd, alleging she violated the court order by publishing restricted information.
In turn, Johnson-Todd sought to sanction Morgan for filing groundless, frivolous pleadings.
On April 28, 2017, the trial court dismissed all of Morgan’s claims against Johnson-Todd and awarded her $40,000 in attorney’s fees, in addition to sanctioning Morgan $25,000 to deter him from filing similar actions in the future.
“We hold the trial court did not err by awarding Johnson-Todd $40,000 in attorney’s fees, expenses, and court costs or by awarding $25,000 in sanctions under the TCPA (Texas Citizens Participation Act),” the opinion states.
While justices found the trial court did not err in awarding $65,000, they did find the court erred by failing to award Johnson-Todd some amount for attorney’s fees, expenses and court costs that she incurred for defending against Morgan’s legal action.
“Based on last year’s trial court testimony, we expect the new award to be in excess of $100,000.00,” said Johnson-Todd’s attorney, Jeffrey Dorrell of the Houston law firm Hanszen Laporte.
Court records show Morgan sought sanctions against Johnson-Todd for trying to have him declared a vexatious litigant.
Morgan’s legal problems aren’t isolated to the Jefferson County courthouse.
Earlier this year, a federal judge vindicated Layne Walker, sanctioning Morgan for “vexatiously multiplying” legal proceedings against the former district judge and ordering the attorney to pay nearly $30,000 of Walker’s court costs.
Morgan has since appealed that award to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1 case No. 128,841
Ninth Court case Nos. 09-17-00168-CV and 09-17-00194-CV