“The more this drags out, the more this looks like political retaliation because of my role in getting Ken Paxton indicted,” Clevenger said. “I do intend to ask everyone involved to be compelled to show up at a hearing, and if Ken Paxton is involved, I’m going to ask the court to order him to be there.”
Clevenger, who’s licensed and practices in Texas but lives in Brooklyn, is a well-known lawyer-muckraker who writes a blog about public corruption. Although federal judges have sanctioned him multiple times and he’s faced discipline from the State Bar of Texas for attorney misconduct, he also has the reputation of exposing real public corruption in the Lone Star State and bringing down serious consequences.
He won the ouster of a federal district judge after revealing a sexual harassment scandal and sparked an indictment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for three felony securities fraud charges. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to those pending charges.
Sanctions Motions Fly After Plaintiff Lawyer Questioned Defendants as Blogger
“He’s been dropped as a party. He’s saying, ‘They don’t represent me.’ From my standpoint under the rules, that fulfills my obligation,” Ty Clevenger said.
A Texas attorney, who also runs a law blog, is in a feud with opposing counsel after he submitted a public-records request to defendants without identifying himself as plaintiff counsel.
Ty Clevenger’s request to defendants in a civil rights case between a Texas agency and state trooper angered opposing counsel, who want the court to punish him for allegedly contacting their clients without permission.
But now the two sides are trading sanctions motions.
Lawyers in the Texas Office of the Attorney General, representing the defendants, cast the first stone. They alleged attorney Ty Clevenger was breaking disciplinary rules by communicating with their clients, including a man who was initially a defendant in the case but was later dropped from the suit.
Clevenger is hitting back, alleging the government lawyers are the ones committing misconduct by claiming to still represent that ex-defendant.
The underlying case is Spears v. McCraw, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
In it, Clevenger represents Billy Spears, a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Highway Patrol. His client brought a civil rights action against 18 defendants but later dropped former agency Inspector General Capt. Louis Sanchez as a defendant.
The remaining defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing they have qualified immunity. Finding that Spears had failed to plead important aspects of his claims, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin found for the defendants and recommended complete dismissal. The district court has not yet decided on the recommendation.
Meanwhile, court records show a feud among lawyers in the litigation.
Rights as attorney-blogger?
The behind-the-scenes fighting between plaintiffs and defendants’ counsel has happened through email so far but came to the forefront when the assistant attorneys general in the case on Aug. 8 asked the court to sanction and disqualify Clevenger.
“Despite repeated requests by defense counsel to cease communication with their clients, Mr. Clevenger responded that he is entitled to communicate with represented persons under his First Amendment right as a ‘blogger,’ and refused to provide information regarding this continued contact,” the defendants’ motion read. “Mr. Clevenger’s rights as a blogger, however, do not override his ethical duties as a lawyer.”
The motion claims Clevenger emailed some defendants, saying he was a blogger requesting information and omitting that he represented a plaintiff who was suing them. Clevenger has said that he communicated with Sanchez, the dropped defendant, whom the attorney general’s office still represent, the motion said.
Hitting back with a plaintiff’s motion for sanctions on Aug. 20, Clevenger argued that it’s “a fraud on the court” to say he communicated with Sanchez while the attorney general’s office represented him.
The motion claimed that Sanchez’s representation terminated before Clevenger communicated with him. Clevenger claimed that he agreed to stop contacting other defendants but that Sanchez emailed him in May to say he didn’t want an assistant attorney general to represent him.