‘You Better Call Me’: Disbarred Texas Lawyer Arrested for Allegedly Threatening Judge
Hidalgo County Jail records show the Texas Department of Public Safety on Nov. 15 arrested Mark Cantu on charges of coercion of a public servant, and improper influence.
Nov. 19, 2019
Legal troubles are mounting for a lawyer who lost his law license.
Just three weeks after the Texas Supreme Court upheld the disbarment of Mark Cantu, the ex-lawyer was arrested for allegedly threatening a district judge in a voicemail.
Cantu denies the allegations.
“We will fight these allegations the judge filed against me,” he said. “I think they are frivolous.”
Hidalgo County Jail records show the Texas Department of Public Safety on Nov. 15 arrested Cantu on charges of coercion of a public servant, and improper influence. Both charges are Class A misdemeanors. On the same day as his arrest, Cantu was released on a $1,000 surety bond for each charge, according to jail records.
The probable cause affidavit in the case said that on Oct. 8, Cantu left a voicemail about a case for Hidalgo County 332nd District Judge Mario Ramirez.
“I’m going to call the FBI and tell the FBI what the hell you are doing as the presiding judge of the 332nd getting involved with helping your friend Carlos Guerra and Michael Moore,” Cantu said in the voicemail, according to the affidavit. “You better call me and you better straighten it out, and if I were you I would not sign any orders and if you signed some orders, I would rescind them immediately.”
The affidavit said that Ramirez told the Texas Ranger that Cantu had filed similar lawsuits against Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez in multiple district courts, but then nonsuited the matters and refiled new lawsuits in different courts. Ramirez said Cantu was forum shopping, according to the affidavit.
Ramirez, the local presiding judge, was tasked with enforcing local rules, including a rule saying when a litigant was forum shopping, the case would be sent back to the very first court where it was filed. Ramirez therefore had to determine whether or not Cantu was forum shopping, and if so, decide whether to send it back to the original court.
But because of Cantu’s voicemail, Ramirez recused himself.
“After receiving the phone call, Judge Ramirez explained that he felt he could no longer be fair to Cantu in deciding on this case,” the affidavit said. “He believed he was now a complainant in a criminal matter against Cantu and it would not be appropriate for him to continue as the judge over this case.”
Ramirez declined to comment.
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In the voicemail, Cantu allegedly said Ramirez was helping “his friends” Carlos Guerra and Michael Moore.
For more than a decade, Cantu, Guerra and Moore have been embroiled in litigation over an attorney fee award in a 2005 wrongful death lawsuit, Texas Lawyer reported. Guerra and Moore’s law firm first represented the clients, but after a month, Cantu’s law firm took over. Later, three associates at Cantu’s firm left to start their own practice, and took the clients along, according to appellate records. Eventually the case settled for $4 million.
In later attorney-fee litigation, Guerra & Moore alleged that Cantu stole the clients, but Cantu countered that the firm was conspiring to deprive him of his attorney fee. The three former Cantu associates settled before trial, at which Guerra & Moore won a $1.6 million judgment against Cantu.
An appellate court affirmed the verdict in 2009. But Cantu, in later litigation, alleged that Guerra, Moore and other attorneys conspired with the clients by getting one client to perjure himself regarding the attorney fee claims.
In an interview, Cantu said he thinks his arrest was another attempt by Guerra and Moore to delay and confuse the facts.
“The facts are they conspired,” he said. “They conspired to defraud me and take my license.”
Guerra didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment before deadline.
Moore, who’s now the owner and principal attorney of Moore Law Firm in McAllen and Houston, said that claim is outrageous. It was the State Bar of Texas that disbarred Cantu, and the Texas Rangers that arrested him based on a threat he made to the judge.