AUSTIN (KXAN) — Attorney Omar Rosales, who has been sanctioned roughly $235,000 and suspended from federal court, was arrested Thursday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for failing to comply with a court order, according to court records and attorneys involved.
Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak issued a command for Rosales to be arrested after he failed to appear for court Feb. 21. Rosales was called to appear in that month to explain non-compliance with a Jan. 3 order related to his sanctions and to show why he should not be held in contempt of court, according to a district court order.
Rosales remained in jail until he appeared at a Travis Count district court hearing Friday afternoon before Judge Orlinda Naranjo. Rosales was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and a striped jail outfit. He said the situation was “humiliating and embarrassing” and that he had never been arrested before in his life.
Rosales said he should not have been jailed over a debt collection case. Naranjo said the arrest was related to his failure to follow a court order, not for the debt.
Rosales represented himself in the hearing. He said he was never properly served court documents related to the previous hearing he missed. However, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against him showed evidence Rosales was served in a courthouse in Kings County, New York.
Rosales’ arrest was related to a civil matter, not a criminal one. The arrest stemmed from problems in cases KXAN first reported in 2015, when Rosales and a single disabled client filed hundreds of federal lawsuits against local businesses alleging technical violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for problems with handicap parking spaces and signage.
You can read the full investigation here.
Jim Harrington, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project, defended several of those ADA cases pro bono. The litigation became contentious. Rosales was found to have fabricated a document he entered in the court record and made false and inflammatory statements about Harrington’s character, among other misconduct, court records show.
Rosales has racked up over $235,000 in sanctions. He was fined $175,000 and suspended from practicing in the Federal Western District of Texas for three years. He was fined another $60,500 for filing a frivolous appeal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to court records.
In an email, Harrington said his attorneys “filed suit in state district court to recover the $235,000 levied against Rosales. Rosales then dodged appearing in state court,” and “Rosales again dodged being served by the constables until today and spent much of his time in New York, where he was also suspended from the practice of law for three years.
Travis County jail records show Rosales had a cash bond of $20,000.
Rosales has been sued three times in 2017, 2018 and 2019 by the State Bar’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline for various allegations of misconduct in his ADA work. The first case against Rosales was dismissed. The commission appealed the dismissal, and the case was remanded back to the trial court. Rosales appealed that decision to the Texas Supreme Court, where briefs are still being filed.
Rosales’ motion to have the second case dismissed was denied, and he has appealed that to the Third District Court of Appeals. The third case is currently in the discovery phase in Travis County District Court, according to court records.
KXAN reached out to Rosales and his attorney Gaines West for comment but did not receive an answer.