Lawyers and businesses aim to collect $235,000 from ADA attorney Omar Rosales

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A handful of local businesses and their attorneys are seeking to collect more than $235,000 in federal court sanctions that Austin attorney Omar Weaver Rosales received for engaging in bad faith conduct while he sued hundreds of local businesses for Americans with Disabilities Act infractions.

The business owners and their attorneys filed a lawsuit in Travis County District Court on Nov. 1, to enforce the federal court sanctions.

Rosales filed more than 380 lawsuits alleging technical parking lot, signage and doorway ADA violations in 2015 and 2016. As the lawsuits wound their way through federal court, Rosales was caught fabricating evidence, filing a groundless protective order and making false statements against a defense counsel, civil rights attorney Jim Harrington, who defended several businesses pro bono.

Rosales represented one disabled client, John Deutsch, in each case. In a brief 2015 interview with KXAN, Rosales said he filed the lawsuits to improve access for disabled people. However, in court documents, Harrington described the lawsuits as a “broad money making scheme” and said he was defending local businesses to protect the integrity of ADA law.

In April of 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas entered an order in six cases against Rosales, awarding Harrington $32,962 in attorney’s fees. The law firm Herring & Panzer, which was also involved in defending against Rosales’ lawsuits, was awarded $142,711 in attorney’s fees and expenses, according to the lawsuit.

Rosales appealed the sanctions in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He lost there, and the appeals court further sanctioned him $60,522 for filing a frivolous appeal.

“Although it might have been possible for Rosales to raise genuine legal arguments, he has not done so. Instead, his appeal was plagued with references to unrelated areas of law, mischaracterizations of the record and the law, and missing citations,” the appeals court said in a May 2018 decision. “It is not simply the fact of the appeal, but the manner in which Rosales conducted it, that merits sanctions.”

Rosales petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his sanctions, but that petition was denied on Oct. 1, 2018.

Rosales received a three-year suspension from practicing in the Federal Western District of Texas, in July 2017. 

The Texas State Bar’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline has sued Rosales twice for acting in bad faith and violating rules of professional conduct. The commission’s first case was dismissed in February. The commission’s second case, which was filed in April, is pending district court.

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