AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Travis County District Court on Tuesday dismissed a Commission for Lawyer Discipline lawsuit alleging professional misconduct against Austin ADA attorney Omar Rosales. The Commission was ordered to pay over $65,000 in attorney’s fees to Rosales, according to a court order.
The Commission, which is a standing committee of the State Bar of Texas, sued Rosales last September over complaints about demand letters he sent to numerous health care businesses across Texas. In the demand letters, Rosales alleged the businesses’ websites violated federal law and weren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The demand letters included an unfiled draft lawsuit and a demand to settle the case for $2,000, according to Commission’s original petition.
Rosales’ attorney, Gaines West, said he “was glad that Omar was vindicated because he’s a hardworking advocate for disabled people, because he is one. He is a disabled veteran.”
The Commission initiated the misconduct lawsuit after receiving several complaints from attorneys, doctors and chiropractors across the state. The dismissal of the case appears to be a win for Rosales. The lawsuit against him sought sanctions. Now, the Commission on Lawyer Discipline has been ordered to pay him $65,872.50.Claire Mock, public affair counsel for the State Bar of Texas, said they would be reviewing their options.
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KXAN first reported on Rosales after he filed hundreds of ADA lawsuits, on behalf of his client John Deutsch, against local Austin businesses for technical parking lot violations, such as incorrect width of handicap parking spaces and the height of signage.
In those cases, numerous business owners told KXAN they received lawsuits in the mail demanding $7,000 for the alleged violations. Rosales said he and his client were fighting for accessibility and the lawsuits were an important tool for people with disabilities.
Austin civil rights attorney Jim Harrington ultimately represented several Austin businesses sued by Deutsch and Rosales. The cases between Harrington and Rosales became contentious, and Rosales was hit with more than $176,000 in sanctions by a federal judge in December of 2016. Rosales was also suspended from practicing in the Federal Western District for three years.
Harrington also represented several of the healthcare centers that Rosales sent demand letters. Harrington called the dismissal of the case a “very unfortunate decision.”
“I think clearly the judge misunderstood the law that was created to punish the kind of litigation abuse that Rosales engaged in to make money. I hope the State Bar will appeal the case. I am sure it would win on appeal,” Harrington said. “Lawyers should not get away with the kind of lawsuit-threatening conduct that Rosales engaged in. It makes a mockery of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”