Court voids Dupuy’s orders

The Daily News


The Daily News

Published November 1, 2012

An appeals court found that Judge Christopher Dupuy of Galveston County Court at Law No. 3 abused his discretion by sanctioning an attorney and dismissing a credit card debt collection case.

Justices of The Fourteenth Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed Dupuy’s $500 fine against an attorney representing Citibank and also reversed Dupuy’s dismissal of the banking institution’s debt collection case.

In an Aug. 23, 2011, order, Dupuy told Citibank’s attorney to “cease filing groundless motions for default (judgment); the next of which sanctions shall lie.”

Dupuy said in a court document that his order “fell on deaf ears” and that the actions “needlessly wasted this court’s time” and “needlessly interfered with the legitimate administration of justice.”

Dupuy ordered the attorney to pay $500 to the Galveston Mediation Fund through the county’s office of justice administration.

Both Dupuy and Allen L. Adkins, the attorney representing Citibank, declined requests for comment.

Citibank filed the case in an attempt to collect delinquent, outstanding balances on two credit card accounts held presumably by a Galveston County resident.

Citibank’s attempts to serve its account holder failed, so the bank filed a motion for substituted service. The trial court granted the order, but it entered its own order authorizing substituted service that had additional requirements.

Adkins’ colleague filed an additional motion for substituted service, which the trial court denied, saying the additional requirements hadn’t been met.

The colleague, in trying to correct the issue, filed additional motions, including one for default judgment. Dupuy then ordered the $500 fine against Adkins, even though it was his colleague who signed the subsequent motions, the appeals court states.

The appeal claimed Dupuy abused his discretion by failing to hold a sanctions hearing before imposing the fine. The appeal also complained Dupuy violated Citibank’s right to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution.

Dupuy didn’t specify a legal basis in his order of sanctions, the appeals court stated.

The appeals court justices agreed with the appellants, who argued the judge had no discretion to sanction the attorney. The justices also agreed with the appellants, who complained Dupuy abused his discretion in dismissing the case.

The trial court didn’t find that Citibank’s conduct justified a presumption that its claim lacked merit or that a lesser sanction would have been adequate. The trial court also didn’t explain whether it considered lesser sanctions before dismissing Citibank’s case, the appeals court stated.

“The assessment of death penalty sanctions in this case as an initial sanction, without explanation, is excessive,” the justices wrote.

The justices remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Dupuy, who was elected during the 2010 Republican landslide victories at the county polls, has come under scrutiny related to incidents both before and after he became judge.

When Dupuy filed for election, he was under a six-month probated suspension from the state bar, which found he committed professional misconduct.

Dupuy was also named in a $500,000 fraud and malpractice lawsuit that accused him engaging in conduct on numerous occasions that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages against his own clients.

In relation to that lawsuit, a judge ordered a $7,500 sanction against Dupuy and accused him of filing recusal motions solely for the purpose of delay and without sufficient evidence.

Shortly after Dupuy was sanctioned, he filed for bankruptcy protection, his second such filing since 2004.

Dupuy was also removed as judge from a $50 million lawsuit brought by Valero Refining Texas after a defendant complained no one revealed relationships between Dupuy and a former Valero attorney.