Austin civil rights lawyer gets 3-year suspension for misconduct

3:20 p.m Thursday, July 13, 2017 Local
Old federal courthouse on West 8th Street in downtown Austin.

A local civil rights attorney who previously was fined more than $175,000 for repeated misconduct in a contentious lawsuit with another civil rights attorney has been suspended from practicing law in the U.S. Western District Court for three years.

If Omar Rosales wishes to seek readmission to the court following the suspension, he first must undergo ethics training and anger management courses, according to an 86-page ruling signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge David Ezra.

The ban prevents Rosales from accepting federal cases in much of the state, including Austin, San Antonio, Waco and Midland. The state bar will receive the ruling and has the option to dole out further punishment.

Rosales is accused of doctoring an email to make it look like he had responded to an email from the opposing attorney, Jim Harrington, about setting up depositions. Harrington, founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project, is representing six of the 385 businesses Rosales has sued and accused of failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaints range from not having a proper entrance ramp to lacking van-accessible parking.

Rosales also is accused of making inflammatory claims against Harrington, saying in court documents that Harrington “treats Hispanics like servants and noble savages that need his superlative help and guidance.”

Harrington said Wednesday the three-year ban is too light.

“I think it should be more for an attorney who would fabricate evidence,” Harrington said. “The idea he would fabricate evidence is appalling. … He attacks everyone. He attacks the judge. He attacks the (disciplinary) committee. Anyone who gets in his way he tries to bully. It caught up with him. These are the kind of people who utterly disgrace our profession.”

The ruling says Rosales failed to appear at a March meeting with a disciplinary subcommittee despite the chairman cautioning him several times that his attendance was mandatory. The subcommittee had wanted to discuss with Rosales his conduct, including a motion he filed to recuse Magistrate Judge Mark Lane. The motion, which said Lane was biased and not impartial, was denied.

Lane in December slapped Rosales with a $175,673.78 fine for misconduct and called his behavior “embarrassing and shocking.”

In response to a request for comment on his suspension, Rosales blasted the judges who punished him.

“In Austin, if you are black or disabled you have no civil rights,” he said in a statement. “So, we will take this case to the Fifth Circuit, to once again review the decisions of the all-white, all-male judges in Austin federal court. How is it, that in 2017, all the federal judges in Austin are white males?”

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