Freedom Communications, Inc. v. Coronado – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Freedom Communications, Inc. v. Coronado, 372 S.W.3d 621, 623 (Tex. 2012) the defendant filed a petition for review in the Texas Supreme Court and appended to its brief a copy of an agreement filed in a United States District Court in another case.

The agreement showed that the Texas trial court judge had pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges and admitted that he had accepted cash for making rulings favorable to the plaintiffs, including denying the defendant's summary-judgment motion in the case before the supreme court. Id.

After determining that the trial court judge was disqualified and his summary-judgment ruling was void, the supreme court held that the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction over the appeal from that ruling. Id. at 624.

And because the case became moot before the appellate court's opinion had issued, the supreme court vacated the court of appeals' judgment and opinion. Id.

The Texas Supreme Court, which stated the following:

Freedom filed a petition for review in this Court and as part of its briefing provided a copy of a plea agreement filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The agreement shows that after the court of appeals issued its decision, Abel Limas the judge who denied Freedom's motion for summary judgment pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges. He admitted in the plea that on May 8, 2008, he accepted $8,000 in cash for, in part, making rulings favorable to the plaintiffs in this case, including "denying Freedom's Summary Judgment motion on November 26th." Id. at 623.

The Texas Supreme Court determined that "the facts in the plea agreement showed that Limas had an interest--an illegal interest, no less--in this case because he obtained a pecuniary gain as a direct result of his rulings, including his order denying Freedom's summary-judgment motion" and that Limas was therefore "disqualified and his discretionary ruling on the summary-judgment motion was void." Id. at 624.

The court held that because Limas's order was void, it and this Court had no jurisdiction over the cause. Id.

The supreme court vacated our judgment and opinion and sent the cause back to the trial court. Id.