A Dallas judge has given a green light to a whistleblower suit filed by a former assistant Texas attorney general who alleges she was retaliated against and fired after reporting that two supervising attorneys tried "to suborn perjury" from her about a judge.
"It’s finally moving forward," Hurst solo Ginger Weatherspoon says of Weatherspoon v. Office of the Attorney General of Texas, the suit that she filed in May 2009.
Weatherspoon, who worked in the OAG’s child support division from July 2006 until November 2008, declines further comment.
In an April 16 order in Weatherspoon, 68th District Judge Martin J. Hoffman denied the OAG’s no-evidence motion for summary judgment and plea to the jurisdiction.
The OAG has the option to appeal Hoffman’s ruling to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas. Tom Kelley, an OAG spokesman, writes in an email that "we haven’t made a final decision on whether to appeal" but declines further comment.
Weatherspoon alleges in her first amended original petition, filed on Jan. 21, that in 2008, James Jones and Harry Monck, then-senior regional attorneys in the OAG’s Dallas child support office, made numerous attempts to "coerce perjured testimony" from her and "confined her against her will in an effort to obtain a perjured affidavit" about then-254th District Court Judge David Hanschen.
She alleges Jones and Monck had ordered her to report her recent interactions with Hanschen and she had sent an email to Jones containing the facts of a conversation she had had with the judge. The affidavit she received to sign contained "numerous misrepresentations and mischaracterizations," she alleges in the Jan. 21 amended response to defendant’s no-evidence summary judgment motion.
She further alleges that the OAG intended to use the false affidavit as evidence to have Hanschen recused from hearing cases involving the OAG and to support its filing of a complaint against Hanschen with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Hanschen, now a Dallas solo, had been at odds with the OAG over the statute of limitations then in effect for DNA testing to determine paternity in child support cases. [See "Whistle-Blower Suit Filed Against OAG by Former Employee," Texas Lawyer, May 25, 2009.]
"I may have referred to them [OAG attorneys] as jack-booted government thugs . . . in a moment of pique," Hanschen says.
Weatherspoon alleges in her amended original petition that, after she refused for the third time to sign the false affidavit against Hanschen, Jones "slammed his fist on the desk and shouted that the Attorney General himself, Greg Abbott was waiting" for her affidavit.
Monck, who is now in the OAG’s child support office in Fort Worth, refers a request for comment about the case to an OAG press officer.
Jones, who Monck says is no longer with the OAG, could not be located for comment.
Weatherspoon further alleges in her amended original petition that she suffered retaliation — including the OAG’s ignoring of her doctor’s instructions that she work under light-duty instructions following her back surgery — and ultimately was terminated after reporting the regional attorneys’ actions to supervisors.
The OAG alleged in its amended plea to the jurisdiction, filed on Oct. 19, 2012, that Weatherspoon failed to plead sufficient allegations to waive the OAG’s sovereign immunity.
According to the amended plea, to prevail on her Whistleblower Act claims, Weatherspoon must allege, among other things, that she acted in good faith in making a report involving a violation of the law by the agency or a public employee, that she made the report to "an appropriate law enforcement authority" and that she suffered retaliation for making the report. The OAG argued that Weatherspoon failed to meet those requirements.
But Hoffman wrote in his order that he found Weatherspoon "in good faith made reports of alleged violations of law to the appropriate law enforcement authorities under the Whistleblower Act." He scheduled the case for trial Aug. 6.
Thorpe, Hatcher & Washington partner Carla Hatcher of Dallas, Weatherspoon’s attorney, says Weatherspoon followed the policy of the attorney general’s office when making her report.
Hatcher states that there is no dispute that Greg Abbott, as attorney general, is a law-enforcement authority, as required by the Whistleblower Act.
Hanschen says it would be inappropriate for him as a former judge to comment on the merits of the case. But he says, "I’m pleased that the matter will have a full hearing before an appropriate tribunal."
Mary Alice Robbins is an Austin-based freelance writer and a former Texas Lawyer senior reporter.