Consequences of the scandal surrounding former 404th District Judge Abel Limas of Brownsville continue to reverberate, with another lawyer convicted and one attorney taking his own life.
A South Texas federal jury on Feb. 28 convicted Austin plaintiff attorney Marc Garrett Rosenthal on 13 criminal counts, including that he bribed a state district judge in exchange for favorable rulings and persuaded witnesses to give perjured testimony in state and federal civil suits. [See "Austin Lawyer Denies Allegations in 13-Count Federal Indictment," Texas Lawyer, Aug. 29, 2011, page 4.]
Rosenthal, a partner in Rosenthal & Watson, stood trial for bribing Limas. Limas pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in 2011 and faces a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen on April 3. Two months later, on June 3, Rosenthal will go before Hanen for sentencing.
According to a notation on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, Hanen remanded Rosenthal into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
A call to Rosenthal’s office was not returned. Brownsville solo Ernesto Gamez Jr., Rosenthal’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wynne of Houston, who prosecuted Rosenthal, declines comment.
Rosenthal was just one of several lawyers indicted for funneling payments to Limas in exchange for special treatment. Jose Santiago "Jim" Solis, a former state representative, pleaded guilty in April 2011 to aiding and abetting extortion in connection with paying Limas for favorable rulings, according to Solis’ plea agreement. Solis faces sentencing on April 9.
On June 18, 2012, a Brownsville federal jury convicted attorney Ray Marchan of seven criminal counts, including a charge that he received ad litem appointments from Limas and split his fees with the then-judge. Hanen sentenced Marchan to 42 months in prison.
But on Sept 28 — the day he was supposed to report to the U.S. Marshal’s Service to begin serving his sentence — Marchan committed suicide by jumping from the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, says Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio.
According to Rosenthal’s indictment, at least $5.95 million of his assets are subject to forfeiture.
Three of Rosenthal’s former clients sued him in a Travis County district court, alleging he should forfeit more than $5 million in fees and expenses he received related to the settlement of a wrongful-death suit over which Limas presided, Alicia Sanchez, et al. v. Rosenthal & Watson, et al.
Litigation in the civil suit stalled while Rosenthal’s federal criminal case was pending, says Larry Doherty, a partner in Houston’s Doherty ??? Wagner. While winning a judgment against Rosenthal will be much easier because of the federal conviction, collecting a fee disgorgement from Rosenthal will much more difficult, Doherty notes.
"The liability is established for the wrongdoing. So, that part of the case is now over,” Doherty says. But Rosenthal’s personal assets likely are "depleted" because of the expense of defending himself against federal criminal charges, and legal-malpractice insurance policies do not cover criminal acts, Doherty notes.
"You can’t insure against a criminal act," Doherty says. "And because it’s a request for disgorgement of fees, there probably wasn’t any insurance to answer to that anyway.”