The Texas Supreme Court on June 7 denied a petition for review filed by 44th District Court Judge Carlos Cortez. The high court rejected Cortez’s attempt to keep his own deposition and two witness statements related to a defamation lawsuit he filed against a Dallas attorney out of public view.
Texas Lawyer has intervened in the case to get access to those documents.
Michael Northrup, a shareholder in Dallas’ Cowles & Thompson who represents Cortez, says his client likely will file a motion for rehearing with the high court in Judge Carlos Cortez v. Coyt Randal (Randy) Johnston.
"And I also believe that, under [Texas Rules of Civil Procedure] Rule 76(a), we are still entitled to have a hearing about whether the documents should be sealed with notice posted at the courthouse," Northrup says.
Cortez did not return a call seeking comment.
Randy Johnston, a partner in Dallas’ Johnston Tobey, was a defendant in the case until Cortez nonsuited the case. Johnston says the ruling means that Cortez’s deposition and the witness statements eventually will become public after a mandate issues allowing the trial court to lift the seal.
"This really is not a shocking or incredible ruling," Johnston says.
And Johnston contends that Cortez will be not be allowed to return to the trial court to attempt to seal the documents under Rule 76a, because Cortez waived that right earlier in the litigation when he dismissed his claims.
On Sept. 4, 2012, Texarkana’s 6th Court of Appeals ruled that the documents at issue were "court records" and therefore were available for public view. Joe Larsen, special counsel in Sedgwick in Houston who represents Texas Lawyer, says he expects that a motion for rehearing at the trial court would be denied.
Before the documents can be made public, Larsen says, the Supreme Court will "send a copy of their order to the court of appeals, and the court of appeals will issue its mandate to the trial court to act in accordance with the court of appeals opinion."
Marty Lowy, judge of the 101st District Court who also intervened in the case, agrees with Larsen.
"I don’t believe the decision is final until a mandate issues from the Texarkana Court of Appeals," Lowy says.