Andy Lucas, bizarrely, puts in an answer to the original Anti-Slapp motion.
Darrell Best was told by Andy Lucas, when the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the State of Texas, that the next step was going to be coming back down to district court to determine fees and sanctions. NOT to try the entire case over again from scratch.
Judge Weeks Rules for Judgment Against State of Texas and Darrell Best
As part of the hearing in August 2019, Chip Harrison testified under oath that he had been threatened by Andy Lucas. https://salon.glenrose.net/default.asp? ... k&id=17312 Here's part of that
Andy Lucas brought me down to his office and claimed that me, Eugene, Paul and John Parker had thwarted the Open Meetings Act. I believe now if you get the TOMA book, there's an example of that in the tail and that we did not violate the Texas Open Meetings Act.
.....I didn't mind the controversey. I didn't enjoy the bullying. And if any crackpot in town can get the county attorney to file a suit against you, I can't afford that
Lucas: Okay. But I was expressing a concern so that it wouldn't continue to happen, correct? Chip: I guess you could say expressing a concern. I really took it more as like threats and bullying, but we can call it concern. Lucas: I didn't file any case against you or take any action. Chip: You threatened to the day I was in your office. Lucas. Okay. The ... this removal action happened to be filed against Paul Harper, right? Chip: It did. It could have been any of us.
Now, you see that Andy Lucas says "Okay" to Chips comments about threatening and bullying, instead of contesting them. Also, and this is a critical part, IF it were 1 that Harper was violating TOMA with a walking quorum, then rightly the OTHER PEOPLE IN THAT So-CALLED QUORUM should also have been charged. They weren't, ONLY Harper, which definitely gives the appearance Harper was being singled out and it wasn't about TOMA.
Also, John Parker testified that he had been threatened to be sued by the chief deputy of the Sheriff's Department. https://salon.glenrose.net/default.asp? ... k&id=17319. Part of that
And John Parker said he was actually threatened by someone who works for the Somervell County Sheriff's Department.
Brown: Were you ever threatened with a lawsuit?
Brown: Who threatened you with a lawsuit?
Parker: The chief deputy for Somervell Sheriff's Department told me that if I had asked to try to get the $25,000 paid to Paul, he would sue me. That was just after one of our meetings.
That was probably the meeting held on 3/20/2015 at which the indemnification was discussed. According to John Parker, the person that threatened him was Dwayne Griffin. Note that at the meeting in which this was voted on after this,on May 28 2015, the hospital attorney had said that he agreed Harper should be paid the $25,000 from hospital funds. From the minutes
Ron Hankins, who had secretly written the petition for removal, and did not recuse himself for some reason from the vote,voted against.
At this same hearing, the money amounts were discussed in detail, Judge Weeks rendered judgment for Paul Harper in these amounts.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that under § 27.009(a)(1) of the Texas Citizens Participation Act, Defendant’s request for court costs, reasonable attorney’s
fees, and other expenses incurred in defending against the legal action is GRANTED against the State and Best, jointly and severally, and Defendant is awarded against the State and Best, jointly and severally, the following amounts of court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and other expenses which the Court finds are reasonable and justice and equity requires:
1. $227,083.00 in attorney’s fees incurred to date, which the Court finds are reasonable. 2. $6,640.00 in court costs and expenses, which the Court finds are reasonable.
3. Reasonable, conditional appellate fees as follows:
• $50,000.00 in the event the State or Best appeals this matter to the Waco Court of Appeals and Harper prevails;
• $12,000.00 in the event the State or Best seeks a petition for review from the Supreme Court of Texas and a response is requested and Harper prevails;
• $50,000.00 in the event the Supreme Court of Texas seeks briefing on the merits from Harper and Harper prevails;
• $15,000.00 in the event the Supreme Court of Texas grants oral argument and Harper prevails; and
• $10,000.00 in the event Harper must respond to a motion for rehearing at the Supreme Court of Texas by the State or Best and Harper prevails
Notice that some of this judgment was in case Lucas, as the State of Texas, decided to appeal this judgment. He did not and thus any opportunity to contest whether the judgment was fair or not is gone.
What was telling was that Andy Lucas attorney tried to take out Lucas responsibility for the case by trying to take out the text that showed the State of Texas appeared through its counsel AND REPRESENTATIVE AND also attempted to exempt Somervell County, who was not a specific party to the case from having to pay the judgement, as well as the Somervell County Attorney. The judge, OF COURSE, said no to the latter. Have said multiple times in this forum that Somervell County paid for the case anyway; they paid for Andy Lucas' attorney, all filing fees, anything that had to do with getting the case ready, and the Somervell County Commissioners Court voted multiple times to pay for it from county funds. That's not to mention that the Texas AG's office said in a letter that the county was responsible because what Lucas did as the State of Texas was discretionary.
Darrell Best Tries Bankruptcy to get out of judgment, Fails, Pays $45,000
George Darrell Best, usually known as Darrell Best, is the one who originally brought the Petition for Removal, which was secretly written by Ron Hankins, former Somervell County Attorney and current Somervell County Hospital District board member. The judgment went against him and also the State of Texas. Best didn't want to have to pay.
Best filed bankruptcy on January 13, 2020 in the US Western District Bankruptcy Court, Case #20-60034-rbk. Here is Best's bankruptcy petition which included a list of his debts, debtors and assets.
Darrell Best went through a credit counselor before filing
His bankruptcy also included employing an auctioneer to sell property, including, among other items, a 1925 Model T Firetruck and a 1945 Buffalo Firetruck
Harper objected to Best trying to get out of the judgment and filed an adversary case on April 17, 2020 Case 20- (bolding is mine)
I. NATURE OF ACTION
1. This action has been made necessary to object to Best’s discharge of a legal debt to Harper. Defendant George Darrell Best committed a willful and malicious injury to Paul Harper’s
freedom of speech when he filed a petition to remove (“Removal Petition”) Harper from elected office as a board member of the Somervell County Hospital District. Harper prevailed at the Supreme Court of Texas under the protections of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) which protects citizens who petition or speak on matters of public concern from retaliatory lawsuits that seek to intimidate or silence them. Best’s actions in attempting to silence Harper’s free speech were willful and malicious, causing injury to Harper, and Best should not be rewarded with a discharge of his debt to Harper, which is in the form of a Final Judgment in the amount of $268,723.00 plus post judgment interest compounded annually at 5.25%.
Basis for Objecting to Discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)
7. Over the last five years, Best and Harper have been parties in a Texas District Court Lawsuit (“State Court Action”), The State of Texas Ex Rel. George Darrell Best, v. Paul Reed Harper, Cause No. C10369, in the 249th Judicial District Court, Somervell County, Texas.
8. The facts giving rise to the State Court Action began on May 13, 2014, when Harper was elected to the Somervell County Hospital District. Harper’s stated campaign promises were
to eliminate the property tax assessed by the Hospital District and for the Hospital District to enter into an agreement with a third party to run the hospital, as other hospitals throughout Texas have done. Following his election, Harper tried to make good on his campaign promises.
9. At an August 21, 2014 Hospital District, Harper expressed support for a tax rate of $0.00 by stating “I’d vote for zero.” He did not make any motion to set the tax rate at $0.00. The
board did not act upon Harper’s support for a tax rate of $0.00, but instead set the maximum tax rate at 0.1195 cents per $100 valuation.
10. On the same night, August 21, 2014, Harper’s wife, Deborah Harper, published a blog post on the Somervell County Salon which was critical of some of the board members and
employees of the Hospital District.
11. On August 22, 2014, George Best filed a Removal Petition under Texas Local Government Code §§ 87.001-.043 to remove Harper from office, alleging that Harper was incompetent to hold office. Best alleged that Harper’s incompetency stemmed from making a motion to set the tax rate at $0.00 and for posting or causing someone else to post the blog post on
the Somervell County Salon. A true and correct copy of the Removal Petition is attached hereto as Exhibit A. The Removal Petition directly led to the temporary suspension of Harper from the hospital board. Best argued these two actions were enough to remove Harper for incompetency under the removal statute.
12. The removal statute authorizes any Texas resident who has lived in a country for at least six months to file a petition to remove certain county officers from office. Following the
filing of a removal petition, the removal statute requires the county attorney to “represent the state” in any removal proceedings that take place.
13. The Local Government Code provides that the district judge may temporarily suspend an elected official, during a removal proceeding, pending a trial. Tex. Loc. Gov’t. Code §
87.017. A hearing was held on October 20, 2014 to determine whether Harper should be temporarily suspended from the board pending a jury trial on the Removal Petition. Following an
evidentiary hearing, the trial court suspended Harper from the board.
14. In response to the Removal Petition, Harper filed a motion to dismiss the case under the TCPA. The TCPA’s purpose “is to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons
to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury.” Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 27.002 (emphasis added). The TCPA permits a party to file a motion to dismiss a legal action if the action “is based on, relates to, or is in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech, right to petition, or right of association.” Id. at § 27.003(a).
15. Harper argued that the Removal Petition was based on or in response to his exercise of the right to petition and right of free speech. The TCPA allows a defendant to obtain expedited
dismissal of certain legal actions for which the party bringing the action does not establish prima facie support. Harper contended that no prima facie case for removal could be established because he did not formally move to set the district’s tax rate at zero and he did not author or publish the blog post, nor did he cause the blog post to be authored or published.
16. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Harper’s TCPA motion to dismiss and signed an order denying the motion on March 11, 2015.
17. Harper filed an interlocutory appeal from the trial court’s order. On appeal, the Waco Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Harper’s motion to dismiss and remanded the proceeding to the trial court for rendition of an order granting Harper’s motion to dismiss and for a determination of Harper’s request for court costs, attorneys’ fees, and sanctions
as mandated by the TCPA.
18. The state moved for rehearing, which the Waco Court of Appeals denied. While the motion for rehearing was pending, Harper lost his bid for reelection.
19. The Supreme Court of Texas granted the State’s Petition for Review. On December
21, 2018, the Supreme Court of Texas delivered an opinion affirming the Waco Court of Appeals decision, with a modification, and remanded the case to the trial court for rendition of an order granting Harper’s TCPA motion to dismiss and for a determination of Harper’s request for court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and sanctions. A true and correct copy of the Supreme Court of Texas Opinion is attached hereto as Exhibit B. The Supreme Court of Texas labeled Best’s claims against Harper as a “transparent retaliation against Harper’s quixotic political beliefs”. See Exhibit B, p. 13.
20. Upon remand, the District Court conducted a trial on August 20, 2019 consistent with the order from the Supreme Court of Texas. Best’s testimony at trial, through previous
deposition testimony, showed that he acknowledged there was no record of Harper making a motion to set the tax rate at zero, and that there was no indication on the blog post that it was written by Harper. A true and correct copy of Best’s deposition testimony is attached hereto as Exhibit C. As recognized by the Supreme Court of Texas, the allegations made by Best in the Removal Petition were a transparent retaliation against Harper’s political beliefs.
21. Following the trial, Judge John Weeks signed a Final Judgment on September 10, 2019. A true and correct copy of the Final Judgment is attached hereto as Exhibit D.
22. The Final Judgment granted, in part, Harper’s TCPA Motion to Dismiss. Under § 27.009(a)(1) of the TCPA, the Court assessed personal liability against Best for $227,083.00 in
attorney’s fees and $6,640.00 in court costs and expenses.
23. The Court also sanctioned Best under § 27.009(a)(2) of the TCPA $35,000.00 for bringing the Removal Petition against Harper and to deter him from bringing similar actions in the
24. The post judgment interest on all of the above is 5.25%, compounded annually, until all amounts are paid in full.
25. Harper sought to collect the Final Judgement from Best until he filed his Voluntary Petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on January 13, 2020.
26. The opinion of the Supreme Court of Texas, Best’s testimony at trial, and the Final Judgment reflect behavior by Best that caused willful and malicious injury to Harperby filing his unmeritorious Removal Petition. All injuries inflicted on Harper, including the violation of his freedom of speech, were willful and malicious. Despite Best’s attempt to remove Harper from office based on allegations of incompetency, the Supreme Court of Texas summed it up best when it stated, “We are not fooled. We doubt anyone else is. Harper’s refusal to capitulate to Best’s demands does not render him incompetent.” See Exhibit B, p. 13. The attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions assessed against Best in favor of Harper are therefore non-dischargeable.
V. CAUSES OF ACTION
Best’s $268,723.00 Debt to Harper Is Not Dischargeable
27. Harper incorporates by reference the allegations contained in Paragraph 1 through 26.
28. Section 523 Exceptions To Discharge of the Bankruptcy Code states in relevant part:
(a) A discharge under section 727, 1141, 1228(b), or 1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt –
(6) for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the roperty of another entity;
11 U.S.C § 523(a)(6).
29. Harper objects to Best’s discharge due to Best’s willful and malicious injury to Harper pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6).
30. The facts determined in the State Court Action demonstrate that Best willfully and maliciously injured Harper’s right to free speech by Best filing the Removal Petition without being able to establish clear and specific evidence to support his allegations against Harper. Harper was temporarily removed from the board and forced to spend attorneys’ fees and costs to defend himself from a lawsuit the Supreme Court of Texas labeled a “pretext for forcing Harper to cease acting on the beliefs that won him his office in the first place.” See Exhibit B, p. 13.
31. The Supreme Court of Texas labeled Best’s actions as an attack on core political speech. Id.
32. Best filed an unmeritorious lawsuit with the intention of removing Harper from his elected position in order to thwart his freedom of speech and silence him from speaking out on matters of public concern. The suspension from office, the subsequent infringement on Harper’s free speech, and the resulting financial injury were damages intended by Best by the filing of his Removal Petition. Filing a Removal Petition against an elected official without any basis of support
in order to silence the person’s political speech is done without any cause or excuse. This meets 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)’s requirement that the injury is willful and malicious because there is either an objective substantial certainty of harm or a subjective motive to cause harm. Best filed the Removal Petition with the actual intent to cause injury to Harper.
33. Under the Bankruptcy Code, not every debtor is afforded a fresh start – only the honest and unfortunate debtor, which Best is neither. The Court should enter judgment in favor of Harper and deny the dischargeability of Best’s debt to Harper pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6).
Best then went to the State of Texas (ie, Andy Lucas) to try to be part of a deal for Harper, but Lucas told him that they weren't paying. That, in my opinion, left Best hanging out to dry.
Best then made his own deal with Harper to pay part of the judgment.
The bankruptcy court put up Best's firetrucks to sell. His 1925 Ford Model T Firetruck sold for $4,900 and the 1945 Buffalo Firetruck sold for $1,700.
Who Paid for the State of Texas to Pursue This and for Lucas's attorneys? You did
Some people in the community, including some on the Somervell County Commissioners Court, thought the case was a private one between Darrell Best and Paul. I have no idea if they were honestly fooled, or considered it a better public stance to pretend the case would simply go away. They ignored the fact that Andy Lucas, as the State of Texas, had decided to take on Darrell Best’s specious claims and added one of his own, and was thus moving through the system as either the appellee or the appellant, depending on which court he was pleading
in. Consider that if Andy Lucas were truly and solely concerned with a TOMA (Texas Open Meeting Act) violation, he could have done that separately and it would have been appropriate, nay, really necessary, for him to also include the others he alleged were violating TOMA via a walking quorum, which would involve multiple people. He did not. Certainly the clue for who is responsible would have been that the styling was not merely Darrell Best but Andy as the State of Texas in relation to Best.
Besides this, Somervell County Commissioners Court voted on at least two occasions to pay for Andy Lucas legal fees in this case. Andy apparently didn’t believe he had the legal expertise to act on his own behalf so he hired an attorney. One of the attorneys from the law firm he contracted with did the oral argument pleading before the Texas Supreme Court, not Andy. Andy Lucas does have a budget but a budget transfer was done from taxpayer funds to pay for that extra attorney. The last time I looked at this was in August 2016, when the outside legal expenses for this case were $4,726.50. 159 No mention was ever given in budgeting sessions for upcoming years, nor did, apparently, Somervell County Commissioners Court have even one meeting about this lawsuit. I consider that irresponsible. It may be that the case, when it finally wound through the courts, would end up favoring Andy Lucas, but the commissioners court had no way of knowing that and keeping the commissioners informed through properly posted open meetings, even if held in closed session, was imperative. I spoke to a commissioner at one point and he said he knew about the case. I told him it shouldn’t be just a gossip issue but a losing verdict would affect taxpayers. I was also told, anecdotally, that Andy Lucas at one point went around to the commissioners’ offices to tell them, in groups of two, that he was probably going to lose. Not only did that sound like a walking quorum, but it skirts the very idea of public service governance.
Lucas had no engagement letter with the attorney who represented him at the Texas Supreme Court.
Somervell County paid that attorney's invoices.
How is that done? One time I was at a Somervell County Commissioners Court meeting and Brian Watts, the auditor, mentioned that there was a budget transfer that needed to be made for Andy Lucas. No one on the court asked what that was, and I wondered, so I did an open records request. That led to finding that we, the taxpayer, were paying for two different attorneys who were doing work on the Best v Harper case.
What? YOU had to hire an attorney, we got to use county resources! You don’t mind
paying twice do you?
I attended a Somervell County Commissioners meeting a while back, in July 2016. The county auditor, in presenting the budget transfers (parts of one account to be shifted and paid by another) mentioned moving money to pay the County Attorney’s outside legal expenses. Since Andy Lucas had most recently filed a “Motion for Rehearing” in the case, I not only wondered what the outside expenses might be, but also if Lucas had paid other attorneys to help him with his motion. Got the answer, yup, he paid out $4726.50 to a couple of different
attorney firms. Other than that, his cost, besides his time, was for filing fees. The county, that is, the taxpayers of Somervell County, are the ones that are paying for this. The question is, what skin is off the county attorney’s nose to spend to fight frivolous cases in court? Not much, compared to the cost that Paul has had to pay out, which started with $25,000 and has gone up from there.
To add insult to injury, because there was also an appraisal district property tax lawsuit going on with Luminant at the same time, I had to hear Judge Danny Chambers say that he thought Luminant should pay, they’d already lost twice,. I thought, and yes, so has Andy Lucas and the State of Texas, where is Paul Harper’s justice?
Somervell County Judge and Commissioners Court pretended the suit didn’t exist
What was appalling to me was that, even though should Paul have continue to prevail in winning against Lucas's lawsuit, the Somervell County Commissioners Court did not hold one meeting, open or closed, to discuss it. One of the commissioners told me he was aware of it but only informally. That seems like a dereliction of duty. I did hear that Andy Lucas went around individually to the commissioners to tell them at one point that he thought the county had lost, but this was done as a sort of walking quorum, not in any type of public session. Where was the obligation to Somervell County taxpayers?
https://salon.glenrose.net/default.asp? ... k&id=17358
Consider also that Somervell County Commissioners routinely approved, in Somervell County Commissioners Court meetings, paying for these invoices of Andy's for the case without any type of discussion. Let me say that again. The commissioners not only didn't balk at paying attorney fees in this case that Lucas was primarily pursuing, but they didn't even discuss it at all in meetings. Is there any way you would know that this was being done? Only on this site.
Don't forget that when Somervell County received notice of suit from Paul Harper for the judgment, they hired an attorney Mike Dixon to represent them (different attorney than the one Andy Lucas hired to represent him as the State of Texas) . You may wonder whether Danny Chambers knew already that the Texas Ag's office told them via letter they were responsible to pay. Yes, they did. No, they did not until Paul filed suit and then almost a year later paid.
I have not yet done an open records request for this amount but plan to in the future. Who paid? You, the taxpayer
Somervell County Commissioners Court settles $165,000
Dec 2019-Harper sent a notice to sue to Somervell County. Don't forget the judgment against the State of Texas was done in September of 2019, with zero accountability by the county, who pays for the State of Texas bills.
Then Best was chased into his attempt to avoid payment by declaring bankruptcy court action http://scsalon.org/newform/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=90
2020- Because of a lack of any action by Somervell County or the State of Texas to resolve this, Harper put in a Notice to sue Somervell County and the State of Texas -asking for a declaratory judgement. Ie, Who is the State of Texas? Is it the office in Austin where the Comptroller pays or is it the State of Texas, Andy Lucas? Remember that the State of Texas Attorney General's office had already, apparently twice, sent a letter explaining that the county was responsible to pay.
Notice that the AG's office says that Somervell County is responsible to pay, waived immunity for the costs, and because Lucas prosecuted the underlying legal action at (his) own discretion and without any involvement of the AG's office.
The parties in this case reached out to our office regarding collection of the final judgment, however, Somervell County and/or Somervell County's District Attorney are responsible for judgments for attorneys' fees and sanctions. See, e.g., Tex Local Gov't Code 87.017(c) (requiring the county to pay expenses related to a prosecution under that code, thus waiving the county's immunity for those costs). As the parties are aware, Somervell County and its County Attorney prosecuted the underlying legal action at its own discretion and without any involvement of our office.
No law authorizes or requires our office to request the Comptroller to disburse General Revenue funds on the basis of discretionary decisions by local governments which result in them being sanctioned by a court.
Somervell County reached out to settle and agreed to settle the case for $165,000 on August 31, 2020, some 6 years after the original Petition for Removal was filed.
Why did Somervell County pay?
The State of Texas as represented by County Attorney Andrew Lucas was responsible to pay the judgment.
Here's the rub. Lucas took on the frivolous petition by Darrell Best (and secretly written by Ron Hankins) for all purposes and added an item of his own. He did so, not as the Somervell County Attorney but as the State of Texas. When the judgment came down from Judge Weeks in District Court in 2019, The State of Texas and Darrell Best were jointly and severally responsible for the money judgment. Somervell County was not explicitly listed, because they had not been a party to the lawsuit.
Somervell County had been paying Lucas's attorney bills for the case, including the Commissioners Court voting to pay those bills.
The bills were not paid by the Comptroller's office in Austin.
The Texas Attorney General's office sent a letter stating that the county was responsible to pay the State of Texas judgement because it was entirely discretionary on Lucas part to take on the case, he could have said, this is nonsense and turned it down and 2. the county is responsible for his bills. (see above)
Cantey-Hanger was FANTASTIC!!!
Paul was represented by Cantey-Hanger out of Fort Worth, specifically, Mary Barkley and Chris Brown. As an onlooker, I was so impressed with the quality of the work they did. It's been six years and Brown, in particular, went from having no children to a number of them.