Trials & Litigation

Lawyer running for the bench says her experience as 'vexatious litigant' would make her a better judge

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An Austin, Texas, lawyer running for a judgeship in the Democratic primary says being designated a “vexatious litigant” would make her a better judge.

Lawyer Madeleine Connor told the Austin American-Statesman that being a Travis County, Texas, judge would allow her to prevent others from being sanctioned the way that she has. “Having all of these experiences, I think I would make an excellent judge,” she told the newspaper.

Connor was deemed a “vexatious litigant” both in Texas state court and in federal court for the Western District of Texas in connection with multiple lawsuits that she filed against board members of the Lost Creek Municipal Utility District.

The designation prevents Connor from filing new lawsuits on her own behalf without judicial permission, both in Texas state courts and the Western District of Texas.

On Jan. 27, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered Connor to pay about $43,000 in attorney fees and expenses as a sanction in the federal litigation after she filed three lawsuits against utility board members. She was previously ordered to pay more than $27,000 in fees and sanctions in state court, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The litigation began in 2015 with a dispute over the installation of sidewalks in West Austin’s Lost Creek neighborhood, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Three years later, Connor filed a state court lawsuit alleging that one of the Lost Creek board members posed as one of her clients and posted a negative online review.

A state court judge tossed Connor’s suit because it was filed after the statute of limitations for defamation claims had expired, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

In federal court, the litigation concerned a “litigation status update” sent by the board to Lost Creek residents that Connor deemed to be pejorative and retaliation for exercising her First Amendment rights. The federal court found that the update was not pejorative.

Connor told the Austin American-Statesman that she thinks the “vexatious litigant” statute is unconstitutional, and it was used improperly against her.

“I’m certain that neither the Texas Constitution nor the United States Constitution puts limitations on citizens suing in civil court,” she told the newspaper.

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