Judge Sanctions Lawyers, Client $525,000 and Orders Ethics Training September 15, 2023
HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Elaine Palmer issued a remarkable sanction of $525,000 against lawyers Michael D. Sydow, Chidi D. Anunobi and their client Iron Oak, a litigation management company. The judge also required that Messrs. Sydow and Anunobi must each take 10 hours of ethics CLE each year for the next five years.
At AZA’s request for its frivolously sued inventor clients, the judge ordered:
- a $250,000 sanction on Iron Oak (the suing party)
- a $250,000 sanction on Iron Oak lawyer Michael D. Sydow
- A $25,000 sanction on Iron Oak lawyer Chidi D. Anunobi
- Sydow and Anunobi each must take 10 hours of ethics CLE each year for the next 5 years
“These sanctions are among the largest in Texas and importantly require the lawyers who put forth this fraud to take 50 hours each of ethical training to try to prevent such abuses of the court system in the future,” said AZA lawyer Shawn Bates. “The original ruse that our clients owed Iron Oak millions was a fraud and the multiple lawsuits filed to try to collect were frauds on the courts.”
Judge Palmer found that the lawsuit was filed for an improper purpose. It stems from Iron Oak promising to provide litigation backup for a lawsuit in France for inventors Micheal Porter and John Preston. That French litigation went nowhere but Iron Oak claimed in courts in Texas, New York and Massachusetts that the investors nonetheless owed Iron Oak $10 million.
Law360 wrote about the case in “E-Discovery Co., Attys Sanctioned $525K For Bogus Suits.” (subscription required) and Texas Lawbook featured the case in “Houston Judge Orders Ethics Training, $525K Sanction Against 2 Attorneys” (subscription required).
“We urged the trial judge to send a message that you do not come to our courts, file a frivolous lawsuit, then try to judge-shop that new lawsuit to obtain an ex parte TRO trying to stop the impending dismissal of yet another frivolous suit you filed in another state. And you do not sue the lawyers involved as a frivolous extra. Not in Texas,” Bates said.
Judge Palmer, who had earlier dismissed another lawsuit by Iron Oak in this matter, found this lawsuit was just a ruse to try to get a TRO to help stay one of the other lawsuits where their attempt to collect on the bogus claim for $10 million was about to be tossed as well.
The case is Iron Oak Inc. v. Michael Eugene Porter et al. Harris County case number 2022-80846.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2023 as among the best in Texas in commercial law and intellectual property; has been listed by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for 11 years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer three times, including for 2021; and was previously dubbed a Texas Powerhouse law firm by Law360.