ESD Says ‘Case is Over,’ But Plaintiffs Seek Sanctions
In the Episcopal School of Dallas’ latest round of legal battles related to a teacher’s sexual relationship with a student, attorneys for the Doe family argued today that the school committed witness tampering, intimidation, obstruction of justice, and perjury through the actions of its attorneys and employees.
This is the second round of sanctions hearings against lead ESD counsel Chrysta Castañeda as well as her firm, Locke Lord. After landing on the losing end of a $9.2 million jury verdict in September, ESD hired a multitude of attorneys from Haynes & Boone, who have been handling post-trial matters.
Judge D’Metria Benson heard a variety of motions related to the final judgment and sanctions against ESD on Nov. 10. She heard the remainder of sanctions charges, or as many as the plaintiffs could get through in the 20-minute allotment, this afternoon.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Brent Walker alleged that ESD knowingly hid important documents by falsely claiming attorney-client privilege. Walker said the “sad story” email, a key document in the case, was not turned over until the night before the trial began.
In the email, Upper School head Erin Mayo wrote that she didn’t “want the girl haunting the halls with her sad story.” The email was sent to chief academic officer Rebecca Royall’s assistant. Former CFO Chris Burrow submitted a sworn statement that the document was attorney-client communication.
“That is simply an attempt to hide relevant information by falsely asserting privilege,” Walker said, adding that ESD also claimed privilege on other internal communications. “This is a pattern of behavior, not a bunch of discreet instances.”
Walker also took issue with Castañeda’s individual conduct. Despite Benson directing Castañeda to accept subpoena service for Burrow, Walker said she failed to on five separate occasions.
“She refuses to comply with the court’s order,” he said.
Castañeda, sitting a few feet away, did not speak during the hearing. George Bramblett and Chip Brooker of Haynes & Boone argued against the charges on behalf of Castañeda and Locke Lord.
“As we all know, there are two sides to every story,” Bramblett said. “This case has not been easy on anyone.”
Bramblett asserted that the plaintiffs’ “pre-ordained” this hearing before the trial ever began and established a record that shows “a cry for sanctions.”
“They complained about everything,” he said. “It was a litigation strategy.”
Bramblett called the sanctions hearing unprecedented and said with the verdict already delivered in favor of the plaintiffs, there was “nothing left to remedy.” He even went as far as to say that collecting on sanctions after winning the verdict would amount to “a double recovery.”
“The case is over,” Bramblett said. “Their complaints were resolved by the trial. These issues are moot.”
The plaintiffs are asking for around $90,000 in attorneys fees related to the alleged misconduct. Benson has deferred ruling on sanctions and the final judgement until a later date.