Ibarra v. Harris County is a case Chuck Rosenthal won’t soon forget. That’s because that civil rights case played a large part in the former Harris County district attorney’s downfall after it was discovered that Rosenthal deleted 2,500 e-mails that were supposed to be turned over in discovery as part of that civil rights case. After racist and sexist e-mails were discovered on his computer while that case was litigated, Rosenthal resigned in 2008. But that litigation also resulted in U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt sanctioning not only Rosenthal but also three other government attorneys. The 5th Circuit's July 28 opinion in the consolidated cases of Ibarra, et al. v. Baker, et al. addressing those sanctions discusses the e-mails and it notes Hoyt sanctioned Rosenthal and held him in contempt. Rosenthal paid monetary sanctions and is not a party to the appeal. Hoyt also sanctioned Mary Baker and Frank E. Sanders, two assistant Harris County attorneys, for coaching a witness and for giving and/or abiding false testimony, according to the 5th Circuit’s opinion. Hoyt sanctioned Scott Durfee, a Harris County assistant district attorney, for attorney misconduct after Hoyt found Durfee partially to blame for the e-mail deletion, the 5th Circuit opinion notes. Baker, Sanders and Durfee all appealed Hoyt’s findings. Yesterday, the 5th Circuit affirmed the findings against Baker and Sanders for witness coaching but reversed the findings against them for giving or abiding false testimony. However, Durfee was completely cleared of misconduct after the 5th Circuit found “no valid legal basis” for sanctioning him. Baker declines comment, and Sanders did not immediately return a call for comment. Durfee says he’s “relieved and gratified” with the ruling. A telephone number for Rosenthal could not be located.
-- John Council