State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and 44th District Court Judge Carlos Cortez got in a heated dispute at Lisa Blue Baron’s holiday party on Dec. 11 and had to be separated, according to a witness who saw the altercation. West declines to discuss the particulars. “The reality is that it was a very unfortunate situation. Lisa has been very gracious to invite everyone to a holiday party that everyone was looking forward to attending. And it’s very unfortunate that it happened,” West says. Cortez declines to comment, but Baron says the situation was not serious. “I’ve been doing this party with my husband for 10 years. And as far as the incidents that have happened, this was the least interesting. It was a total nothing burger. And it was . . . just a misunderstanding. And no one was asked to leave my house, and no one was escorted out.” The Dallas Morning News reported Cortez as saying the dispute between himself and West partially was over who was the best musical performer at Baron’s lavish party — Michael McDonald or Sheryl Crow — but West disagrees. “It’s unfortunate that Cortez is [saying] that it was an argument over who was the best performer. That is not the case. There were several people who were standing around who heard everything he said and can talk about what his demeanor was,” West says. One witness, an attorney who requests anonymity, says, “I noticed Judge Cortez shouting at Royce West . . . and the senator appearing puzzled as to why he was being shouted at. The two of them began to approach each other as if they were going to fight until they were separated by those around them. . . . And then Judge Cortez continued to shout at Royce. It was profanities,” the lawyer says. “I don’t know what started the fight, but I can tell you how it ended — with security between them. And around that time, Carlos began shouting at Terri Moore. I don’t know what precipitated that,” the witness says. Moore, Dallas County first assistant district attorney, says she doesn’t “have any comment to make about the foolishness.” Baron notes that she is plaintiffs’ counsel in a suit pending in Cortez’s court that involves a multimillion-dollar business dispute. West is one of the lawyers representing the defendants in that case. “Royce and I have certainly had conversations where we disagree, but we can certainly work together,” Baron says. “The history of this case is delay after delay after delay, and my hope is the defendants won’t try to use this [the party altercation] to try to delay the case again.” West declines to comment about how the altercation may affect the litigation pending in Cortez’s court. “Right now, the only thing I’m doing is preparing for the Legislature,” West says. Tex Parte readers may remember another incident involving Cortez from May 2009. The Dallas Morning News reported that Cortez and 14th District Court Judge Eric Moyé got into an alleged altercation in Cortez’s chambers. According to the article, Moyé said the conflict was over some e-mails Cortez sent Moyé about internal court business, which led to Moyé confronting Cortez. Cortez's lawyer said Moyé assaulted Cortez — in front of a court bailiff — an allegation Moyé denied.
UPDATE: Cortez returned Texas Lawyer's phone call seeking comment and left a message after the above blog was posted, and I called him back. He says everything is fine between himself and West. And he says his statement to The Dallas Morning News that the musical lineup at the party contributed to the dust-up was not serious and was made tongue in cheek. “Royce West’s law firm was just in my court yesterday. I’ve got no issues with him. I consider him a friend and am going to see him Friday at a holiday party,” Cortez says. “I agree with Lisa Blue. No one was escorted out. No one was asked to leave,” Cortez says. “There’s nothing to discuss about this stupidity."
-- John Council