Ex-bankruptcy judge claims immunity in suit alleging he retaliated against litigant who revealed romance

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Ex-bankruptcy judge claims immunity in suit alleging he retaliated against litigant who revealed romance

Judge David R. Jones, a Texas bankruptcy judge, in August 2020. Jones’ has said he is immune from a lawsuit contending that he retaliated against a litigant who revealed the judge’s relationship with a lawyer whose law firm had cases before the court. Photo by Brett Coomer/The Houston Chronicle via Getty Images.

Former U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones of Houston has said he is immune from an Oct. 4 lawsuit contending that he retaliated against a litigant who revealed the judge’s relationship with a lawyer whose law firm had cases before the court.

Jones argued in a Dec. 29 motion to dismiss that the plaintiff, Michael D. Van Deelen, can’t sue over his confirmation of a reorganization plan because it was a core judicial function for which judges have immunity, report Law360 and Reuters.

The reorganization is on appeal, which is the proper way to challenge a judgment, Jones said in the dismissal motion.

Van Deelen set in motion a chain of events that led to Jones’ October resignation. At the time, a pending ethics complaint accused Jones of having a romantic relationship with Elizabeth Freeman, a partner at Houston bankruptcy firm Jackson Walker, at the same time that the firm financially benefited from cases before Jones.

Van Deelen had earlier revealed the relationship allegations—received in an anonymous letter—when he sought Jones’ recusal in his June 2020 fraud and conspiracy case against employees of offshore drilling company McDermott International.

Van Deelen was a former shareholder in the company, and he objected when the suit that he filed in state court was removed to Jones’ court at the request of the Jackson Walker firm. A different judge denied Van Deelen’s recusal motion.

Jackson Walker represented McDermott International in its bankruptcy.

Jones had already approved a reorganization plan for McDermott International in March 2020—before Van Deelen’s case was removed to his court. After Van Deelen revealed the romance allegations in the recusal motion, Freeman resigned from Jackson Walker and formed her own firm.

The reorganization approved by Jones had wiped out common equity shares held by Van Deelen and other shareholders, Reuters explains. Van Deelen asked Jones to send his fraud case back to state court.

Jones refused and said in an order the reorganization was final and binding, according to Van Deelen’s Oct. 4 suit against Jones. Jones’ order also stated that any further state court litigation regarding McDermott International or the instant proceedings should be removed immediately to his court. The order was upheld by a federal district judge.

Van Deelen sued Jones on Oct. 4, arguing that Jones’ order was “retaliation for ‘outing’ defendant Jones and his paramour Freeman.”

See also:

“Partner denied any current relationship with bankruptcy judge, Jackson Walker firm says”



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