Appeal court overturns attorney's disbarment
An appeals court in McAllen, Texas has reversed an attorney's disbarment and ordered a new trial after evidence revealed that an "erroneous" testimony was provided during his ethics trial. The ruling to overturn Mark A. Cantu disbarment and order for new ethics trial came on May 31, 2018 after it was determined that the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, who were the complaints in the case, made an error by using Marvin Isgur, a U.S Bankruptcy Judge to testify in the course of Cantu's ethics trial.
The ethics trial which was held in 2016, came as a result of alleged misconduct of Cantu by the commission in his personal bankruptcy case. A jury trial was set up and conducted on March 10, 2016, and it ended in a 10-2 ruling in favor of the commission. The final ruling which was filed on April 11, 2016, prohibited Cantu from practicing law in Texas. District Judge Lori Valenzuela gave the ruling. Immediately the verdict was passed, Cantu appealed Valenzuela's decision, and this prompted the appeal court to order for a new trial.
Justice Don Wittig presiding over the appeal case said the appeals court agrees with Cantu's notion that Isgur's testimony made the ruling of the trial void, and as such, there is a need to reverse the "judgment of disbarment and conduct a new trial." "We can conclude that there were some errors in the development and presentation of the case, and a new trial is at this moment ordered," the appellate court ruled. In the course of the trial, the commission called Isgur to testify as a first witness, and it was Isgur who oversaw Cantu's personal bankruptcy case.
Court records show that Isgur testified that he did not in any way preside over Cantu's personal bankruptcy case, but he only "oversaw the lawsuits that emanated from the bankruptcy case." The appeal court overruled Isgur's testimony, citing that not only was it unnecessary, it was also a lapse by the commission as there was no indication "that the Commission didn't have a substitute in his place," according to court documents. It was found that Isgur was presented before the jury as a US bankruptcy judge, and he presented his testimony based on "his orders and opinions."
The judges mentioned that "the trial court didn't make sure that the jury understands that you judge's testimony shouldn't be appropriated a greater weight just because the judge is standing as a witness. We can conclude that the error in admission in regards to the judge's testimony might have played a role in the delivery of faulty judgment."
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