Federal Court Awards District Defendants Hefty Attorney Fee Award for Frivolous Claims

Plaintiffs Calvin Walker, Walker’s Electric, Walkers Electric, and Jessie Haynes filed suit against Beaumont ISD and a number of officials for defamation, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a), RICO racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), and RICO conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d).

They claimed that numerous Defendants were members of a massive, long-standing conspiracy to ruin Plaintiffs’ reputations, as part of a campaign to prevent African American citizens of Beaumont from gaining power and influence in the Beaumont community or as punishment for supporting African American leaders of BISD.

The claims were dismissed and Plaintiffs appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit.  Beaumont ISD and two individual defendants then sought attorney’s fees for frivolous claims raised in the suit pursuant to several Texas Education Code provisions that allow for an award of attorney’s fees for frivolous suits.  According to the District defendants, plaintiffs asserted tort claims against them that were indisputably barred by immunity and had no basis in the law.

According to the District Court, the record supported the finding that the Plaintiffs persisted in claims that were frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation and supported an award of attorneys’ fees. The District Court granted the motion for fees and awarded fees in the amount of $95,282.75 to the BISD Defendants and $46,224.53 to the two other individuals. The fee awards were to be recovered from Plaintiffs, jointly and severally, within twenty-one days of the Court’s order. Walker v. Beaumont Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 1:15-CV-379, 2021 WL 203430, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 19, 2021).

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