Austin ADA attorney Omar W. Rosales slammed with sanctions

Lawyer Omar Rosales, who has filed hundreds of ADA lawsuits in the name of his client John Deutsch (KXAN Photo/Kevin Schwaller)
Lawyer Omar Rosales, who has filed hundreds of ADA lawsuits in the name of his client John Deutsch (KXAN Photo/Kevin Schwaller)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin attorney, who filed nearly 400 lawsuits against local businesses for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, has been slapped with more than $176,000 in penalties for his actions and conduct in federal court, according to an order filed on Wednesday.

The sanctioned attorney, Omar Weaver Rosales, wrongfully accused longtime civil rights attorney Jim Harrington of being racist and anti-Semitic, according to court documents. Rosales also fabricated an email and submitted it as evidence, wrote United States Magistrate Judge Mark Lane.

Lane said Rosales behaved in “embarrassing and shocking ways” during the litigation.

“Normally, people resort to the court system to resolve grievances and discover truth,” Lane said in the order. “In these six cases, however, Rosales has used this system to create strife and perpetuate lies. He has defamed the opposing counsel with false and abusive statements…”

At times, Rosales’ courtroom conduct made Lane feel more like a “referee in a boxing match than an impartial arbiter of the law,” he said in the court order.

Rosales represented a single client, John Deutsch, in each of the hundreds of ADA lawsuits the duo filed across South and East Austin. For more than a year, KXAN has reported on the suits and the growing chorus of concerned business owners and ADA advocates who have expressed concern about the plaintiff and his counsel’s motives.

KXAN’s investigation found that Rosales and Deutsch typically sued small businesses owners without notifying them beforehand. Deutsch and Rosales would offer to settle the cases for roughly $3,000 to $7,000, which is generally less than the cost of a defense. The lawsuits hinged on parking lot ADA violations, such as improper signage, door thresholds, wheel chair ramps and handicap parking spots with the wrong dimensions.

Harrington defended several businesses pro bono. The cases between Harrington and Rosales became increasingly contentious. Rosales accused Harrington of emailing a racist remark, and he even filed a “groundless” report with the Austin Police Department alleging that Harrington stalked him, the court order states.

Ultimately, Rosales’ accusations against Harrington were unfounded, according to the court, and Rosales will have to pay for them.

The court has ordered Rosales to pay Harrington $32,962 in fees. Rosales must also pay Herring & Panzer LLP, which represented Harrington, $136,122 in fees and $6,588 in expenses.

Lane has referred Rosales to the local federal bar disciplinary committee to see if further sanctions are necessary. Rosales could be disbarred from the Western District of Texas, or more.

“Rosales cannot repeatedly hurl offensive and baseless allegations at Harrington and expect to avoid the financial consequences when Harrington obtains top-flight representation to defend against this character assassination,” Lane wrote. “As Rosales has made his bed, he must lie on it.”