The right to compete and let the voters decide has been skewed by influence money. Now in Tarrant County, an independently wealthy candidate is using his ability to out-sue, out litigate, out spend on attorney's fees to chase his opponents out of the primary and/or drain-dry the resources of opponents.
Richard (Dick) N. Abrams filed for Justice of the Peace, Pct.6 in South Fort Worth against two other Democratic opponents. He challenged the petitions of his opponents claiming that all spaces on the form were not filled in or were incorrect. Abrams threatened to sue his opponents and the County Chair if the county chair did not remove their names from the primary ballot. One opponent, John Williams, was disqualified for filing for more than one office. Tarrant County Democratic Chair Steve Maxwell reviewed the challenge and ruled that Ms. Brooks had sufficient valid signatures of registered voters in the precinct to remain on the ballot. Abrams filed a law suit in Tarrant County District Court against Maxwell and Brooks, seeking and injunction to keep her name off the Primary Ballot and all his court costs and legal fees. All judges in Tarrant County are Republicans.
"It is absurd," said Harriet Irby, Ms. Brooks' treasurer. "I don't understand why a Democratic candidate would do this. There are no Democratic judges in Tarrant County. This matter will be settled in a Republican judge's courtroom. He knew that when he filed this suit!" She added: "He seems to be someone who likes to file lawsuits and has plenty of money to easily pay the legal costs. There are a number of them filed by him in recent months. He seems to win about half of them."
There are court records to support Irby's impression of Abrams. He sued Unity Mutual Life Insurance Company over what he claimed was a hand-shake agreement for commissions. When the ruling was that hand-shake agreements ae unenforceable, he appealed it from the U.S. Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division No 99 C 3182 to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. All rulings were that his alleged hand-shake agreement for commission on preneed funerals were non-enforceable.
Abrams' lawsuit against Tarrant County Democratic Chair Steve Maxwell and his opponent, Roy LaVerne Brooks, is worded to indicate intentions of appealing any decision which does not remove Ms. Brooks' name from the Democratic Primary Ballot all the way to the Texas Supreme Court (another all Republican body).
Mr. Abrams has established a pattern of using his financial prowess to threaten costly legal action in attempts to intimidate less affluent citizens from exercising their constitutional right to run for public office. At each stage, he threatens further legal battles. In the brief filed by his attorney in Tarrant County District Court further threats of lawsuits and costs if he does not win are included in # 4 on the last page: "Abrams' reasonable and necessary attorney's fees incurred through trial and through any appeal taken to the court of appeals and/or the Texas Supreme Court, as permitted by Chapter 37 of the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgements Act, or as otherwise recoverable by contract, common law and/or statue;"
and "#5. Prejudgement and post-judgement interest, if any , as provided by law;"
and "#6. All cost of suit;"
and "#7. Such other and further relief, special or general, legal or equitable, to which Abrams may show himself to be justly entitled."
NEED TO STEP-UP LATE PRIMARY FUND-RAISING EFFORT
Roy LaVerne Brooks, former Vice Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, is a candidate for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 6 in Tarrant County. Roy's vision is to partner with the community to help prevent some of the situations which bring people into the JP Court. One of her opponents, a billionaire and C.E.O. of Surety Bank, filed a challenge on all of his opponents seeking to get their names removed from the ballot. Abrams alleges that they did not have enough valid signatures on their petitions. One candidate withdrew rather than to fight legal challenges.
The challenge against Roy LaVerne was reviewed by the Tarrant County Democratic Chair. The ruling was that she had sufficient names on her petition of registered voters in the precinct and her name remains on the ballot. Mr. Abrams was not satisfied with that ruling and threatened to sue the party chair and Roy LaVerne. He filed suit in District Court, asking for an injunction to keep Roy's name off the ballot and asking that she pay all his court costs should she lose. Since all judges in Tarrant County are Republicans, he knew that this Democratic Party election case would be tried in a Republican judge's courtroom. Due to snow on the original court date, Fri. Feb. 12th, the hearing has been rescheduled for Friday, Feb. 20, 12 noon in Room 236 of the Tim Curry Court Bldg. in Fort Worth.
In addition to Get Out the Vote and other campaign expense, she is now forced to hire an attorney to defend her right to run for office. Unlike her opponent, Roy LaVerne Brooks is not a woman of independent wealth. She is a hard-working Democratic activist, community organizer, who is employed as a hospice counselor.
Mr. Abrams has the right to pursue legal means, as do all citizens. He is not the only Tarrant County JP candidate to challenge his opponent this year. He is the JP candidate who has already filed lawsuits and refused to accept the ruling of the court this year. He is the one who said he'd sue instead of mediate and whose brief asks the court to have his opponent pay his cost up to and through appeals to the Texas Supreme Court if she loses. He is the candidate whose substantial wealth dwarfs that of his opponent. Just because he has the right to sue and the means to doesn't mean that suing is the right thing to do, or that it is fair for him to. Bigger, stronger "kids" can tell a weaker one what they can do and what they have done. It's intimidating when someone with a history of taking things to the mat has many more resources to arm and fight than you do. When you do something to show your strength to intimidate instead of seeking a fair resolution, that is bullying.
She has strong name recognition in the district and years of community service/activism. Many believe that Mr. Abrams knows that she will probably beat him if the election is fair and if she is given an equal opportunity to take it to the voters. He prefers to bully and sue his way, to attempt to keep his opponent enmeshed in court, attorney's offices and in last minute fundraising to pay court costs.
Mr. Abrams track-record in banking leaves questions about why he is pursuing election as Justice of the Peace. The Dallas Business Journal published an article about the sale of Surety Bank, a financial institution which Mr. Abrams served as C.E.O./C.O.B. from 2000-2007.
The former chairman of Surety Bank, Dick Abrams, remains one of the largest shareholders in Surety Capital Corp., Surety Bank's holding company.But he was barred in June by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency from engaging in banking and leading the holding company.
The number of shares owned by Abrams is in dispute, but Surety's bankruptcy filings describe Abrams as one of the corporation's largest shareholders and notes that his son, girlfriend and family trust are also significant shareholders. Abrams could not be reached for comment.
Abrams stepped down on Oct. 1 as Surety Capital Corp's chairman. Weiner, another shareholder in the bank, took that role on the condition that Abrams promise not to sue him, Weiner said.
Says Thompson: "He volunteered to do the job that nobody else wanted."
Since then, Weiner has focused on getting the institution sold and getting investors' money out of the institution.
Surety Capital Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 21.
This Fund Raising Appeal in support of Roy LaVerne Brooks is an appeal to stand up for the right of ordinary Americans to run for public office.
It is an appeal to stand with her against a man who is trying to bully and harass his way onto the General Election ballot instead of campaigning and letting the voters decide.
This is an appeal to help her defend this case in court and defend the right of all citizens to exercise their civil right to participate in the democratic process which is the foundation of our American system.
This is an appeal to let the Voters' Decide who they want as the Democratic Nominee for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 6.
Contributions of ANY AMOUNT are welcome. We welcome contributions as small as your weekly coffee money or as large as you can afford. If you can join us Saturday and show Roy LaVerne that you stand with her, we welcome your presence at the tea.
Contributions can be made securely on-line at <span style="font-weight:bold;">BROOKS FOR JP6<span style="font-weight:bold;"></span></span>