Higher court sets aside judge’s ruling in Cameron County case

The 13th Court of Appeals has issued an emergency stay to set aside a ruling by a state district judge that disqualified Cameron County Commissioners Court legal counsel from representing the county in court.

The Court of Appeals issued the ruling on Monday that set aside 445th state District Judge Gloria Rincones’ ruling against Juan A. Gonzalez, legal counsel for Cameron County.

In its ruling the Appeals Court states, “The Court having examined and fully considered the request for emergency stay, is of the opinion that the request for emergency stay should be granted. Accordingly, we grant the relator’s request for emergency stay as we order trial proceedings to be stayed pending resolution of this petition for writ of mandamus.”

In a statement to the Appeals Court attorneys for Gonzalez stated the court abused “its discretion, ignored and/or misapplied the law and otherwise exceeded its authority to the prejudice of Cameron County.”

The Appeals Court has also ordered Sheriff Eric Garza and other interested parties who would be directly affected by the relief sought, to file a response to the petition for writ of mandamus on or before the expiration of 10 days from the date of this order.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no response had been filed.

Rincones on Sept. 14 signed an order disqualifying Gonzalez from representing the county in a lawsuit against Garza. The judge ruled that Gonzalez could not represent Garza and Cameron County Commissioners Court at the same time.

“The Court finds that the former matter in which JUAN A. GONZALEZ represented and/or provided legal guidance to the Cameron County Sheriff Garza is substantially related to the present matters, in that it directly relates to matters before this court. Further, the Court finds that JUAN A. GONZALEZ is disqualified due to a conflict arising with a former client,” Rincones’ ruling states.

According to court documents, Gonzalez had been advising Garza back in March regarding the operations of the sheriff’s department. He had been advising Garza on several legal matters until April 13, when Cameron County Commissioners held a meeting in executive session with Gonzalez present, and at the time authorized the Civil Legal Division to file a lawsuit against Garza.

The argument states that in almost every relevant event Gonzalez played a central role both as “legal counsel of Sheriff Garza and as a county employee.”

A motion hearing on the case has been scheduled for Thursday in the 445th state District Court.