Ruling blocks county’s pick for attorney in feud with sheriff

The 13th Court of Appeals has dismissed an emergency stay it issued last month regarding a ruling by a state district judge that disqualified Cameron County Commissioners Court legal counsel from representing the county in court.

As a result, the legal counsel cannot represent Cameron County in its lawsuit against Sheriff Eric Garza.

In its ruling issued Tuesday, the court stated that “having examined and fully considered the petition for writ of mandamus, the response filed by (Myles) Garza, and the applicable law, (the court) is of the opinion that Cameron County has not met its burden to obtain mandamus relief.”

The higher court further stated: “We lift the stay previously imposed in this original proceeding… After applying an exacting standard for reviewing the disqualification order, we deny the petition for writ of mandamus.”

Gloria Rincones, 445th state District Judge, on Sept. 14 signed an order disqualifying Cameron County Commissioners Legal Counsel Juan A. Gonzalez from representing the county in a lawsuit against Sheriff 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 mattes, 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.

In response to the 13 th Court of Appeals ruling, Sheriff Garza stated in a press release: “My office will not be held hostage by the political motivations. I was elected because the residents of Cameron County wanted change, and we will continue to fight to make sure the voters of Cameron County know that their sheriff will not back down because of political threats, even if that means having to fight in a court of law.”

According to court documents, Gonzalez had been advising Garza in March regarding the operations of the sheriff’s department. He advised 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 county’s 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.”

The Court of Appeals on Sept. 24 had issued the ruling that set aside Rincones’ ruling against Gonzalez.

In its ruling, the appeals court had stated: “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.”

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