First Court of Appeals in Houston Texas issued it’s Opinion “Conditionally” granting Art Harris Motion for Writ of Mandamus.
Here are the Orders the Trial Court Issued on January 27, 2009, May 11, 2009 and August 28, 2009. All of these were overruled by the First Court of Appeals today in regards to Harris but the full appointing of Craig Ball as a Special Master was also overruled so my take is that this applies to all of the defendants. I am also linking Harris’ Motion to Reconsider the Appointment of a Special Master filed August 23, 2008.
I will be posting some Federal Court Decisions recently issued that seems to agree with this ruling.
It is unclear if Virgie Arthur is entitled to the additional 300 million pages of emails that were produced during the imaging of Harris’ hard drives that the Plaintiff never received. It seems the Court of Appeals is saying that Arthur is only entitled to the original 300 pages Harris turned over in December 2008 and the production will be rolled back to December 2008, with Arthur having to make addition Request for Production of Harris. Remember on March 12, 2009 the 80th District Court eliminated and all parties at the conference agreed that the production should become much more narrow and Judge Weiman stated that going into someone’s hard drives was very intrusive and should be avoided if possible.
On points one and three that Harris filed an Appeal on the Appellate Court to ruled that; “We hold that in compelling discovery from Harris without requiring Arthur to identify specific discovery requests with which Harris had not complied, without holding a hearing on Harris’ motion for protective order, and in ordering production from Harris without having before it a motion to compel discovery from him, the trial court acted arbitrarily and without considering the discovery rules.” That is why I am saying back to the 300 pages produced in December 2008 with a MUCH more narrow search of emails (I. E. only from the defendants to each other and about Arthur)” and “We further hold that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering over broad discovery and in failing to determine whether the documents sought by Arthur from Harris were privileged, as Harris claimed, or even whether they were relevant or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence relevant to Arthur’s claims.”.
In relation to Points one; “(1) in ordering Harris to turn over “electronic media” for forensic examination when there was neither a pending request for production nor any request for production of documents with which he had not complied;” and three, “(3) in refusing to apply Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 193.3 and other discovery procedures on the treatment of privileged documents and creation of privilege logs;” the Appellate Court ruled; “We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion not only by compelling production of overly broad discovery without addressing Harris’ motion for protective order and without a motion to compel discovery from Harris before it, but also by issuing its even more invasive order that Harris produce his hard drives and by failing to require Arthur to make any showing that the benefit of the discovery she sought outweighed the burden and expense to Harris. Thus, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion by issuing the January 27, 2009 order compelling Harris to produce documents in response to Arthur’s requests for production and to produce his hard drives and by issuing its May 11, 2009 order denying Harris’ motion to clarify. We sustain Harris’ first issue. ….Because we have already determined that the trial court erred in the ways set forth above, this issue is moot. We overrule Harris’ third issue.”
In relations to point four; “(4) by failing to consider Rule 171 in appointing a special master to conduct forensic computer examinations;” and five, “(5) by appointing a special master to investigate and inquire into patterns of discovery abuse, or, in the alternative, by failing to remove a special master who is acting outside the limitations and specifications stated in the Order appointing him, including reading attorney-client communications.” The First Court of Appeals used Weekley Homes for guidance in their rulings which I think we all would agree is the right litmus test, the Court Stated that “We conclude that Harris has not waived his fourth and fifth issues.” The Appellate Court in it’s ruling states; “To the extent that the trial court’s appointment of Ball was as a forensic examiner instead of as a master, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to comply with Weekley Homes, as we have explained above. We sustain Harris’ fourth and fifth issues.”
In reference to Harris Point two; “(2) in ordering Harris to respond to the Special Master’s questions and to assess usage and contents of other electronic media listed in the Special Master’s August 17, 2009 email”…” The Court Ruled that; “Because we have already determined that the court’s appointment of Craig Ball as a forensic examiner and special master was an abuse of discretion, this issue is moot.”
The only mistake I found which in my opinion would not affect this ruling is that Ogden filed to leave January 2, 2009 and Harris’ new counsel did not file an appearance until February 2, 2009, that is a simple typo I believe. My take is of course the Special Master Craig Ball is gone, Arthur pays his fees and the discovery if rolled back to December 2008 with Motion to Produce now going from that date. I have no idea how this will affect the April 30th hearing on Harris Motion for Protective Order not to answer or produce any information pending the First Court of Appeals Ruling. I also have no idea how this will affect the “Default Judgment” rendered against Bonnie Stern or the incarceration of Teresa Stephens and Lyndal Harrington. It looks to me like Judge Weiman and the 80th District Court for Harris County is going to have to digest this ruling and then go forward. However any information provided by Craig Ball appears to be out in this case in my opinion.
Because the Appellate Court also refers to Federal Court Rulings I will be putting up three recent rulings including one involving Bryan Cave, (not Lin Wood or Luke Lantta) where they recently had over turned an over $60 million dollar jury award based on three emails that were not produced. All interesting reading and ALL above my head. I look forward to your input on this and does email make lawsuits much more complex for all of us?
April 22, 2010 Howard K. Stern files Notion of Hearing on his Special Objection to Jurisdiction for June 4, 2010 at 2:30 PM in the 80th District Court for Harris County.
NEWEST FILINGS APRIL 23, 2010 IN TEXAS
April 23, 2010 TMZ Motion Requesting Permission to Participate of TMZ’s California lawyer.
April 23, 2010 TMZ Unopposed Motion filed with Request to Participate of TMZ’s California lawyer.
April 23, 2010 Realttor Howard K. Stern’s Notice of Controlling Authority Related to Original Proceeding. My take this is the beginning of having Stern’s Appeal dismissed.
As I have said before I am real impressed with Judge Weiman and think he will move this case along now. I think Howard K. Stern’s appeal is now moot based on the fact that no Special Master should have ever been Ordered in this case. I think Craig Ball will be glad to dump this case, he could not tell Judge Lindsay she was wrong no matter what he thought of her Orders.
Be sure to participate in our MEMBERS ONLY FORUMS, get the most out of the site by learning your way around in the forums where you can safely discuss things you do not want to see copied and pasted on another site.
April 22, 2010
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.
The expressions in this blog article are based on the opinions of Rose Turner or our featured authors, please remember we are not lawyers and those opinions expressed here are each of our individual opinions and should not be taken as legal advice and/or legal opinions. The comments following this blog article are the opinions and sole property of the blog site members and do not necessarily reflect those of the site owners.280th District State Court Harris County, 80th District Court of Harris County, Anna Nicole Smith, Art Harris, Bonnie Stern, Celebrity Trials, Charles "Chip" Babcock, First Court of Appeals in Houston Texas, First Court of Appeals Texas, Harvey Levin, High Profile Trials, Howard K Stern, Judge Larry Weiman, Judge Larry Weiman - 80th District Court, Judge Tony Lindsay, L. Lin Wood, Lin Wood, Luke Lantta, Lyndal Harrington, Neil McCabe, Rose Turner, Special Master Craig Ball, Texas First Court of Appeals, The O'Quinn Law Firm, TMZ.com, Virgie Arthur