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Democratic lawmaker faces $3 million legal malpractice judgment

Sergio Muñoz Jr. (Photo via The Texas Tribune)

by Matthew Watkins | The Texas Tribune

Texas state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. owes a legal company nearly $3 million after a federal judge ruled against the Democratic lawyer from Palmview in a malpractice case.

Muñoz was sued in 2014 by Law Funder LLC, which helps clients fund lawsuits and provides clients cash advances for pending litigation. The company claimed in court documents that it hired Muñoz to handle a divorce case in Hidalgo County, but Muñoz didn't disclose to the company that he had a business relationship with the state district judge in the case.

The judge was eventually removed from the case, and all his orders were voided, documents say. Law Funder said in a court filing that it suffered "a significant amount of damages" as a result.

Muñoz denied committing malpractice, but a federal district judge ruled against him in February, saying any responsible person in Muñoz's position "would know that failing to disclose or withdraw from the conflict in question could lead to disqualification of [the judge in the divorce case], nullification of his orders, and the consequent waste of [Law Funder's] time and paid attorney’s fees."

The federal judge seemed to be frustrated with Muñoz in his ruling, citing his "refusal to cooperate in the discovery process" as a reason for delays in the federal case.

The state representative was ordered to pay Law Funder $2.99 million on Sept. 27. The decision was first reported this weekend by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen.

Muñoz couldn't be immediately reached for comment Sunday. He told The Monitor's executive editor that the issue was a private matter, according to the newspaper.

He has represented parts of South Texas in the Texas House since 2011.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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