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Texas Lawyer Who Misread Court Order Sees $1,200 Sanction Upheld

April 8, 2022, 8:42 PM

A Texas lawyer who was ordered to pay about $1,200 after he misread a court order and caused a filing to be delayed is stuck with that sanction, the Fifth Circuit held on Friday.

Matthew R. Scott represented a woman who sued her employer, MEI Inc., asserting six Title VII claims. Scott sought to amend the complaint to add two claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the court allowed it. But he “did not read the order closely and assumed that the second amended complaint was filed,” the appeals court said.

Scott sought to amend the complaint again to drop three of the Title VII claims, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied him leave to do so. Because the second amended complaint would add overall claims after the plaintiff’s deposition, discovery, and the filing of a motion for summary judgment, it could not be accepted, the court said.

The judge also asked Scott why he shouldn’t be sanctioned. He explained that he thought the amended complaint had been filed and that all errors stemmed from that mixup. He was ordered to pay MEI $1,250 to reimburse for attorneys’ fees incurred in responding.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed that ruling, saying the lower court “had ample factual and legal bases to impose the minor sanction disputed here.”

The appeals court said Scott made a mistake but didn’t correct it.

“The district court imposed a reasonable sanction to reimburse MEI for the expense of dealing with that mistake,” the per curiam opinion says. “Law, fact, and logic itself support that course of action.”

Judges W. Eugene Davis, Jerry E. Smith, and Kurt D. Engelhardt joined in the decision.

MEI is represented by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC. The attorney was represented by his law firm, Scott Law Firm PLLC.

The case is Scott v. MEI, 5th Cir., No. 21-10680, 4/8/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com