On November 7, 2019 the Office of Texas Attorney General sent a letter to the attorney (Mackenzie) representing County Attorney Andrew Lucas in the lawsuit pursued by the County Attorney for the past 5 years in State of Texas ex rel. Best v. Harper, No. C10369 (249th Dist. Ct., Somervell County). Here's a copy of the letter:
Re: Responsibility for Final Judgment in State of Texas ex rel. Best v. Harper, No. C10369 (249th Dist. Ct., Somervell County, tex. Sept. 10, 2019)
It is our understanding that the local trial court signed a final judgment in State of Texas ex rel. Best v. Harper, No. C10369 (249th Dist. Ct., Somervell County, tex. Sept. 10, 2019), awarding sanctions and attorneys' fees to an individual based upon a case prosecuted by Somervell County's County Attorney on behalf of the County government.
The parties in this case reached out to our office regarding collection of the final judgment, however, Somervell County and/or Somervell County's District Attroney are responsible for judgments for attorneys' fees and sanctions. See, e.g., Tex. Local Gov't Code 87.017(c) (requiring the county to pay expenses related to a prosecution under that code, thus waiving the county's immunity for those costs). As the parties are aware, Somervell County and its County Attorney prosecuted the underlying legal action at its own discretion and without any involvement of our office.
No law authorizes or requires our office to request the Comptroller to disburse General Revenue funds on the basis of discretionary decisions by local governments which result in them being sanctioned by a court. There is no waiver of immunity that would create liability for judgments of fees and sanctions in cases prosecuted by local governments. See, e.g. Tex. Local Gov't Code 87.001 et seq.
Accordingly, the parties may wish to collaborate regarding collection of this judgment from Somervell County and its County Attorney rather than from our office or from any other arm of the state government.
Cleve W. Doty
Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Texas Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548, Capital Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2548
Telephone: (512) 475-4136
Fascimile: (512) 474-1062
Now if you notice there is this word they use, 'discretionary', which means the County Attorney could have chosen not to pursue this case but he made the conscious decision to pursue it instead. No law required he pursue the case according to the highest law enforcement office in Texas and because he chose to pursue this, Somervell County is responsible for paying the judgment.
Listen to former County Attorney for Somervell County, Ronald Hankins, on the discretion the County Attorney has and had for this case, from when he was deposed in 2019:
Since this letter was sent by the Office of Attorney General, the Somervell County Commissioners Court met to discuss this letter but took no action on November 18, 2019. Interest that has accrued since their meeting including today (Nov. 24, 2019): $231.7528952772074
Since the Somervell County Commissioners Court now has been notified by the State of Texas that they are responsible for paying the judgment against the State that the County incurred, don't you think the County should pay the bill at this point and end the interest accumulation?
The judgment amount was for $268,723, signed on September 10, 2019.
Interest is accruing on the judgment, at a rate of 5.25% apr, and will continue until the balance is paid in full: