HOUSTON – Apparently, attending a celebratory luncheon with a law firm and then awarding them $2 million in attorney’s fees shortly after is cause for a public warning and an order for additional education.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued their warning on April 9 against Judge Fredericka Phillips of the 61st Judicial District Court in Harris County.
Beginning in 2018, Phillips presided over a multi-party civil case involving plaintiffs David and Donna Hotze. One of the defendants in the case, Steven Hotze, was represented by John Zavitsanos and his law firm, AZA.
Records show the case went to trial in September 2018 and resulted in a jury verdict in favor of the defendants. The defendants moved for entry of judgment on the jury verdict and for attorney’s fees.
According to the commission, on Nov. 7, 2018, Phillips conducted a swearing-in ceremony for five new AZA attorneys and attended a celebratory luncheon with Zavitsanos and the new lawyers at Brennan’s restaurant in downtown Houston.
The next day, Phillips held a hearing on the defendants’ post-judgment motions. She later awarded them $2 million in attorney’s fees.
The commission concluded Phillips should be publicly warned and ordered to obtain additional education for attending a luncheon with a law firm involved in a highly contested civil case in her court and then failing to disclose that event to all parties in the litigation.
Written by David Yates