By: David Barer
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The State Bar of Texas sued local attorney Omar Weaver Rosales on Monday for professional misconduct, after Rosales peppered healthcare providers across Texas with letters demanding $2,000 to settle unfiled lawsuits. Those lawsuits claimed the providers’ websites violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Rosales was already suspended in July from practicing for three years in Federal Western District Court for acting in bad faith and fabricating an email he submitted into the court record, among several other issues. The sanctions were related to a set of lawsuits he filed — nearly 400 — against local mom-and-pop businesses alleging technical parking lot ADA violations.
Rosales has said he is appealing the federal court suspension. He did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the latest lawsuit filed by the Commission on Lawyer Discipline, which is part of the bar.
KXAN Investigates | Austin’s ADA Lawsuit Industry
In demand letters sent in late 2016 and early 2017, Rosales told healthcare providers that their websites failed to comply with federal law. He said the businesses “must immediately self-report to the Department of Health and Human Services and forfeit any Federal funds received until you have completed recertification,” the bar’s lawsuit states.
Several of the demand letters concluded: “Should you refuse to enter settlement negotiations, I will … contact DHHS and discuss the possibility of a separate civil suit under Qui Tam doctrine to obtain reimbursement of Federal Tax dollars that you improperly obtained from the government,” according to the lawsuit.
It is not clear how many businesses received demand letters from Rosales. In nearly every instance, the lawsuits were not filed, so there is no way to track them. More than a dozen healthcare businesses, ranging from chiropractors to a speech therapist, contacted KXAN after receiving the demand letters.
Austin civil rights attorney Jim Harrington said he represented 41 health care providers that got Rosales demand letters. Many of those businesses were pediatric providers, Harrington said. Every time Harrington responded to one of Rosales’ demand letters, “he backed down,” Harrington added.
In response to Rosales’ lawsuits and demand letters, Harrington formed the Texas ADA Defense Project last December. He said the project would defend against “exploitative” litigation threats like those sent by Rosales.
The bar alleges Rosales violated the following Texas rules of Professional Conduct:
A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding … unless the lawyer reasonably believes that there is a basis for doing so that is not frivolous.
A lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal or disciplinary charges solely to gain an advantage in a civil matter.
A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
A lawyer in private practice shall not practice under a trade name.
If a judge or jury determines professional misconduct did occur, Rosales could face anything from “a reprimand to a suspension to disbarment,” the bar told KXAN in an email. The matter could also be settled with an agreed judgment.
The State Bar was prompted to file the lawsuit after looking into several grievances it received about the litigation threats, including several from the Texas Chiropractic Association, according to the bar.
Three chiropractic businesses received demand letters from Omar W. Rosales under letterhead from The Rosales Law Firm, PLLC. Four others got demand letters from “O. Rosales” under letterhead for the “Center for Veterans Access,” which had the same address and phone number as the other demand letters. The Center for Veterans Access website has been taken down.
The Disciplinary Commission also seeks to recover all of its court costs, the lawsuit states.
This is just the latest in a series of problems Rosales has faced related to his ADA litigation in federal court.
In response to the July federal court suspension, Rosales said he had PTSD from his time in the military. The final disciplinary report recommended Rosales be disbarred. Considering the entire record, U.S. District Judge David Ezra recommended a three year suspension with the possibility of reapplying after that time period.
Prior to bring suspended, Rosales was slapped with nearly $176,000 in sanctions in federal court for “defaming” longtime civil rights attorney Jim Harrington with “false and abusive statements,” according to a court order.
KXAN has reported on Rosales’ ADA lawsuits for nearly two years. Rosales sued KXAN over the reporting in 2016, but the lawsuit was dropped.