John Goodson — the Texarkana attorney, D.C. lobbyist, and husband of Arkansas State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson — was reprimanded today by a federal judge for his conduct in a class-action case, Arkansas Business reports.
Goodson and a number of other attorneys colluded in forum shopping, Chief U.S. District Court Judge P.K. Holmes III found, when they abruptly transferred a class action lawsuit out of his court to a state court where it was immediately settled. Max has been following this case on the blog:
The result was a settlement with an auto insurance company with a hefty fee for attorneys but a settlement for insurance policy holders that has been criticized as unlikely to produce much for those damaged.
Holmes today found that Goodson, his law partner Matt Keil, and three other attorneys “abused the judicial process, and did so in bad faith.” These attorneys were reprimanded.
That was the extent of the punishment. Holmes noted that potential sanctions included requirements that the attorneys file notices about their improper conduct if they were involved in future class-action cases, a black mark which could have been damaging to their ability to continue class action practice. Even the reprimand could cause major trouble for these attorneys if they attempt to get certified for class action cases in other states (and will likely up their malpractice insurance bill).
Holmes explained the lesser sanction, essentially arguing that the reprimand would be a sufficient black mark alerting other courts about the potential for similar misconduct:
For those Respondents whose misconduct was characterized by bad faith, the Court will still impose sanctions. However, it is likely that a lesser sanction than those injunctive sanctions proposed in the Court’s prior opinion and order will be just as effective a deterrent. Any sanction appearing on these Respondents’ records is going to lead to further inquiry by other courts into the misconduct that necessitated that sanction, thereby putting those courts on notice of the potential for similar misconduct in their own cases. As this was the intended effect of the notices proposed as injunctive sanctions by this Court, those notices will not be necessary, and a lesser sanction will satisfy the purpose of Rule 11 and vindicate judicial authority.
Meanwhile, major victory for the other eleven attorneys involved: Holmes found that ten other attorneys “abused the judicial process, but did not do so in bad faith” and that Stephen C. Engstrom (of Little Rock’s Stephen Engstrom Law Office) did not abuse the judicial process. These attorneys received no sanction.
Here’s the full order from Holmes.