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Democratic lawmaker faces $3 million legal malpractice judgment.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Sergio MuA[+ or -]oz.

Texas state Rep. Sergio MuA[+ or -]oz Jr. owes a legal company nearly $3 million after a federal judge ruled against the Democratic lawyer from Palmview in a malpractice case.

MuA[+ or -]oz said in an interview Sunday afternoon that the case was "political" and that he plans to appeal.

MuA[+ or -]oz was sued in 2014 by Law Funder LLC, which helps clients fund lawsuits and provides cash advances for pending litigation. The company claimed in court documents that it hired MuA[+ or -]oz to handle a divorce case in Hidalgo County, but MuA[+ or -]oz didn't disclose to the company that he had a business relationship with the state district judge in the case.

The judge was eventually removed from the case and all his orders were voided, documents say. Law Funder said in a court filing that it suffered "a significant amount of damages" as a result.

MuA[+ or -]oz denied committing malpractice, but a federal district judge ruled against him in February, saying any responsible person in MuA[+ or -]oz's position "would know that failing to disclose or withdraw from the conflict in question could lead to disqualification of [the judge in the divorce case], nullification of his orders, and the consequent waste of [Law Funder's] time and paid attorney's fees."

Federal District Judge Micaela Alvarez seemed to be frustrated with MuA[+ or -]oz in his ruling, citing his "refusal to cooperate in the discovery process" as a reason for delays in the federal case.

The state representative was ordered to pay Law Funder $2.99 million on Sept. 27. The decision was first reported this weekend by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen.

MuA[+ or -]oz questioned the timing of the news report.

"The news never picked up on the story when the lawsuit was filed," he said. "You would think that if it is something on their radar, they would have followed it from the beginning."

When asked what political motivations might be driving the case against him, MuA[+ or -]oz said he wasn't sure.

He also said that at the time Law Funder reached out to him seeking help with the multimillion dollar divorce case, he had only been licensed for about two years.

"I feel like I was brought into the case for other motives that I was never aware of, and now the case has come against me that I have no other reason to believe that there is some underlying politics here," he said.

MuA[+ or -]oz has represented parts of South Texas in the Texas House since 2011.

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Publication:The Texas Tribune
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Oct 22, 2017
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