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Attorney’s Right to Petition vs. Client’s Right to Petition

Texas anti-SLAPP, TCPA

Written by Robert Ray

I am a Texas attorney. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Attorney’s Right to Petition

When an attorney represents a client in court, is the attorney’s right to petition involved or the client’s right to petition? That was the issue involved in a case ruled on by the Houston Court of Appeals [14th],  14-20-00691-CV.

Facts

Attorneys, Hoover Slovacek, represented a client, Jetall. The representation ended. A few years later, the attorneys represented Davy in a suit involving Jetall but not related to their prior representation of Jetall.  After the case was over, Jetall filed suit against the attorneys for breach of contract and fiduciary duty. The attorneys filed a motion to dismiss under the Texas Anti-Slapp statute based on the right to petition. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed Jetall’s suit. Jetrall appealed.

Ruling

An issue presented by Jetall was that the attorneys didn’t have a right to petition because the right to petition belonged to their clients since it was their case. The appeals court disagreed and upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the suit.

Jetall nevertheless urges that its legal action falls outside the parameters of the TCPA because Hoover Slovacek’s invocation of the act rests on the exercise of Davy’s right to petition, not the exercise of Hoover Slovacek’s own right. But the supreme court and our sister court of appeals have rejected precisely the same argument. In Jetall Companies, Jetall argued that two attorneys (Ballases and Johanson) had invoked only their clients’ TCPA rights, not their own, when the TCPA purportedly protects only the former. But the First Court of Appeals held that the attorneys’ solicitation, negotiation, and finalization of an acquisition of Declaration Title by a third party as part of a litigation settlement, as well as the attorneys’ execution of the written settlement agreement, constituted communications pertaining to a judicial proceeding…
“Similarly, Hoover Slovacek’s alleged liability stems from its legal representation of Davy during litigation involving Jetall. As referenced above, Hoover Slovacek filed pleadings in the case, made statements in court, and necessarily conferred with its client, Davy. These are communications made in or pertaining to a judicial proceeding.” Jetall Cos. v. Hoover Slovacek LLP (Tex. App. 2022)

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