Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judge Phillips Dismisses Case, Imposes Sanctions on Attorney

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judge Phillips Dismisses Case, Imposes Sanctions on Attorney

Article excerpt

A case representing one of "the most unusual pieces of litigation" to be transferred to U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips since his appointment to office in June 1987 has resulted in the case's dismissal with prejudice and the imposition of $5,000 in sanctions against one of the attorneys involved.

The sanctions represent the first time that Phillips has imposed monetary Rule 11 sanctions.

Attorney Jence Thomas, Phillips said, was responsible for a "fatally flawed case, riddled not only with frivolous claims, but also with spurious evidentiary offerings" resulting in "an enormous waste of the time and resources of the clients, opposing counsel and the court."

Phillips not only imposed sanctions on Thomas, but also referred the matter to the Oklahoma Bar Association for "any further disciplinary action they deem appropriate," according to the order on file. Phillips also directed the sanctioning order to be filed in such a way with the court clerk that Thomas' name will be associated with it easily and directed that copies of the order be sent to all federal judges here as well as the bankruptcy judges.

The case revolves around the children and grandchildren of a man who died in 1950 survived by his son, his daughter and his wife.

No will was ever offered for probate and the man's wife claimed he died intestate owning about $1,400 worth of property, while several of the parties now claim the man had an estate valued at $30 million.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission, after a lengthy investigation, according to the order, concluded that the deceased owned no oil and gas property as some involved claimed.

In 1986, 36 years after the man died, Thomas filed suit on behalf of two separate groups of plaintiffs. The first suit was filed on behalf of the daughter of the dead man with the second suit being filed on behalf of the dead man's grandchildren.

The first suit contended that the man died without a will and that for the last three decades the defendant, the dead man's son in the first suit, had conspired with another party to deprive the daughter of her one-third share in the estate.

The suit with the grandchildren as plaintiffs claimed the man died with a will.

"Another twist to the inconsistent positions taken by the plaintiffs (with Thomas as counsel) is that the principal witness for the second group of plaintiffs, who are contending (the man) died with a will" is the same plaintiff who is contending that (he) died intestate or without a will, according to the order.

Moreover, the judge said, the plaintiff signed an estate tax return relating to her father's estate in which she represented under oath that her father died without a will and with property worth only $1,400, while now she claims the same estate is worth in excess of $30 million based on some alleged oil and gas leases. …

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