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Judge hits Laura Pressley and attorney with $100,000 sanctions in election lawsuit

Friday, July 24, 2015 by Jack Craver

Laura Pressley tells the Austin Monitor that she is disappointed but not discouraged by $100,000 in sanctions imposed on sheher and her attorney. The unsuccessful city council candidate added that the ruling awarding nearly $100,000 in damages to her former District 4 Council opponent–and current Council Member–Greg Casar will not end her drive to challenge the results of the election she lost to Casar in December.

On Thursday, District Judge Dan Mills issued a final ruling granting Casar’s request for financial sanctions against MillsPressley and her attorney, David Rogers. Both Pressley and Rogers knew or should have known that their litigation was without merit, wrote Mills in his decision. Pressley was hit with $40,000 in sanctions, while Rogers was ordered to pay $50,000. The two were also ordered to pay more than $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Casar’s legal team.

Mills dismissed Pressley’s lawsuit challenging the results of the election in May. In June, Mills indicated that he would award sanctions to Casar.

Pressley told the Monitor that while she disagreed with the sanctions, she said the judge did not sanction her in response to some of what she considers the most important questions she is raising about the election. Specifically, she said her complaint that Travis County did not produce legally-required ballot images and did not keep a backup “results tape.”

“The judge did not sanction for those two legal issues,” she said. “That’s very important for us in this case. We’re hoping to get the appeals court make a ruling on those legal claims we’ve made.”

However, Mills does reference both of those points in the decision. He writes on the issue of ballot images that the “Cast Vote Record,” produced by electronic voting in Travis County is considered a ballot image by the City of Austin, the Texas Secretary of State and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Mills also wrote that “there is no evidentiary support for the allegation that results tapes were not printed as required by the Texas Secretary of State.”

Casar said the decision was just the first step of a long process of getting paid for the $150,000 of legal bills he has racked up since January. The sanctions won’t take effect, he said, until Pressley’s appeals are exhausted.

“There’s still a long way to go to end this,” Casar told the Monitor. “Some of my attorneys have said I might not get the money until into my second term.”

As per the judgement, Pressley and Rogers risk further sanctions if they continue their litigation. 

This post has been updated to fix an embarrassing grammar error and to note that sanctions were leveled against Pressley and her attorney, not Mills.

Council Member Greg Casar, pictured here in a December 2014 runoff debate with challenger Laura Pressley.

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