United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
TRAVIS R. PHILLIPS
JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., et al.
FINAL ORDER ON SANCTIONS
W. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court are Defendant's Supplemental Brief in Support
of Its Motion for Sanctions against Attorneys George Slade
and Robert Barnstone (Dkt. Nos. 5 & 19); George B.
Slade's Response (Dkt. No. 20); Robert Barnstone's
Response (Dkt. No. 21); Plaintiff's Objections to the
Magistrate's Order (Dkt. No. 22); and Defendant's
Reply (Dkt. No. 23). The District Court referred the Motion
for Sanctions to the undersigned for resolution pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §636(b), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72
and Rule 1(c) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules.
the seventh lawsuit filed by Travis R. Phillips to prevent
the foreclosure of real property located in Austin, Texas
(“the Property”). Phillips and his spouse
purchased the Property in 1988 with a mortgage currently
assigned to JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
(“JPMorgan”). Phillips eventually defaulted on
his payments, and was unable to obtain a modification of the
loan. JPMorgan subsequently initiated foreclosure of the
Property, and, as referenced above, Phillips has filed
numerous lawsuits to prevent such efforts. The District Court
has dismissed all of Phillips' prior lawsuits. See
Phillips v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA., No. 1:12-CV-905-SS
(W.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2012) (First Suit) (dismissed with
prejudice); Phillips v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA.,
No. 1:14-CV054-SS (W.D. Tex. Mar. 4, 2014) (Second Suit)
(dismissed with prejudice); Phillips v. JPMorgan Chase
Bank, NA., No. 1:14-CV-544-SS (W.D. Tex. Jul. 15, 2014)
(Third Suit) (dismissed with prejudice); Phillips v.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA., No. 1:15-CV-790-SS
(W.D. Tex. Jan. 15, 2016) (Fourth Suit) (summary judgment
granted in favor of defendant); Phillips v. JPMorgan
Chase Bank, NA., No. 1:16-CV-287-SS (W.D. Tex.
May 13, 2016) (Fifth Suit) (dismissed with prejudice); and
Phillips v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA., No.
1:17-CV-1074-SS (W.D. Tex. Nov. 14, 2017) (Sixth Suit)
(dismissed with prejudice).
addition, the District Court has warned Phillips on two
previous occasions that any further court filings by Phillips
challenging the foreclosure would result in “severe
monetary sanctions.” For example, in the Order
dismissing his Fifth Suit with prejudice, after
finding that Phillips' claims were barred by res
judicata, the District Court stated the following:
Phillips has-now for the fourth time-failed to state any
claim upon which relief can be granted, and has not showed
himself entitled to any relief in either law or equity. The
dilatory tactics must end. The Court finds any further
amendment would be futile and dismisses Phillips' claims
Additionally, the Court hereby expressly warns Phillips and
his counsel to read and review Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 11 before filing any other lawsuits related to
these issues. Any further filing of such lawsuits will
result in severe monetary sanctions, including but not
limited to reasonable attorney's fees related to
JPMorgan's defense of claims brought by Phillips
beginning July 16, 2014.
Phillips v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 2016 WL
8711408, at *4 (W.D. Tex. May 13, 2016) (Fifth Suit)
(emphasis added), aff'd, 673 F App'x 449,
450 (5th Cir. 2017). Similarly, in its Order dismissing
Phillips Sixth Suit with prejudice, after finding
that JPMorgan was entitled to dismissal of all of
Phillips' claims and any amendment of his complaint would
be futile, the Court again warned Phillips what would happen
if he filed any future lawsuits attacking the foreclosure:
JPMorgan initiated its foreclosure efforts of the Property in
2012. Since then, Phillips has repeatedly sought court
intervention to prevent foreclosure. He has successfully
delayed foreclosure for years with meritless legal actions.
These actions continue to waste time and resources. Thus, the
Court repeats its earlier warning to Phillips and his
counsel: continued dilatory tactics through the court system
will result in severe monetary sanctions.
Sixth Suit, Dkt. No. 21.
these warnings, Phillips filed his seventh lawsuit in state
court against JPMorgan, First National Bank, Grover Geiselman
III, John Hoffman and H. Dalton Wallace, once again
attempting to stop a foreclosure sale of the home. Phillips
Petition sought a temporary restraining order and injunction
to prevent the foreclosure arguing that JPMorgan has
“failed to provide a payoff amount and frustrated
Plaintiff's good-faith efforts to discharge his
obligations under the note.” Dkt. No. 1-1 at p. 14.
Plaintiff's Petition did not mention that Phillips had
filed six previous unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the
foreclosure. Because the state court was most likely unaware
of Phillips' litigation history, on June 4, 2018, the
state court granted a temporary restraining order to prevent
the foreclosure and set the matter for a hearing on June 19,
2018, to consider the application for temporary injunction.
Dkt. No. 1-1 at p. 36.
14, 2018, JPMorgan removed the case to federal court on the
basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1332. On June 25, 2018, it filed a motion for summary
judgment arguing that all of his claims are barred by res
judicata, premature or asserted without standing, and
are not supported by the law or the facts. Dkt. No. 6. On
July 13, 2018, Phillips filed a motion seeking to dismiss his
claims against JPMorgan, contending that it is no longer a
necessary party, Dkt. No. 9. On February 28, 2019, the
District Court denied Phillips' Motion to Dismiss and
granted JPMorgan's Motion for Summary Judgment in favor
of JPMorgan on all of Phillips' claims. See Dkt.
has also filed a Motion for Sanctions, which was referred to
the undersigned, arguing that it is entitled to sanctions in
this case because the filing of this lawsuit was merely
another attempt to delay the foreclosure of the Property. In
addition, JPMorgan argued that all of the claims in this
lawsuit are barred by res judicata and violate the
Court's previous warnings not to file any further
lawsuits related to the foreclosure. Accordingly, JPMorgan
sought to recover its reasonable attorneys' fees and
expenses incurred related to the defense of Suits Four, Five,
Six and Seven from the period of July 16, 2014, through June
20, 2018. Because Phillips originally filed this lawsuit in
Texas state court, JPMorgan moved for sanctions under Chapter
10 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and Texas
Rule of Civil Procedure 13. JPMorgan sought attorneys'
fees and expenses it incurred related to the defense of Suits
Four through Seven, totaling $52, 084.01. JPMorgan further
requested that the fees and expenses incurred in Suits Six
and Seven be imposed jointly and severally with attorney
George Slade, who has been Phillips' counsel in both
those suits, and as to Suit Seven, jointly and severally with
attorney Anatole Barnstone, who is also counsel in this case.
November 30, 2018, after determining that it would be
appropriate to award sanctions in this case under its
inherent powers “to manage their own affairs so as to
achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases,
” Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger,
137 S.Ct. 1178, 1186 (2017), the Court determined that
JPMorgan is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys'
fees and expenses. See Dkt. No. 18. The Court found
that “[G]iven Phillips' delay tactics and his
willful violation of two Court Orders, sanctions are
appropriate.” Id. at p. 6. Accordingly, the
Court ordered Plaintiff to pay JPMorgan reasonable and
necessary attorneys' fees and expenses related to the
defense of claims brought by Plaintiff beginning July 16,
2014, through June 20, 2018 in the amount of $52, 084.01,
plus any additional reasonable and necessary fees and
expenses incurred by JPMorgan after June 20, 2018.
Id. at p.8. However, the Court withheld ruling on
JPMorgan's request that the sanctions be imposed jointly
and severally on Phillips' attorneys until it received
further briefing on the issue. Id. The Court has now
received all of the supplemental briefing on the matter and
is ready to rule on whether Phillips' attorneys should be
held jointly and severally liable for the sanctions. JPMorgan
has also submitted evidence demonstrating that it incurred
$11, 854 in reasonable attorneys' fees and $48.29 in
expenses since June 20, 2018. See Dkt. No. 19-1.
Thus, JPMorgan now seeks a total amount of $63, 986.30 in
attorneys' fees and expenses as a sanction in this case.