When I mention “sanctions” to clients, their eyes get big. They ask me what are sanctions? Sanctions are whatever a judge thinks is appropriate for folks who abuse our judicial system. Most abuse is pretty minor. So, sanctions will be minor. One client refused to disclose a medical care provider, because the medical care was embarrassing. I warned her about sanctions. Later, we did provide the name of the medical care provider. But, by the time we actually provided the name, the opposing party could legitimately say we provided the name late. So, the judge fined my client $500.
What happens in those very rare times when a party fails to provide requested documents? What happens when that tardiness extends over years? Alex Jones can tell us. He was sued in 2018 in Travis County for saying untrue things about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. His constant accusations that the shooting did not actually occur upset the families a great deal. The families sued him for defamation. Jones appealed on frivolous grounds. See my prior post about that appeal here. Judge Scott Jenkins sanctioned Alex Jones $100,000 in 2019.
But, still Jones failed to produce the requested documents. So, now Judge Maya Guerra Gamble has issued the ultimate sanction. He has found Alex Jones and Infowars in default. That means the judge has found Jones and his business liable to the families who filed the suit. Only because they would not cooperate in discovery for years. It is incredibly rare for a judge to assess the nuclear option of sanctions. Such a move reflects the great frustration the judge must have felt. Under the system used in Travis County, a different judge hears each motion. So, this ultimate sanction reflects the frustration of several judges. What would motivate a party to incur such a result? It’s hard to say. The next step is for a jury to assess damages.
See Daily Beast article here.