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Cantu v. Flanigan

May 24, 2006

JOSE RAMIRO GARZA CANTU, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BILLY R. FLANIGAN, UNKNOWN/UNNAMED DEFENDANT, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Trager, J

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jose Ramiro Garza Cantu ("Cantu") has brought this diversity action against pro se defendant and third-party plaintiff Billy R. Flanigan ("Flanigan") alleging defamation and intentional and negligent interference with economic advantage. Flanigan counterclaimed, alleging intentional interference with contract, and later filed a third-party complaint against numerous other individuals, also alleging intentional interference with contract. Cantu has filed a motion to dismiss both the counterclaim and third-party complaint.

Background

On June 17, 2002, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 981(b)(4), granted the United States an order restraining all funds in Account No. 6MH215309 at Banorte Securities. In re: All Funds in Account 6MH215309, M-02-906 (RML) (E.D.N.Y. 2003) (Levy, M.J.). The following facts have been gleaned from the decision in that underlying forfeiture action.

The owner of the account was Sindicato De Trabajadores Petroleros De La Republica Mexicana (the "Union"), the labor union for Mexican oil workers. The United States requested the restraining order in connection with a pending criminal investigation undertaken by the Mexican government relating to embezzlement of funds from Petroleos Mexicanos ("PEMEX"), an oil and gas company owned by the Mexican government. As part of the investigation, the Mexican government also restrained all funds in Account No. 559-01859-7 (the "Mexican account"), also owned by the Union and held at Banco Mercantil Del Norte S.A. in Mexico City.

In response to a request by the Mexican government, the United States sought a modification to the restraining order permitting the restrained funds at Banorte Securities to be transferred to the Mexican account. The Union consented to the transfer but three non-parties objected. One of the non-parties was Flanigan, who claimed rights to the funds through Arriba, a corporation that obtained a $92 million default judgment against the Union in 1986. Flanigan alleges that the restrained funds are related to the 1986 default judgment. Flanigan brought to the attention of the district court a Writ of Garnishment issued by the Clerk of the 281st Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas. The writ prohibits the custodian of the restrained funds at Banorte from paying them out to any claimant.

Flanigan expressed his objections to the United States' request to modify the restraining order by submitting to the court on January 10, 2005 a document he entitled "Amicus Brief." The brief contained numerous allegations regarding wrongful acts committed by PEMEX, the Union and a host of other individuals involving corruption, racketeering, money laundering and murder.

One of the individuals named in the Amicus Brief was plaintiff Cantu. The brief accused Cantu of being the operations manager of a racketeering enterprise, participating in a bribery and bid-rigging scheme and facilitating international money laundering. The brief also accused Cantu of using his contacts with Saddam Hussein to circumvent the sanctions against Iraq by purchasing Iraqi oil which was later mixed with stolen Mexican oil and sold in the United States. Subsequent to its submission to the court, some of the Amicus Brief's allegations appeared in the Mexican media.

Cantu and another individual named in the Amicus Brief moved to strike it as containing scandalous allegations unrelated to the forfeiture action. Cantu's motion was denied as moot, because Flanigan had never been granted leave to file the Amicus Brief and it contained allegations outside the court's jurisdiction. The court clarified that because the Amicus Brief's filing was not authorized, it was not part of the record in the forfeiture case.

On July 29, 2005, Cantu brought the present suit alleging defamation, interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage. Compl., ¶¶ 28-62. The complaint alleged that Flanigan submitted his Amicus Brief to the Mexican media prior to submitting it to the court. Id. at ¶¶ 16. Attached to the complaint is an article entitled "La Mafia de PEMEX" or "The Mafia of PEMEX," published in a periodical called Proceso. Compl., Ex. A. The article recites portions of the Amicus Brief nearly verbatim. The article, however, was published in February of 2005, approximately one month after the brief was submitted to the court.*fn1

On August 15, 2005, Flanigan answered Cantu's complaint and included a counterclaim, alleging intentional interference with contract. Answer and Countercl. ¶¶ 69-71. The contract he alleges Cantu interfered with is the same contract that gave rise to the 1986 default judgment. Flanigan essentially alleges that Cantu's efforts to prevent him from collecting on the 1986 default judgment constitutes intentional interference with contract. Id.

Three weeks later, on September 6, 2005, Flanigan filed a third-party complaint against a litany of defendants, many of whom were named in his Amicus Brief. The third-party complaint alleges intentional interference with contract. Third-Party Compl., ¶¶ 11-13. The interference alleged was identical to the allegations in the counterclaim.

On the same day, Cantu filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaim for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Less than two weeks later, on September 15, 2005, Cantu filed ...


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