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Cantu v. Flanigan

August 27, 2007

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 José Ramiro Garza Cantu ("Cantu") brought this diversity action against pro se defendant Billy R. Flanigan ("Flanigan") alleging defamation and intentional and negligent interference with economic advantage. Flanigan counterclaimed, alleging intentional interference with contract, and filed a third--party complaint against other individuals, also alleging intentional interference with contract.

Background

The allegations in this case have their genesis in a forfeiture action that was brought in this court in 2002. Many of the background facts have been gleaned from this court's prior opinion that, in turn, adopted facts from the underlying forfeiture action. See Cantu v. Flanigan, CV-05-3580 (E.D.N.Y. May 24, 2006) ("Cantu I"). On June 17, 2002, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted the United States an order that restrained all funds in an account at Banorte Securities, owned by the Petroleum Workers Union of the Republic of Mexico (the "Union"). In re: All Funds in Account 6MH215309, M-02-906 (RML) (E.D.N.Y. 2003). The United States had requested the order in connection with a pending Mexican government criminal investigation relating to the embezzlement of funds from Petroleos Mexicanos ("PEMEX"), an oil and gas company owned by the Mexican government. The Mexican government had also restrained all funds in another account owned by the Union (the "Mexican account").

The Mexican government requested that the United States seek a modification to the June 2002 restraining order, permitting the funds to be transferred to the Mexican account. Although the Union consented to the modification, Flanigan, who was not a party to the forfeiture action, objected. He claimed rights to these funds through Arriba, a corporation that obtained a $92 million default judgment against the Union in 1986 (the "1986 Judgment"), alleging that the funds were related to the 1986 Judgment.

On January 10, 2005, Flanigan submitted to the court a document entitled "Amicus Brief," which objected to modifying the restraining order and alleged wrongful acts committed by PEMEX, the Union and other individuals involving corruption, racketeering, money laundering and murder. Cantu is one of the individuals who was named in the Amicus Brief. Subsequently, some of the allegations contained in the Amicus Brief also appeared in the Mexican media. In an order dated Aug. 9, 2005, the court noted that Flanigan had never been granted leave to file an amicus brief, and the brief was, therefore, not part of the record in that case.

On July 29, 2005, Cantu brought the present suit against Flanigan for defamation, interference with contractual relations, and intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage based on the allegations in the Amicus Brief. On August 15, 2005, Flanigan counterclaimed, alleging intentional interference with contract. Essentially, Flanigan maintains that Cantu's efforts to prevent him from collecting on the 1986 Judgment constitute intentional interference with contract or property rights. Flanigan also filed a third-party complaint against a litany of defendants, alleging identical claims of intentional interference with contract. In response, Cantu moved to dismiss both the counterclaim and the third-party complaint.

Prior Opinion

On May 24, 2006, this court granted Cantu's motion to dismiss the third-party complaint. Cantu I, at 18. Cantu's motion to dismiss Flanigan's counterclaim on grounds that it was barred by the statute of limitations was also granted, with leave to replead. Id. Flanigan was granted thirty days to file an amended counterclaim if he could allege any acts of interference with property rights occurring since August 15, 2002. Id.

On June 20, 2006, Flanigan submitted his First Amended Counterclaim for Intentional Interference with Contract and Property Rights ("FACC"). Flanigan maintains that he had valid and existing property and contract rights related to: (1) an original residual oil contract giving rise to the 1986 Judgment, which was issued by the 281st Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas in Case No. 85-35446; (2) the 1986 Judgment itself; and (3) a post-judgment garnishment action. FACC, ¶ 1. As was discussed in Cantu I, the date the residual oil contract was entered into predates 1986, because its breach resulted in the 1986 Judgment. Cantu I, at 8. Flanigan asserts that Cantu intended to induce a breach of this alleged contract, entered into a conspiracy to take Flanigan's profit from the contract, and interfered with Flanigan's property and contract rights. Flanigan specifically alleges the following conduct occurring since August 15, 2002.

Flanigan alleges that on May 24, 2004, Cantu participated in a "fraudulent settlement agreement and contract" with James B. Gomez,*fn1 the Union and its wholly owned Commission of Contracts (both of whom are judgment debtors) and others. FACC ¶ 2(a). Allegedly, Cantu participated in this scheme in order to receive future "kick-backs" on the collection of the 1986 Judgment. FACC ¶¶ 2a, 2b. Flanigan further alleges that Cantu and others participated in taking approximately $250 million, which PEMEX loaned to the Union to "take care of" Flanigan, and that this scheme also related to the 1986 Judgment. In addition, Flanigan alleges that in September, 2002, Cantu participated in a bribe in order to delay Flanigan's collection and enforcement of the 1986 Judgment. FACC ¶ 2(c). Lastly, Flanigan alleges that in 2005, Cantu hired agents, who concealed their true identities as agents of Cantu and tried to obtain confidential information from Cantu regarding his collection efforts of the 1986 Judgment.*fn2

On July 10, 2006, Cantu responded with a motion to dismiss Flanigan's FACC on the ground that, as with Flanigan's original, dismissed counterclaim, the FACC is barred by the statute of limitations. On January 10, 2007, Cantu filed a motion for summary judgment on similar grounds.

Flanigan has also moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Cantu's libel action should be dismissed because Flanigan's statements were true, and thus not defamatory. Additionally, on January 29, 2007, Flanigan moved for summary judgment alleging absolute immunity for judicial filings because he maintains that he submitted the Amicus Brief containing the alleged defamatory statements about Cantu to the court before he made the statements to the Mexican media. Aff. of Flanigan in Supp. of Summ. J., ¶ 7.

Discussion

(1) Interference with ...


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