Houston bankruptcy judge denies sanctions for evidence spoilation on Iphone

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Posted on Jun 28, 2014

This court decision is part of the Michael Brown chapter 7 bankruptcy. Michael Brown was a very wealthy former hand surgeon from Houston that founded the Brown Hand Centers. In re Michael Glyn Brown, Bankr. SD Texas 2014.

According to the bankruptcy court's opinion Ms. Paredes is a French citizen living in Miami, and a former girlfriend of Brown. Her relationship with Brown ended in 2013, but she stayed in contact with a Mr. Marongin, who was a driver for Brown. The bankruptcy trustee believed that Marongin played a role in Brown's efforts to conceal assets from the trustee. Mr. Marongin reportedly sent Ms. Paredes a text message stating, “I know where everything is” (the “Marongin Text”). The Text was sent to Ms. Paredes' Iphone, which had been given to her by Brown.

The Trustee obtained court orders compelling the turnover of the Iphone, so he could obtain the Text as evidence. The Text had been somehow lost. Then she apparently lost the Iphone itself. The Trustee brought a motion to show cause why Paredes and her attorney, Avila, should not be sanctioned for contempt and for spoilation of evidence.

 After hearing the evidence, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones declined to find Paredes in contempt, finding that the Trustee had not met his burden, or proved the elements of spoilation. The judge did, however, order that Aviles pay monetary sanctions in the form of paying the Trustee's attorney's fees, finding that Aviles had engaged in the practice of law in the Southern District of Texas without being admitted, and had breached a duty of candor by failing to disclose that the Iphone was lost.

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