EL PASO, Texas - It's been quiet for awhile now, but a contentious lawsuit is back in court. The legal teams of former Mayor John Cook and Tom Brown will attend a hearing at the County Courthouse Tuesday at 9 a.m. In Judge Javier Alvarez's court.
Brown and others attempted to recall Cook, who was mayor at the time, and representatives Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega after they voted to give health insurance to gay and unmarried partners of city workers. As this battle raged on, Cook racked up nearly $700,000 in legal fees, which he wants brown to pay for.
"It's outrageous to have a situation where you have a powerful political official, who's going after a group of people who stepped up and said we want to recall this political official," said Brown's Jerad Najvar.
Cook argued in 2011, Brown and the Word of Life church broke the law by raising money, submitting a petition, and attempting to call a recall election.
"To practice free speech is fine," said Cook in 2012. "There are legal ways you can do it. You can form political action committees, you can be upfront with it. You don't have to break the law in order to have your free speech."
Cook's legal team points to the state election code. It says a corporation may not make a political contribution in connection with a recall election. This includes the submission of a petition. Word of Life church is a non-profit corporation.
But Brown's lawyers say this state law doesn't apply because of an supersede supreme court decision, Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission. It states, the government may not suppress political speech on the basis of a corporate identity.
"In the early stage of the case, the constitutional issue wasn't an issue," Najvar said. "And now here he is, saying again, I want a million in attorney fees, and you still can't consider the constitutional argument."
Brown has said the city took away his constitutional right to petition the government. He in turn wants Cook to pay for his damages, which as of now, are unspecified.
"He's trying to put them on the hook for all of his attorney fees based on a law that everybody expect for the mayor knows is unconstitutional," Najvar said.
Cook is in Austin and his attorney declined to talk to us, but sent over the brief which states, "The defendants simply do not accept the decisions of the courts...and continue to loudly proclaim false statements of fact and law...This violation, standing alone and without more, is sufficient to find all defendants liable to Cool for all damages, costs and fees."