Not yet begun to fight

The 5th Court of Appeals ruled last week in Rick Finlan and company's long-running legal battle with the Dallas school district, and things did not go well for Finlan et al. Or, as lawyer Lawrence Friedman, one of 11,000 or so appellees, appellants, cross-appellants, repellents, and cross-dressers involved in the litigation puts it: "These guys were poured out of court."

It's true. The three-judge Dallas panel ruled against Finlan's side on virtually every issue. Yet for a guy who was just "poured out of court," Finlan didn't seem particularly perturbed when Buzz spoke to him. In fact, he was downright cocky.

"You just wait till we turn this thing around..." Finlan said. "If we had a bad case, we'd just walk away from it. We just take it all in stride."

In other words, expect further appeals.

Explaining Finlan's fight with DISD, which began roughly in 1842, is like trying to summarize the plot of All My Children. There's a whole lotta suin' goin' on, but for those of you keeping score:

Finlan and friends sued to get backup documentation to DISD trustees' campaign finance reports. The trial court said they could have them. The appeals court said they can't.

DISD sued Finlan and others, claiming they conspired to defraud the district of $300,000 by means of a concocted settlement in another case that they filed against the district. The trial court sided with Finlan. The appeals court didn't. The case was sent back to the lower court. (DISD's claim against a lawyer in Finlan's camp in the conspiracy case was dismissed.)

Finlan sued DISD claiming that the district and its lawyers defamed him with their conspiracy claim. He also alleged that the district violated his civil rights by using its own lawsuits as a means to shut him up. The trial court ruled in the district's favor. The appeals court agreed.

So it wasn't exactly a good day for Finlan, a non-lawyer who represents himself. Again, as Friedman puts it: "They caused the district enough trouble, and they need to get jobs."

Sorry, Larry. Finlan will fold about the same time DISD chief Bill Rojas turns out to be a cuddly teddy bear.

Finlan says the appeals court decision was based on poor scholarship that ignored previous case law. In time, and he seems to have plenty of it, he believes the ruling will be overturned--by the Texas Supreme Court if necessary. He says he plans to focus his attention on his civil rights claim.

"If the government can sue their critics...then where do they go from there?" he wonders. The 5th Court pointed out that Finlan continued to sue the district after it sued him for conspiracy, so his rights weren't really violated at all. To Buzz, that seems a little bit like saying, "Since you didn't cry uncle, it couldn't have hurt much when they twisted your arm." But what do we know? We're not a lawyer. Of course, neither is Finlan, and he's not been knocked out the ring quite yet.

"This fight's already won...all people have to do is wait until the end of the movie, and I'm going to make somebody poor," a metaphor-mixing Finlan says. "I'm going to hurt somebody."

Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

Buzz us, baby. We'll be waiting on your call at [email protected].