Lawyers Who Filed Racism Suits Against Dillard's Owe The Company $143K, Court Rules

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Local attorneys Cletus Ernster III and Damon Chargois were in the forefront of lawyers suing the department store chain Dillard's on claims of racism, a story we wrote about back in 2004.

They said their black customers were unfairly targeted by store security, and treated roughly in any incidents. Some customers died at the hands of Dillard's security, which consisted of off-duty cops.

"Race is the motivating factor in the decision to search, stop and detain shoppers at Dillard's," said Houston attorney Cletus P. Ernster III, whose firm has filed more than 100 cases against the chain.

There some victories and some losses for all the lawsuits along the way, but one constant: Dillard's was very pissed that the two Houston lawyers used its logo on websites trumpeting their cases.

They filed and won a trademark-infringement suit; the law firm was ordered to pay $143,000. The firm broke up and the attorneys argued in court that they should not be personally liable for the amount, but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled otherwise.

The judgment itself is rooted in arcane laws about partnerships, and whether dissolving them gets rid of debts, and gobbledegook like that. In fact the two official parties in the suit are Dillard's and an insurance company, not the two lawyers.

But the fact stands that as of now, Chargois and Ernster are on the hook for six figures to the company they sued the crap out of, and that's not nice for them.

We've got calls in to both; we'll update if we hear back.

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