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Federal Judge Rebuked Texas Dem for Filing Suit To Halt Ambulance Services

Attorney Ruben Ramirez now running to represent South Texas in Congress

An ambulance in Hidalgo County, Texas.
• April 13, 2022 4:59 am

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A Democratic congressional candidate in Texas was admonished by a federal judge after he filed a lawsuit that could have halted emergency ambulance services in the county he is now running to represent.

In April 2021, attorney Ruben Ramirez submitted a lawsuit to stop the city of Pharr from purchasing a local ambulance company that declared bankruptcy. While both state and federal officials helped broker the sale to avoid a disruption in ambulance services, Ramirez's client did not approve of the deal and claimed the sale process was shrouded in "secrecy." Ramirez went on to obtain a temporary restraining order to halt the sale, a move that threatened to freeze emergency care services in southern Hidalgo County. 

Mere hours later, however, Ramirez dropped the suit after U.S. bankruptcy judge David Jones admonished the Democrat. Jones accused Ramirez of working to "sneak" around him to secure the restraining order—all bankruptcy cases are handled in federal court, but Ramirez opted to file his suit in state district court, causing Jones to theorize that Ramirez "simply didn't know how the process worked." Jones also speculated that Ramirez filed the suit in an attempt to gain political standing and assailed the legal stunt as an act of gross incompetence that put local residents in danger.

"Doing what you did is not the way to do it," Jones told Ramirez. "I have my neighbors, fellow citizens, who are on the verge of when they dial 911, no one comes. That is unacceptable to me. And I will go to the very limit of my authority to protect my fellow Texans, my neighbors, my fellow human beings, to make sure that they have emergency care. If this is a political issue, I'm not sure this is a political issue you want to get in front of me on."

Just months after the judge's scathing rebuke, Ramirez launched a congressional campaign to succeed Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D.) in Texas's 15th Congressional District. The ordeal could follow Ramirez as he looks to emerge from a primary runoff election in late May. Ramirez has used his status as an attorney to establish his competence as a potential member of Congress—the Democrat's website touts his experience as a "civil trial lawyer with numerous trials, thousands of depositions, and hundreds of successful negotiations under my belt."

Ramirez's campaign did not return a request for comment.

Jones was not the only actor in the legal proceeding who accused Ramirez of playing politics with the local community's emergency response system. Attorney Nathaniel Holzer, who represented the ambulance company during the sale, called Ramirez's suit a "political stunt" in an email to the Democrat.

"Your baseless lawsuit appears to be a political stunt with no basis in fact or law, and you have potentially endangered the safety and welfare of large numbers of citizens of South Texas by threatening the existence and operations of the largest 911 service provider in the area," Holzer wrote.

In the end, Ramirez's botched lawsuit did not land the Democrat in any legal hot water. But that may not have been the case if Jones had held Ramirez in higher regard as an attorney.

"Let's assume Mr. Holzer had filed the lawsuit that you filed. Mr. Holzer would be in my courtroom today and there would be a United States marshal with a set of handcuffs standing right by him," the judge said. "I'm going to assume you simply aren't familiar with all of the rules and the applicable bankruptcy issues and my jurisdiction and that sort of thing."

Roughly one year after Ramirez's suit "failed spectacularly," the Democrat is facing former congressional aide Michelle Vallejo in a May primary runoff election. The winner will go on to face Republican Monica De La Cruz in November. A small business owner, De La Cruz ran against incumbent Democrat Vicente Gonzalez in 2020 but lost narrowly. Gonzalez is vacating the seat to run in Texas's neighboring 34th Congressional District.

Published under: Texas