Bankruptcy judge’s reprimand must not deter CD 15 citizens from voting for me

EDINBURGH, Texas — Ruben Ramirez, a lawyer by profession, says a federal judge’s rebuke of him shouldn’t be enough to stop voters from supporting him in the 15 Congressional District race.

Ramirez is running for the CD 15 open seat in the Democratic Party primary.

Last year, representing Pharr resident Lorena Singh, Ramirez persuaded a state district judge to sign a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the city of Pharr from acquiring the assets of Hidalgo County EMS at a bankruptcy auction.

The restraining order threatened to scuttle the sale and disrupt ambulance service, reported journalist Dave Hendricks for the Mission progress time last April.

“The mentality of bankruptcy is that you pick up the phone and ask before you sneak into state court and get a $100 TRO,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones said, when the case was heard in federal court in Corpus Christi.

Jones is the Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. He was appointed to the court on September 30, 2011 and became the court’s chief justice in 2015.

Corpus Christi attorney Nathaniel Peter Holzer represented Hidalgo County EMS. Holzer said Singh, and by extension his attorney Ramirez, was simply wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.

Judge Jones agreed. “Lawyers familiar with federal bankruptcy court would know better than to seek a temporary restraining order in state court, Jones said, adding that he would assume Ramirez just didn’t know how the process worked,” reported Hendricks for the Progress time.

Had a seasoned bankruptcy attorney like Holzer attempted such a maneuver, Jones said he would have responded in a different way, Hendricks reported.

“Suppose Mr. Holzer filed the lawsuit you filed. Mr. Holzer would be in my courtroom today and there would be a U.S. Marshal with a set of handcuffs standing right next to him,” the official said. Progress time reported Jones as saying. “I’m going to assume that you (Ramirez) are just not familiar with all the applicable bankruptcy rules and issues and my jurisdiction and that sort of thing.”

The bankruptcy process is transparent, Jones said, and anyone with concerns can file an objection, the Progress time story told.

“There are several ways to go about getting your client’s rights and arguments heard and vindicated one way or another,” Jones said. “But doing what you did is not the right way to do it.”

Asked by the Guardian of the Rio Grande If voters were to take notice of Judge Jones’ warning, Ramirez (pictured above) said: ‘No, nothing at all. Look, as a lawyer, I was hired. I was selected for this. I took a look at it and realized that, hey, there might be some merit in that. It’s no different than anybody else (a lawyer) taking on some kind of case for a defendant or anything else. That doesn’t make them guilty of that.

Ramirez said the decision to take the case, pursue a TRO and try to prevent the city of Pharr from acquiring the ambulance company’s assets did not reflect badly on his character.

“I respectfully disagree with the judge’s version of what happened, but that has no bearing in this particular case. It’s like that. He (Judge Jones) made the decision. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree. In this case, I don’t agree with that but, in the end, we still respect it because it’s the rule of law, that’s what the courts are made for. And that’s where we are.”

When solvent, Hidalgo County EMS provided ambulance service in Edinburg, Pharr, and rural South Texas. When Hidalgo County EMS filed for bankruptcy, owing $2.6 million to the IRS, the town of Pharr rushed to acquire its assets. Pharr City Ambulance services have now been extended to a number of smaller towns in Hidalgo County.

When asked if the ambulance business was now in the wrong hands, Ramirez said: ‘I won’t necessarily talk about that aspect, but it was up to the citizens of Pharr to decide. I am for transparency. But, again, I felt it was a case that potentially had merit. I got held up on it, didn’t I? The judge made his decision. I respect the judge’s decision even if I don’t agree with it. It’s America.

Singh, a resident of Pharr, is a social worker who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Pharr City Commission in 2019. Singh argued there were conflicts of interest in Pharr’s bid for Hidalgo County EMS and that the secrecy had tainted the sales process. So, through her lawyer Ramirez, she filed a complaint. The TRO was signed by State District Judge Roberto “Bobby” Flores.

the Progress time reported that Hidalgo County EMS had “constant cash flow issues” and failed to file a tax return. After filing for protection under bankruptcy laws, Hidalgo County EMS was supposed to devise a reorganization plan to restructure the business. This never happened and its director of restructuring recommended finding a buyer. The City of Pharr filed the only bid for its assets.

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