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John Paul DeJoria Asserts Successful Due-Process Defense to Enforcement of $123 Million Moroccan Judgment in Dispute with Royal Family

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HOUSTON, March 28, 2018 – Baker Botts L.L.P., a leading international law firm, received a win for firm client entrepreneur and philanthropist John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron tequila.  After investing in an oil-exploration venture with a company controlled by the Moroccan Royal Family, Mr. DeJoria was sued by the Moroccan company in Moroccan court on false charges of fraud and mismanagement.  The Moroccan court issued a $123 million judgment against Mr. DeJoria.  The Moroccan company sought to enforce the judgment against Mr. DeJoria in the United States in federal district court in Austin, Texas. 

On March 28, 2018, Judge Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas held that the Moroccan judgment could not be recognized under the Texas Uniform Foreign Country Money-Judgment Recognition Act because the judgment was obtained in violation of Mr. DeJoria’s right to due process.  He adopted in full the 40-page opinion by Magistrate Judge Andy Austin reaching this conclusion.

After reviewing extensive evidence submitted by both sides, Magistrate Judge Austin found that the Moroccan proceedings violated due process because Mr. DeJoria did not receive a fair trial in his proceedings against the Moroccan royal family in his politically sensitive case.  Among other things, the magistrate judge found that the Moroccan court cycled through five court-appointed experts before finding one who would recommend damages against Mr. DeJoria.

“Mr. DeJoria was unable to obtain counsel and could not personally appear in the Moroccan proceedings due to threats against his life and the politically sensitive nature of his case,” said Aaron Streett, lead Baker Botts litigator for the case. “Therefore, the federal court declined to recognize the judgment because the Moroccan proceedings deprived him of his due-process rights to a fair trial before an impartial tribunal.” 

The ruling, which will now be considered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, enforces the intent of the Texas Legislature, which amended the Texas Uniform Foreign Country Money-Judgment Recognition Act in 2017 specifically to ensure that foreign judgments obtained in violation of an individual’s due-process rights may not be enforced in Texas courts.

A Baker Botts team including Mr. Streett, senior associate Mark Little, and associate Travis Gray (all from Houston) is representing Mr. DeJoria in the district court proceedings and previously represented him in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.  Senior counsel Brad Reynolds (Washington) and partner Evan Young (Austin) provided strategic input throughout the proceedings; senior paralegal Sheila Bickel and secretary Jacqueline Curtis (both from Houston) provided invaluable assistance. Baker Botts is working with a team from co-lead counsel Enoch Kever PLLC, which includes former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch and partners Gary Zausmer and Melissa Lorber.

 

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