HOUSTON - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently
affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Judge Michael
Newman, justice of the Probate Court of Harris County.
The lawsuit was brought by Sheila Owens Collins, who accused Judge
Newman of intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional and
negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, and 14th
Court records show that in October 2017 Harris County Probate Court
Number 1 presided over a guardianship proceeding relating to the adult
Hattie Lester Balfour Owens. Following an investigation and medical
examinations, the court determined that Owens was incapacitated. A
nonparty judge presided over the proceedings, and appointed a temporary
guardian, guardian ad litem, and an attorney ad litem to represent Owens
in her opposition to the guardianship.
On Jan. 1, 2019, Owens passed away at 90. The guardianship case was
reassigned to Judge Newman in Probate Court Number 2 on Feb. 6, 2019,
court records state. Judge Newman ruled on applications to award
attorney’s fees before the guardianship closed in June 2019. Between
February 2019 and October 2020, Judge Newman presided over the probate
estate of the late Owens.
Court records show that on Feb. 5, 2021, Collins amended her
complaint against Judge Newman to assert violations of: the Due Process
Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; Cannons 1 and 2 of the
Texas Code of Judicial Conduct; and the Racketeering Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act.
Collins alleges the attorneys appointed in the probate case
conspired with her family members and Judge Newman to hasten Owens’
death and deplete her assets, court records state. Collins further
accuses Judge Newman of colluding with the attorneys and her family
members by failing to supervise them and ordering the estate to pay fees
that she personally believes are excessive.
Court records show the trial court granted Judge Newman’s motion to dismiss. Collins appealed the decision.
In his appellate brief, Judge Newman states that not one of
Collins’ complaints state a valid legal claim sufficient to overcome his
On Dec. 2, the Fifth Circuit found Collins “fails to present any
non-frivolous arguments on appeal,” affirming the judgment of the trial
Case No. 21-20355