Sanctions hearing against coin fraud attorneys gets contentious

Marilyn Tennissen Mar. 12, 2008, 9:52am

Editor's note: For more background on the case, see "Floyd dismisses motion for sanctions against coin fraud attorneys" on The Record Web site.

Two attorneys got a reprieve March 7 when Judge Donald Floyd dismissed a motion to sanction them for alleged violations of one of his previous court rulings.

Floyd granted a motion to quash hearing and dismiss sanctions filed by attorneys Jason Gibson and Jake Posey. The lawyers argued they were not bound by a court ruling last March that prohibited, in certain circumstances, the soliciting of clients of Universal Coin and Bullion as potential plaintiffs against the coin company.

The original litigation arose when UCB sued former employee John Rollins. UCB claimed that Rollins stole a list of customers and handed it off to attorney Bill Voss, who then signed them up as plaintiffs in cases alleging the coin company defrauded them.

When the case settled, part of the agreement included an order from Floyd signed on March 30, 2007, that Voss "shall not knowingly (or indirectly through a third party) target, initiate or solicit any individual who is or was a customer of UCB and/or use any customer name, customer address or contact information obtained from UCB or as a result of Rollins' employment with UCB."

The two sides have been arguing over the language of that order ever since.

Attorneys for UCB alleged that Gibson and Posey had been working in concert with Voss since the court order, and wanted Floyd not only to enforce the order, but also to sanction the lawyers for violations.

Through responses, counter complaints and a motion to dismiss, Gibson and Posey argued that the motion for sanctions against them was not only frivolous, but prohibited their right to practice law.

All the parties came face to face on March 7 in Floyd's court.

UCB President Mike Fuljenz was joined by counsel Bruce Partain, Ricky Raven and M.C. Carrington. Gibson had his own counsel, Beaumont attorney Mitch Toups, and Posey and Voss had representation from Houston attorney Robert Bennett.

And it didn't take long for the hearing to take on an adversarial tone.

Soon after the hearing began, Toups pointed to The Record correspondent and asked that the media be excluded from the proceedings.

"I'm sure 'they' invited the media," Toups said with a nod toward Fuljenz and his counsel.

Toups argued that that the allegations against Gibson, Posey and Voss could be considered professional grievances of a confidential nature.

Judge Floyd did not respond to the question about the media presence in the courtroom and the hearing turned to the interpretation of the March 30, 2007, order.

Raven said "third party" means "other people," and that the "other people" in this case were Gibson and Posey whom he said were continuing to work together with Voss on litigation against UCB.

Raven produced a letter from Posey that discusses his working on lawsuits with Gibson and Voss.

Gibson jumped up and said nothing in the order prohibited the three lawyers from practicing law together.

"We work together, it's no secret," Gibson said.

It was agreed that Gibson, Posey and Voss worked together on more than 50 suits filed against UCB, but the three lawyers argued that those clients were either contacted before the March 30,2007, order; or filed when a former UCB customer contacted the attorneys on their own.

Bennett said according to UCB's argument, "then hypothetically the 'whole world' could be included in the order as a third party."

Raven later became so frustrated with Toups' frequent objections that Toups told him to "control himself."

"You control yourself, sir" Raven shouted back, at which point Judge Floyd told Raven he would not permit that type of behavior in his court.

Then against Toups' objections, Floyd let Fuljenz take the stand.

Partain began to ask Fuljenz about what he believed were attempts by Gibson to target UCB clients through the Internet. Because Gibson worked with Voss, the actions were in violation of the court's order, Partain argued.

Bennett repeatedly interrupted Partain's questioning, arguing that the exhibits pre-dated the court order and objecting on issues of relevance, foundation and hearsay. Floyd eventually told Bennett to "shut up."

But after listening to more than three hours of arguments -- now stretching into closing time on Friday afternoon � Floyd, without making any comment, said he was granting the motion to quash and dismiss regarding Gibson and Posey.

A hearing regarding Voss then began, but will continue on March 14.

Case No. E176-598

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