David Yates Aug. 24, 2015, 12:56pm


Attorney Paul ‘Chip’ Ferguson Jr. has non-suited Provost Umphrey from his lawsuit, but that doesn’t mean the drama is over between the Beaumont law firm and its former equity partner.

Court records show that PU has filed a lawsuit of its own against Ferguson in hopes of obtaining a court order to force the attorney into arbitration.

A day after resigning, Ferguson filed suit against PU on Aug. 4 in Jefferson County District Court, seeking to restrain the firm for an undisclosed reason.

Both Ferguson and PU have declined to comment on why he resigned.

At the request of Ferguson, on Aug. 21 Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, signed an order dismissing the attorney’s claims against PU without prejudice, court records show.

Three days later, PU filed suit against Ferguson in Jefferson County on Aug. 24, asserting a Jan. 1, 2012 partnership agreement in place between the parties contains a broad and mandatory arbitration clause.

According to the lawsuit, Ferguson is claiming he is not bound by the agreement and that he is entitled to “much more than a departing partner is entitled to receive” under the agreement.

“Because the disputes at issue are subject to a binding arbitration provision, this court should both compel arbitration and stay the proceedings pending a final resolution in the arbitration,” the suit states. “At that point, this court should enter a final judgment in accord with the arbitration results and dismiss this action.”

PU’s suit has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

According to courthouse officials, civil cases are assigned to one of four district judges at random.

Case background

When filing his suit earlier this month, Ferguson attached an order to seal. The case originally landed in Judge Sanderson’s court but was swiftly transferred to Judge Floyd’s.

Judge Floyd, who was on vacation when the suit was transferred to his court, sealed the case and has declined to respond to requests for comment.

A hearing for a temporary restraining order was suppose to be held in his court Aug. 17 but was canceled and rescheduled for Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

However, as attorneys showed up for the rescheduled hearing, they were informed the case had been punted back to Judge Sanderson’s court.

Judge Sanderson asked the attorneys to meet with him in his private chambers. The Record was not allowed to attend.

About 20 minutes later, the attorneys were dismissed.

Judge Sanderson did not make a ruling on the TRO and a request was made for an outside judge to come in and hear the case, according to a courthouse official.

PU senior and equity partners Bryan Blevins Jr., who is also the current Texas Trial Lawyers Association president, and James E. Payne attended the hearing.

Ferguson was also present. However, his attorney, Glen Morgan, a managing partner at Reaud Morgan & Quinn, was at a funeral and could not attend, according to Ferguson.

When asked why he originally booted the case to Judge Floyd, Judge Sanderson said he knew “everybody involved and that’s typically the best thing to do” in that type of situation.

Judge Floyd is also acquainted with the firms involved in the case.

The PU and RMQ firms are top political contributors to Floyd’s re-election campaigns, each giving the max ($15,000) to the judge in the 2014 election cycle, campaign finance records show.

A Freedom of Information Act request seeking the suit he sealed has been denied.

Ferguson has handled several prized cases for PU, which includes scoring a $32 million jury verdict against Domino’s Pizza in 2013 – a top five verdict in Texas that year, according to the National Law Journal

Attorney Fields Alexander of the Houston law firm Beck Redden represents PU.

Case Nos. B-197407 (Ferguson v. PU) and E-197460 (PU v. Ferguson)

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