Lawyers in a coin fraud case say the opposing counsels' motion for sanctions against them is nothing more than a public relations move to divert attention from the coin company's deceptive activities.
As reported in The Record on Nov. 26, attorneys for Universal Coin and Bullion filed a motion to enforce judgment and sanctions against opposing counsel Jason Gibson, Bill Voss and Jake Posey.
Bruce Partain and Ricky Raven filed the motion on behalf of UCB on Nov. 1, alleging that the other lawyers have ignored a court order from Jefferson County District Judge Donald Floyd that stops them from contacting customers of the coin company and soliciting them as plaintiffs for more lawsuits.
"The motion is a publicity stunt," Gibson told The Record Wednesday in a conference call with Voss and Posey. "All he (Partain) had to do was file the motion and set it for hearing. But he had an order signed by the court and had us served with papers."
Gibson said the motion contains irrelevant material about things that have nothing to do with the judge's order.
"I can't even tell what the actual complaint is," Gibson said.
The pending motion stems from one of several suits against Universal Coin by former customers who claim the Beaumont-based company ripped them off. Plaintiffs allege that UCB used strong-arm sales tactics on elderly customers to get them to buy coins at overly-inflated values.
UCB has maintained that a former employee, John Rollins, stole a list of customers and gave the names to Voss, who then solicited the customers to become plaintiffs in suits against UCB.
Three suits were originally filed in March 2006 and settled last year. The coin company counter-sued former employees Rollins and Shannon Smith as well as Voss.
During a deposition for the counter-suit against Voss, Gibson represented and was present when Voss gave a deposition.
A judgment from Floyd on March 30, 2007, contained an injunction against Voss or a third party from targeting or soliciting any customer of UCB or any name obtained from Rollins' list.
In the meantime, Gibson filed 15 more suits against UCB.
At the March hearing, Gibson said the judge specifically did not stop the lawyers from filing more lawsuits.
"There was one sentence (in a letter Voss sent to a former UCB customer) that the judge didn't like," Gibson said. "But he said that the injunction is limited to Voss and the names from Rollins."
Gibson said there never was a "stolen list" of UCB customers. He said Rollins left UCB because he objected to its business practices and simply rattled off to Voss the names of about 30 people that he "felt like he ripped off."
The motion for sanctions against Gibson, Voss and Posey includes a letter to UCB customer Orald Stewart from Voss. The letter indicates that Voss is representing a client that was filing a lawsuit against UCB and that Stewart could be a potential witness. The letter also brings up that Stewart might also be unhappy with his dealings with UCB.
Gibson now has Stewart as a client, and said Stewart has no recollection of ever receiving a letter from Voss.
"Mr. Stewart contacted me a year later after seeing an article about the allegations against UCB in a coin-trader publication," Gibson said.
Gibson said his name and Posey's are not ever mentioned in Floyd's judgment.
"The motion for sanctions is based on huge assumptions," Gibson said. "The essence of the claim is Orald Stewart. I had no idea he had been associated with the 30 names (from Rollins). Judge Floyd's order doesn't say anything about clients contacting me."
The motion also alleges that Gibson uses links on coin-collecting Web sites to solicit clients.
Gibson said his clients are referred to him by other coin dealers.
"If a customer tries to sell coins back to UCB and they won't return the calls, then he will go to a local dealer to sell them. That dealer could see that UCB had ripped the customer off and may have read an article about it and give the customer my name," Gibson said.
Gibson said he feels that the UCB attorneys will cancel the scheduled Dec. 7 hearing in Floyd's court on the motion for sanctions.
"But a motion for sanction is serious, I could get disbarred for disobeying a court order," he said.
The parties will not be waiting until Dec. 7 to stand before Floyd however, as a hearing is set for Thursday, Nov. 29, on a motion that Gibson filed.
The motion is to compel Terry Garth, majority owner of Universal Coin and Bullion and several other coin companies in Beaumont, to give a deposition in the case of Maureen O'Neill et al vs. 1st Capital Reserve et al.
Gibson's motion states that on Oct. 1, 2007, Floyd ordered Garth to give a deposition by the end of November. A date was originally set on Oct. 30, but had to be rescheduled because of personal issues with Garth's family.
"The parties agreed to mediate on Nov. 7, instead of deposing Garth, with the understanding new dates in November for Garth's deposition would be provided," the motion states.
The motion claims that despite a dozen or so requests to defense counsel, the plaintiff never received a new date for Garth's deposition.
"Defendants have blatantly refused to provide a new date, even though counsel for plaintiff has been willing to work with Garth and his lawyers on a new deposition date," the motion states. "Not a single date has been proposed or provided, for November or otherwise."
The motion alleges that defendants are using stalling tactics to keep Garth from being deposed.
"Defendants are now taking the position that attorney Ronald Krist must be the lawyer to represent Garth for his deposition. Conveniently, Krist is taking the position he cannot be available to present Garth for his deposition for at least the next two to three months," the motion states.
Gibson's motion goes on to say that since the case was filed in February 2007, Krist has not participated "in a single pleading in the case, has not attending a single hearing in the case and has not attended a single deposition."
"Attorney Bruce Partain has filed various Motions to Quash on behalf of Garth and attorney Ferguson McNiel has promised dates for Garth's deposition on his behalf, however, Krist has not done a single thing," the motion states.
"Terry is a lawyer and is the majority owner of all these coin companies," Gibson said. "The buck stops with him."
Gibson said there is personal animosity at play between the opposing lawyers.
"They (the coin companies) have been operating like this for over a decade and no one has called them out on it," Gibson said.
Gibson said the timing of UCB's motion for sanctions against him and the other attorneys came about because he recently obtained another sworn statement from a former UCB employee about the company's sales tactics.
"They have a pattern, if something in the case is bad for them, then they do something like this," Gibson said.
Gibson said he will file a counter motion against Partain and Rivers for abuse of pleadings.
"They have made a bunch of something out of nothing," Gibson said. "I am proud to represent these clients. I am on the right side, they are not."