Judge Donald Floyd has denied a motion for sanctions against Houston attorney Bill Voss for allegations he violated a court order in connection with litigation against a Beaumont company that deals in rare coins.
On July 10, Judge Floyd of the 172nd District Court held a hearing to consider a Motion to Enforce Judgment and Sanctions against Voss, and on July 16 he denied the motion.
Attorneys for Universal Coin & Bullion and its president Mike Fuljenz filed the motion on Nov. 1, 2007, alleging Voss and his colleagues Jason Gibson and Jake Posey defied a restraining order issued by Judge Floyd in March 2007.
The restraining order was engineered to stop Voss from using an alleged list of clients stolen from UCB as a way to drum up clients.
Voss, Posey and Gibson represent dozens of UCB customers who allege the coin company ripped them off. UCB has counter sued.
UCB sought sanctions against all three of the attorneys, but after a lengthy hearing on March 7, 2008, Floyd dismissed Posey and Gibson from the motion. After being rescheduled several times, a hearing focusing solely on Voss was finally held last week.
"This all started when (an UCB) employee left (the company) and talked to Voss," said Gibson, who represented Voss at the hearing. "Everything flows from (a former UCB) employee talking with Voss."
UCB alleged that former employee John Rollins obtained a list of company customers and handed it over to Voss, who then tried to engage the customers as plaintiffs in lawsuits against the coin company.
A March 30, 2007, injunction from Judge Floyd prohibited Voss and Rollins from releasing any confidential information about UCB clients and from using any client list to solicit more plaintiffs.
But since the judge's order, UCB claims that Gibson, Posey and Voss have continued to file new lawsuits against the coin dealer.
UCB's motion for sanctions stated that the attorneys' conduct "resulted in customers of UCB entering into agreements with Gibson, Posey and Voss which provides for legal representation of the UCB customer to pursue legal action against UCB."
UCB says the three attorneys had a "meeting of the minds" and conspired to "accomplish an unlawful purpose or a lawful purpose by unlawful means."
During the hearing, UCB attorney Bruce Partain and Fuljenz alleged Voss was working indirectly with Gibson, but no definitive proof was offered.
Partain also focused on Voss' use of the Internet to target customers.
Voss testified that he used Google Ad Words to seek out new clients as late as March 2008, but has since ceased.
As an example, Partain said that if a UCB customer typed the name "Mike Fuljenz" in Google's search engine, a link to Voss's Web site popped up. Voss' Web site encourages coin customers to sue, Partain argued.
"Have you purchased 'rare' coins? You may be entitled to damages," Partain read from Voss' Web site.
"It was an advertising oversight Ã¯Â¿Â½ I haven't done anything wrong here," Voss said under oath, adding that the judgment does not prohibit him from advertising.
Voss also testified that he knew using the list was against Rollins' employment agreement and stopped using it after the March 2007 judgment. The authenticity and existence of the list have been in question throughout the hearings. Voss testified that he does not know what happened to the list or how many names were on it.
UCB says Voss' actions constitute contempt of court, and asked Judge Floyd to impose a fine, imprisonment or both.
Partain is an attorney with the Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt law firm in Beaumont. Ricky Raven of Thompson & Knight in Houston was also present at the hearing representing UCB.
Marilyn Tennissen contributed to this story