Belleville lawyer sues former partner over tennis star Connors' Argosy stock

Kelly Holleran May 18, 2010, 2:54am


The former shareholder in a St. Clair County law firm claims one of the law firm's partners duped him out of thousands of dollars.

Michael B. Constance filed a lawsuit April 29 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Edward F. Brennan.

Constance claims he, Brennan and Judy Cates incorporated and owned an equal interest in the law firm Brennan, Cates and Constance, formed on June 1, 1987.

In 1991, Brennan, Cates and Constance began to represent tennis star James "Jimmy" Connors on various matters, including his relationship to a gambling enterprise in Alton. In return for the law firm's representation of him, Connors agreed to pay the partners 20 percent of the money he received in his gambling venture, according to the complaint.

To satisfy his agreement with the firm, Connors directed his agents to deliver 458,333 shares of stock in Argosy in February 1997, the suit states. However, Brennan never informed either Cates or Constance of the stock shares Connors agreed to deliver to the firm, the complaint says. Instead, Brennan allegedly kept the information to himself, even while the partners agreed to dissolve the firm on March 11, 1997, Constance claims.

In the firm's dissolution agreement dated March 28, 1997, Constance waived his interest in the Connors' contract, believing it had never been satisfied, according to the complaint.

Then, in May 1997, Cates filed suit against the law firm. During a preliminary injunction, Brennan testified that Connors had paid a substantial amount of money to the law firm -- more than what he owed, the suit states.

"That said sworn statement was false and Brennan had secretly attempted to persuade Connors to retain the stock and transfer it to him after dissolution of the law firm," the complaint says.

Later, on July 1, 1998, Brennan sued Connors for breach of contract, Constance claims. He later settled the suit in 1999 for "a substantial sum," according to Constance's complaint.

"That defendant made various material omissions regarding the Argosy stock, namely failing to advise the other partners, shareholders or officers of either the tender of the stock or his refusal of the same," the suit states. "That following these material omissions, defendant made various material misrepresentations to continue the fraud and to prevent the plaintiff from discovering the original omissions and breach of fiduciary duty."

Constance claims he lost out on money he should have been paid as part of the law firm.

In his two-count complaint, Constance seeks a judgment of more than $50,000, plus actual and punitive damages and other relief the court deems just. He also seeks a constructive trust on Brennan and seeks an order that forces Brennan to pay one-third of the settlement amount with Connors to Constance.

Bruce N. Cook of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer and Shevlin in Belleville will be representing him.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-213.

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