Trial involving $10.5 million Connors' settlement expected to go into its sixth week

Christina Stueve Oct. 10, 2011, 4:56am

A battle between former law partners Michael Constance and Edward Brennan over a $10.5 million settlement is going into its sixth week, in a bench trial before St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson.

Defendant Edward Brennan was questioned Thursday by his attorney, Jeff Muskopf of Lashly Baer in St. Louis. Brennan spoke about the beginning of the breakup of the former firm Brennan, Cates & Constance of Belleville.

"I did not want the turmoil I was going through," Brennan said. "I wanted a clear understanding that what was mine was mine. We formed Brennan, Cates & Constance, and we wanted it to last forever. We wanted a smooth ending if there ever was to be."

Gleeson said he had heard the information before.

"I don't want to hear these things again," Gleeson said. "I don't want to prevent you from presenting the case, but I don't want to hear this again. There's not one question tendered this afternoon that has been new. Let's get to the point, past basic points."

Constance sued Brennan in April 2010 on claims that Constance did not receive a fair share of a settlement reached with former tennis star Jimmy Connors in November 2009. Their former firm Brennan, Cates & Constance of Belleville began representing Connors in 1991 on various matters including Connors' relationship with the proposed Alton Belle Casino.

Brennan said he received a phone call that Connors wanted to transfer shares, and also found out that Judy Cates wanted to get out of the firm. When it became clear that Cates wanted out of the firm, she demanded having her name taken from their sign and took her cases with her, according to Brennan.

He said Mike Constance did not want to pay back his costs.

"Mike and I never sat down and said 'What are we going to do'?" he said.

Brennan testified he and Jimmy Connors agreed that he would be Connors' attorney as long as they were both alive.

"I was referred to as Connors' lawyer for life," he said.

When Muskopf asked if money was offered instead of stock, Brennan said no.

Attorney Bruce Cook, representing Constance, spoke out to the judge.

"I would like Mr. Brennan to know he is not allowed to speak over my objections."

"You're a witness in the case. You are not a lawyer," Gleeson said to Brennan. "Do not participate in the objection in question. If we all obey the rules, this will go much smoother. Mr. Brennan, do you understand my question?"

Muskopf told the judge, "Mr. Cook is the biggest obstructionist in the room."

Brennan became flustered while Cook was rummaging through his files.

"Mr. Cook, would you please sit down. You're distracting me," Brennan said.

"Excuse me. I'm not paying attention to you," Cook said to Brennan.

Gleeson told Cook to sit down.

Cook said, "I need to work on my files. Is it OK if I stand up? I'm not trying to object, it just comes out anyway."

Gleeson told Cook it was OK for him to stand up, but to be as "inconspicuous as possible."

Constance remained seated during the proceedings, and he whispered to Cook during a break. Cook said to Constance loud enough for a reporter to hear, "Oh he just makes it up as he goes along."

During proceedings, Cook said to the judge: "I'm tired of him. The witness just pointed his finger at me."

"You're pointing your finger at me," Brennan fired back.

According to Constance's complaint, Brennan, Cates & Constance, which dissolved in 1998, reached an agreement with Connors in 1992 in which Connors agreed to pay the partners 20 percent of the money he received in the Alton Belle and Argosy venture.

In a fifth amended complaint, Constance claims that in February and March 1997, Connors directed his agents to transfer 458,333 shares of Argosy stock to Brennan and/or Brennan, Cates & Constance.

"That defendant refused, or did not accept the tender of the Argosy stock," the complaint states.

Constance wants the court to find that Brennan fraudulently concealed his cause of action and that any period of limitations has not expired. He also asks the court to assign a constructive trust to the settlement fund and that the court requires Brennan to render an accounting and pay Constance's fair share of the settlement. He also seeks fees, costs and punitive damages.

The trial is expected to reconvene on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

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