Darrell Jordan's Law Firm is Being Sued. His Sworn Response: "I Know Nothing."
Darrell Jordan seems like a swell guy. In his pursuit to become Laura Miller's successor as ruler of our fair burg, he's raised lots of money and received plenty of support from influential Dallasites such as SMU booster Gerald J. Ford, Republican National Committee bigwig and EDS Byron Nelson Championship chairman Randy Engstrom and even former Dallas mayor Starke Taylor. Most politicos have him as a frontrunner in the crowded field of mayoral wannabes. But, according to a deposition he gave last summer in conjunction with a lawsuit filed against his law firm, Godwin Gruber (now Godwin Pappas Langley Ronquillo), and obtained by the Dallas Observer, Darrell Jordan isn't a smart guy -- or, at the very least, he has the world's worst memory. Or maybe it's just that he has one foot in City Hall, and his head buried in the sand. Or, just maybe, he's a genius after all.
Dallas' Only Daily kinda touched on the big-picture, pump-and-dump stock scandal in this front-page story Sunday. But they didn't mention that Addison-based Consolidated Sports Media Group -- for whom I worked as a media consultant in the fall of 2004, in the interest of full disclosure -- has sued Godwin Gruber. Nor did the story mention that during the alleged improprieties, which involve allegations of stock manipulation and a litany of other offenses, Jordan was the firm's managing partner.
The case of Consolidated Sports Media Group v. Godwin Gruber, which is scheduled to go to trial next month, reads at times like a John Grisham novel, complete with allegations of malpractice, the aforementioned pump-and-dump stock scams, the destruction of documents, forgery, securities fraud, unauthorized "blast faxes," insider trading, NASCAR lawsuits, breaches of fiduciary duty, conflicts of interest, perjury and, of course, fraudulent billing.
In its original petition, CSMG, distributor of sports instructional videos with Priest Holmes and Mia Hamm and a Racetrack Girls Go Nutz series similar to the popular Girls Gone Wild franchise, seeks unspecified damages, exemplary damages and disgorgement of profits. Most of the alleged improprieties center on Godwin Gruber attorney Phil Offill, though Jordan is implicated by his association, position and, ultimately, inaction.
Jordan spent the majority of his three-hour-and-33-minute deposition shrugging, in short: I dunno. The good news: Jordan is not a yes man. The bad news: He's a No-It-All.
Over the course of his extremely hazy 167-page deposition, Jordan managed to utter "I don't know" 86 times, "I don't remember" 20 times, "I don't think so" 17 times, "I don't recall" 16 times, "I'm not sure" 11 times, "I guess" 11 more times, "Not to my knowledge" 11 more times, "I'm not aware" seven times, "I have no idea" three times, "I don't have a real understanding" three more times, "I forgot" twice, "I'm not familiar" twice, "I don't have any information" two more times and, once apiece, "I don't believe so," "I can't remember," "I knew nothing," "I don't have a specific recollection," "I honestly don't remember" and "I honestly don't know." It's better than Hogan's Heroes.
In some cases, Jordan's selective memory would be understandable, even acceptable. After all, when you tell someone you don't know something, they can't hold anything against you. But he served as the managing partner of the firm during the alleged wrongful activities by Offill, and he was also executive committee liaison during the investigation into the incident at the heart of the lawsuit.
Jordan has been a trial lawyer in Dallas since 1964, and in '95 he lost the mayoral election to Ron Kirk. Becoming managing partner for Godwin Gruber in the fall of '04, he reduced his role and responsibility with the firm in December '05 in order to accommodate his rekindled desire to seek political office.
CSMG attorneys have little to say about the case: "We certainly do not want to comment on a story that may affect Mr. Jordan's mayoral campaign," says attorney Jennifer Stephens.
Once represented by Godwin Gruber, CSMG filed suit against the firm in August 2005 after it was sued by NASCAR and discovered what it alleges are gross indiscretions by its former counsel. In a 2005 Texas Lawyer article, Jordan labeled the lawsuit "baseless" and maintained, "We'll contest the matter vigorously, and we expect to prevail."
During his deposition, however, Jordan's tone was much more subdued. Jordan gave his sworn statements July 19, 2006, at the law offices of Sayles Webner in Renaissance Tower on Elm Street. CSMG attorney Lewis Sifford asked the questions, Godwin Gruber attorney Richard Sayles raised the objections, and, sort of, Jordan provided the answers.
In advance of filing its petition, CSMG exercised its right to legally force Godwin Gruber to hand over all documents relating to their attorney-client relationship -- or, at least, it tried. The initial request for documents was sent to Godwin Gruber in April 2005, and another was sent in May. There was also a face-to-face meeting, which Jordan attended on July 27, 2005, and a last, desperate e-mail sent August 3.
On the morning of August 4 -- one day after Jordan and Godwin Gruber CEO Don Godwin received the last e-mail request for documents from Sifford -- a box containing the desired original documents and minute records was FedEx'ed by Offill's paralegal, Ludwell Strickler, to an alleged co-conspirator, Chasity Thompson, in Kemp, Texas. After a week observing Thompson and her husband frequent a trash dumpster at a nearby Little League baseball field, CSMG investigators pulled from the bin a bag containing the desired documents. CSMG retrieved the box as evidence.
This comes from Jordan's deposition:
Lewis Sifford: What was the significance of e-mails that you reviewed that passed between us in August of 2005?
Darrell Jordan: Well, you were getting a little exercised about not having received some documents, and I was doing the best I could under the circumstances getting ready to leave town, and I -- you sent me an e-mail, and I responded to your e-mail saying that we're doing the best we can.
Sifford: Well, what had you been doing for the week since we met about getting them to us?
Jordan: I don't know.
As it turns out, Jordan was preoccupied preparing for a trip to Atlanta for the annual meeting of the American Bar Association. So Jordan put the responsibility of sending the documents on none other than Offill, whose alleged conduct initially prompted the petition. Offill allegedly directed the documents not to CSMG, but to a trash dumpster 45 miles southeast of Dallas.
In the deposition, Sifford hammered away at Jordan for "misdirection and misappropriation of client property" that allegedly occurred on his watch.
Sifford: Do you have any explanation about why Mr. Offill and Mr. Strickler would be delivering original corporate documents of ours to a third party?
Sifford: Does it trouble you at all as the former managing partner at Godwin Gruber that when lawyers come to your office and ask you for documents, when there's been three written requests prior to that for documents, that the day after you tell Mr. Offill to get us the documents that he takes the original client record book, the original client property and sends it to a third party?
Jordan: If that's what Phil did and if he directed that, I think that -- I wish he had not done that. But I don't know the background of this letter or the minute book or whether you had requested it. You say you had. I don't recall.
Only after receiving notice of the formal petition later in August 2005 did Godwin Gruber send CSMG the documents. And then, obviously, they weren't the actual originals, but copies purported by Godwin Gruber to indeed be the originals.
Sifford: Can you provide for me any explanation or excuse that you have about why it is that it took over two months from our office's request to get us the file?
Jordan: I don't have any explanation or excuse.
As the process continued, Sifford raised questions about Offill's actions and the ramifications. While Jordan admitted that CSMG's "allegations are serious, there's no question," and that Offill's alleged sending of documents to a third party "raises an inference of a breach of fiduciary duty," he has not and does not plan on reviewing his partner's actions, much less disciplining him.
In the deposition, Jordan stated he had yet to discuss the lawsuit with Offill. And he said he hadn't even read Offill's deposition concerning the case. Incidentally, during his September 2005 testimony, Offil offered as his reason for sending the box of documents to a third party, "I don't know why I sent it."
Sifford: You have a duty, don't you, to protect other clients of the firm that Mr. Offill has and the public from someone that breaches fiduciary duties or might not be trustworthy, don't you?
Jordan: I haven't discussed this with Mr. Offill.
Sifford: Did you perform a review or an investigation in connection with the claims made by Consolidated against Mr. Offill?
Sifford: Mr. Offill, his excuse is, "I don't know why I sent it to them." Did you know that?
Sifford: As a practicing lawyer in the state of Texas and a member of the executive committee of Godwin Gruber, now Godwin Pappas, you have a responsibility to the citizens of the state of Texas to make sure that you don't have lawyers out there who are not going to be honest, truthful, forthright and engaging in the greatest fidelity, don't you?
Jordan: No. That isn't the standard in Texas. I'm entitled to rely on the integrity and the good faith and the professionalism of my fellow partner. I've already told you that the allegations that have been made in this lawsuit are being reviewed and looked at by us. But I owe no duty to the citizens of the state of Texas to do anything with regard to Phil Offill.
Sifford: Even though you have some doubt or some inference that there's been some breach of fiduciary responsibility?
Sifford: What about other clients of the firm's, do you have any duty to clients of the firm when you have reason to believe or allegations made against a partner that he has breached the fiduciary duty and been dishonest and disloyal to a client?
Jordan: I don't think so.
Sifford: Who within the firm is in charge of reviewing the conduct of Mr. Offill?
Jordan: No one.
Sifford: Have you read Mr. Offill's deposition?
Sifford: Well, why haven't you read it?
Jordan: I haven't had time to read it.
Sifford: It was taken on September 23 of 2005. And you're telling the ladies and gentlemen of the jury that you haven't had a chance to read it?
Jordan: I sat in on part of his deposition and have had sort of a summary of his testimony from counsel, and it is something I plan to do, but I've been pretty busy.
Jordan: And I just haven't had time to sit down and read all of the depositions that I at some point need to read.
Sifford: Just too busy?
Sifford: And just so I'm clear, to your knowledge, nothing has changed in the last year as far as Mr. Offill's administrative responsibilities at the firm; is that true?
Jordan: That would be my answer, yes. I don't think they have changed.
Jordan based his denials and ignorance of the facts upon the foundation that he believes Offill to be an innocent man, despite the allegations made in the suit.
Jordan: I don't have any quarrel with telling you that the circumstances here do raise an issue that I don't fully understand and -- but I -- a lot of things -- I mean, as I've initially said, the —- your allegations about Phil and what Phil did at this point in time as far as I'm concerned, are unproven.
In closing, Sifford tried one last stab to gauge Jordan's involvement -- or even casual interest -- in the pending lawsuit and potentially damaging legal action against him, his partners and his firm.
Sifford: Have you performed a full investigation to acquaint yourself with all the facts and arrive at a conclusion about the matters of the lawsuit by the time it was filed?
So far, at least in this instance, Darrell Jordan has more questions than answers. --Richie Whitt