Even With Lien Lifted, Lawyers Still Squabble Over Quapaw House

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017 12:00 am   2 min read

The Rozelle-Murphy House at 1301 Scott St. in Little Rock has been the subject of litigation by the lawyers who practiced there. (Mark Friedman)

It’s hard to imagine now, but at one time plaintiffs’ attorneys Scott Poynter and John Emerson were law partners.

They’re in a bitter legal battle over the sale of their former law office in a historic home in Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter.

The lawsuits and countersuits started flying in July. And even though the property recently sold for about $665,000, the legal brawl continues.

The root of the trouble started back in 2013, when they were still partners. Poynter and Emerson formed Cascade Investments LLC to buy the 7,840-SF office at 1301 Scott St. for $410,000 in cash.

Cascade Investments spent another $200,000 in cash on renovating the 1887 Rozelle-Murphy House, which features a grand staircase.

Emerson owned 67.04 percent of Cascade while Poynter held the remaining interest in the company.

After Poynter and Emerson ended their 12-year law practice in 2015, both agreed to sell the property and divvy up the proceeds according to their ownership interest in Cascade.

As the office was listed for sale, Poynter, in his filings, accused Emerson of moving Cascade’s bank account to another bank so he wouldn’t have access to it.

Poynter also said in filings that Emerson had exclusive control of the listing of the property and kept him in the dark about Cascade’s financial health.

Earlier this year, with the office still on the market, Poynter said he was concerned that Emerson would sell the property and not split the proceeds.

So Poynter slapped a lien on the building “simply to put all on notice of his interest in Cascade” and the property, Poynter’s lawsuit said.

On the Other Hand
That lien didn’t sit well with Emerson. He, through Cascade, filed a lawsuit against Poynter, accusing him of constructive fraud, breach of contract and other misdeeds.

Cascade wanted a Pulaski County judge to say the lien was invalid. The suit was seeking at least $200,000 in damages.

Poynter then filed a countersuit and named Emerson personally. Poynter demanded to see Cascade’s books and speculated that Emerson had been paying himself fees from Cascade’s account, according to his filing.

That case didn’t get very far because a buyer was interested in the property, and in order to sell it, the lien had to be removed.

“Everybody wanted the sale to close,” Poynter told Whispers.

Poynter removed the lien but then filed a lawsuit against Emerson “to make sure I received my fair share of the proceeds of that sale,” he said. The property was sold and most of the proceeds were split between Emerson and Poynter.

The bad blood remained.

Emerson accused Poynter of owing about $50,000 for the repayment of a loan and management fees. (That money, which came from the sale of the office, is being held in the registry of Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox, who presided over the cases.) Cascade also revived the allegations that Poynter shouldn’t have filed the lien in the first place and wants at least $200,000 in damages.

Emerson, who practices at Emerson Scott LLP in the same Little Rock office that he shared with Poynter, declined to comment. Emerson’s firm, which handles class-action lawsuits and other cases, also has a location in Houston.

Poynter and his firm, Poynter Law Group of Little Rock, serve as of counsel to the Steel Wright Gray & Hutchinson law firm in Little Rock. He also handles class-action cases. Poynter said he expects to file a counterclaim in the lawsuit.

 

 

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