An Ohio-based investment firm that Jay Brooks worked for when he allegedly swindled money out of investors wants a case against them to be heard in Ohio, and is asking the S.C. Supreme Court to review a judge's rulings denying that request.
Attorneys for Equity Trust Company on Monday filed a writ of certiorari with the state's high court asking for a review of a judge's rulings regarding the venue of the case against the company. A petition for a writ of certiorari is a document that a losing party files with a higher court asking them to review the decision of a lower court.
The Supreme Court reviews such cases at its own discretion.
Aiken County residents Peggy All and Pamela Galari, and Denton County, Texas, residents David and Rebecca Hendryx, accuse Brooks in the suit of convincing them, as their financial adviser, to invest their retirement savings with him; however, Brooks allegedly invested the money in a private school, Compass Academy, which he planned to start with his wife.
Equity Trust in April filed motions to dismiss the case and to have the venue changed to Ohio, which Circuit Court Judge Doyet “Jack” Early denied on June 13.
The company, which is listed as a defendant along with Brooks in multiple Aiken County suits, moved to dismiss the case because the complainant “fails to allege facts sufficient to support claims” against the firm, according to court documents. It also said litigating the case in Lorain County, Ohio, would be “more convenient for the parties and potential witnesses.”
Equity Trust filed a motion to alter or amend on June 25 that asked Early to alter or amend his June 13 decision.
“The parties agreed that Ohio law would govern their contracts. Therefore, a South Carolina statute cannot be used to alter the parties' contracts or avoid the parties' respective contractual obligations,” the motion stated. “The Court's Order improperly attempts to apply a state statute dealing with intrastate venue issues to override a forum-selection clause in an interstate contract, including contracts between individuals from Texas and a company from Ohio in which none of the signatories or parties are from South Carolina.”
Early denied that motion on July 3.
Brooks was arrested last year on charges of securities fraud, forgery and a violation of the Securities Act. He remains in the Aiken County detention center after allegedly violating the terms of his bond.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.