The last week in January, Speaker of the House Joe Straus formally assigned state Rep. Tryon D. Lewis, R-Odessa, to serve as chairman of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee. On Jan. 30, Lewis received more good news, when 334th District Judge Ken Wise of Houston issued a take-nothing judgment for his clients in a breach of contract dispute.

"I’m always amazed at how good and smart juries are," says Lewis, who served as lead counsel representing three of the four defendants in the litigation.

Lewis, a senior partner in Odessa’s Atkins, Hollman, Jones, Peacock, Lewis & Lyon, has a background as an attorney and a judge that helps him guide those juries, says Murray A. "Trey" Crutcher III, an associate with the firm who also represents the defendants in this case.

Crutcher says of Lewis, "He is familiar with how things are effectively communicated to juries."

About the case, Industrial III Inc. v. Ken Burns Jr., et al, Crutcher says, "There was definitely some navigating to do."

In an amended petition filed Aug. 16, 2012, the plaintiff, described as a broker for mergers and acquisitions, made breach of contract and fraud claims, among others, alleging that emails showed that the defendants had circumvented contractual obligations to make a deal to sell a company without compensating the plaintiff.

In answers, Lewis’ clients and the other defendant denied the allegations, stating as an affirmative defense that there had been no consideration and therefore no enforceable contract.

After a week and a half long trial, followed by almost two days of deliberations, a jury issued a verdict on Dec. 11, 2012. The jury verdict form did not ask questions about Burns. Jurors found that no agreement existed between the plaintiff and the defendant Lewis didn’t represent; that two of Lewis’ clients, although they had made an agreement with the plaintiff and not abided by it, did not owe the plaintiff anything as a result; and that none of the defendants had committed fraud. The take-nothing judgment included all four defendants.

Lewis, who is serving his third term in the state House, thinks he sought a legislative continuance only once in the past. He didn’t want to do so for this case, so he welcomed the verdict and the final judgment — not just because they were in his client’s favor, but because their timing meant the litigation would conclude before he was due in Austin.

"He was worried about that," says Crutcher, because Lewis didn’t welcome a possible delay for his client.

Daniel J. Hoffman of Houston’s Daniel J. Hoffman & Associates who represents the plaintiff, declines comment.

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