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Rogers v. Office of Attorney General

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

February 17, 2017

DEXTER ROGERS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the estate of Carrie Bell Rogers, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, ANALYST JENNIFER PRUITT, ATTORNEY KELLY PAUTLER, and CHIEF JUDGE CRAIG BOBAY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL G. GOTSCH, SR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a “Motion to Disqualify Attorney Generals' Office from Representing the Defendants Stemming from Conflict of Interest” [DE 11] filed on January 13, 2017, by pro se Plaintiff Dexter Rogers, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Carrie Bell Rogers and the estate of Premius Rogers (“Rogers”). In the motion, Rogers seeks to disqualify the Indiana Attorney General's Office (the “IAG's Office”) from representing itself, Deputy Attorney General Kelly Pautler, Case Analyst Jennifer Pruitt, and Chief Judge Bobay (collectively, the “State Defendants”), due to a purported conflict of interest. The State Defendants filed a response to the motion on January 23, 2017 [DE 18], and Rogers filed a reply on February 1, 2017 [DE 22].

         For the following reasons, Rogers's motion to disqualify will be DENIED.

         I. Relevant Background

         Rogers filed a nearly identical motion to disqualify the IAG in a civil rights action against various courts and judges just last year. This Court denied that motion on July 28, 2016. See Rogers v. Allen County Superior Court, Cause No. 1:16-cv-40-RL-SLC [DE 52].

         The current action stems from a medical malpractice case Rogers filed in state court against Parkview Hospital, Inc. (“Parkview”) and its chief executive officer, Michael J. Packnett. See Rogers v. Anonymous Physician A, No. 02D03-1401-CT-000039 (filed Jan. 22, 2014). Rogers later sued several courts and judges, alleging various violations of his civil rights stemming from the medical malpractice case. Rogers v. Allen County Superior Court, 1:16-cv-40-RL-SLC [DE 1; DE 47 at ¶ 2]. Through the instant action, Rogers is suing more government entities and officials in a Title VI claim.

         As Rogers sees it, the IAG's Office must be disqualified from representing itself in this action due to a purported conflict of interest arising from Deputy Attorney General Kelly Pautler's representation of the medical professional defendants in Rogers's original state case prior to Pautler joining the IAG's Office. Pautler, who is now the Assistant Section Chief of the Civil Litigation Section of the IAG's Office, has not appeared in this action, but apparently “has consistently kept abreast of the happenings of [Rogers's state claim].” Rogers does not allege that any information Pautler received was not public.[1] Rogers is also concerned because Pautler was employed at the IAG's Office before he filed his consumer complaint. Additionally, Rogers is concerned about Pautler's playing an integral role in case management at the time he filed his first civil rights action. Rogers fears that Pautler shared “information regarding the status” of his original medical malpractice claim with another Deputy Attorney General, Benjamin Jones, who represented the defendants in the first civil rights action. [DE 11 at 6].

         Rogers alleges that Jones failed to exercise the level of due diligence in screening to avert a potential conflict of interest with respect to Pautler regarding the original medical malpractice claim, his consumer protection claim, and the two civil rights claims. As Rogers sees it, Pautler has a conflict of interest in this action imputable to Jones and the IAG's Office, necessitating their disqualification. Jones has not made an appearance in the present civil rights claim, and Rogers has not alleged a conflict with respect to the attorney of record, Deputy Attorney General David Arthur. Presumably, Rogers means to argue that the same argument applies against Arthur. Regardless, of whether Rogers intends to disqualify Jones or Arthur in the present motion, the analysis is the same.

         II. Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Local Rule 83-5(e), the Northern District of Indiana has adopted the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and the Seventh Circuit Standards of Professional Conduct as the standard of professional conduct. See N.D. Ind. L.R. 83-5(e). In his motion, Rogers cites Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.0 (e) (terminology: informed consent); 1.0 (k) (terminology: screening); 1.7 (conflicts of interest: current clients); 1.9 (conflicts of interest: former clients); 1.10 (imputation of conflicts of interest); and 1.11 (special conflicts of interest for former and current government officers and employees).

         “The disqualification of an attorney is a ‘drastic measure which courts should hesitate to impose except when absolutely necessary.'” Mills v. Hausmann-McNally, S.C., 992 F.Supp.2d 885, 890 (S.D. Ind. 2014) (quoting Owen v. Wangerin, 985 F.2d 312, 317 (7th Cir. 1993)).

         “Accordingly, motions to disqualify are treated with ‘extreme caution.'” Id. (quoting Freeman v. Chi. Musical Instrument Co., 689 F.2d 715, 722 (7th Cir. 1982)). “Caution is warranted both because disqualification motions ‘can be misused as techniques of harassment, ' and because the consequences of disqualification are so grave-‘destroy[ing] a relationship by depriving a party of representation of their own choosing.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Freeman, 689 F.2d at 722). “[T]he moving party bears the burden of concretely establishing the necessity of disqualification.” Id. at 891 (citation omitted).

         B. ...


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