United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
DEXTER ROGERS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the estate of Carrie Bell Rogers, estate of Premius Rogers, Plaintiff,
INDIANA SUPREME COURT, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a “Motion to Disqualify Attorney
Generals' Office from Representing the Defendants
Stemming from Conflict of Interest” (DE 45) 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”) and Deputy Attorney General
Benjamin Jones, counsel to Defendants Indiana Supreme Court,
Justice Loretta H. Rush, Justice Robert D. Rucker, Justice
Stephen H. David, Justice Mark Massa, and Justice Geoffrey G.
Slaughter (collectively, the “State Defendants”),
due to a purported conflict of interest. The State
Defendants filed a response to the motion on January 27, 2017
(DE 47), and Rogers filed a reply on February 1, 2017 (DE
following reasons, Rogers's motion to disqualify will be
Factual and Procedural Background
October 17, 2016, Rogers filed this case against Defendants
Parkview Hospital, Inc. (“Parkview”); John
Whiteleather, Jr., chairman of the medical review panel
established pursuant to the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act;
and the State Defendants, alleging various violations of his
civil rights stemming from a medical malpractice case that he
advanced against Parkview and certain medical professionals
in state court. (DE 1). This is the second of three federal
cases that Rogers has filed concerning various
defendants' actions or inactions in connection with his
state case. See Rogers v. Allen Cty. Superior Court,
No. 1:16-cv-40 (N.D. Ind. filed Jan. 28, 2016); Rogers v.
Office of the Attorney Gen., No. 1:16-cv-429 (N.D. Ind.
filed Dec. 21, 2016).
Rogers sees it, Jones and the IAG's Office must be
disqualified from representing the State Defendants in this
action due to a purported conflict of interest arising from
Attorney Kelly Paulter's previous representation of the
medical professional defendants in his state case. (DE 45
¶¶ 5-10). Paulter, who has not appeared in this
action, joined the IAG's Office as an Deputy Attorney
General for the Civil Litigation Section and purportedly was
involved in case management there. (DE 45 ¶¶ 8,
12). Paulter, however, is no longer employed by the IAG's
Office. (DE 45 ¶ 8).
alleges that Paulter was inadvertently provided information
about the status of his state case during her employment as a
Deputy Attorney General. (DE 45 ¶¶ 13, 22). Rogers
posits that Paulter shared this information with Jones,
because Paulter and Jones have litigated some cases together
during their tenure at the IAG's Office. (DE 45
¶¶ 12, 13). Rogers contends that Jones and the
IAG's Office failed to properly screen Paulter from this
case. (DE 45 ¶¶ 15, 22, 24-27). Consequently, as
Rogers sees it, Paulter had a conflict of interest in this
action imputable to Jones and the IAG's Office,
necessitating their disqualification. (DE 45 ¶¶ 30,
additionally contends that a conflict of interest exists
because he filed a consumer complaint against Parkview with
the IAG's Office in November 2014. (DE 45 ¶ 2). As
noted earlier, Rogers has also recently filed a lawsuit
against the IAG.
backdrop, Rogers asks the Court to disqualify Jones and the
IAG's Office from this action.
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 in this Court. See
N.D. Ind. L.R. 83-5(e). The following rules are relevant to
Rogers's motion: Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct
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).
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
threshold matter, “[t]he general rule accepted by most
federal jurisdictions is that only a current or former client
has standing to seek disqualification of an attorney from a
matter pending before a court.” Id. (citing
In re Yarn Processing Patent Validity Litig., 530
F.2d 83, 88 (5th Cir. 1976) (collecting cases); Tizes v.
Curico, No. 94 C 7657, 1997 WL 116797, at *2 (N.D. Ill.
Mar. 12, 1997)). Although the rule is not absolute,
“courts in this circuit have made clear that the
interests protected by Rule 1.7 are the crux of the standing
issue.” Id. at 892. As such, “the proper
party to raise the conflict of interest issue, in a motion to
disqualify counsel, is the party that [Rule 1.7] was intended