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Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
December 21, 2017
JUSTIN CASTELINO, Plaintiff,
ROSE-HULMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Defendant.
ENTRY REGARDING MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE
cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion
seeking to disqualify defense counsel (Dkt. No. 109). The
motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised,
DENIES the motion for the reasons set forth
below. The Court GRANTS the Plaintiff's
unopposed Motion Under Local Rule 6-1(b)(1)(B) to Accept as
Timely (Dkt. No. 127).
motion, Plaintiff Justin Castelino seeks to disqualify
attorney Holly Reedy and her law firm, Wilkinson, Goeller,
Modesitt, Wilkinson & Drummy (“Wilkinson
Goeller”), from representing Defendant Rose-Hulman
Institute of Technology (“Rose-Hulman”) in this
case because one of her partners represented Castelino in
another matter. The timeline of relevant facts are as follow:
. In May 2015, Castelino, a student at
Rose-Hulman, was suspended by Rose-Hulman for one quarter for
. On May 20, 2015, Castelino's landlord
for his off-campus apartment in Terre Haute filed suit
against Castelino and his mother seeking to evict Castelino
and recover for alleged damage to the apartment. The
landlord's complaint alleged as grounds for eviction:
“smoking (illegal or other)” in the apartment; an
additional person living in the apartment for more than four
days; domestic violence; “other residents in area are
threatened by [Castelino's] violence [and] police were
called”; damage to the apartment; tampering with the
electrical box; and verbal assaults and threats to others
living nearby and the management team.
. On June 22, 2015, Castelino, through
attorney Andrea Ciobanu, filed a discrimination complaint
against Rose-Hulman with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission
(“ICRC”), alleging that Rose-Hulman engaged in
unspecified retaliation and had failed to accommodate his
disabilities, which he described as “ADHD and Auditory
Processing Disorder, which inhibits my ability to process
verbal instructions and requires additional time to complete
. The docket from the eviction suit
indicates that on June 29, 2015, a hearing was held, the
landlord was to take possession of the apartment by July 15,
2015, and a hearing as to damages was to be held on December
. On July 22, 2015, David Friedrich, a
partner in Wilkinson Goeller, entered his appearance on
behalf of Castelino and his mother in the eviction suit.
. On July 28, 2015, Reedy, who is also a
partner in Wilkinson Goeller, filed Rose-Hulman's
response to Castelino's ICRC complaint. The response
denied that Rose-Hulman had failed to accommodate Castelino
and explained the findings of academic misconduct that had
led to Castelino's suspension, which Rose-Hulman assumed
was the alleged retaliation referenced in the complaint.
. The docket in the eviction suit indicates
that the landlord's counsel reported to the court on
December 16, 2015, that the case had settled.
. On February 19, 2016, Friedrich requested
via email to Castelino's mother that she and Castelino
sign and return a settlement agreement relating to the
eviction suit. Castelino executed the document on February
. On March 30, 2016, the eviction suit was
dismissed upon the filing of a stipulation of dismissal.
. On June 10, 2016, Rose-Hulman conducted a
hearing regarding Castelino's second application for
readmission after his suspension. Reedy attended the hearing
as Rose-Hulman's legal counsel. Rose-Hulman declined to
. On or about June 13, 2016, Friedrich sent
a bill to Castelino's mother noting a balance that had
been due for 61-90 days.
. On July 18, 2016, Ciobanu filed a
complaint with the United States Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), alleging that
Rose-Hulman had retaliated against Castelino for filing a
complaint with the state agency by denying him readmission.
By letter dated July 29, 2016, the OCR notified Rose-Hulman
that it was opening an investigation into Castelino's
. Reedy filed a response with the OCR. In
that response, she set forth the alleged reasons Rose-Hulman
decided not to readmit Castelino after his suspension for
academic misconduct, including the fact that two months after
his suspension he was arrested in Connecticut and charged
with a variety of drug-related crimes and the fact that
Rose-Hulman faculty had reported numerous instances of
Castelino behaving in an aggressive, disrespectful, and
disruptive manner toward faculty and students. Reedy also
noted that Rose-Hulman had learned that Castelino had a
criminal record prior to attending Rose-Hulman.
. On December 13, 2016, Ciobanu
“discovered Wilkinson Goeller's role in
[Castelino's] eviction proceeding and addressed an ethics
complaint to Ms. Reedy by email.” Dkt. No. 114 at 3.
That same day, Ciobanu sent an email to Castelino with the
subject line “Please advise: Filing ethics complaint
re: Holly Reedy.” Dkt No 111-1.
. This case was filed on March 28, 2017.
Reedy filed her appearance on behalf of Rose-Hulman on April
. On May 4, 2017, Rose-Hulman filed its
answer in this case, in which it asserts in one of its
affirmative defenses that it is not required to permit
Castelino to return to the school because Castelino “is
a direct threat to the Rose-Hulman campus community and poses
a threat to the safety of the members of the campus
community.” Dkt. No. 23 at 24.
. Also on May 4, 2017, Plaintiffs counsel in
this case, John Thrasher, raised in an email to Reedy the
issue of a conflict of interest based on Friedrich's
representation of Castelino in the eviction suit. In her
reply, Reedy explained her position that there was no
conflict because Castelino was a former client of Friedrich
and the subject matter of the two cases did not overlap. She
stated that when she learned of the issue late the previous
year, she had sought guidance from the Indiana Disciplinary
Commission, which had referred her to two attorneys, both of
whom had opined that there was no conflict.
. On July 7-8, 2017, Reedy deposed
Castelino. During the deposition, Reedy questioned Castelino
about the fact that, while he was a student at Rose-Hulman,
he had been banned from a fraternity house. The fraternity
told Castelino he was banned because he had been involved in
a physical altercation with a guest after he was asked to
leave a party at the fraternity house. Castelino denied that
a physical altercation occurred. Reedy also asked Castelino
about his marijuana use while he was a ...
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