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McRae v. Minor

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

October 5, 2017

CHUCK MCRAE, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
PAUL S. MINOR, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL

          F. Keith Ball UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Disqualify Counsel for Plaintiffs [31]. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the Court finds that Chuck McRae and Oliver E. Diaz, Jr. should be disqualified from representing any party other than themselves in this case, including the Oliver Diaz Law Firm, LLC and the McRae Law Firm, PLLC. While Diaz and McRae may not represent the law firm plaintiffs in this case, they may appear pro se as parties.

         Facts

         This case concerns a dispute about attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs are individual attorneys, Chuck McRae and Oliver E. Diaz, Jr., and their respective law firms, McRae Law Firm, PLLC and Oliver Diaz Law Firm, LLC. They claim that the defendants, Paul S. Minor, Estate of Sylvia Minor, Paul Stephen Minor, and Kathryn Minor, owe them money for legal services rendered in a previous lawsuit against an insurance company. The lawsuit resulted in a recovery from the insurance company, and although they were paid a portion of the recovery for expenses and attorneys' fees, the plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to more than they were paid.

         No signed, written attorneys' fees agreement exists between the parties. The plaintiffs assert that they have an oral fee agreement which they seek to enforce in this case. To support their claims as to the terms of the agreement, the plaintiffs will rely on the testimony of Chuck McRae and/or Oliver E. Diaz, Jr.

         Analysis

         Defendants move to disqualify Diaz and McRae as attorneys in this case, citing Rule 3.7 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule states:

         Rule 3.7. Lawyer as witness.

         (a) A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness except where:

(1) the testimony relates to an uncontested issue;
(2) the testimony relates to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case; or
(3) disqualification of the lawyer would work substantial hardship on the client.

Miss. R. Prof. Conduct 3.7.[1]

         Both federal and state courts, in applying Miss. R. Prof. Conduct 3.7, have disqualified attorneys from representing clients in cases where the attorney is also a necessary witness. See, e.g., Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Tedford, 644 F.Supp.2d 753, 767-68 (N.D. Miss. 2009); Pearson v. Parsons, 541 So.2d 447 (Miss. 1989). Here, neither Diaz nor McRae appear to meet any of the three exceptions contained in Rule 3.7. Accordingly, since they are ...


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