Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stolfat v. Equifax Information Services, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 14, 2019

JELENA STOLFAT, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY [DE 20] AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE TO DEFENSE COUNSEL

          WILLIAM MXTTHEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Plaintiff, Jelena Stolfat's ("Plaintiff) "Motion to Disqualify Defendant [sic] Counsels [sic] and Motion to Revoke the Pro Hac Vice Admission of Defendant [sic] Counsel" ("Motion") [DE 20]. This matter was referred to the undersigned by the Honorable William P. Dimitrouleas, United States District Judge. See DE 21. Defendant, Trans Union LLC's ("Defendant"), has filed a Response to Plaintiffs Motion [DE 25');">25');">25');">25]. No. timely reply has been filed. The Court has determined that no hearing is necessary. Therefore, this matter is now ripe for review.

         I. Plaintiffs Motion

         Plaintiff, who is representing herself pro se in this matter, is seeking to "revoke Pro Hac Vice and disqualify out-of-state counsel Michael Merar" and "disqualify local counsel Alexandra L. Tifford, Esquire." [DE 20, p. 1]. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Merar contacted her by email on April 29, 2019, May 1, 2019, May 6, 2019, May 8, 2019, and May 9, 2019, but local counsel, Ms. Tifford, did not file a motion to appear pro hac vice on behalf of Mr. Merar until late in the day on May 9, 2019. Id. at pp. 2-6. Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Merar represented Defendant before moving for pro hac vice admission and improperly used "intimidation techniques" with Plaintiff. Id. at p. 5. Finally, Plaintiff accuses Ms. Tifford of aiding Mr. Merar in the unauthorized practice of law. Id. at p. 6. Plaintiff requests that the Court disqualify both attorneys, revoke Mr. Merar's pro hac vice admission in this District, and refer the matter to the Grievance Committee of the Florida Bar. Id. at pp. 6-7.

         II. Defendant's Response

         In response, Defendant argues that it submitted its motion for Mr. Merar to appear pro hac vice a mere nine days after Defendant filed its Answer and Defenses to the Complaint. [DE 25');">25');">25');">25, p. 1');">p. 1]. Defendant contends that the Court lacks jurisdiction over grievances regarding the unauthorized practice of law and also lacks jurisdiction to refer this matter to the Florida Bar. Id. at pp. 2-3. Next, Defendant argues that Mr. Merar's conduct in this case at all times complied with Rule 4-5.5 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. Id. at pp. 3-4. Defendant also asserts that disqualification is drastic and inappropriate given the facts in this case. Id. at pp. 4-5. According to Defendant, there is also no basis to revoke Mr. Merar's pro hac vice admission when Mr. Merar has not violated any Rule of Professional Conduct or Local Rule. Id. at pp. 6-7. Finally, Defendant maintains that Plaintiffs Motion is procedurally deficient for multiple reasons. Id. at pp. 7-8.

         Attached to Defendant's Response are the Declaration of Alexandra L. Tifford [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1] and the Declaration of Michael Merar [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-2].

         III. Plaintiffs Motion is Without Merit

         The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, Response, various attachments, and the entire docket in this case. The relevant facts are as follows.

         Alexandra Tifford, Esq., is an attorney at the law firm of Fowler White Burnett in the Miami office. [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1, ¶ 2], She is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida, and she is admitted to practice in the Southern District of Florida. Id. at ¶3. Michael Merar, Esq. is an attorney at the law firm of Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C., in the Piano, Texas office. [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-2, ¶ 2]. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas and the State of Georgia, and he is admitted to practice in the United States District Courts for the Northern, Southern Eastern, and Western Districts of Texas, as well as the Northern and Middle Districts of Georgia. Id. at ¶ 3.

         Mr. Merar first contacted the pro se Plaintiff via email on April 29, 2019, and Ms. Tifford submitted the motion fox pro hac vice admission on May 9, 2019. [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-2, ¶¶ 5-6; DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1, ¶ 7; DE 14]. Before Mr. Merar was admitted to practice in this District pro hac vice on May 10, 2019, Ms. Tifford "diligently reviewed, signed, and filed all pleadings entered by Trans Union in this case." [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1 at ¶ 7; DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1 at ¶ 6; 15]. Defendant's Answer and Affirmative Defenses [DE 12], which was filed before Mr. Merar was admitted pro hac vice, is solely signed by Defendant's local counsel, Alexandra Tifford and Christopher Knight.

         Based on these facts, there is no evidence of unauthorized practice of law and there are no grounds to disqualify Defendant's counsel or revoke Mr. Merar's pro hac vice admission in this District. Plaintiffs Motion is baseless. Neither Mr. Merar nor Ms. Tifford violated the Southern District of Florida Local Rules or the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. There was simply a short lag of approximately 11 days between Mr. Merar contacting Plaintiff and being admitted pro hac vice, during which period of time Defendant's local counsel, who is admitted in this District, filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses. This does not amount to a rule violation of the unauthorized practice of law.[1] Further, no "intimidation techniques" were utilized by defense counsel as claimed by Plaintiff. In sum, Plaintiffs Motion is due to be denied because it is not supported by the law or the facts.

         IV. Defendant's Response to the Motion Is, in Part, Frivolous

         While Plaintiffs Motion is without merit and is due to be denied, the Court finds it necessary to specifically comment on portions of Defendant's Response as well. The Court agrees with Defendant that disqualification and revocation of pro hac vice admission are improper here based upon the argument and facts presented by Plaintiff; however, some of the arguments made by Defendant's counsel in Defendant's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.