United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY
[DE 20] AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE TO DEFENSE COUNSEL
WILLIAM MXTTHEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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.
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.
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.
to Defendant's Response are the Declaration of Alexandra
L. Tifford [DE 25');">25');">25');">25-1] and the Declaration of Michael Merar [DE
Plaintiffs Motion is Without Merit
Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, Response, various
attachments, and the entire docket in this case. The relevant
facts are as follows.
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
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
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. 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.
Defendant's Response to the Motion Is, in Part,
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