United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG, United States District Judge
before the Court is the Motion to Disqualify Counsel filed by
Defendant B. Frank Joy, LLC ("B. Frank Joy"). B.
Frank Joy argues that counsel for Plaintiff Harry Hill should
be disqualified because of counsel's representation of,
and ex parte contact with, a former B. Frank Joy
employee. The Motion is fully briefed and ripe for
disposition. No hearing is necessary to resolve the issues.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion is DENIED.
to the Second Amended Complaint, Hill began working for B.
Frank Joy as a dump truck driver on May 5, 2014. On June 12,
2014, Hill complained to B. Frank Joy management that the
company was violating federal law by failing to compensate
employees for all time worked and to pay overtime wages. He
later contacted a former B. Frank Joy human resources staff
member to ask whether other employees had registered similar
complaints in the past. On August 13, 2014, Crystal Louis, B.
Frank Joy's Human Resources Manager, informed Hill by
email that he was suspended for alleged harassment of the
former employee. On August 19, 2014, Louis told Hill that he
could return to work. Hill responded by email the next day
stating that, while he was not resigning, he could not return
to work yet because he needed counseling as a result of B.
Frank Joy's "retaliation"" Mot. to
Disqualify Ex. 2, Peace Order & Pet. at 6.
August 27, 204, Louis filed a petition for a peace order
against Hill with the District Court of Maryland for Prince
George's County. She claimed that Hill had been suspended
for stalking a former employee and that emails sent by Hill
made her fear that he might harm her. The court issued a
temporary peace order that day. The following day, Louis
emailed Hill to inform him that he was fired.
Frank Joy terminated Louis on October 30, 2014. Hill alleges
that a few months after he was fired, Louis told him that
certain B. Frank Joy officials had forced her to seek the
peace order and that she had not felt threatened by Hill.
Hill's Claims Against B. Frank Joy
April 20, 2015, Hill filed a putative collective and class
action against B. Frank Joy, Hill v. B. Frank Joy,
LLC, No. TDC-15-1120 ("Hill I
"), alleging wage and hour
violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, and the
Maryland Wage Payment Collection Law. He also filed a
two-count complaint initiating the present case
("Hill II"), alleging that, by forcing
Louis to seek the peace order, B. Frank Joy aided and abetted
Louis's malicious use of process and that Hill's
termination violated the FLS Ass prohibition on retaliation.
On November 25, 2015, Hill's original counsel filed a
Motion to Withdraw from both Hill 1 and Hill
II, which the Court granted on January 24, 2016. On
February 23, 2016, Christine A. Dixon of C. Dixon Global Law,
PLLC entered a Notice of Appearance on behalf of Hill in both
cases. The next day, Dixon submitted Motions for Admission
Pro Hac Vice on behalf of Larry A. Strauss and
Willie E. Gary of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson, and Gary,
to Dixon, Strauss, and Gary (collectively, "Plaintiffs
Attorneys"), Louis contacted them on February 27, 2016
to offer to assist in Hill's litigation. Louis called
again in late April, requesting to become a plaintiff in
Hill 1. On April 26, 2016, Hill and Louis signed a
form entitled "Multi-Party Representation and Waiver of
Potential Conflicts." Pl.'s Resp. Mot. to Disqualify
Ex. A, Waiver at 1. The waiver stated that the two law firms
did not perceive any conflict of interest in representing
both Hill and Louis in Hill I "because the
testimony and arguments to be advanced in the subject
litigation by [Hill and Louis] are not substantially
different." Id. The waiver promised that
Plaintiffs Attorneys would bring any future conflicts of
interest to Hill's and Louis's attention.
31, 2016, Hill filed a third complaint against B. Frank Joy,
Hill v. B. Frank Joy, LLC, No. TDC-16-1707
("Hill III"). That action alleges that B.
Frank Joy discriminated and retaliated against Hill in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42
U.S.C. Â§ 1981. The complaint attached a declaration from
Louis in which she accused B. Frank Joy of discriminating
against African American employees, violating federal
immigration law, and failing to compensate employees
properly. She also stated that her supervisors instructed her
to find a reason to fire Hill because he complained about
Frank Joy asserts that during her employment, Louis was
exposed to communications protected by the attorney-client
privilege that related to Hill's suspension and
termination. In response to this allegation, Hill submitted a
declaration from Louis in which she denies having ever met B.
Frank Joy's attorneys, having participated in any
in-person or telephonic meetings with certain B. Frank Joy
officials and an attorney, or having seen any bills from the
company's attorneys. She notes that she did update an
individual named Maury about Hill's case over the phone,
but she was not told that Maury was an attorney, and she
never provided or received confidential attorney-client
information during these conversation..
turn, B. Frank Joy submitted two declarations from its
Controller, Janice Slater, who supervised Louis. Slater
claims that Louis was aware that Maury Baskin, an attorney
with Littler Mendelson, P.C., served as B. Frank Joy's
outside counsel on employment matters. Slater asserts that
she directed Louis to contact Baskin to seek advice on
Hill's suspension and termination, and that Louis did so.
In support of this claim, Slater provided a privilege log and
certain emails, some redacted, which together suggest that
Louis knew that Baskin was outside counsel for B. Frank Joy
and that she communicated with him regarding Hill's