United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
GEORGE ALLEN, JR. and LONZETTA TAYLOR, Plaintiffs,
THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
George Allen, Jr. was convicted of murder and sentenced to a
lengthy term of incarceration. Almost thirty years later his
convictions were overturned and he was released from prison.
Allen filed this lawsuit alleging his conviction was the
result of police misconduct in the investigation and
prosecution of his criminal case. The City of St. Louis, the
St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners, and present and
former officers and employees of the St. Louis Metropolitan
Police Department are named as defendants in this lawsuit.
The Police Board and the individual Defendants are
represented by counsel from the Missouri Attorney
have filed a motion to disqualify the Attorney General's
Office counsel from representing these Defendants. Plaintiffs
assert the Attorney General's Office has an incurable
conflict in representing both the Police Board and the
individual police department employees based on potential
diametrically opposed defenses. Plaintiffs also assert that
the Attorney General's Office's concurrent state
court litigation seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the
availability of Missouri State Legal Expense Fund to satisfy
any potential judgment against the Police Board and against
individual St. Louis police department employees creates a
conflict with the present case.
Attorney General's Office counsel argues there is not any
conflict caused by its state court litigation or by its
concurrent representation of Defendants in this lawsuit.
disqualification of an attorney is an extreme measure and
should only be imposed when “absolutely
necessary.” Macheca Transp. Co. v. Philadelphia
Indem. Co., 463 F.3d 827, 833 (8th Cir. 2006). A motion
to disqualify counsel filed by opposing counsel faces strict
judicial review. Harker v. Commissioner of Internal
Revenue, 82 F.3d 806, 808 (8th Cir. 1996)(“Because
of the potential for abuse by opposing counsel,
disqualification motions should be subjected to particularly
strict judicial scrutiny.”)(internal citation omitted).
In ruling upon such a motion the court will apply the rules
governing the professional conduct of attorneys adopted by
the district court. Id. The United States Court for
the Eastern District of Missouri has adopted the Rules of
Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Missouri.
Missouri Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7 states that a
lawyer shall not represent a client if it involves a
concurrent conflict of interest.
first ground to disqualify is based on a potential conflict
that may arise between Police Board and the individual police
department employees. Plaintiffs claim against the Police
Board is based on a municipal liability theory. Plaintiffs
allege that the Police Board's policies, customs, or
practices led to the wrongful prosecution and incarceration
of Allen. Plaintiffs also claim that the individual police
department employees violated Allen's federal and
constitutional rights in their interrogation methods and by
suppressing evidence. Plaintiffs argue that counsel from the
Attorney General's Office cannot represent both of these
groups of Defendants because they may assert defenses which
are in conflict with each other. As an example, Plaintiffs
suggest that the Police Board may deny the existence of any
policy or practice which led to Allen's conviction. The
Police Board may allege that the individual defendants
violated Allen's rights without any influence from the
Police Board. Plaintiffs surmise that the individual
Defendants may accuse each other of violating Allen's
rights in an effort exonerate themselves. Based on these
imagined defenses, Plaintiffs assert that counsel from the
Attorney General's Office is conflicted from representing
all of these Defendants.
counsel responds by denying Plaintiffs allegations of a
potential conflict. Counsel asserts he does not intend to
have his clients blame each other for Plaintiffs' claims.
To the contrary, counsel states that Defendants deny all of
Plaintiffs' allegations entirely and have no plan, wish,
or desire to offer defenses which would create a conflict
between the Defendants.
who all claim that they acted appropriately and who do not
have any evidence or information which would undermine the
same defense of fellow defendants are not adverse to one
another and may share the same counsel. See Meidinger v.
City of Rapid City, 2014 WL 1653127 (D. S.D. Apr. 24,
2014) Based on Defendants' counsel's representations
and the information in the record I do not find that these
Defendants have adverse interests or that there is any
conflict between Defendants which necessitates their
second ground in their motion to disqualify Defendants'
counsel is the running dispute of who, if anyone, will
indemnify the individual Defendants in the event Plaintiffs
prevail in this lawsuit. In depositions conducted by
Plaintiffs two individual Defendants testified that it was
their understanding that any judgment against them in this
case would be covered by the State of Missouri or
the City of St. Louis. For years the Missouri Attorney
General's Office provided counsel for the St. Louis
Police Board and for St. Louis Police Department employees
for lawsuits filed against them. In 2012, control of the St.
Louis Police Department was turned over to the City of St.
Louis. Since that time an unresolved question arose of
whether the State of Missouri or the City of St. Louis is
responsible to defend and indemnify the Police Board and
police department employees for lawsuits brought them.
note that the Attorney General's Office has filed a
declaratory judgment action in state court seeking a ruling
that the Missouri State Legal Expense Fund cannot be used to
pay any judgment or settlement in this case. Plaintiffs argue
that this lawsuit makes the Attorney General's Office
adverse to Defendants because the State of Missouri is
attempting to avoid potential indemnification of Defendants.
counsel responds that the lawsuit filed in state court does
not make the Attorney General's Office adverse to
Defendants. Counsel, as an officer of the Court, represents
that the individual Defendants will be indemnified by either
the State or the City of St. Louis. Because it makes no
difference to the individual Defendants who indemnifies them,
the Attorney General's Office state court lawsuit does
not create a conflict between Defendants and their counsel.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion to
disqualify counsel  is DENIED