United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
IN RE SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM ISSUED TO STEWART ROBBINS & BROWN, LLC
LESLIE B. FOX, NO. 16-cv-850 W.D. La. filed June 16, 2016 IN THE MATTER OF WEINER, WEISS & MADISON, APLC AND KANTROW, SPAHT, WEAVER & BLITZER APLC
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a Rule 45 Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 1) filed on
February 1, 2017 by Weiner, Weiss & Madison, APLC and
Kantrow, Spaht, Weaver & Blitzer (APLC) (the Firms). The
Firms move the Court to compel a non-party, Stewart Robbins
& Brown, LLC (Stewart) to produce documents responsive to
the Firms' Rule 45 subpoena duces tecum. Following
service of the Motion (R. Doc. 3), Stewart filed a Response
in Opposition on February 24, 2017. (R. Doc. 5). After
granting the Firms' request for leave (R. Doc. 10) to
file their Reply Memorandum (R. Doc. 11), the Court
considered the matter submitted. For the reasons given below,
the Firms' Motion to Compel is GRANTED in part and DENIED
Firms are plaintiffs in a pending civil action filed against
Leslie B. Fox (Ms. Fox) in the Western District of Louisiana
for “breach of a contingency fee contract between the
Firms and [Ms.] Fox.” Complaint at 2, Weiner Weiss
& Madison, APC v. Fox (Weiner v. Fox), No.
16-cv-850 (W.D. La. June 16, 2016), ECF No. 1 (hereinafter
referred to as “Complaint”). According to the
Complaint, Ms. Fox retained the Firms from June of 2009 until
March of 2016 to represent her interests in two Chapter 11
bankruptcy proceedings (the Bankruptcy Proceeding) filed by
her then- husband, Harold Rosbottom. Complaint at 2, ECF No.
1. During that time, the Firms entered into two contingency
fee agreements with Ms. Fox, the second of which is at issue
in this litigation and entitled the Firms to “40
percent of the cash and other property distributed” to
Ms. Fox under the Bankruptcy Plan. Complaint at 22.
Firms claim that by late 2015, their work on behalf of Ms.
Fox and their representation of her was substantially
complete. And so, they sought to collect their fees under the
second contingency fee agreement, presenting Ms. Fox with a
proposed implementation plan in January of 2016. Complaint at
21. Through independent counsel on March 11, 2016, Ms. Fox
rejected the Firms' proposed implementation plan because
she believed the fee agreement was
“unenforceable” and that the Firms were not
entitled to the 40 percent she owed under the agreement.
Complaint at 21.
16, 2016, the Firms filed suit against Ms. Fox in the Western
District of Louisiana claiming first that Ms. Fox
“breached the Second Contingency Fee Agreement”
and they are therefore “entitled to specific
performance” and “a money judgment against Fox
for the value of the Firms' contingency fee interest in
her property . . . .” Complaint at 21-22.
Alternatively, if their “Second Contingency Fee
Agreement [with Ms. Fox] be deemed unenforceable . . . then
the Firms” believe they “are entitled to recovery
in quantum meruit against Fox . . . . commensurate with their
contingency fee interest under the Second Contingency Fee
Agreement.” Complaint at 23.
Answer and Counterclaim, Ms. Fox argues, among other things,
that the contingency fee agreement was “neither fair
nor reasonable” and violated Rule 1.5(a) the Louisiana
Rules of Professional Conduct, among others, making it
unenforceable. Def.'s Answer & Countercl. at 21-22,
Weiner v. Fox, No. 16-cv-850 (W.D. La. July 19,
2016), ECF No. 10.
the course of discovery, the Firms issued a Rule 45 subpoena
to a non-party law firm, Stewart Robbins & Brown, LLC
(Stewart). (R. Doc. 1-3). Stewart represented the Chapter 11
debtor, Ms. Fox's ex-husband Harold Rosbottom, in the
underlying bankruptcy proceeding. The subpoena asked Stewart
to produce the following communications:
documents in your possession sent to or received from Louis
M. Phillips, [the attorney who represented the
court-appointed, Chapter 11 trustee in the underlying
bankruptcy], relating to the following:
(a) The Bankruptcy Proceedings;
(b) Leslie B. Fox;
(c) The Firms' representation of Leslie B. Fox in the
Bankruptcy Proceedings; or
(d) The above-captioned matter.
(R. Doc. 1-3 at 11). Stewart timely objected to the subpoena
as overly broad, unduly burdensome and requesting irrelevant
information, among other things. (R. Doc. 1-5). Following
Stewart's objection, the Firms limited the scope of their
request, “eliminating . . . any pleadings and any
communications or documents which were also sent to, or which
carbon copied, the Firms.” (R. Doc. 1 at 2-3).
Nonetheless, when Stewart ...