United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
THOMAS J. STEINES, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
SUSAN MENRISKY, Defendant, and DONALD W. MENRISKY, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff/Third-Party Plaintiff,
SHERYL STEINES, Third-Party Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Steines brought this suit against his former business
partner, Donald Menrisky, and Menrisky's wife, Susan
Menrisky. Doc. 1. The Menriskys have moved to disqualify
attorney Thomas Griffin, and his firm, Walker Wilcox Matousek
LLP (“WWM”), from representing Steines in this
suit. Doc. 30. The motion is denied.
party requested an evidentiary hearing, so the Menriskys'
motion may be resolved on the papers. See Cannon v. U.S.
Acoustics Corp., 532 F.2d 1118, 1119-20 (7th Cir. 1976).
1994, Steines-either alone or together with Donald-founded
Simplesoft Solutions, Inc. Doc. 26 at 5 ¶ 8. Steines and
the Menriskys were extensively involved with the
company's operations and occupied seats on its board.
Id. at 7 ¶¶ 14-15, 51-52 ¶¶
14-15. Steines and Donald each own 50% of the company's
shares. Id. at 3 ¶ 3, 4 ¶ 4.
2010, Simplesoft sued Collier Computer Company and obtained a
favorable settlement. Id. at 9 ¶ 24. WWM and
Griffin represented Simplesoft in that suit. Id. at
25-26 ¶ 84. After the settlement, Griffin took Steines
and Donald to dinner and drinks. Ibid.
point, the relationship between Steines and the Menriskys
soured. One disagreement concerned whether and, if so, on
what terms the Menriskys would buy Steines out of his
Simplesoft shares. Id. at 10 ¶¶ 28-29, 11
¶ 31, 23 ¶ 75, 58 ¶ 36. Another concerned the
Menriskys' access to the company's QuickBooks file.
Id. at 17-20 ¶¶ 54-63. At some point,
Donald terminated Steines's health insurance.
Id. at 24-25 ¶¶ 80-83. This action
prompted Griffin to send Donald this email on June 13, 2016:
As you may recall, my firm acts as outside legal counsel for
Simplesoft. We represented Simplesoft, for example, in
connection with the lawsuit Simplesoft filed against Collier
Computing Company in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois. You and I met in person when I
took you and Tom Steines out for dinner and drinks after we
obtained a favorable settlement for Simplesoft in that
Mr. Steines, in his capacity as president of Simplesoft, has
asked me to provide an opinion to Simplesoft regarding your
threats to cause Simplesoft to terminate his medical
Mr. Steines also has us looking into some other issues on
behalf of Simplesoft, including your and Susan Menrisky's
representations and reports that Simplesoft has not been
generating any sales or collecting its outstanding
receivables. Mr. Steines and Simplesoft have reason to
believe those representations by you and Susan Menrisky are
false. We are in the process of finalizing a Complaint for
Injunctive and Other Relief to enjoin diversions of
Simplesoft's sales and receipts, as well as to obtain an
accounting and other relief for such misconduct.
Id. at 25-26 ¶ 84.
thereafter, Steines and Simplesoft filed this suit against
the Menriskys. Doc. 1. The Menriskys answered, and Donald
counterclaimed against Steines and filed a third-party claim
against Steines's wife, Sheryl Steines. Doc. 26. The
Menriskys then moved to disqualify Griffin and WWM as counsel
for Steines and Simplesoft. Doc. 30. This prompted the
voluntary dismissal of Simplesoft as a plaintiff, Doc. 36,
and Griffin later confirmed on the record that he no longer
represented Simplesoft. The Menriskys' motion to
disqualify Griffin and WWM as counsel for Steines remains for
is “a drastic measure which courts should hesitate to
impose except when absolutely necessary.” Freeman
v. Chi. Musical Instrument Co., 689 F.2d 715, 721 (7th
Cir. 1982); see also Schwartz v. Cortelloni, 685
N.E.2d 871, 877 (Ill. 1997) (“Attorney disqualification
is a drastic measure because it destroys the attorney-client
relationship by prohibiting a party from representation by
counsel of his or her choosing.”); Storino,
Ramello, and Durkin v. Rackow, 45 N.E.3d 307, 314 ( Ill.
App. 2015) (same). The movant bears the burden of showing
that disqualification is warranted. See Gov't of
India v. Cook Indus., Inc., 569 F.2d ...