In a recent case, attorney Mitchell Pashkin, who has previously represented Midland Credit Management Inc., while he was the managing attorney at Cohen & Slamowitz, pushed a New York federal judge to deny the company’s motion to disqualify him from representing a man suing Midland Credit over allegedly improper debt collection methods. Pashkin argued that Midland has failed to show his representation of his client, Michael Yearling, will taint the trial in any way.
The Yearling v. Midland Credit Management Inc. case began in 2009, when a Midland subsidiary bought Yearling’s defaulted credit card debt. Yearling was sued by Forster and Garbus LLP in 2010 seeking to recover the money he owed. Yearling claims he never received the complaint, despite the document that states that he had been served. As a result of his lack of response, a default judgement was entered against Yearling in October 2010. Additionally, his wages were garnished beginning is May 2014. Yearling then sued Midland in state court alleging that Midland sued him under the wrong name and therefore, the company engaged in deceptive and misleading debt collection practices in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Thereafter, the case was removed to federal court.
According to Pashkin, the current case is based entirely on the events that took place in 2014. Midland alleged that as a managing attorney for Cohen & Slamowitz LLC, now Selip & Stylianou LLC, Pashkin represented it in numerous debt collection litigation cases and ensured its compliance with debt collection laws. However, Midland does not allege that Pashkin represented it in any motion to vacate a judgment or stop the garnishment of wages cases. Additionally, Pashkin has stated that it is undisputed that Forster & Garbus handled all aspects of Yearling’s case and he was not involved in any way. As a managing attorney for Cohen and Slamowitz, Pashkin claimed that he would have “significantly less knowledge” about particular cases within the firm than that of the general counsel.
Pashkin also alleges that the events upon which the Yearling case is based occurred four months after his employment with Cohen & Slamowitz ended and therefore he would not have had any previous knowledge that would now disqualify him from providing adequate and ethical representation in this case. Pashkin further alleged that his client’s right to choose his own counsel would be affected by a successful motion to disqualify. Midland therefore bears a heavy burden of proof to show that Pashkin’s previous work done for Midland is “substantially related” to any work done for Yearling’s case.