On Wednesday, August 9, 2023, the Claims Journal reported that three former attorneys who were associated with McClenny, Moseley & Associates (MMA) are appealing to a judge to overturn their lengthy suspensions in the federal Western District of Louisiana. Claude F. Reynaud III, Cameron S. Snowden, and Grant P. Gardiner argue that they were deceived by R. William Huye, the former managing partner of MMA’s New Orleans office, and should not be held responsible for the law firm’s ethical violations.
According to the attorneys, they were unaware of the origins of the clients involved in hundreds of hurricane-damage lawsuits they were asked to affix their names to. They claim that Huye, without disclosing the details of the client acquisition process, convinced them to participate. Additionally, they assert that the responsibility for the firm’s ethical issues lies with its partners.
The suspensions imposed by the judges assigned to the Western District of Louisiana were initially set for 90 days but were extended collectively in June. Founding partners Zach Moseley and Huye received one-year suspensions, while Snowden and Reynaud faced nine-month suspensions. Gardiner and founding partner James McClenny received suspensions of six months. However, a hearing was scheduled to allow the attorneys to present arguments against the severity of the punishment.
Snowden, in a recently filed brief, expressed his dissatisfaction with the equal punishment given to him and the law firm’s founders. He stated that while he accepts responsibility for his limited role in the MMA debacle, his actions pale in comparison to those of McClenny, Moseley, and Huye.
Reynaud, Snowden, and Gardiner contend that Huye informed them of his intention to file a limited number of lawsuits for damages caused by Hurricane Laura in 2020 using a “permissive joinder” approach. However, after this approach was rejected by the Western Louisiana District Court, Huye allegedly instructed the attorneys to use the federal court system’s filing system, PACER, to add their names to the lawsuits as plaintiff’s counsel.
The attorneys faced an ethical dilemma as the statute of limitations for Hurricane Laura claims was nearing expiration. They claim that they agreed to participate only to ensure that the law firm’s clients would have the opportunity to file their suits. Reynaud’s court filing included affidavits from former paralegal Melanie Farrell and attorney Heather Melaas, both of whom worked at MMA during the time the lawsuits were filed. Their statements supported Reynaud’s position and emphasized his lack of management responsibilities or involvement in the law firm’s finances.
Matthew Monson, an insurance defense attorney from New Orleans, shared his thoughts on LinkedIn in response to the attorneys’ arguments. He believes that the MMA case should serve as a lesson for young lawyers to scrutinize the sources of their files and seek transparency to protect their careers from potential ruin.
The outcome of the hearing will determine whether the suspensions imposed on Reynaud, Snowden, and Gardiner will be lifted or upheld. As they fight to clear their names, the case raises important questions about professional responsibility, the role of law firm partners, and the ethical considerations faced by attorneys when confronted with complex situations.
Source: Claims Journal