Judge Rules Against Elijah McClain’s Mother In $3M Legal Fee Case


A Denver judge has ruled civil rights firm Killmer Lane & Newman can claim about $3 million as its fee from a $15 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Elijah McClain’s parents when he died following an encounter with Aurora police in August 2019.

The 23-year-old died at a hospital several days after he was stopped by officers while walking home from a convenience store — though he was not suspected of any crime — put in a neck hold and given a dose of ketamine too high for his body weight.

In November 2021, Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to McClain’s parents, Sheneen McClain and LaWayne Mosley, after they filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Killmer Lane & Newman requested $3.9 million for a previously agreed-on 40% contingency fee out of the $9.75 million share McClain received. Mosley received $5.25 million.

But in the lawsuit filed in May, Sheneen McClain accused her former attorney Mari Newman of giving her bad legal advice and of using the high-profile tragedy of Elijah McClain to promote herself. McClain fired Newman last year and contended she did so for cause, arguing in her lawsuit she should not have to pay KLN the contingency fee.

She also argued representing both parents created a conflict of interest for the law firm.

Judge Ross Buchanan sided mainly with Killmer Lane & Newman in a ruling filed Wednesday. He agreed that KLN had a conflict of interest in representing both parents but said the firm did “extraordinary” work on the case. Buchanan noted that Newman and several other members of KLN worked on the case nearly every day during the period she represented McClain, gathering and analyzing “vast amounts” of investigatory materials and working with subject matter experts.