Elijah McClain’s mother sues former lawyer over $3.9 million bill

Sheneen McClain. Aug. 16, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Sheneen McClain. Aug. 16, 2021.

Sheneen McClain, the mother of Elijah McClain — who died after a violent arrest in 2019, is suing her former lawyer who first represented her in her federal lawsuit against the city of Aurora for her son’s death.

McClain fired her first lawyer, Mari Newman, for not listening to her or respecting her in the early days of the lawsuit, lawyers said in a filing earlier this week. McClain also alleged Newman and the other attorneys at Killmer, Lane & Newman failed to advise on obvious conflicts of interest because they also represented Elijah McClain’s father, Lawayne Mosley, in the lawsuit. 

Mosley and McClain were not close, and Mosely denied paternity and declined to pay child support for much of Elijah’s McClain’s life, Sheneen McClain’s lawyers said.

Even though McClain fired her, Newman’s firm is trying to collect a share of the lawyers' fees in the settlement McClain received from the city of Aurora for the police death of her son.

The city paid McClain, Mosley and their legal teams $15 million last November. This is the largest known settlement for police violence in the state’s history.

Shortly after firing Newman, McClain hired another lawyer, Qusair Mohamedbhai. Later last year, both firms, working on behalf of McClain and Mosley, together helped settle with the city.

Sheneen McClain received $10 million from that lawsuit and Mosely received $5 million.

Both Newman and Mohamedbhai received 40 percent cuts from those respective settlements. Newman’s firm wants the money reallocated between the firms based on the work they did on McClain’s behalf -- before she fired them.

McClain said she feels like they’re coming after her, though. 

“I have to fight it,” McClain said. “It’s part of Elijah's justice. This is a part of Elijah's justice. She’s trying to take away from who my son is. She’s a part of the system too.”

Newman’s firm, Killmer, Lane & Newman, said in a statement that for decades, they have fought for clients to protect constitutional rights. 

“This is not just what we do, it is who we are and what we believe,” the statement said. “Our team poured our hearts and souls into seeking justice for the McClain family and helped them achieve the largest civil rights settlement in Colorado history. We stand by our hard work on this case. The allegations are misleading, and in many cases entirely false.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify what portion of the settlement Killmer, Lane & Newman is seeking from Sheneen McClain.