LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A lawyer and a judge have stepped down from a high-profile Las Vegas hepatitis C case after an attorney raised concerns that they were both leaders in the Mormon Church.

The case explores whether an HMO is liable to pay a $524 million award to patients who contracted hepatitis C in clinics run by Dr. Dipak Desai.

The patients’ attorney, Gerald Gillock, requested that Clark County District Judge Douglas Smith be disqualified because the HMO’s lawyer holds a position of authority over him in church.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports both Smith and HMO lawyer Mark Hutchinson stepped away, even though a church leader disputes that there’s a boss-subordinate relationship.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Friday declined to intervene in the HMO’s appeal of Smith’s decision to step down.

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