Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Plaintiff’s Counsel Disqualified Due to Past Opinion Work for Defendant

The court granted defendant's motion to disqualify plaintiff's counsel who had been engaged to provide legal opinions to defendant on several occasions throughout the past six years. "[F]ive months subsequent to the delivery of the most recent . . . opinion letter, [plaintiff] engaged [defendant's opinion counsel] to file suit against [defendant]. . . . [Plaintiff] argues that there was no active attorney-client relationship between [defendant] and [defense counsel] at the time it filed suit. . . . The determination of whether an attorney-client relationship exists . . . depends on the reasonableness of the client's belief regarding the status of the relationship. . . . Here, the six year history between [defendant] and [counsel] was sufficient to instill in [defendant] a reasonable belief that it would not be sued by [counsel], at least absent some sort of prior notice that [counsel] would no longer be available to serve as [defendant's] opinion counsel. . . . The Court is aware of the limited nature of the opinion counsel role. Nevertheless, opinion counsel is still counsel, complete with fiduciary duties to clients and professional obligations under the Model Rules. . . . The fact that the law firm, however, may freely choose to end the relationship and refuse further business does not mean it is free to sue its client prior to making it clear that the relationship is over. It is the law firm's responsibility to ensure there are no questions regarding the status of its current client relationships."

Parallel Iron LLC v. Adobe Systems Incorporated, 1-12-cv-00874 (DED March 4, 2013, Order) (Andrews, J.).

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