Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Attorney’s Competitive Decisionmaking Role Does Not Bar Entire Law Firm From Confidential Information

The court granted in part plaintiff's motion to preclude defense counsel from accessing documents marked "confidential - outside counsel only" based on counsel's financial interest in defendant. The court precluded one firm partner from accessing confidential documents because defendants essentially conceded that he was a competitive decisionmaker, but rejected plaintiff's argument that every member of the firm should be similarly precluded. "A crucial factor in determining whether there is a risk of inadvertent disclosure is whether counsel is a competitive decisionmaker. . . . Plaintiff argues that the retainer agreement essentially places [the law firm] in a joint venture with Defendants. . . . The Court appreciates Plaintiff’s concerns regarding the relationship between [the law firm] and Defendants. However, Plaintiff has not cited, and the Court has not found, any authority to support Plaintiff’s proposal to preclude the entire [law firm] from access to its COCO designated information. . . . [T]he relationship created by the retainer agreement between [the law firm] and Defendants is more akin to an in-house counsel relationship than a joint venture. . . . [T]he retainer agreement, alone, is insufficient to confer competitive decisionmaker status on [lead trial counsel]. . . . [I]t is unlikely that [the litigation team] will be placed 'in the "untenable position" of having to refuse [Defendants] legal advice on a host of . . . decisions lest [they] improperly or indirectly reveal [Plaintiff’s] trade secrets.' Thus, the Court finds the risk of inadvertent disclosure by the [defense] litigation team does not rise to an unacceptable level."

Sonix Technology Co. Ltd v. Yoshida, 3-12-cv-00380 (CASD June 30, 2014, Order) (Bartick, M.J.)

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