Florida Trust and Estates Litigation: When Should Disqualification of a Party’s Chosen Lawyer Be Permitted?
Should disqualification of a party’s chosen trial lawyer be permitted by the probate court in West Palm Beach? When is it justified to disqualify a trust lawyer from representing someone in a particular matter? What is a conflict of interest? If a lawyer tells a lawyer from another firm about the facts and strategies of a case, can the lawyer from the other firm now, knowing the inside strategies, represent the opposing party in that same matter? You should read Lopez v. Flores, a recent Third DCA opinion.
In Lopez v. Flores, a March 15, 2017 Third DCA opinion, the children of the decedent, Jose Ignacio Lopez, Sr., appeal a trial court order denying their motion to disqualify opposing counsel, Kluger Law Firm. Maria Mercedes Flores retained Kluger Law Firm to represent her against the children. However, BEFORE Flores hired Kluge Law Firm, the children’s attorney had spoken to his long time friend, an associate at Kluger Law Firm, about the case. The children’s attorney testified that he had revealed to the Kluger Law firm associate the facts and strategies he was going to employ. He had this discussion with the associate at Kluger Law Firm because he wanted to see if the associate would be interested in serving as co-counsel for the children in this matter. The trial court dismissed the motion for disqualification of Kluger Law Firm, but the Second DCA did not agree! Why did the Second DCA agree with the children that disqualifying Kluge Law Firm was necessary?
The second DCA cites Rule 4-1.18 of Florida’s Rules of Professional Responsibility. In relevant part, rule 4-1.18(c) says:
“A lawyer… may not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same… matter if the lawyer received information from the prospective client that could be used to the disadvantage of that person in the matter… If a lawyer is disqualified from representation under the rule, no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in the matter.”
Here, confidential information was shared with an associate of Kluger Law Firm, which disqualified him from representing Flores. Therefore, because one lawyer from Kluger Law Firm was disqualified, none of the lawyers at Kluger Law Firm can represent Flores in the same matter.
To read the entire case, click here.