Friday, January 12, 2007

Ochoa v. Fordel, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 12, 2007)

I'd have thought that the plaintiff's law firm would have been disqualified in this one once they hired a partner from the law firm representing the defendant. Especially given that the partner they hired both had his office next door to the attorney litigating the case on behalf of the defendant and admitted to reviewing information about the case while he was with the firm. But Justice Vartabedian decides otherwise.

I'm not firmly convinced that Justice Vartabedian is wrong, and he writes a decent opinion that defends the refusal to disqualify. But the application of imputed disqualification principles here is not what I'm used to seeing from the California Court of Appeal, which is generally more protective of the potential for impropriety in situations such at this. Especially when the partner hired from the defendant's firm becomes the second person in a two-person firm representing the plaintiff.

Plaintiff's counsel is W.J. Smith & Associates (see their flashy web page here), counsel for the defendant was Jory, Peterson, Watkins, Ross & Woolman (see their equally flashy -- but very different -- web page here), and that partner hired from Jory Peterson to go to W.J. Smith was Shelley Bryant (a Davis graduate).

Interesting case.