• Hartford J.D., at Hartford
  • FA10-4051438S
  • Mar 11 2014 (Date Decided)
  • Ficeto, J.

A court may disqualify an attorney who is a relative of one of the parties and who is likely to be called as a witness on contested custody issues. The defendant wife filed a motion to disqualify the husband’s attorney, Michelle Holmes, who is also the husband’s sister. The wife maintained that Attorney Michelle Holmes, as the aunt of the parties’ children, is in direct contact with the parties’ minor children, and that the wife’s attorney intends to depose Michelle Holmes. The plaintiff husband objected to the motion to disqualify. Attorney Michelle Holmes argued that it is unlikely that she will be called as a witness at trial and that disqualification will work an economic hardship on the plaintiff husband. “The trial court has broad discretion to determine whether there exists a conflict of interest that would warrant disqualification of an attorney,” pursuant to Bergeron v. Mackler, a 1993 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. “A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness,” pursuant to Rule 3.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Here, the wife intends to depose Attorney Michelle Holmes, and Holmes did not introduce any evidence that the plaintiff husband is unable to afford alternate counsel. “Attorney Holmes,” wrote the court, “has been placed in a position of likely being a witness on the contested custody issues in this matter.” The court granted the wife’s motion to disqualify the husband’s attorney.