Lucas v. Tine
A law firm may be allowed to continue to represent a client, without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, if the issues in the legal matters are not identical, and information obtained by counsel in the earlier case will not be used against the former client, to the former client's disadvantage. In a personal-injury case, the defendant, Louis Tine, moved to disqualify the plaintiff's law firm, McCarthy, Coombes & Costello. The defendant asserted that the plaintiff's law firm previously represented the defendant in a workers' compensation matter. When ruling on a motion to disqualify, courts may consider the defendant's interest in protecting confidential information, the plaintiff's interest in freely selecting counsel of choice and the public's interest in the scrupulous administration of justice. Rule 1.9 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides, "A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter: a.) Represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client consents after consultation." A court may disqualify counsel when "the relationship between the issues in the prior and present cases is patently clear or when the issues are identical or essentially the same," pursuant to Bergeron v. Mackler, a 1993 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Here, the Superior Court was not persuaded that the issues in the prior and the present case were substantially the same, or that information obtained by counsel in the earlier case would be used against the defendant, to the defendant's disadvantage. The court denied the defendant's motion to disqualify the plaintiff's law firm.