Litoff v. Albright
An attorney who previously performed legal work on behalf of a trust may not be disqualified from representing individuals who sue the trustees of the trust. Allegedly, the plaintiffs requested an accounting of trust property, and the defendant trustees failed to provide the information requested. The plaintiffs sued the trustees and sought their removal. The defendant trustees moved to disqualify the plaintiffs' attorney, Timothy Crowley, and alleged that he provided legal services to the defendants in a substantially related matter in 2004, when he worked in the trusts and estates department at the law firm of Wiggin & Dana. The defendants argued that Crowley's prior representation of the plaintiffs violates Rule 1.9 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.9 provides, "A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter 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 gives informed consent." When ruling on a motion to disqualify, a court may consider: 1.) the defendants' interest in protecting confidential information; 2.) the plaintiffs' interest in freely selecting counsel of choice; and 3.) the public's interest in the scrupulous administration of justice. In 2004, Wiggin & Dana represented the trusts. Subsequently, Wiggin & Dana recommended Attorney Crowley to one of the plaintiffs, who had requested legal advice. "Crowley," wrote the court, "cannot be `switching sides' because Wiggin & Dana never represented the defendants, as trustees, in 2004." At that time, the trustees did not request legal advice in their individual capacities. Also, Crowley's involvement in 2004 was restricted in time and scope. He wrote one memorandum and billed 5.9 hours. Crowley claims that he has no present recollection of that legal work. No evidence exists that Crowley obtained confidential or privileged information from the trustees as a result of his work in 2004. Crowley's current representation of the plaintiffs does not result in a conflict of interest, in violation of Rule 1.9, and the court denied the defendants' motion to disqualify the plaintiffs' attorney.