Sunday, July 26, 2015

Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decides lower courts must address possible conflict of interest before deciding the merits of a case

 The Legal Profession blog is reporting today on an interesting case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in which the court held that a trial court erred in granting summary judgment and then holding that a motion to disqualify counsel was moot.  According to the Court's opinion
The district court erred in the sequence in which it rendered its decisions. Because a claim of counsel’s conflict of interest calls into question the integrity of the process in which the allegedly conflicted counsel participates, the court should resolve a motion to disqualify counsel before it turns to the merits of any dispositive motion. That procedure was not followed here. We therefore vacate the district court’s grant of summary judgment and its denial of the motion to disqualify and remand this case for further proceedings. Because the district court will decide in the first instance whether there was a conflict of interest or an appearance of such a conflict in violation of applicable ethics rules and, if so, will determine the appropriate remedy, we offer only limited guidance on the remaining issues the parties briefed and leave to the district court to decide them in view of its ruling on the merits of the motion to disqualify.
I don't have a problem with this, except for the statement "or an appearance of such a conflict."  This appearance of impropriety standard has been abandoned and criticized by other courts; and for good reasons. See here.

For more on the case, go here.

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