Petition to Vacate Attorney Disqualification Order

In Frazier v. Superior Court (2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 23 118, petitioner was the defendant in 15 lawsuits relating to the Willed Body Program at University of California, Irvine. His insurance company hired Murchison & Cumming to defend and attorney Dan Longo handled the representation. The insurer also approved petitioner's request for Hartley & Hartley as Cumis counsel (San Diego Federal Credit Union v. Cumis Ins. Society, Inc. (1984) 162 Cal. App. 3d 358. When Joseph Hartley of Hartley & Hartley was unable to attend some depositions, Longo covered them. Shortly afterwards, Longo learned that one of the real parties in interest, plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit, had contacted an attorney in another Murchison & Cumming office, George Genzmer, about representation. Murchison & Cumming withdrew from representing the insurer. (Frazier v. Superior Court, supra, 97 Cal.App.4th at p. 27.) Real parties moved to disqualify Hartley & Hartley based on its prior attorney-client relationship with Murchison & Cumming. The trial court granted the motion. (Id. at p. 28.) Petitioner sought a writ of mandate to vacate the order of disqualification. (Frazier v. Superior Court, supra, 97 Cal.App.4th 23, 28.) The appellate court granted the petition. (Id. at p. 36.) It found that real parties sought double imputation, from Genzmer to Longo, from Longo to Hartley. No case had gone so far; instead, other jurisdictions had erected barriers to stop the spread of the penumbra of disqualification. (Id. at p. 31.) The court agreed this was proper because the primary concern being addressed was the attorney's possession of confidential information and here that attorney was Genzmer, not Longo or Hartley. Imputation from Genzmer to Longo to Hartley was "one bridge too far." (Id. at p. 33.) The Frazier court further noted that under the Adams test (Adams v. Aerojet-General Corp. (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 1324) it would not appear that any confidential information would normally have been imparted to Hartley & Hartley, even though Civil Code section 2860, subdivisions (d) and (f) required the exchange of certain information between insurer's counsel and Cumis counsel. (Frazier v. Superior Court, supra, 97 Cal.App.4th at pp. 34-35.) "Attorneys are 'members of an ancient, honorable and deservingly honored profession.' We call them 'officers of the court.' Let's practice what we preach and treat them with the respect they have earned." (Id. at p. 36.)