Attorney disqualification in D.N.J vs. D. Del.: Same facts, same rules, different interpretation of the appropriate remedy

Magistrate Judge Bongiovanni of the District of New Jersey recently considered Wyeth’s renewed request for the disqualification of Howry LLP (“Howry) as counsel to Boston Scientific Corporation (“BSC”), based on Howry’s representation of Wyeth in another matter. Wyeth and Cordis Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, et al., C.A. No. 08-230-JAP (D.N.J. Dec. 1, 2009). Judge Bogiovanni originally deferred the issue in light of Wyeth’s motion for disqualification pending in the District of Delaware before Judge Robinson in a case involving the same parties and Howry LLP. In August, Judge Robinson found that Howry’s representation of BSC violated Rule 1.7. Boston Scientific Corporation, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., C.A. No. 07-765-SLR, at 7 (D. Del. Aug. 25, 2009). However, Judge Robinson declined to disqualify Howry due to, among other things, the unrelatedness of the BSC matter and the European matter in which Howry represented Wyeth, the fact that Howry’s Washington, D.C. office was representing plaintiffs here whereas Howry’s Europe-based attorneys were handling the matter in Europe, and that an ethical wall was in place. Id. at 8-9. Judge Bongiovanni, however, disqualified Howry on the sole basis of its Rule 1.7 violation. Judge Bongiovanni indicated that in the District of New Jersey the violation of Rule 1.7 should result in automatic disqualification. Wyeth, C.A. No. 08-0230, at 2 (citing In re Cendant Corp. Securities Litig., 1234 F. Supp. 2d 235, 248-50 (D.N.J. 2000) (“New Jersey simply does not permit concurrent representation when the interests of two current clients are adverse.”).

Wyeth and Cordis Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, et al., C.A. No. 08-230-JAP (D.N.J. Dec. 1, 2009)

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