A recent decision of the Delaware Superior Court featured an unusual ruling in Delaware: A motion to disqualify counsel was granted based on a conflict of interest under Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9, relating to prior representation of a client.
Why the Decision is Notable:
Although the facts in the 21-page decision styled Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada v. Wilmington Savings Fund Society, C.A. No. N18C-08-074 PRW-CCLD (Del. Super. Dec. 19, 2019), are somewhat unique, and not likely to be often repeated, the court’s opinion is a useful reference that should be in the toolbox of litigators because it provides copious citations to Delaware court decisions that address the standards applicable to motions to disqualify counsel based on a conflict of interest, as well as reciting the familiar and well-established “high-threshold” that must be met because motions to disqualify counsel are looked upon with disfavor.
This ruling is a reminder that it is not sufficient for purposes of disqualifying counsel that a Rule of Professional Conduct be violated. Rather, for purposes of disqualifying counsel, the conflict must be “so extreme that it calls into question the fairness of the proceeding.” See Slip op. at 4 and accompanying footnotes. Other cases and articles on these pages dealing with motions to qualify are available via these hyperlinks.