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Law School Case Brief

Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp. v. Levin - 579 F.2d 271 (3d Cir. 1978)

Rule:

An attorney who fails to observe his obligation of undivided loyalty to his client injures his profession and demeans it in the eyes of the public. The maintenance of the integrity of the legal profession and its high standing in the community are important additional factors to be considered in determining the appropriate sanction for a Model Code of Professional Responsibility violation. The maintenance of public confidence in the propriety of the conduct of those associated with the administration of justice is so important a consideration that a court may disqualify an attorney for failing to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Indeed, the courts have gone so far as to suggest that doubts as to the existence of an asserted conflict of interest should be resolved in favor of disqualification.

Facts:

Petitioner moved for an order disqualifying cross-appellant, counsel for respondents, from further participation in a private antitrust suit on the ground that cross-appellant had represented both respondents and petitioner during the pendency of the action in the district court in violation of the Model Code of Professional Responsibility DR 5-105. The district court disqualified cross-appellant from further representation of respondents, but permitted cross-appellant to turn over its past work product to respondents' substitute counsel. Respondents and cross-appellants appealed.

Issue:

Should cross-appellant attorney be disqualified from further participation in a private antitrust suit?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the findings supported the district court's conclusion that cross-appellant was obligated to disclose fully to petitioner the facts of its representation of respondents and obtain its consent. According to the Court, as petitioner's informed consent to the concurrent representation by cross-appellant of it and respondents had not been obtained, cross-appellant had violated DR 5-105. The Court stated that the turnover provisions of the district court's order of disqualification were sufficient for the vindication of the integrity of the bar and a proper exercise of the court's discretion.

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