Motion to Disqualify Opposing Counsel Backfires

California attorney Fredric J. Greenblatt represented numerous plaintiffs in a case against something called "Century Crowell Communities, aka Century Vintage Homes." He moved to disqualify opposing counsel on the ground that opposing counsel had "improper contacts with four persons who were clients or former clients of Greenblatt’s law firm."

The trial court denied the motion, apparently noting that the evidence suggested that if anyone had acted improperly, it was Greenblatt, and not his opposing counsel. Unwisely, Greenblatt appealed the denial of his motion. Today, the Court of Appeal summed things up thusly:

Plaintiffs contend the trial court abused its discretion in denying their motion to disqualify defendants’ counsel because (1) defendants’ counsel improperly communicated with adverse parties without consent of plaintiffs’ counsel; (2) the trial court erroneously based its decision on the ground that plaintiffs had failed to show prejudice; and (3) the trial court considered facts and evidence that were not properly before the court. We find no abuse of discretion, and we affirm. In addition, because the face of the record suggests misconduct on the part of [plaintiffs'] counsel, we will refer the matter to the State Bar of California for further investigation and, if appropriate, imposition of sanctions. . . .

[W]e are astonished – as was the trial court – that plaintiffs chose to support their motion to disqualify defendants’ counsel with declarations that on their face indicate improper and unethical conduct on the part of plaintiffs’ own counsel.

Oops. Greenblatt's self-reported misconduct included naming plaintiffs who had never agreed to be part of the lawsuit, and having plaintiffs sign verifications of discovery responses they had never seen. Ramon Ramirez v. Century Crowell Communities (Fourth App. Dist. Div. 2, Aug. 28, 2007) No. E040425.