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12/08/75 GAC COMMERCIAL CORPORATION v. MAHONEY

December 8, 1975

GAC COMMERCIAL CORPORATION
v.
MAHONEY TYPOGRAPHERS, INC.



Appeal from Kalamazoo, Donald T. Anderson, J.

T. M. Burns, P. J., and V. J. Brennan and M. F. Cavanagh, JJ.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Attorney and Client -- Canons of Ethics -- Preserving Confidences -- Appearance of Impropriety -- Terminating Employment.

The canons of professional ethics require that a lawyer preserve the confidences and secrets of a client, exercise independent professional judgment on the client's behalf, and avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety; a lawyer must refuse to continue employment where the interests of another client may impair his independent professional judgment, and such disqualification may arise merely through partnership or association with another attorney who is ethically prevented from continued participation in litigation.

2. Attorney and Client -- Canons of Ethics -- Appearance of Impropriety -- Remedial Action -- Specific Allegations -- Conflict of Interest.

Attorneys must not only adhere to the canons of professional ethics, they must also scrupulously avoid those situations in which it can be said that there is even an appearance of impropriety; where it might appear that impropriety exists, remedial action is required even though there are no specific allegations of affirmative wrongdoing or a clear conflict of interest.

3. Attorney and Client -- Partnerships -- Exchange of Knowledge -- Revelation of Confidences -- Appearance of Impropriety.

A partnership of attorneys is typically an association where close communication, cooperation and exchange of knowledge and ideas is common and necessary practice; where such activity may potentially result in the revelation of the confidences of opposing litigants, there exists an appearance of impropriety which must be eliminated.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burns

Complaint by G.A.C. Corporation, Business Assets Corporation and Joe Goldberg against Mahoney Typographers, Inc., Claire J. Mahoney, The City of Kalamazoo and Saniwax Paper Company for claim and delivery. From an order denying the removal of the law firm of Stanley, Davidoff, Long & Gray from further representation of Business Assets Corporation and Joe Goldberg in the case, defendants appeal.

This appeal concerns the disqualification of the members of a law firm from further representing one of the parties to this suit. We address this opinion only to that question and not to the merits of the civil litigation.

Plaintiffs Business Assets Corporation and Joe Goldberg have been represented by Llewellyn Gray of the law firm Stanley, Davidoff, Long and Gray since the commencement of the suit. Defendants Mahoney Typographers, Inc. and Claire J. Mahoney were initially represented by Benjamin W. Wise of the law firm of Wise, Sayen and O'Connor.

From June, 1972, until May, 1974, Michael O'Connor, as a partner of Wise, Sayen and O'Connor, took full responsibility for conducting defendants' defense. In June, 1974, Mr. O'Connor terminated his partnership and became associated with the law firm which represents the plaintiffs (Stanley, Davidoff, Long and Gray).

There is no contention that Mr. O'Connor has been connected with this litigation since his disassociation with the law firm which represents the defendants, nor is there any indication that Mr. O'Connor has discussed the case with Mr. Gray after becoming associated with him. Mr. Gray has continued to represent the plaintiffs, and the defendants seek the disqualification ...


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