Johnson v. The Boeing Company et al

Filing 44

ORDER denying Plaintiff Ralph G. Johnsons' 24 Motion to Disqualify Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, signed by Judge Robert S. Lasnik. (SWT)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 _______________________________________ ) RALPH G. JOHNSON, ) ) Plaintiff, ) v. ) ) THE BOEING COMPANY, et al., ) ) Defendant. ) _______________________________________) Civil Case No. C17-0706RSL ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL 14 This matter comes before the Court on “Plaintiff Ralph Johnson’s Motion to Disqualify 15 Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP from Concurrent Representation of Defendants Due to Conflicts 16 of Interest.” Dkt. # 24.1 Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that his employer, defendant 17 Boeing, is responsible for an unsubstantiated sexual harassment claim lodged against plaintiff by 18 a co-worker, Barbara Wiley, who is also named as a defendant in this case. Morgan, Lewis & 19 Bockius agreed to represent both defendants after evaluating the potential for conflicts, 20 discussing the pros and cons of joint representation with both clients, and obtaining written 21 consent to the joint representation. Plaintiff seeks to disqualify counsel under RPC 1.7, arguing 22 23 1 24 25 Regardless whether plaintiff has constitutional standing to challenge counsel’s joint representation of defendants in this matter, the Court will evaluate the matter as part of its obligation to manage the conduct of attorneys who appear before it. FMC Techs., Inc. v. Edwards, 420 F. Supp.2d 1153, 1156 (W.D. Wash. 2006). 26 ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL - 1 1 that there is a concurrent conflict of interests that is not waivable, and under RPC 1.6, arguing 2 that the dual representation will compel the revelation of client confidences. 3 A concurrent conflict of interest between potential clients exists where “(1) the 4 representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or (2) there is a significant 5 risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s 6 responsibilities to another client . . . .” RPC 1.7(a). Neither situation exists here. Boeing and 7 Wiley’s interests are not currently or directly adverse with respect to defending against 8 plaintiff’s claims. Their legal analysis of plaintiff’s claims is aligned, and they have, in fact, 9 successfully defended against most of plaintiff’s claims. The negligent supervision and retention 10 claims, which had the potential to create conflict if Boeing at some point advanced an argument 11 that diverged from Wiley’s interests, were recently dismissed. The remaining vicarious liability 12 claim is based on allegations of an agency relationship, giving Boeing a peculiarly acute interest 13 in Wiley’s defense. Finally, there is no indication in the record or in the circumstances presented 14 here that counsel will be unable to mount a full-throated and comprehensive defense on behalf of 15 both clients. 16 17 18 With regards to RPC 1.6, clients pursuing a joint defense may consent to shared disclosures without violating this prohibition. Plaintiff has not shown any factual risk of adversity, nor has he identified any case law 19 that supports the application of RPC 1.7 or 1.6 in these circumstances. The motion to disqualify 20 is DENIED. 21 22 Dated this 13th day of November, 2017. 23 A 24 Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge 25 26 ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL - 2

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