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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Defense Counsel Disqualified from Barnes & Noble Class Action

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick has disqualified Jackson Lewis from representing Barnes & Noble in a wage and hour class action, after Jackson Lewis negotiated a settlement with the named class plaintiff. The situation is unusual because the plaintiff, Sara Minor, first filed an individual wrongful termination action against Barnes & Noble, then retained counsel to represent her in an class action alleging that Barnes & Noble illegally pays its employees with out-of-state checks. The trouble arose because Jackson Lewis negotiated an individual settlement with Ms. Minor that required her to withdraw as class representative, and class counsel alleged that Jackson Lewis did not advise her of this aspect of the negotiations., which reported on the disqualification order here, noted: 
In his tentative ruling, Brick noted that Jackson Lewis had put Minor's lawyer, Amy Carlson of San Jose firm Williams, Pinelli & Cullen, in an ethically compromising position and "intruded upon the attorney-client relationship between Minor and class counsel without the consent of class counsel, thereby threatening that relationship."
Are ex parte communications with represented parties becoming more of a problem? Earlier this year, the State Bar suspended an attorney who directed his client's direct settlement negotiations with the plaintiffs in a wage and hour case. See our post here

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